To think I was standing on a place where God wrought a mind-blowing miracle, a mountain where unprecedented drama unfolded thousands of years ago. Where his presence glowed through the answered prayer of the cocky prophet Elijah who crowed like a banty rooster at daybreak.
Elijah not only confronted the Baal prophets, but Jezebel herself. And her hatred for him ran deep and kept him in hiding. Baal was her God. Baal the God of storms controlled the rain. He told Ahab bold, there would be no rain or even dew for several years. Now it had been three years…
Strike one Baal.
So he stood defiant on the mountaintop for a showdown.
Two altars were built.
Crowds assembled, the air thick with anticipation.
Was Elijah for real? Was his Yaweh the one true God?
Elijah, ever snarky, confident and sarcastic, determined to make a point with the 850 prophets and the deserters, his own Israelite people. He dared them to choose once for all who they would serve.
The wishy-washy Israelites remained silent and non-committal. So there’s that.
A competition unfolded and the masses were captivated like rabid football fans at the superbowl. But were any rooting for team Elijah?
The pagan prophets begged pitiful their god to rain down fire and gobble their bull sacrifice. From morning to evening they danced frantic and shouted. When no answer appeared they began slashing themselves until blood stained their garments in a garish display of crimson piety. Sad, but not helping…
Elijah couldn’t muzzle himself. He taunted the prophets, and jeered, and smirked at their futile cries, telling them to yell louder. “Perhaps he is deep in thought or busy, or traveling. Maybe he is is sleeping…” I Kings 18:27
What began with delusive confidence in the morning, ended with disaster in the evening. Cue ominous tones.
Strike two Baal.
So Elijah, ready to stop the nonsense, made his final point with flare. The Israelite’s jaws gaped stunned as dramatic Elijah dug a trench around the altar and had them douse it with water not once, but just for emphasis, three times. They may have thought him crazy, but imagine them mesmerized frozen, as the music crescendoed deafening in anticipation of seeing a god show for the finale.
Soaked and sodden offering, trench filled with water, Elijah hung himself out one fingered on a proverbial ledge, and let loose with a prayer of all prayers.
“Answer me, LORD, answer me, so these people will know that you, LORD, are God and that you are turning their hearts back again.”
And our faithful God didn’t answer in halves. He threw down fire from heaven in a glorious display of heat and flame and smoke.
It burned up the cow.
It burned up the wood.
It burned up the stone altar and the soil.
It ate the water in the trench like it was fresh kindling.
Strike three Baal. You’re out!
Of course now the thick-headed Israelites fell to the ground convinced, and cried in acknowledgment of the LORD. Then in a final climatic swoop, Elijah commanded them to slaughter all the evil priests in an ending Hollywood would envy.
In a deathly dirge of sin,
Into the valley snugged below.
Read the whole story in 1 Kings 18:16-45.
It’s human nature to be wishy-washy. Thank God for his mercy when you waver.