Summary: A practical look at a Elijah's contest with the prophets of Baal with lessons about standing up for what is right and not following the crowd. Powerpoint is available if you e-mail me.
Elijah and the Prophets of Baal
First Christian Church
The movie To Save A Life opens in theatres next week. It’s a co-production of New Song Community Church and Outreach, Inc. that focuses on a high school student named Jake Taylor. Jake has it all—friends, fame, a basketball scholarship, and the hottest girlfriend in school—until an old, unpopular friend from his childhood walks onto campus with a gun in his hand and pain in his heart and shoots himself in front of his classmates. In the wake of the tragedy, Jake begins to question what he wants his life to be about. He starts seeing life differently and making choices that cost him his friends, his girl, his reputation and his popularity. Jake learns that it isn’t easy to go against the crowd; it’s hard to do the right thing and make the right decisions when everyone else is making the wrong ones.
The prophet Elijah knew all about that.
Once, a long, long time ago, an evil king came into power over God’s people—the nation of Israel. His name was Ahab, like the obsessive Captain from Moby Dick, and the Bible says, “Ahab…did more evil in the eyes of the Lord than any of those before him” (1 Kings 16:30 NIV). The Message calls him a “new champion of evil!” First, he seduced the people of Israel into worshipping false gods and then made it his personal mission to stamp out any remnant of genuine faith left among God’s people. He hunted, tracked, and slaughtered every prophet of the one true God. On the run, hiding in caves, afraid for their lives, Ahab eventually killed them all—all but one, that is. Enter Elijah.
Elijah was the last prophet of God left in the Eastern world. Obadiah, a servant of King Ahab even told Elijah, “The king has searched every nation and kingdom on earth from end to end to find you” (1 Kings 18:10 NLT). He even threatened the kings of other nations that might have been harboring or hiding Elijah, but God continued to protect his last prophet. He never allowed Ahab to find Elijah, until one day when Elijah walked right into the king’s palace.
The king could hardly believe his eyes. He said, “So, is it really you, you troublemaker of Israel?” (1 Kings 18:17 NLT).
“I have made no trouble for Israel,” Elijah replied. “You and your family are the troublemakers, for you have refused to obey the commands of the LORD and have worshiped the images of Baal instead” (vs. 18 NLT).
Then, Elijah issued a challenge. He told Ahab to gather all the prophets of Baal and all the prophets of Asherah and meet him on Mount Carmel. There, in front of all of Israel, Baal’s prophets would prepare a sacrifice to their god and Elijah would prepare a sacrifice to his God. Elijah said, “Then you call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of Yahweh. The God who answers with fire, He is God!” (vs. 24 HCSB). Out of sheer, stupid pride Ahab agreed to the challenge.
As this contest plays out, there are several principles and lessons we can learn that are just as true today as they were back in the days of Elijah. The first principle is this:
• THERE WILL ALWAYS BE MORE FALSE PROPHETS IN THE WORLD THAN PREACHERS OF TRUTH!
There were 450 prophets of Baal gathered on Mount Carmel that day, along with 400 prophets of Asherah. Elijah was outnumbered 950 to 1. As the contest began he wanted the crowd to be clear that he was the underdog, so he announced it, “I am the only prophet of the LORD who is left, but Baal has 450 prophets” (vs. 22 NLT).
Over the centuries, however, things haven’t changed that much. Sure, there are a lot of churches all over the world and nearly a third of the earth’s population claim to be Christian, but there are just as many false prophets in the world as there were back then. Many of them may not look like prophets. Some wear lab coats and pocket protectors, for that matter. But the message is still the same: your God isn’t real!
Atheism is the fastest growing religion is America. Under the cover of science and reason, many atheists are often the most aggressive protagonists and are just looking for any opportunity to get into an argument with Bible believing Christians. Of course, atheists aren’t the only false prophets in the world today. There are countless other religions in the world, each claiming to be the true religion. The Mormon Church and the Jehovah’s Witnesses are perversions of the church Jesus built. Islam ardently and often violently opposes Christianity at every turn. Scientology and Kabala have celebrity endorsements. Perhaps, the greatest lie of the postmodern movement is that it just doesn’t matter what you believe.