Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The God Who answers with fire

"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." Then the fire of the LORD fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench.
1 Kings 18:37-38

Elijah confronted the false prophets of Baal at Mount Carmel. His trust in God led him to arrange a little contest. The priests and prophets of Baal were invited to prepare a bull for sacrifice. Then they could call upon Baal to consume that sacrifice with fire. Elijah would do the same with God, and then the sacrifice that was accepted and consumed would prove the veracity of the prophet(s) offering the sacrifice.

Baal's worshippers hastily agreed. After all, Baal was popular and they were many. They worshiped a god of fertility who had a reputation for yearly blessing the land with crops in response to sexual rites in his worship. They prepared their altar and their sacrifice. They cried out to Baal for hours on end. They danced around their altar. Eventually they practiced ritual self mutilation in homage to Baal. But there was no answer. Elijah mocked their idolatry, and when they finally gave up in pagan exhaustion, he set to work in faith.

Elijah builds his altar and prepares wood for a fire. He places the sacrificial bull on the altar. He instructs those with him to dig a trench around the altar. They then drench the entire altar and sacrifice with precious water (they are in a drought) until it is so soaked that water fills the trench around it. Only in that impossible condition does Elijah confidently and quietly call upon the LORD. And God answers with a consuming fire.

The response of the people was an immediate awe and acknowledgement of the God Who answers with fire. Elijah moves forward to lead this crowd to capture the priests and prophets of the pagan gods. They were led down to Kishon where they were all executed for their treacherous idolatry. God has spoken and in one day proven the impotency of idolatry and the efficacy of prayer and worship offered to Him.

The reality is that the God Who answers with fire is still involved in winning hearts to Himself for His glory. The impotency of any system of thought or human derived false worship that sets itself against Him will be demonstrated dramatically. And it is not like I have to make that happen. God can defend His own reputation. I just have to be willing to let Him show Himself in me as I confidently follow Christ.

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