And Elijah came near to all the people and said, “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.” And the people did not answer him a word.
Troubling times were brewing in Israel because King Ahab had led the nation of Israel to forsake the worship of the Lord and go after the worthless worship of a false god - Baal. Sad was the day and dark was the night when the king of the whole nation influenced the people to sin against God by turning their backs on the only One who could really help them in their great time of need.
Ahab was king for 21 years, and he lacked godly fear, moral courage and effective leadership. He was surpassed in foolish folly only by his treacherous wife Jezebel, who stirred him up to sin against God. She was a Sidonian princess and a devotee of Baal worship. She built a temple for Baal in Samaria, maintained 850 prophets of Baal and Ashtoreth, slew the prophets of Jehovah, and abolished true worship (I Kings 18:13, 19).
God chose to use Elijah, a native of Gilead, to confront evil and stand for God’s glory. Elijah, a humble servant displayed great confidence in God. Elijah prophesied that the land would be judged and there would be no rain for 3 years. Severe drought and famine overtook the land, and we now see it come to a head at Mt. Carmel. Elijah, led by God, showed himself to Ahab and challenged him along with the prophets of Baal. They all gathered at Mount Carmel. They were all there, the false prophets, the faithless compromisers from the palace court, the people of Israel, and Elijah. He stood for God’s glory and stood in opposition to Ahab and Baal.
Elijah challenged the people to make a choice, either follow God or follow Baal (1 Kings 18:21)
Then, as now, there were too many who wanted to do the impossible, to walk both ways at the same time, to be for God and Baal at the same time. To be for Baal is to be against God. Elijah put the proposition to the people: “Choose now whom you will serve.” We cannot serve two masters, there is no middle ground.
The Bible is clear concerning our God. He is God, there is none beside Him. Lord in Heaven and earth, holy, worshiped by the host of heaven, the dependable Preserver of all creation, He will not share His glory with idols.
Elijah then challenged the prophets to a test to prove who was more powerful, God or Baal. They would each prepare a sacrifice and see whether Baal or God would send fire.
The prophets of Baal went first. With many empty, powerless words, the duped votaries of Baal prayed in vain from morning until noon. With miserable moans and guttural groans, they pleaded, “O Baal, O Baal,” hear us. Baal's prophets were caught in the swirling vortex of powerless prayers, worthless worship, and faithless faith. Hear the solemn words of divine appraisal: “...there was neither voice, nor any to answer, nor any that regarded” (I Kings 18:29).
Then it was Elijah’s turn. He prepared the sacrifice, doused it in water. He did not need the antics of the prophets of Baal. He simply and confidently prayed:
“O LORD, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel, and that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your word. Answer me, O LORD, answer me, that this people may know that you, O LORD, are God, and that you have turned their hearts back.”
Elijah's prayer to God was brief and specific. In contrast, the hollering hounds of Baal that barked from morning until noon but no answer of fire or a word came from their impotent god.
How drastically different with Elijah's prevailing prayer in calling upon the living God Who answered by “fire.” The Lord delights to answer prayer since it is the ordained means by which God supplies the need of His people.
Elijah prayed earnestly and fervently. He knew what it meant to walk with God, to be alone with the Lord. He was in immediate touch with the throne of God in glory.
Then, God answered by “fire” to show and prove that He alone is the living God of super- natural power, in contrast to the lifeless idols. God honored Elijah's prayer of faith. God answered by “fire,” demonstrating gloriously that He alone is God (Isa. 42:8). It was a mighty triumph of truth when “The fire of God of the LORD fell, and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water in the trench” (I Kings 18:38).
As we look at our culture today, we see terrible times of frustration, causing men to faint along the way. Unbelief is surging through the land like a rampaging river of destruction in the religious world.
Let us dare to stand true then to the Lord—as Elijah before the prophets of Baal. May we have humble confidence as we depend upon the Lord and seek Him in prayer.