April 28, 2003

LifeWay Explore the Bible Series for May 11

Trust God against overwhelming opposition
___bluebull 1 Kings 18:20-26, 36-39
___By Jim Perkins
___Madison Hills Baptist Church, San Antonio
___The old preacher warned me about baptizing in the creek. The pastor must take care of the baptismal candidate, because the current can very easily capture him or her and the last thing you'll see is your new church member floating downstream away from you!
___Pointed challenge
___The prophet Elijah's challenge to Israel in 1 Kings 18:21 acknowledged that the people of Israel had been "floating downstream" between two convictions for quite some time. Although they had begun with an admirable loyalty to the Lord, their devotion had become divided as they participated in the worship of Baal, the interloper promoted by King Ahab's wife, Jezebel (16:31).
___God in his sovereignty decided (18:1) this was the perfect time for Elijah to gather the people of Israel and the prophets of Baal to Mount Carmel--perhaps a significant place for both the worshippers of the Lord and Baal. The people had suffered for at least three years as the withering grip of drought ravaged the land. Now on Carmel the Lord God would display his mighty power while demonstrating the utter powerlessness of Baal.
___Here also the Lord challenged all Israel to declare their devotion--to stop "wavering" (18:21, literally, "limping") b
etween two mutually exclusive positions. Either the Lord is God and should receive the nation's unwavering devotion, or Baal is God and deserving of their worship. The challenge would be worthy of an immediate and final response from Israel.
___Personal courage
___If the odds favor numbers, then Elijah was seriously outmanned. Willing to stand alone, however, he chose to be God's sole prophetic representative, while Baal was represented by 450 false prophets (18:19). Interestingly, both Elijah and the prophets of Baal exhibited conviction, albeit Baal's representatives foolishly chose to take a stand for a god who did not exist.
___Elijah challenged these prophets of Baal--and their god--to act in a specific and demonstrative manner--fire from the heavens (i.e., not produced by man) would consume the sacrifice. That demonstration would provide incontrovertible evidence that "the god who answers by fire--he is God" (18:24).
___Try as they would, though, Baal's men could not rouse the dead god to action (note 18:27, where Elijah intimated that perhaps Baal was preoccupied or asleep). Even their most fervent pleas and energetic "dancing"--the same word used in the indictment of the Israelites in 18:21--were unsuccessful in eliciting a response to their urgent pleas.
___Prayerful commitment
___With the failure of Baal's prophets, all eyes turned to God's prophet. Surely an atmosphere of excited expectation saturated the scene, for it was time for the regular evening sacrifice (18:29; it was about "twilight"--see Exodus 29:39; Numbers 28:4).
___Elijah, God's army of one, called the people to gather in order to observe and participate in his preparations for the Lord's mighty act.
___The prophet repaired "the altar of the Lord," and the people brought a total of 12 jugs of water to saturate the altar, its contents and the trench around the altar (18:30-35). There would be no trickery here, but only a display of the mighty power of the Lord God.
___No dancing or demonstrations were necessary for Elijah to call upon the Lord. Instead, he humbled himself before God with a simple prayer--perhaps kneeling or prostrate, as the people were in 18:39, and as the prophet himself prayed in 18:42. Elijah's simple prayer contained a three-fold request: God, for your glory show everyone that "you are God in Israel ... I am your servant. . . . You are turning their hearts back again" (18:36-37).
___Elijah took a courageous stand for the Lord according to his will and in the face of overwhelming opposition. God honored the prophet's obedient and humble prayer by sending "fire from the Lord" that combusted the altar and its contents and even evaporated all the water on and around the altar (18:38).
___What a difference the courageous testimony of Elijah made in the life of the nation! The people of Israel now were convinced of the reality and power of the living Lord God. Their confession of faith also evidenced a conviction that he deserved their worship: "The Lord--he is God" (18:39).
___Perhaps the most powerful message of this text is that although it was not popular or convenient, Elijah was willing to take a stand for God. He in turn used the powerful, faithful witness of Elijah to effect a tremendous and vital change in the life of a whole nation--praise God!
___Questions for discussion
___bluebull Have there been times and situations when you were convinced to "go with the flow" in life rather than take a stand for the Lord? What type of situations were these?
___bluebull Using Elijah as a model for life, how would God have you respond in the midst of these challenges? How and where can you "take a stand for God"? What Scriptures would inform and encourage that decision to stand for God?

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