[three ~~~ deciding to jump off and jumping off are not the same thing.]
This scripture is not ultimately about Elijah vs. Ahab, God vs. Ba’al. This scripture is about making a commitment to the Lord and following through by living out your faith. It is about the battle within of living for Jesus Christ.
I love this story. It is one of my favorite because it is on my short list of early memories when I was first in Sunday School and my mother was the teacher and we listened and lived the wonderful stories of the Bible…. I saw Elijah challenging the prophets of Baal to bring down fire… Most of the story is fun with a high stakes contest. A comment on one of the harder details though:
God is the God of the amazing! I knew today’s scripture a week ago so I prayed, “God, show me your power.” God did. Thursday Chad and I talked about his role and how we could bless one another… as we brainstormed about the need for children, I mentioned the Good News Club at Sumas Elementary. I offered to call the director Natalie F. for info. That afternoon I left a message. 5 minutes later she was so excited when she called back. She just got off the phone talking to the volunteers that have been running the Good News Club in Sumas. They decided they can only do the Kendall club this year. Natalie finished the conversation, spent two minutes discouraged, pondering what to do, then she listened to my message. WOW. She knew I only wanted information, but just the fact I called was a message to her from God to be encouraged. That is not as dramatic as Elijah and the prophets of Baal, but it is God’s power at work right now…
Let’s walk through this story of power! Elijah at last meets Ahab. It’s been over three years since he appeared in the court of Ahab and told him a drought was coming. Ahab accuses Elijah of being a troublemaker! Not so, Elijah says, “you have brought this trouble on the land yourself by abandoning the true God.” (1 Kings 18:18).
When you abandon God, there may not be a physical drought, but there will always be spiritual drought. When you make poor choices apart from God, you bring trouble on yourself. Those who point fingers at others, like Ahab, will never find wholeness. As the saying goes, N-O Jesus, N-O Peace. K-N-O-W Jesus. K-N-O-W peace. The reason there is so much apathy, so much confusion, so much anger, is not our politicians fault, not the laws we make, not all the drugs and alcohol that are so available, it is because as a nation we are abandoning God…Ahab, rather than looking within, points to Elijah and accused him of being a troublemaker. “It’s not me,” says Elijah to Ahab. “It’s you and your decision to abandon God.”
This story is about God using Elijah to turn the hearts of the people back to Himself. It is about re-affirming the commitment to follow God. This is a challenge for us to examine our relationship with Jesus Christ. Not to be like the two frogs that decide to jump off , but to actually jump off the log and follow Christ. To fully commit.
In 1 Kings 18:20 Ahab assembles all the players as Elijah requests. Elijah speaks to the people. READ 1 Kings 18:21. This contest is not about defeating the prophets of Baal, it is about turning back to God. Isn’t Elijah’s challenge what our nation/world needs to hear today! “How long will you waver between two opinions…” Indecision is a decision.
The response is sobering: “But the people said nothing.” Of all the things that plague modern Christianity perhaps this is the greatest: Spiritual indecision. Spiritual juggling. The inability of the people of God to make up our minds. We follow God as long as it is easy, but then the challenges of our modern world cause us to shrink back….
Note the little word “if.” ~ “IF the Lord is God…” “if” means you have to make up your mind. Make up your mind! Is he or isn’t he? I love Elijah. He makes it practical and personal. He did not say if the Lord is God, study it and read about it. He said if the Lord is God, get on his team and follow him. Don’t just decide to jump off the log. JUMP.
As a pastor I could spend all day in small groups to encourage pastors and community leaders. A person from a local ministry found me a few weeks ago in the parking lot and wanted me to go to a meeting. When I told her that was paper products day and I thought it was important to be with people, the woman was disappointed. Christians are good at talking, studying, reading. I would rather do something and fail rather than talk about the perfect way of doing ministry but never jumping off the log.
The contest. The prophets of Baal go first. Elijah makes gives instructions in 1 Kings 18:22-29. As the prophets of Baal are dancing and slashing and carrying on, I am not sure Elijah should be taunting them, but he does (READ 1 Kings 18:27). It makes me laugh. He’s a human with his own strange and interesting personality. End of 1 Kings 18:29 is succinct. No response. No answer. (2nd time the scripture says this)
What makes me so tired in our world is watching people take so long to get to the end of 1 Kings 18:29. They try to find fulfillment through unholy means ~ money, addictions, a busy life…but they keep doing the dance that is not working….Until people hit the bottom they cannot begin the assent back to God.
1 kings 18:30 is a significant verse READ. When Elijah challenged the people they said nothing. Then the people witness the power of Baal fail. Now they come together to witness the repair of the long neglected alter. Elijah is re-instituting the true worship of God Almighty. This verse is the beginning of the back to God transition. What alters need to be repaired in your life? In order to go back to the Lord, rebuild the alters, re-introduce the spiritual disciplines leading to wholeness, read your Bible, pray, re-commit yourself to your church family. The people came together to rebuild the alter. Are you tired of a half way relationship with Christ. Rebuild the alters, spend time with the Lord.
Elijah sets up the alter for God’s power to be put on display in 1 Kings 18:31-35. Then Elijah prays. READ 1 Kings 18:36-37. Elijah prays for a spiritual awakening:
1) Lord, answer me so they’ll know you are the true God.
2) Answer me so they will know that I am your prophet and doing your will.
3) Answer me so that the hearts of the people may be turned back to you.
Elijah’s only concern was for God, his word, his work, his glory, God’s people. The simplicity of Elijah going directly to God is inspirational. It’s a contrast with the prophets of Baal’s screaming, hollering, cutting themselves. I can almost guarantee as people today return to God it will be in a simple quiet sense of God’s presence.
This is the victory of God winning back the hearts of the people: READ 1 Kings 18:38-39. What will it take for our nation/people to return to the Lord. Many folks are back in 1 Kings 18:21. They are saying nothing, just living confused lives. Others are watching the prophets of Baal dance and slash and shout and fail. Still others are beginning to turn as they yearn for God, rebuilding the alters of the Lord, seeking God through the spiritual disciplines. This is what we as a Church are waiting for people in our community to do: turn back to God, seek his voice, follow after him. It’s time to jump.
Back in 1 Kings 18:21, I am struck by Elijah’s challenge to the people when he uses the phrase, “If the Lord is God, FOLLOW HIM.” This is the same language Jesus Christ uses in the gospels when he goes to those first disciples and says, “Come, Follow me” (Mark 1:16-17). And the scripture says of the fishermen, “At once they left their nets and followed him.” I.e. they jumped. They took the leap off the log. They abandoned their former life to follow Jesus Christ. Elijah’s challenge is to become a disciple of God, to live for him, to do his will, to find meaning and purpose and satisfaction in the one true God.
What is it that keeps you from being a whole-hearted follower of Jesus Christ? What keeps you from jumping? For some they think the church/Christianity is out of step with the values of the world and even though they yearn for Christ they are afraid a full commitment will make them look antiquated.
What keeps you from jumping off the log? Maybe it is your social life? Many young people and singles and others struggle at this point. You want to be where life is exciting, and you fear if you follow Jesus, you’ll miss out on the “real” world. I read of a young woman who for years struggled with being “two different people"–one at church and another person during the week: “For years I’ve gone out to have drinks with friends, often, and have made the worst choices in my life as a result of some of those nights…and then I turn around and rely on church to make me feel whole again. It’s been an endless cycle, and as of yesterday, it’s done. I realize that I can’t combine the two lifestyles, that I have to choose one, and the choice is obvious.”
Let me challenge you with the words of Elijah in a contemporary context: If Jesus Christ be God, follow him! Jump off the log! If anything else or anyone else be God, follow him! But make up your mind. Stop playing games. Stop sitting on the fence. How long do you need to be like the prophets of Baal dance and shout and slash themselves only to wake up after a night of compromised choices and realize you still are not fulfilled.
Are you ready to rebuild the alters? Are you ready to return to God! Ask Jesus Christ to reveal himself to you. Ask him to show you his power and his glory. Like Elijah, all you need is a simple prayer. The great need of our nation, the great need of our hearts is spiritual awakening, no more compromise. Rebuild the alters of faith and return to the Jesus Christ. Amen.