Summary: Elijah is an amazing example of what happens when believers pray with authority, when they come to God and ask him to do something that glorifies him.
Have you ever been in a spiritual battle where you thought that you were on the losing side? Well, you’re not alone. The Bible is full of stories of God’s people and their struggle with spiritual battles. Often they thought that God had abandoned them, when in reality he was always with them. One example is the story of Elijah. He often thought that he was alone, especially when he was running away from the evil Queen Jezebel, who wanted to kill him.
Before this, there was the confrontation between Elijah and the prophets of Baal, which we heard in the reading from 1 Kings 18:20-39 earlier in this morning’s service. It shows what can happen when one’s calling from God conflicts with strong-willed people or influential people who are used to having their own way. This story has frequently drawn the comment, “One person with God is always a majority.” This story is a story about God and his promise to never leave us alone.
If anyone could answer by fire, it should have been Baal, the storm god. His worshippers believed that he controlled lightning, but when they prayed to Baal, he didn’t answer. According to their customs of Baal worship, the dancing, shouting, and self-mutilation were meant to arouse Baal from death, from sleep, or call him back from a journey. The phrase, “He is busy” was a euphemism for either going hunting or going to the restroom.
The fire from heaven dramatically revealed the power of God-the true God of the storm-who responded to a humble servant praying for Him to be known. The people fell on their faces, prostrate, in acknowledgement that Elijah’s God was real. Those who see God as He truly is will fall before Him in humility and reverence. God is real and is only known in a direct encounter with him. He is greater than all of our idols who can’t deliver as God does.
The followers of Baal could not evoke a miracle, and our modern, worldly “gods” such as money, power or sex can’t help us when times are tough. During these times God is not busy or off travelling or taking a nap. His love is changeless and constant. There will be times when he leads us through difficult situations when his joys aren’t evident, but we are always close to him, and he is always close to us.
Elijah soaked the altar, the offering and the wood with water in order to remove any chance of spontaneous combustion or any claim that he cheated once the offering was consumed with fire. God didn’t need the water. He could answer Elijah’s prayer without it. The prayer of Elijah does not centre on the activities of the followers of Baal. The prophet highlights the character of God and his relationship with God. When God answers a prayer, he answers completely so there could never be any doubt. The prayer was able to put Elijah and the people in a place to look to God and not themselves.
God wants us to study, pray and witness by our lives and our actions, but we can’t make people believe or change. Only God can do that. He doesn’t need our manipulation to get us to move toward the truth or do the jobs he sends us to do.