When Fire fell from Heaven
By Pastor Hal Mayer
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Welcome to Keep the Faith Ministry. Thank you for joining me today as we study God’s word again, in light of our times.
Do you think that God’s word is relevant to the times in which we live? Some people don’t, you know. But I’m amazed at how specific God’s word is. Yet, the Bible doesn’t just come out and say it. God tells us much about our times in ways that make us think. He also protects His truth and His revelations from prying eyes of those who do not want to believe. He tells us a story, or a parable. He cloaks it in figures, types and symbols, which require us to study to find out their meaning, or He reveals it to us in promises and proverbs. And sometimes, but only rarely, comparatively speaking, He reveals the details of what to expect in the last days by direct and plain revelation.
Why are things hidden in all these different ways? Why does God reveal things through obscure means like parables and stories? Bible stories are really real life parables, aren’t they? God actually uses people and circumstances in real life that are recorded in the Bible to reveal to us what our own times will be like. To my mind, that is really brilliant. It is big. God loves us so much that He arranged experiences in the past to be a prophetic example to us about our own times.
Jesus spoke these words from Matthew 13:10-15 to His disciples after they asked him why he always spoke in parables, or in obscure terms to the public. They often had to ask him for clarification of the parables themselves because it was hard for them to understand their real meaning.
Here it is. “And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables? He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given. For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath. Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand. And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive: For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.”
You see my friends; Jesus was saying that the religious leaders of His day had resisted His appeals through the prophets. They had closed their ears to His truth. They had shut their eyes from the obvious evidence of God’s love and power. And had turned their backs on Him so that they would not by any means be converted and forgiven and healed. Their rebellion and resistance had matured to the point where there was nothing He could do for them as a people.
But Jesus looked his disciples in their eyes and he said, “But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear. For verily I say unto you, That many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them, Verses 16, 17.
Then Matthew concludes in verse 35. “That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, I will open my mouth in parables; I will utter things which have been kept secret from the foundation of the world.”
Do you think God wants you to understand the secrets that have been kept hidden from the foundation of the world? That’s from all the way back at and even before creation, my friends. Do you think God wants to let you in on the big picture? Do you think that God wants to let you see the struggle that is going on in the universe as played out on this planet for the loyalties of the hearts and minds of men? These things are hidden from those who refuse to believe.
As we begin our study today, let us pray. Our wonderful Father in heaven, we are amazed that through Your word, You reveal to us, Your children, so much light and understanding of the times in which we live. We need this. So many people cannot understand it, or do not want to understand it. But we want to understand, Lord. We want to live by the word of God. We don’t want to be left with nothing in the coming time of global crisis. Please Father in heaven, reveal to us today more of the hidden things that were kept secret from the foundation of the world. We want to understand the great controversy between Christ and Satan and its importance to our lives. As we open Your word today, please open our hearts and minds, I pray, in Jesus name, amen.
Today, I will continue with the life and times of Elijah, the man that God used to bring down the false worship of Baal in the church of his day. You may remember that the people had turned their backs on God, because Ahab and Jezebel had led them to do so. These two were collaborators in walking in the sins of Jeroboam “wherewith he made Israel to sin.” You may also remember that in following after strange gods, Israel descended into the licentiousness of nature worship. I’m sure it was also entertaining. And it pains me to see churches focused more on entertainment than on the preaching of present truth in the Word of God. Those who loved the God of heaven were dismayed because of the terrible apostasy. Are you dismayed by apostasy today? I hope so. It is those who cry and sigh for the abominations that are done in the church that will receive the seal of God.
Elijah was one of these types of people. He prayed earnestly that God would intervene. And eventually God did, by using Elijah as His prophet. Elijah’s prayer life was at the center of his life. James 5:17 tells us that it was earnest and passionate. And when God’s people today pray as earnestly and sincerely as Elijah, they too will become God’s special instruments to bring about the true worship of God. They will become the third Elijah. And God will use them to purify a people for Him that will stand true to heaven’s principles, even in the midst of severe trial and persecution of the last days. The times of Elijah are a prophetic type of the persecution of the last days. Elijah himself is a type of those who will give the last warning message.
We also learn from the apostle James that Elijah had passions just like us, but that he directed them to the work of God. His passions were under the control of the Holy Spirit and the Lord used them to accomplish much. Serious times require passionate witnesses for God. Do you think we have come to such a time?
Turn with me in your Bibles to the book of 1 Kings, chapter 18, and we’ll start with verse 17. You may remember from our last installment on the life and times of Elijah that Elijah had a meeting with Ahab. This was a meeting of as bad a king as ever plagued the world and as good a prophet as ever blessed the church at least up to that time.
Listen to their conversation. “And it came to pass, when Ahab saw Elijah, that Ahab said unto him, Art thou he that troubleth Israel?”
Ahab glared at Elijah in anger, but he dared not strike Elijah, or arrest him, or do anything to him, lest the drought continue on for another three and a half years. He no doubt remembered the time when Jeroboam tried to strike the prophet and his hand dried up (1 Kings 13:4). But he didn’t hesitate to accuse him, which was no less an affront to Elijah and Elijah’s God. God in his mercy did not strike him with dumbness for his abusive and intemperate language against His godly prophet. God had an assignment for Ahab that Ahab would have to obey. Ahab, not Elijah, was to call all of Israel and those foreign imposters, the Prophets of Baal and the Prophets of the Groves to Mount Carmel where in the presence of all; Baal would be made to look rather foolish in the eyes of the people.
Ahab’s way of speaking to Elijah was quite different than Obadiah’s surprised and respectful language, “Art thou that my lord Elijah?” said Obadiah. Ahab’s angry words were a rather crude compliment, a confirmation and acknowledgement of the truth of the prophet’s prediction. But it also acknowledged, although grudgingly, that Elijah’s God was more powerful than Baal. The fact that the God of heaven could cause so much trouble for Baal and his followers bothered Ahab.
Ahab, the ruler of Israel, had sold himself to do wickedness. Obadiah had committed himself to doing righteously. We can understand their character by the way they addressed God’s messenger. You can guess pretty accurately the character of others and their relationship to God by the way they relate to God’s faithful people and His ministers that preach the true message. Often it is turned around today. Those who don’t teach the truth are respected and promoted, while those who do are prevented from serving the Lord’s people the bread of life, just as it was in the time of Jeroboam who fired the prophets of the Lord and replaced them by ordaining the “lowest of the people,” 1 Kings 12:31 and 13:33.
Think about this for a minute. Elijah had come to announce that the drought was almost over and that rain would once again come upon the earth if the people would repent. Upon seeing Elijah, Ahab should have rejoiced and asked him what Israel must do to restore the favor of God. But instead he affronts Elijah with an utterly false accusation.
And isn’t this the way all of God’s messengers of reproof and warning have been treated down through the centuries? Even today, we are quick to condemn anyone who points out our sins, or the sins of God’s church as if they are troublers of Israel. Even today, we marginalize anyone who is as true to duty as the needle to the pole. Even today, we criticize those who stand for truth though the heavens fall.
What a stupid man Ahab is. Here is his chance to recover from his wickedness, but he throws it away like a piece of rubbish. Elijah’s presence should have been a harbinger to him of good things to come, but to Ahab Elijah was an enemy. But Elijah was far from being the enemy of Israel’s welfare. He was the one remaining voice to defend the very principles upon which Israel’s prosperity depended.
Many are the faithful and noble men whose lot has been to be counted as the troublers of the church or of the world. They were run down as public grievances and some were even hunted like wild animals. Often they had to flee from their homes and hearths. Often they had to wander about from place to place seeking shelter wherever they could find it. Often they had to depend on the direct providence of God for their daily bread. Even Christ and his apostles were treated that way, Acts 17:6.
God had sent Elijah to announce the trouble that was going to happen to Israel because of the trouble that Ahab and Jezebel had caused God’s church by their persecuting and oppressive behavior in the service of the licentious, false worship of Baal. So, Elijah could rightly say, “it is not I that have troubled Israel; but thou and thy father’s house, in that ye have forsaken the commandments of the LORD, and thou hast followed Baalim.”
It is not the man that foretells the judgments of God so that His people can repent and be healed that is the troubler of Israel, but those who have forsaken the commandments of the Lord and have followed false worship in the first place. For instance, in our day, there is a lot of fanaticism to get people ordained to the gospel ministry that God has not authorized. Historically, only pagan worship had female priests. So, the ordination of women comes from paganism and part of sin wherewith Jeroboam made Israel to sin. It was part of Ahab’s religion.
In our day, the ecumenical movement has led many church members into relationships that God has condemned. Instead of proclaiming His final appeal to “come out of her my people,” Revelation 18:4, many are going back to Babylon and joining Rome in ecumenical rebellion to the plain teachings of scripture.
Elijah had some directives for Ahab. “Now therefore send, and gather to me all Israel unto Mount Carmel, and the prophets of Baal four hundred and fifty, and the prophets of the groves four hundred, which eat at Jezebel’s table.”
Elijah had chosen Mt. Carmel because of its importance in the history of God’s people. Mt. Carmel was a mountain range stretching in a northwesterly direction from the northern part of Samaria to the sea at what is known today as Haifa. There were many peaks and hundreds of ravines intersecting throughout the range. The Carmel range is probably 12 miles or so in length. The range ends on a peninsula that slopes down to the sea on which Haifa is built today. On the northern side of the Carmel range is the brook Kishon, which flows to the sea parallel with the range.
Mount Carmel’s name means, “garden land” and it was very fertile. Isaiah and Micah spoke of its fruitfulness (Isaiah 35:2, Micah 7:14) and Amos mentions its value as a hiding place (Amos 9:2, 3). Carmel was known for its olive groves and fruit trees. In the days of Elijah there were beautiful forests and fragrant flowers everywhere on Carmel… when there was rain, that is. And Carmel abounds in caves and grottos. Perhaps it was in one of these caves that the godly Obadiah hid 100 prophets during the furious persecution by the immoral queen Jezebel.
About two-thirds of the distance from the eastern end of the range going toward the sea, there is a higher peak reaching 1724 feet above sea level. On the eastern side of this highest peak there is a place called el-mohraka, “the burned place.” It is a little lower than the peak at about 1635 feet, and sits over near the northern edge of the ridge where there is a steep drop off of about 200 feet. It is suspected that on top of this conspicuous and prominent ridge is the place that Elijah chose to confront the foreign priests of a foreign god, right there where they had set up their own alter and high place dedicated to Baal worship. The gentle slopes to the South and East would have been a very suitable place for thousands of Israelites to observe the confrontation close at hand. Even from a long distance the erected alters would be in full view. There was even something of a terrace that spreads out a little higher than the alter toward the summit where the 850 prophets that served the worship of Baal could be in full view.
This prominent spot has a commanding view of the huge valley below and the brook Kishon. And from there one could see Jezebel and Ahab’s palace and even Jezebel’s temple off in the distance in Samaria. From the highest peak on Carmel, an easy climb to the west could be seen the Mediterranean Sea spread out in all its azure glory.
This place was also a sacred spot for Israel since ancient times. An alter to the living God had been built there and the people resorted there to pray and worship. But when Baal worship was introduced, Jezebel made sure that this alter was torn down and an alter to Baal was erected nearby. It was the perfect place for Elijah to bring the people in order to dispute the control of Baal worship on their minds.
Elijah chose the perfect spot geographically, historically, and spiritually as both kinds of worship had been offered there. The competition between the gods was nowhere more intense than on Mount Carmel.
Ahab dared not disobey Elijah’s command. The land was still in drought and there was no hope of a change in weather unless he did what Elijah had commanded. He was at Elijah’s beck and call. Imagine the haughty king a submissive and obedient subject of the prophet. Ahab was used to being ruled by Jezebel. But now a far higher Authority ruled over him. The prophet wielded virtually unlimited power over the wicked king. He could not object. He could not disobey. He could not run. He could not hide. He could not avoid fulfilling Elijah’s demand. He stood in awe of the prophet and jumped into action when Elijah instructed him. God had delivered the whole nation really into Elijah’s hands. Everyone knew that unless they obeyed Elijah, there would be more drought. They were beholden to the one whom they had slighted, and whose counsels they hated. Now the synagogue of Satan was to bow at the feet of God’s messenger.
So, the challenge on Carmel was of great interest to all. It made perfect news copy; two gods, two opinions, two contending loyalties. One side was the majority viewpoint. The other was the singular fidelity of one man who stood in open defiance of the prevailing apostasy and challenged the prevailing religious ritual.
The people needed to have an opportunity to make an informed decision about who really was God. There were two opinions in Israel. There were the 7000 that had not bowed the knee to Baal. They maintained the worship of the true God even though they had to do it secretly. The other opinion was promoted by the king and queen who required everybody to serve and worship Baal.
It would have taken some time to gather all the people to that spot on Mount Carmel. There too came the 450 prophets of Baal who were Jezebel’s enforcers, making sure that her religion was followed in all the land. There were also the 400 prophets of the groves, which ate at Jezebel’s table and who were her personal chaplains in Samaria. They were the ones who taught the principles of Baal’s religion to the people and oversaw the religious rituals. These prophets weren’t so much given to foretelling the future as they were to teaching false religion.
But they all finally arrived and Elijah was waiting for them up there on the mount. I suspect that there was a bit of nervousness among the 850 false prophets. After all, their religion and their teachings were under severe scrutiny. I suspect that they sensed a foreboding that this meeting up there on their high place, was not in their best interests at all. But what could they do about it? Their arrogance got the best of them, and they decided that they would be able to overcome this one man who had challenged them. They decided that Baal would arise and demonstrate his power.
Ahab and the people may have thought that Elijah was going to pray for rain in the presence of them all and bless the land. After all he had told Ahab that there would be neither dew nor rain unless he said so. So, their expectations were very high for this event.
But first Elijah had other work to do. The people must be brought to a realization of their error and also to repentance before they could expect the removal of the judgment of God. This is the great principle of righteousness by faith. God first prepares our hearts to surrender to Him. He then prepares our ears to hear what He has to say. Then he causes us to turn to Him and then He will turn to us. He does His work by sending judgments into our lives both large and small. This opens our eyes and ears and makes us more sensitive to His biddings. Then He can work the change in us so that we are ready and able to receive His blessings. Those who desert God cannot expect to look for God’s favor until they have returned to their allegiance. Elijah could have pleaded with God for rain seventy times seven, but he would not have had an answer if he had not started at the right end of the problem.
Too often today, we expect God’s blessings even though we don’t comply with the conditions, and even though we continue in our own ways and in our own sins. We often have blessings inherent in where we live, and we take them for granted. And when they are removed, we wonder what we’ve done wrong to deserve such a thing.
You might think, how is it that God would allow Baal to be a contender with Him, when it is so plain that Baal was a false god? But think about God’s ways for a minute. God allows opposition to rise against Him for a very important reason. By condescending to let Satan present alternatives, it is a powerful opportunity for God to ultimately reveal His power and justice. By doing this He exposes the paltry foolishness of the evidence against Him.
And this is the way it is in the Great Controversy between Christ and Satan of which the struggle on Mount Carmel is but one chapter. By allowing the contest to be public, God opens before the whole human race the justice of His government, the paucity of argument of the opposition, His incredible kindness and forgiving spirit in contrast to Satan’s malicious intent, and much more.
When the people were gathered together, the vast multitude fell silent as Elijah raised his hands to get their attention. Then in a voice that could be heard by all in that great assembly he reproved the people for mixing the worship of God and the worship of Baal together. “How long halt ye between two opinions? If the Lord be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him.”
You see, under the pressure of Jezebel’s henchmen, the people felt the pressure to change their allegiance to Baal. They had played both sides for a long time. It was as if in their hearts there were two opinions. But they had justified their course of action because it was just too hard to be loyal only to the God of heaven. They had to at least show up at the shrine of Baal.
Elijah shows them the absurdity of all this. There can only be one God. He tells them that they need to decide, particularly if they want to solve the drought problem.
Do you think that today people need to decide their loyalties? Like never before, we are a people of divided loyalty. We parley with political correctness, we play with compromise, and we pretend that as God’s people we are saved and don’t need reform of our ways. We do what we want. We eat what we want. We watch what we want. We don’t have much loyalty to Jehovah, do we? Our worship either becomes a ritual and repetitive, or it becomes emotional, aesthetic (or feeling oriented), acoustic (stimulated by sound) and superficial. There is very little meaningful thought put into our faith. And consequently the lines of loyalty are blurred. The spirit of ecumenism takes over. We aren’t as loyal to Jehovah as we think we are.
Friends, there can only be one God, one infinite, supreme, one all-sufficient, all powerful and loving God. We cannot serve two masters. He that is not with God is against him.
And Elijah puts God on public trial. If Baal is the one infinite omnipotent being, that one supreme lord and all sufficient benefactor, he suggests, then you ought to renounce Jehovah and cleave to Baal only. But if Jehovah be that one God, Baal is an imposter, a cheat, and you must have no more to do with him.
Friends, it is dangerous to halt between two opinions. The service of God on one hand, and the service of sin on the other, the dominion of Christ on one hand and the dominion of lust on the other; because we halt between these, we are unresolved in our convictions, unstable and unsteady in our purposes. We promise to do right, but in the end we do evil. We start off well, but we falter and become inconsistent, indifferent and lukewarm. We live in the age of two opinions. Our hearts are divided. But God wants all or nothing. We are either all for God, or we are all against Him. Where do you stand my friends? Elijah’s point is for us. It is for our generation.
Joshua had it right when he said, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” What a wonderful commitment! “You can serve any god you want,” he said, “but I won’t join you. As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
“You can live any way you want, but I won’t live that way with you. As for me and my house we will serve the Lord.”
“You can halt between two opinions if you want, but you won’t see me quibbling over what God says, trying to water it down to suit myself and justify what I want. As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
Don’t you want to say that, my friends? This is not the time to halt between two opinions. We are near the close of probation, and we need the correction and reproof of God’s Spirit. Perhaps we need another Elijah today to confront our halting wickedness.
Elijah is about to show all Israel, and all the prophets of Baal, that far from being the all-sufficient benefactor, the omnipotent god, Baal is a devil whose degrading rights insult the intelligence and ruin the nobility of the soul. Yet, he proposes a choice to them. Which will it be? How will you choose? And being confused and disorientated by many years of apostasy, the people didn’t know how to answer him. The Bible just says that they “answered him not a word,” 1 Kings 18:21.
You see, my friends, when you are faced with the ultimate question, whom do you serve, how will you answer? Will you be so confused and unclear because of your compromises that you cannot answer a word? What will happen when the Judge of all the earth asks you whom you served in your life, what answer would you give Him? Will you be silent? If you have not served your Creator and Redeemer who owns you because of His great sacrifice there will be nothing you can say. Friends, Elijah’s voice still rings in our ears. His reproof still stands against God’s people today. Where are your loyalties? How long halt ye between two opinions?
Baal had all the external advantages on his side. The leaders of the nation, the king, the queen and the court were all on the side of Baal. The vast majority of the people were on the side of Baal. The judges and the court system were all on the side of Baal. The congress and the parliament were all on the side of Baal. The laws of the land were on the side of Baal. The ministers of religion were on the side of Baal, and they were well fed and fat, too.
But on the side of heaven there was only one man. He was a poor exile and had endured homelessness, meager food, and no funding. He was what we would call today a self-supporting worker. He had nothing to support him other than the birds and a poor widow woman that nobody took notice of in a foreign nation. He was despised and rejected and yet he was the man who brought Israel to its knees. King and false prophet, and especially the wicked Queen Jezebel hated him.
Notice that Elijah compares the mighty against the weak. 1 Kings 18:22. “Then said Elijah unto the people, I, even I only, remain a prophet of the Lord; but Baal’s prophets are four hundred and fifty men.” The contrast is powerful, the weak against the mighty, the trusting, dependent soul against the multitude of Jehovah’s enemies. Do you think that is the way it will be in the last days just before Jesus comes?
Here it is from Great Controversy, page 615. “As the Sabbath has become the special point of controversy throughout Christendom, and religious and secular authorities have combined to enforce the observance of the Sunday, the persistent refusal of a small minority to yield to the popular demand will make them objects of universal execration. It will be urged that the few who stand in opposition to an institution of the church and a law of the state ought not to be tolerated; that it is better for them to suffer than for whole nations to be thrown into confusion and lawlessness.”
The same principles will be in play during the soon-coming crisis. The nations, their rulers, their legislative bodies, their courts, their ministers of religion, all will be on the side of Babylon. Just as Jezebel had overthrown the Sabbath, so they all will support Sunday worship in opposition to the Sabbath of the law of God. They will all require the same loyalty to Satan as Jezebel required of Israel.
What a choice to make! How easy a choice it is depends on your principles. Do you choose the popular side that has all the wealth, all the people, all the rulers and the national support? Or do you choose the side of those that are persecuted, living from hand to mouth, and hiding in a cave? Do you join that side that has plenty to eat, or do you choose the side that is starving or barely getting by? Which is it?
Do you halt between two opinions, my friend? If there is something in your life that you know isn’t what God wants, you have to make a decision, my friend. If there is a relationship, if there is an addiction, if there is a sin that you know is displeasing the God of heaven, this is the time to make it right and put it away from your life and be counted on the Lord’s side.
If there is bitterness, or hatred, or strife in your heart, this is the time to let go of it. If there is resentment, envy or jealousy, deal with it. You don’t want to be halting between two opinions any longer.
Elijah proposes to put God on trial, 1 Kings 18:23, 24, “Let them therefore give us two bullocks; and let them choose one bullock for themselves, and cut it in pieces, and lay it on wood, and put no fire under: and I will dress the other bullock, and lay it on wood, and put no fire under: And call ye on the name of your gods, and I will call on the name of the LORD: and the God that answereth by fire, let him be God. And all the people answered and said, It is well spoken.”
The problem that Israel faced was a drought, a lack of rain. Elijah does not say, “the god that answers by rain, let him be God,” because rain would not have atoned for their sins. It is sacrifice that atones for sin. Therefore he called for fire to burn a sacrifice. And Israel needed atonement for walking in the sins of their fathers, didn’t they? Elijah was saying if Baal could forgive sins let him be god. His underlying point was that only Jehovah could forgive sins.
The people thought it would be a good contest, so they said, “It is well spoken.” Ahab and the prophets of Baal could not object to the test, though they had never been able to get fire to come down from heaven before. Even if the contest was a draw and Elijah could not get fire to come down from heaven, they thought they would still have an advantage because Elijah would have been seen to fail. Plus they had the power of the state on their side. So if Elijah was unable to call fire down from heaven, he could be executed and there would be no more trouble. Baal worship would continue in Israel even more powerfully than before. So they felt they had better than a fifty-fifty chance of coming out ahead.
Elijah watches the wily prophets of Baal carefully as they dress the bullock and put it up on their alter. He wanted to be sure that they would not try to light a fire.
The prophets of Baal were noisy. Think of the clatter these 850 foolish men made up on Mount Carmel “O Baal! Hear us, O Baal! Answer us.” This went on for hours “from morning until noon,” the Bible says. They were earnest. They were passionate. They were dedicated. But it was a passion worthy of a better cause.
No doubt they took turns wearing themselves out around the alter. The Bible says they were leaping up on the alter and jumping up and down and dancing around. The Bible makes it sound like some of the hip hop you see in churches these days, arms flailing, feet jumping, fingers pointing, and a whole lot of shouting and clatter, from the platform of the sacred desk, no less, as if this is pleasing to God. They rap, they throw their arms up in the air and like those priests of Baal, spend a lot of energy to show how naked their souls really are. They make fools of themselves in public by their fanatical zeal to use music that is from Satan, though it has gospel words, of sorts.
It must have been quite a spectacle. But all these foolish antics were useless. They were unable to rouse Baal to action. Elijah watched, perhaps from up on a little higher elevation so that he could see everything very well and make sure that none of them tried any tricks. Elijah, no doubt restrained his indignation and distain for them as long as he could. At noon, when the sun was hottest and when they would have expected fire to come down from heaven, if it was ever going to come, he could hold back no longer and mocked them for their folly, Verse 27. He said “Cry aloud: for he is a god; either he is talking, or he is pursuing, or he is in a journey or peradventure he sleepeth, and must be awaked.” Elijah drove home the point that Baal was useless and had no interest in them.
Think about the implications of Elijah’s words. “Your god cannot hear you even though you have made all this clamor. What kind of god requires you to raise such a ruckus in order for him to hear you? A god who is minding his own business and not that of his subjects is a selfish and unloving god. What kind of god is too busy to look after your needs and the needs of the nation? What kind of god neglects to hear you when his honor and his integrity are at stake in this one sacrifice? If he wants to retain Israel as loyal subjects, why doesn’t he jump into action? Obviously he doesn’t really care about you or the nation. His conquest of the nation of Israel will be lost if he doesn’t do something quickly. Cry louder, cry louder.”
Elijah’s words, instead of putting them to shame, caused them to become more violent and raise more noise. Like madmen with almost superhuman power they cut themselves with knives and lancets until the blood gushed out. Like men under the control of demons, they mutilated themselves in their frenzy, as if Baal needed to be prompted to bless them. The blood rite, as you may remember was to scare off the death god Mot, which, in their mythology could have been preventing Baal from bringing rain.
The God of heaven never requires such noise and mutilation of his worshippers. In fact, he expressly forbade His people from cutting themselves. Deuteronomy 14:1 says, “Ye are the children of the Lord your God: ye shall not cut yourselves, nor make any baldness between our eyes for the dead.” God requires that we mortify our lusts and corruptions, but not our bodies with corporal punishment and penances and severities. These are the things of the Papacy. Lent, for instance, is a mild form of corporal or physical mortification.
Only an evil god would require such a blood rite. And Baal consequently represents the evil one. Maybe they thought that the blood of the bullock wasn’t enough and therefore provided their own in their fanatical frenzy.
Listen to this end time, prophetic remark from Great Controversy, page 607. “As the controversy [over Sunday observance] extends into new fields and the minds of the people are called to God’s downtrodden law, Satan is astir. The power attending the message will only madden those who oppose it. The clergy will put forth almost superhuman efforts to shut away the light lest it should shine upon their flocks. By every means at their command they will endeavor to suppress the discussion of these vital questions. The church appeals to the strong arm of civil power, and, in this work, papists and Protestants unite.”
Do you think this is similar to the time of Elijah? The government had taken control of religion and had successfully forced the people to worship Baal regardless of their religious convictions. Elijah’s message was powerful and compelling, but it only maddened these prophets of Baal – the national clergy. They put forth almost superhuman efforts to get Baal to act on their behalf and to be victorious in the struggle with Elijah’s God. They used every means at their command to shut away the light of God’s truth from the people and to keep them from turning to Jehovah God.
Elijah’s words were well deserved. These prophets had spent untiring energy to deceive the people. This was their last great effort. It was the climax of their deceitful work. They did their very best to overthrow the God of heaven in the minds of the people.
But again, isn’t this the way it will be in the last days? Satan will try one last time to deceive the whole world. He will put all his power and effort into this one last deception. He will come as a being of light and claim to be Christ returning to earth.
Listen to this from Great Controversy, page 624. “As the crowning act in the great drama of deception, Satan himself will personate Christ. The church has long professed to look to the Saviour’s advent as the consummation of her hopes. Now the great deceiver will make it appear that Christ has come. In different parts of the earth, Satan will manifest himself among men as a majestic being of dazzling brightness, resembling the description of the Son of God given by John in the Revelation. Revelation 1:13-15. The glory that surrounds him is unsurpassed by anything that mortal eyes have yet beheld. The shout of triumph rings out upon the air: “Christ has come! Christ has come!” The people prostrate themselves in adoration before him, while he lifts up his hands and pronounces a blessing upon them, as Christ blessed His disciples when He was upon the earth. His voice is soft and subdued, yet full of melody. In gentle, compassionate tones he presents some of the same gracious, heavenly truths which the Saviour uttered; he heals the diseases of the people, and then, in his assumed character of Christ, he claims to have changed the Sabbath to Sunday, and commands all to hallow the day which he has blessed. He declares that those who persist in keeping holy the seventh day are blaspheming his name by refusing to listen to his angels sent to them with light and truth. This is the strong, almost overmastering delusion.”
How easy will it be for you then to defend the law of God, in particular the fourth commandment? How easy will it be for those who want to continue to honor God’s law to keep His holy Sabbath? You see, this is similar to the way it was for the 7000 that did not bow the knee to Baal. They had to worship in secret. They were under threat of death, and the coercive power of the state was against them. The whole nation was against them.
These fanatical false pastors clamored and danced and cut themselves all day, until the time of offering of the evening sacrifice, but “there was neither voice, nor any to answer, nor any that regarded,” Verse 29. They failed. They finally had to stop.
Satan failed too. The prince of the power of the air, if God would have permitted him, could have caused fire to come down from heaven on this occasion, and gladly would have done it in support of the worship of Baal. He has that power. See Revelation 13:13.
Now it was Elijah’s turn. He calls the people to come near unto him. He is not going to jump up and down as did the prophets of Baal. He is not going to shout and scream, and cut himself with knives. He is just going to pray a simple, humble prayer to the God of heaven.
Verse 30 says “he repaired the alter of the Lord that was broken down.” The ruins of that alter to Jehovah were still there. Elijah would not make use of the alter of Baal. This would show disrespect to the God of heaven. Their alter had been polluted with their incantations, their blood and their irreverent feet. Carefully, deliberately with symbolic purpose he takes twelve stones that represent the twelve tribes of Israel and restores the ancient alter torn down by Jezebel.
Elijah repaired the old alter because he did not want to suggest that he was bringing in any new religion to them, but rather that he was reviving the faith and worship of their fathers’ God, and bringing them back to their loyalty to Jehovah. He was attempting to restore the true worship of God. He was attempting to restore the Sabbath, which had also fallen into disuse.
Notice that he repaired the alter with twelve stones “according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, unto whom the word of the Lord came, saying, Israel shall be my name,” Verse 31. This was in the northern kingdom of the ten tribes that had been separated from the two tribes of the southern kingdom of Judah. Why didn’t he build the alter with just ten stones?
You see, the separation of the kingdom was by God’s design for the correction of both Israel and Judah. But they were still one nation in the eyes of God. The civil strife between them was to create a desire for unity once again, but on the principles of heaven. You see, kings and rulers often bring division instead of unity by their failings and attitudes. They often polarize a nation and divide it for political reasons. God allowed the division so that they would eventually desire a solution. Those twelve stones, by Elijah’s prophetic authority, prophesied that one day the kingdom of twelve tribes would be united again under the true worship of God. The ten tribes had rebelled and turned their backs on Jehovah, and had revolted and served Baal. But Elijah used twelve stones to show that they all still belonged to God, and so that all could see that the God of Judah was also the God of Israel. Elijah is reminding them of their spiritual heritage. He is also making another prophecy in rebuilding the alter. He was saying that the house of Ahab would fall one day and Jezebel’s reign would come to an end.
And here is something else. Notice in verse 31, speaking of Jacob it says, “unto whom the word of the Lord came, saying, Israel shall be thy name.” The name Israel means “a prince with God.” Israel had been shamed and degraded by the licentious worship of Baal. Elijah now symbolically restores Israel’s manhood and his princely bearing with God.
Isn’t God kind? If you have destroyed your manhood or womanhood, if you have shamed yourself by your actions and behavior, if you have degraded yourself to the lowest level and prostituted yourself in your sins, Jesus still will restore you to your manhood or your womanhood. He has not rejected you. He can save you to the uttermost. He can reach all the way down, no matter how far you have fallen, and bring you back up. He can restore your purity. He can restore your devotion. He can restore your love for him. Don’t you think you should take advantage of that!? Come to Him as you are. Like the people on Mount Carmel, let an alter be built in your heart. Let God have your soul. He will take you back just as He took Israel back.
Israel may have seen another spectacle on Mount Carmel. I can imagine that Elijah wept as he put those stones back in order and dug a trench around the alter. I can imagine the tears streaming down his face and beard and wetting the stones and the trench as he put the wood on the alter and killed the bullock, cut it in pieces and laid them carefully on the alter he has just built. Elijah’s tears were for Israel. He longed for the God of heaven to have their respect again. He longed for them to repent of their sins and in his heart he was already pleading with God to do a miracle for him that day.
The time of the evening sacrifice was a very important time of reconciliation at the end of the day. After all the day’s activities, after all the difficulties and trials, God’s people came together in the evening to pray and seek their God. Any sins that had been committed during the day were to be laid on that sacrifice, which was a symbol of Christ the sacrifice of God for the sins of man. And when the offering was consumed by fire, the sins were forgiven. And now, Elijah is about to reconcile a huge and evil sin. Elijah is going to put an end to the succession of the sin of Jeroboam, wherewith he made Israel to sin by worshipping false gods.
Friends, if we sincerely show repentance toward God and offer our hearts to God as a living sacrifice, and earnestly follow in His ways; He will send from heaven and kindle a holy fire in your soul. You will be consumed in the service of God. Your love and zeal will be hot and earnest. Your faith will be strong, and your victory sweet.
Friends, here is something else to think about. On Mount Carmel there was no temple or tabernacle. It was a long way from the ark of the testimony and the place that God had chosen for His worship in Jerusalem. But never was any sacrifice more acceptable to God than Elijah’s on behalf of the nation of Israel.
Now, think about this. God had ordained an organized system of worship rooted in the temple in Jerusalem, but at times, when occasion required it, the system was suspended, or an alternate system was used to accomplish His purposes. Do you remember the time the judges? In Samuel’s time, when Hophni and Phinehas abused the people, alternate worship was established in homes. Also, in Elijah’s time, faithful souls, the 7000, needed to meet in their homes as well. And here is another major example, Elijah was a prophet, but was not of the tribe of Levi, but from Gad or Manasseh which occupied Gilead where he was raised. Therefore, he was not ordained a priest. Yet, he performed the functions of a priest on Mount Carmel. The fire accepting Elijah’s offering shows us that in certain circumstances God authorizes alternatives to the established order, especially when the established order cannot, or will not obey Him.
So, friends, I’m going to make a rather bold statement. The lesson in this is that you are not to think that there are no alternatives to the existing order of things, particularly if the existing order is not following the instructions or teaching the truth of God as found in His word. Despite what you may have been told, God ordains that in times of unusual circumstances, and in times of extremity, His people can act and do things outside of the regular lines, such as worship in private settings, conduct evangelism, baptisms, communion and other ministerial services. This is often where self-supporting work fits in. Elijah himself was a self-supporting prophet. He was not part of the established religious order.
Jesus said, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen,” Matthew 28:19, 20. This instruction directly from Christ’s own mouth, is not restricted to clergy. I don’t recommend that church order be ignored when it is cooperating with heaven, until we are in the time of trouble when the regular system can’t function normally any longer. But even today, in certain circumstances, it is still appropriate to do such things.
Elijah ordered an abundance of water to be poured on the alter. He was not going to give any chance for anyone to suggest that he used trickery to light the sacrificial fire. This would also make the expected miracle a more dramatic miracle. Everyone knows that wet wood doesn’t burn.
Now, where did Elijah’s helpers get the water? Keep in mind that people cannot live more than a few days without water. So, God in His mercy did not let all the springs of water go dry, else there would have been no people left to come to Mount Carmel to witness the miracle. But it was very difficult nevertheless to supply water to all the beasts as well as to human beings during the severe drought.
Many commentators say that down a steep ravine from the place of confrontation there was a spring that never went dry. Perhaps God sustained it in order to provide for Elijah. Nevertheless, twelve barrels of water, one for each tribe, was brought to the alter and poured over it. The water ran down over the sacrifice, the wood and the stones and into the trench drenching everything.
Then Elijah solemnly and with great earnestness addresses himself to God, humbly pleading with Him to turn the sacrifice to ashes. “…Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, let it be known this day that thou art God in Israel, and that I am thy servant, and that I have done all these things according to thy word. Hear me, O Lord, hear me, that this people may know that thou art the Lord God, and that thou has turned their heart back again,” Verses 36 and 37.
Think about Elijah’s prayer for a moment. He was calm, composed, and far from the heat and disorder of the Baalish worship service. He does not speak long. He will not be known for his much speaking or his repetition. Also notice that verse 36 says that Elijah came near to the alter, even though he expected fire to come down from heaven. He was not afraid of God or His fire. This is a wonderful lesson. We must not be afraid of what God will do if we surrender to Him. It will be a huge blessing to us.
Elijah came near to the alter in boldness. He speaks to Him as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, thus reminding the people of their heritage. Notice also that in his prayer Elijah tells God that he has done all these things according to God’s word. Friends, our lives, like Elijah’s, must be lived and acted out in accordance with the word of God. The word must be our guidance system, our rudder to get us through the storms and temptations of life. If you don’t study the word, how will it guide you?
Elijah, by faith, recognizes that God has turned the hearts of the people away from Baal and back to the living God of heaven.
It is as if the angels of God could hardly wait for their Heavenly Commander to give the signal to strike the alter with fire. Suddenly, with a mighty rushing sound, flame of fire fell from heaven like lightening and the sacrifice erupted in a sizzling blaze. This was no ordinary fire. This was the fire of God. Listen to the words of scripture.
Verse 38, “Then the fire of the LORD fell, and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench.”
The God of Israel does not need to be awakened. He does not need to be resurrected from the dead as was taught in Phoenician mythology about Baal. God immediately answered by fire as if He was just waiting for Elijah’s prayer to be offered. Do you think God will answer your prayers that quickly when it is according to His will? And yes, certain prayers are answered immediately, such as the sincere prayer of repentance.
Also, note that the water in the trench was licked up too and made into vapor. Perhaps this was an indicator that rain, which is formed by water vapor in the air, was on its way.
Verse 39, “And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces: and they said, The Lord, he is the God, the Lord, he is the God.”
Elijah didn’t waste any time. He knew that sentiment can change, and he knew that the false prophets of Baal had the death sentence hanging over them already according to Jewish law. See Deuteronomy 13:1-11. Now he became the judge and carried it out, just as Christ himself will judge the wicked and destroy them in the final cleansing fire on this earth after the millennium. Verse 40, “And Elijah said unto them, Take the prophets of Baal; let not one of them escape. And they took them: and Elijah brought them down to the brook Kishon, and slew them there.”
The brook Kishon is at the base of Mount Carmel and flows parallel along it to the sea. So it took some time for the people to arrest the prophets and lead them down to the brook where they were dealt their awful sentence. They had a bit of time to think about what they had done before they were executed. Jezebel killed the prophets of the Lord. Now, all her prophets were killed at once. God had gathered them together on Mount Carmel for this just purpose.
Friends, Elijah’s singular victory on Mount Carmel has many lessons for us and is a type of the final victory when Jesus Himself will triumph over the wicked. The confrontation over worship will be stark, but the deliverance of God’s people will be as striking as the deliverance of Elijah, the 100 prophets of the Lord hidden in the cave, and the 7000 who had not bowed the knee to Baal. Now they were free again to worship God in the way He requires, and on His holy Sabbath day. So, too, God will deliver His people and destroy His enemies in a just and irrevocable sentence.
Friends, this is the time to give your life to Christ. Don’t rebel. Don’t live for yourself. Christ will restore you and your love and zeal for His truth if you surrender your heart to Him. Let us pray.
Our Father in heaven, thank you for the example of the faithfulness of Elijah and how You used him to bring the people back to God. He was a prophetic symbol of the third Elijah that is to do the same thing in the last days. May we be faithful as he was so that we may be part of the third Elijah, too. In Jesus’ name, amen.
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