Summary: The battle between God and Baal - Elijah at Mt Carmel
Ahab was a man who did more evil in the eyes of God than any before him. He considered it trivial to commit sin and was married to Jezebel, who had lead the people of Israel astray into the worship and service of Baal. His father was bad enough, but the Bible tells us that Ahab had done more to provoke God to anger than any man before him. To put it simply, he was a right pain in the neck.
v.17 - after all this, Ahab had the barefaced cheek to call Elijah, a man of God, a "troubler of Israel." It never ceases to amaze me how those who commit wrong have an almost infinite capacity to point the finger at others. You know the type. The people who in the words of Jesus point to the splinter in somebody elses eye, whilst failing to notice a great almighty plank in their own. The people who despite all the facts to the contrary continue to insist that they and they alone are entirely innocent of anything charged against them. Go to any magistrates court and listen to the defendants make the most implausable excuses - It wasn’t me your Honour, it was my long lost twin brother.
Note the reply given by Elijah - it’s very revealing ! "You have abandoned the Lord’s commands - the source of trouble today in the world is not too much of God, but too little. (complaint at the bus stop that there is too much Christianity- would that it were so !!) If you watch the news at any time day or night, life seems to be so cheap. The root of our troubles is that we, like Ahab, have abandoned God.
So, Elijah set down the challenge. The time of decision had come and in each of our lives we have the same decision to make as to whether we follow God or not. Ahab and all the people of Israel were summoned to Mount Carmel to meet with God. The invitation was extended to the rabble who called themselves "prophets of Baal". The Bible tells us that there were 450 prophets of Baal and 400 prophets of Asherah, a total of 850 against one. Better odds than the National Lottery ! They got to Mt Carmel and the scene was set. Elijah went before the people and asked the question.
"How long will you waver between two opinions ?"
That question is as relevant today as it was then. The tendency of so many people today is to claim that we cannot know where we stand with God. So many try to avoid "offending" people that they claim that any way to God is valid and that there is no real objective truth. That phrase is heard time and time again "you have your way, I have mine." Many people believe that it doesn’t matter what we believe as long as we are sincere. To believe something sincerely is no guarantee of the truth (man on tightrope). (story of the vicar, who was sacked for denying a belief in God and then appealed against the decision to an industrial tribunal on the grounds of unfair dismissal.) Some people will believe almost anything and try to call it Christianity. Then again, we can believe that we are right with God, even if we aren’t. So often, we waver and prefer to stand on the fringes, rather than get ourselves involved and have to take a stand. It’s one of the great British diseases - standing by, because to take the place of those around would cost too much. Elijah had plenty of things to say about the prophets of Baal and they weren’t in the least bit complementary. But, at least they had made a choice, albeit the wrong one. What choice have you made about God ?
Why were the people wavering ? They had seen so many times the deliverance of God, but had grown cold and ran after idols. By following Baal, they couldn’t hope to see the way clearly. If we wander away from God, how do we expect to see the way and receive light ? Hence, they wavered and wandered and wobbled. Hosea 14:9 - the ways of the Lord are right; the righteous walk in them, but the rebellious stumble in them."
The choice was clear cut and the stakes were high.
"If the Lord is God, follow Him. If Baal is God, follow him."
Elijah did not leave open any other options. There were only two alternatives, just as there are only two alternatives today. Follow God or follow Satan. Choose heaven or choose hell. Choose life or choose death. Choose freedom and deliverance or choose bondage. In Psalm 1, the two ways are laid out clearly for all to see. In 1 Corinthians 1:18, the Bible tells us that the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but the power of God to those who are being saved. What is your choice ?