On collision course: Elijah, the prophet
One of the places we will visit in a few weeks during our CfaN “Experience Israel” trip is Mount Carmel. The Bible describes one of the most remarkable spiritual confrontations that happened exactly there: Elijah’s encounter with Baal’s priests. Even today this account is very dramatic to read. But what was Elijah’s real objective? That his people would return to the one true God. Hence his prayer: “Answer me, Lord, answer me, so these people will know that you, Lord, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again” (1 Kings 18:37).
In this Bible Study I would like for us to meditate on two aspects of this remarkable biblical event that, I believe, are essential for us today.
Our vice president, Peter Vandenberg, offers our first point:
1. You are Not Alone!
It is very much human nature to assume that, “I am the only one having difficulties or problems in a certain area.” But our Lord Himself gives us a completely different perspective. The Word of God very frequently exhorts us that He is always near to us and will never leave us alone or forsake us. But even though we know that, we can still fall prey to the nagging doubt that we are the only ones who are experiencing problems, and feelings of being alone rise quickly to challenge us.
Then Elijah said to them, “I am the only one of the Lord’s prophets left.”
1 Kings 18:22
Even the great men in the Bible experienced this. So it encourages us to see how the Lord helped them during their feelings of loneliness. The great prophet Elijah – whose name means, My God is Yahweh – had such an experience after the amazing demonstration of God’s power on Mount Carmel.
When we believers hear the name Mount Carmel, we immediately remember how God sent His fire falling on the altar, humiliated the prophets of Baal, and turned the nation back to worship Him as the living God. But the circumstances surrounding this amazing event were not so spectacular. Elijah was convinced he was the last prophet serving the living God, and that the nation was beyond help. He bemoaned the fact that he was the only one left faithful to the God of Israel. But he still had to take action, as a last-ditch stand, by himself. To make matters worse, Baal’s worshippers fielded hundreds of prophets in response to one Elijah. Undaunted by this, the great prophet confronted the idolaters. He took action to vindicate the living God of Israel, but still felt totally alone.
Only later did the Lord let Elijah know that He, the living God, had a completely different perspective. There were literally thousands of faithful people and prophets who still bowed their knees to the God of Israel.
Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel - all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and whose mouths have not kissed him.
1 Kings 19:18
The fact is, we do not need to have all the information about our current situation. We simply need to trust God that He will see us through, and his higher perspective will prevail for us. When we believe God, though we do not immediately share His perspective of the full picture, He is always faithful to fulfil his Word and vindicate himself and us.
Elijah went on to serve God in Israel. He greatly influenced the nations and its leaders until the end of his life. He may not have realised it at Carmel, but He was never alone.
God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”
2. What does the World Really Need
What is the world looking for? Are they looking for us to build nicer buildings? Are they looking for us to have more eloquent preachers? Are they looking for us to have better music or better marketing programmes? What is it they really want?
What we think is relevant to the world is often completely irrelevant. In our attempts to become relevant to the world, we have rather become like the world. Why do we think we will win them by looking like them? I believe it is because we lack prophetic courage. If we seek people’s approval, we will fear offending them. And if we fear offending them, we will never confront them. Yet Elijah the Prophet discovered what the world truly needs thousands of years ago. When the people of Israel were serving their false god, Baal, Elijah stood up and said: “You must make a choice today.”
I am convinced that we also must make a choice. If Baal is your god, then serve him. If money is your god, then serve it. If acceptance is your god, then give your life to that. If partying and pleasure are your gods, then live for them. But if Yahweh is God, Elijah said, then serve Him!
Elijah knew his God. He knew that the living God is able to demonstrate His power in the face of the gods of this age. That is why Elijah said, “Meet me on top of the mountain, bring all of your prophets and I will stand there as one man representing Yahweh – and we will find out whose God is the true God.”
I picture it like this. The prophets of Baal began to dance and sing with madness, trying to call down fire from their god. But Elijah was falling asleep. There was not even a puff of smoke from Baal’s altar. After a while Elijah stood up and said, “Guys I hate to interrupt since you seem to be having lots of fun. But maybe your God left on vacation.” Then he said, “Gentlemen before it gets too late and the sun goes down, let me pray. I don’t need a long time. I don’t need to scream and shout or cut myself. All I need is to speak to my God because He is the God who lives.”
And then he prayed, “Lord, answer me, so these people will know that you, Lord, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.” The Bible says fire fell from heaven, consumed the sacrifice and the wood and the stones, and even licked up the water in the trench. Our God is a consuming fire!
The world does not need pyrotechnics, they are not looking for rock and roll music, they are not looking for great entertainment. What they are looking for is reality – the demonstration of God’s power. And when they see it, they will fall on their faces like the Israelites did, declaring that the Lord, He is God.
So people will see who is the One True God
The same thing that motivated Elijah to turn people back to the one true God, also motivates us. People need to see that Jesus is the true and living God. We are supposed to lead them to Him! That is exactly why we, the CfaN team, preach the Gospel unashamedly, boldly and with everything inside of us. We truly expect amazing things to happen in the coming months and years.