Pt 2 of 3
The Divine Challenge
Ever wonder if anyone would dare challenge Almighty God? In 1 Kings 18:21-24 Elijah challenges the pagan worshipers of his day with the same question, but asked in the right spirit, saying, “How long will you halt between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him! But if Baal, then follow him. And the people did not answer a word.”
Herein is the most fascinating part of the story. The prophet Elijah sets the stage, saying, “The one who answers by fire, let Him be God. And all the people answered and said it is well spoken.”
The scripture text reveals that an altar was built, and battle lines were drawn—a spiritual standoff between two entities was launched. You’re familiar with the rest of the story. Baal’s contestants were given the opportunity to proceed first, and so they began calling out to their god. After a long day of repetitious oblation, the prophets of Baal hadn’t heard one peep.
Resorting to desperate measures – all the men moved toward leaping upon the man-made altar, even cutting themselves until blood gushed out of their flesh. Maybe they thought, “Yeah, our god must be thirsty; this should do the trick.”
Moreover, despite their sincerity, it was all for naught. Baal's followers had yet to understand that idols are dumb; they can’t speak or hear. Not to mention walk about, unless someone carries them. I guess it takes a dummy to know a dummy. They finally gave up.
Now, Elijah steps to the same platform. After rebuilding the torn-down alter he begins calling on the name of his God. Instantly He answers with an unquenchable fire that falls straight from heaven! The alter ablaze, consumed the burnt sacrifice. And the text goes on to say; verse 38, “...and also licked up the water that was in the trench.” All the people were much astonished. The unmatched power of God goes on record once again. There is no contender!
News of the incident swiftly traveled to the ears of those governing the palace. One might think such a divine encounter would quench all doubt, causing any and every one to fall prostrate with fear and trembling. However, as King Ahab recounted the occurrence to Jezebel, just the opposite happened. She becomes outraged – all her prophets defeated in a single day caused The Queen's evilness to spike! Elijah now in grave danger – the man of God had to run for his life.
Despite warnings from the Lord, the leaders of Israel stiffened their necks instead– refused to repent and turn away from their evil deeds. They’d soon realize that God is God, all too late. Both died horrific deaths because they didn’t like God’s divine answer.
God's Divine Remedy "If My People…"
Israel, God’s chosen people were also eye witnesses of His mighty power. They were commanded to diligently keep all the Law and were instructed to worship Him exclusively. History reveals a nation discontented, rebellious and unsettled. Yet God showed mercy to them by offering a divine remedy as we read in the following:
And the Bible says, “When Solomon had finished praying, the fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the Lord filled the house.” (II Chronicles 7:1) After an intense moment of visitation, God appears to Solomon the second time with a grand introduction and says, “I have heard your prayer…”
Stepping back to chapter 6, The King appeals to the God of heaven on behalf of Israel if they should turn to sin. God gives Solomon the answer and remedy for “why bad things happen.” (2 Chronicles 6:21-30) Listen. If Israel sins they will experience “bad things.” Contrariwise, if they return to God, they will experience “good things,” as will we all.
However, in the case bad things do happen, God has not left us without remedy, saying: “If my people, who are called by My name, shall humble themselves, pray, seek, crave, and return from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven, forgive their sin, and heal their land.” (II Chronicles 7:14).
Despite the direct proclamation, Israel rejects the mercy of God! Committing spiritual whoredom at every turn, they had an eye for other gods. After all of God's loving-kindness and care toward them, they adapted a syndrome that the grass was greener on the other side. Her people became wayward; disaster plagued their lives. Why? They couldn’t appreciate God’s answer, either.
To be continued...
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He has anointed me to preach the gospel... -Luke 4:18
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