Summary: Elijah's victory over the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel. Used as an example of the LORD lighting the fire - what we want Him to do in us so we can be like Jeremiah in Jeremiah 20:9b.
“Light the Fire”
Text: Jeremiah 20:7-13
As we think about our theme for this year, the LORD wants us to be on fire for Him. Sometimes when a child, student or worker is not putting forth the effort they should, we make the statement that we need to light a fire under that person. And, I suppose if we’re honest with ourselves, we all need a little motivation from time to time. Even when things are going great, it is so easy to let others get us down. If we’re discouraged in our spiritual life, we may need only a spark to renew us. This morning I want to return to our series on Mountaintop Experiences. This will be our fifth lesson after looking at Noah on the mountains of Ararat, Abraham on Mount Moriah, Moses on Mount Sinai and Deborah on Mount Tabor. In our reading, the prophet and preacher Jeremiah was discouraged by his unreceptive audience and was ready to give up preaching. But God’s word was in his heart – like a burning fire shut up in his bones. He had to tell others! Oh, that we all had that kind of desire! While we could certainly learn several lessons from Jeremiah, I want us to look at one of my favorite mountaintop experiences dealing with fire – that of the prophet Elijah on Mount Carmel. Many of you have played the childhood game “King of the Mountain” where the object of the game is to stay on the mountain or hill and keep any and everyone else from taking your place. Two weeks ago, we talked about encouragement and discouragement and how life is a series of peaks and valleys. In that sermon, we pointed out that it is more enjoyable to be on the peaks. Today’s lesson will demonstrate the wonder of being on the mountaintop. So I hope you’ll open your Bibles to 1 Kings 18 as we pick up the account of Elijah the prophet meeting the wicked king Ahab. As always, we pray that you’ll be like the Bereans in Acts 17:11 and search the scriptures daily to make sure I’ve preached God’s truth.
The great prophet Elijah’s ministry was in the northern kingdom of Israel. You’ll remember the kingdom divided after the death of Solomon in approximately 930 B.C. with his son Rehoboam king over Judah and Jeroboam king over Israel. Wicked King Ahab had learned well from his father Omri and learned even more evil from his wife Jezebel. Elijah the Tishbite came on the scene in the tenth year of Ahab’s reign and some 140 years before the Assyrians would capture the capital city of Samaria and destroy the northern kingdom in 722 B.C. Now, let’s allow scripture to set the stage for Elijah’s mountaintop experience. Turn with me to 1 Kings 16:30-33 and let’s read together: Now Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the LORD, more than all who were before him. And it came to pass, as though it had been a trivial thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, that he took as wife Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal, king of the Sidonians; and he went and served Baal and worshiped him. Then he set up an altar for Baal in the temple of Baal, which he had built in Samaria. And Ahab made a wooden image. (Your translation may have “Asherah” instead of wooden image or a footnote to that effect. Asherah was the Canaanite goddess of fertility as well as of fortune and happiness.) Ahab did more to provoke the LORD God of Israel to anger than all the kings of Israel who were before him. Baal was one of the chief gods of the Canaanites – the ancient storm god – god of rain and fertility. It was in its capacity as the god of rain that brought the LORD God of Israel to deliver a message to Ahab through Elijah. Notice 1 Kings 17:1 – And Elijah the Tishbite, of the inhabitants of Gilead, said to Ahab, “As the LORD God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, except at my word.” The LORD then sent Elijah away and sustained him east of the Jordan and then in the territory of Sidon. Let’s pick up our reading in 1 Kings 18:1-2 – And it came to pass after many days that the word of the LORD came to Elijah, in the third year, saying, “Go, present yourself to Ahab, and I will send rain on the earth.”
So Elijah went to present himself to Ahab; and there was a severe famine in Samaria. The Canaanite god of rain has been no match for the LORD God of Israel. Can you imagine how they’ve prayed to Baal for rain? Now I want us to jump ahead to this meeting between Ahab and Elijah beginning in 1 Kings 18:17-24 – Then it happened, when Ahab saw Elijah, that Ahab said to him, “Is that you, O troubler of Israel?”