And so we come to one of the great confrontations in the Bible, Elijah and the prophets of Baal (and Asherah — funny how that often got lost every time I heard the story as a child).
Elijah, starts, however, not by confronting the prophets, but the people of Israel. Apparently, they had continued the practices started under Jeroboam, not totally abandoning the worship of Yahweh, but mixing it in with the worship of other “gods.” And so Elijah challenges them saying,
How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him. (21)
I kind of wonder if the people had started to doubt God’s existence. If the reason that they worshiped both Yahweh and Baal (and Asherah) is that they wondered if either really existed. And so when Elijah challenged them, they said…nothing.
Then the contest began. The prophets of Baal started to dance around, praying, cutting themselves, desperately trying to get their god’s attention. Elijah started mocking them, asking them if perhaps Baal was asleep or using the bathroom. And so they got even more frantic in their prayers. But as the Bible says,
There was no response, no one answered, no one paid attention. (29)
Finally, Elijah had enough. He rebuilt the altar of God, put on the bull, had the people even pour buckets of water over the sacrifice, and then he prayed. The moment he finished praying, fire came down from heaven and completely consumed the sacrifice. As a result, the people cried out,
The Lord–he is God! The Lord–he is God! (39)
And so he is. He is not a god formed out of wood or stone. He is not the figment of our imagination. He is a God who sees, who hears, and who acts.
If there was any doubt in Ahab’s mind left, God dispelled it by sending rain in torrents as Ahab was going home. It was the first time in three years that rain had fallen.
And yet, he refused to follow God even then. Instead, he continued to live on in his wicked ways.
How about you? There is only one God. But do you follow him? Or are you like the people of Israel, doubting his existence? Are you like Ahab, who despite all the evidence refused to follow after him?
Let us not live in doubt. Let us not live in rebellion. Rather let us live in faith, trusting and following hard after God.