Summary: This message focuses on Elijah's response to the prophets of Baal and to Jezebel's threats.
First Response Part 2
This message will conclude this series on first responses. Previously I shared with you that our first responses are those initial responses that we have to a situation. It is those responses that can be described as a “knee jerk reaction.” This reaction is an initial, immediate reaction that comes without first thinking about how you will respond - you respond before you even think about it or may even be aware that you are responding. In the first two messages of this series I shared with you the story about Peter and how he responded to the people on the Day of Pentecost versus his response to being caught fellowshipping with the Gentiles Christians. I told you about Zaccheus who repented immediately upon entering Jesus’ presence. In the final story I told you about the woman who had been bleeding for twelve years and decided that if she could touch the hem of Jesus’ garment she would be healed. In each situation there was a first response that changed the course of the person’s life. Their responses not only confirmed what was already within them, but in the case of Peter, allowed him to recognize areas for continued growth.
Our foundation Scripture comes from Proverbs 3:5-6 which says “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” Our initial responses to situations will often speak to our faith and what we believe in our hearts. Although our faith and belief should be consistent across situations, we know that our faith can be stronger in some situations versus others. This morning we will look at Elijah and his two responses when faced with a challenge in his life. Although his responses are very different, I believe that they will enable us to understand some of our responses and why we need to really “do” what is recorded in Proverbs 3:5-6. Please turn with me to First Kings chapter eighteen.
I. Elijah’s Challenge To The Priests of Baal
Let me set the stage for you. The key players in these stories are Elijah, the prophet of God; Ahab who was the king of Israel; and Ahab’s wife Jezebel, the daughter of the king. In their relationship, Jezebel had the strongest personality and was the one primarily pushing the people to worship the god Baal. Ahab, although he was the king of Israel, considered Elijah to be the “troubler of Israel.” Elijah was the one who withstood Ahab and Jezebel and refused to follow their ways. As you read the entire story, you will find in chapter seventeen that God told Elijah to prophesy to King Ahab that there would be a drought in the land and that there would be neither dew nor rain except by his (Elijah’s) word. Once he delivered the message, God told Elijah to leave there and go into hiding. After three years God told Elijah to return and show himself to Ahab. By this time the drought would have been so severe that the people would have been on the verge of starvation. Ahab had a servant, Obadiah, who was over his household and feared the Lord. When Jezebel began to kill the prophets of God, he took one hundred of the prophets and hid them in a cave providing them with food and water. Elijah went to Obadiah and told Obadiah to go tell Ahab he was there. Even though Obadiah initially thought that this act would get him killed he did as Elijah requested.
When Ahab came to meet Elijah, he referred to him as the “troubler of Israel” (vs. 17) to whom Elijah corrected him and said Israel’s troubles were because of Ahab’s actions. Elijah told Ahab to gather all of the prophets of Baal and Asherah and to have them meet him at Mount Carmel. When all of the prophets were gathered, Elijah spoke to the Children of Israel who had also gathered. Let’s begin reading at 1 Kings 18:21.
“Elijah came near to all the people and said, ‘How long will you hesitate between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.’ But the people did not answer him a word. Then Elijah said to the people, ‘I alone am left a prophet of the Lord, but Baal’s prophets are 450 men. Now let them give us two oxen; and let them choose one ox for themselves and cut it up, and place it on the wood, but put no fire under it; and I will prepare the other ox and lay it on the wood, and I will not put a fire under it. Then you call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the Lord, and the God who answers by fire, He is God.’ And all the people said, ‘That is a good idea.’ So Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, ‘Choose one ox for yourselves and prepare it first for you are many, and call on the name of your god, but put no fire under it. Then they took the ox which was given them and they prepared it and called on the name of Baal from morning until noon saying, ‘O Baal, answer us.’ But there was no voice and no one answered. And they leaped about the altar which they made.” (Vss. 21-26)