come and see

John 1:46 “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” Nathanael asked.“Come and see,” answered Philip.


Leave a comment

Elijah & the Prophets of Baal – 1 Kings 18

Last week we looked a the story of the Contest on Mount Carmel between Elijah and the Prophets of Baal. We illustrated our retelling of the story with two “altars” made out of cardboard boxes with cellophane flames. The altar for God had a hidden container into which we could pour water, before the flames were lit up from inside the box by a couple of torches being waved about.

The Story:
Well, we have been having an awful lot of rain recently, although I’m pleased to see that we actually have sun shining today. It is nice when the rain holds off for a bit – how long do you think would be good for us to go without rain? A week; a month; 2 months; a year?

How about 3 years? – would that be good? What sort of problems could that cause?

Well, I have a story about a time when there had been no rain in Israel for over 3 years. And why had there been no rain? Because the King, and most of the people, of Israel had turned away from God, worshipping false foreign gods. Most specifically they worshipped Baal, who was supposedly the god in charge of the rains. Now the prophet Elijah was sent by God to the King – King Ahab – to tell him that there would be no more rain – not even any dew on the ground – until the Lord God said so. So, three and a half years later and there has been no rain. The people have got fantastic suntans, but the food’s not growing very well, and there’s certainly no lounging around the pool – no pools!

Time for Elijah to put in another appearance:
“Hey, King Ahab. You getting thirsty yet? Are you ready to admit that there is only one true God and turn away from worshipping Baal?”

The answer was a definite NO!

“And what about you people of Israel? You can’t seem to make up your minds at all – if the Lord is God, follow him. If Baal is god, follow him. You can’t have it both ways”

The people just mumbled and looked the other way.

So Elijah proposed a contest “let’s see who is the real deal – Baal, or the Lord God. Only one of them is the true God, so lets get them to show us which one it is! This is what we’ll do. We’ll go up to the top of Mount Carmel – all the prophets of Baal, and all the prophets of the Lord God. Now how many prophets have you got? 450. Okay, and how many prophets of the Lord God are there? Oh, that’s right, I’m the last one left. I do enjoy a fair challenge!”

The prophets of Baal built an altar. They piled it high with plenty of wood, then they chose a bull as a sacrifice, killed it and put it on top of the wood. What they didn’t bring was any matches, or lighters (they didn’t have them in those days), not even any flint to strike sparks with. Remember, this was to be a show down between Baal and the real God, so they had to get their god to light the fire. Feeling very confident they called out to Baal “Light the fire! Light the fire!” All 450 of them. All at the same time. But no flames appeared.

So they threw in a bit more showmanship – shouting out; dancing and leaping about; singing; they even started cutting themselves with knives! But, still no flames.

This went on for about three hours. Round about lunchtime Elijah started ribbing them about the lack of progress. “What? Can’t he hear you? Could be he’s gone out for the day. Maybe he’s sleeping and you need to wake him up! Or perhaps he’s a bit hard of hearing – shout louder!

The 450 prophets redoubled their efforts – more noise! More dancing! More shouting! But still, no flames.

The evening came and they were all getting a bit hoarse – probably cold as well because, guess what? Still no flames!

Now it was Elijah’s turn. Just Elijah, all by himself. “People of Israel,” he said. “Come here and pay attention to me.” He took 12 stones – one for each of the 12 tribes of Israel – and repaired the altar of the Lord God, which was in ruins. He piled wood on the altar; he dug a trench around the altar; he killed his own bull and put that on top of the wood. And then…. well, he asked for water. Four large jars of it. And what did he do with the water? He had it poured all over the wood. Then he asked for four more jars and did the same with them. And then four more jars.

So there he is, with this soaking wet sacrifice on top of a soaking wet pile of wood on top of a soaking wet stone altar. Elijah lifted his arms and prayed “O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel, and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. Answer me, O Lord, so that these people will know that you are God, and turn their hearts back to you again.”

And the flames came. The fire of the Lord God burnt so fiercely that not only the sacrifice and the wood were destroyed, but the stones vapourised in the heat; the earth all around was scorched, and the water in the trench surrounding the altar evaporated.

The people fell to the ground in fear and amazement – they now knew the truth, and cried out “The Lord – he is God! The Lord – he is God!”

But what about the rain?

Elijah sent his servant to look towards the sea. And all that he could see was blue skies – far into the distance, and as far as the horizon; blue skies.

Elijah sent him back for another look. Still nothing. Seven times Elijah sent him to look towards the sea, and the seventh time the servant reported “A cloud as small as a man’s hand is rising from the sea.” And the sky grew black with clouds, the wind rose, and the Lord God sent a heavy rain on to the land of Israel, where the people had now turned away from Baal, proclaiming the Lord God to be the one true God.

 

The Message:
This was a story from the Bible I don’t remember hearing before  – and I loooove it, laugh out loud love it. I love the story of the challenge, one for God, 450 for Baal. I love how Elijah drenched  everything in water just to make it interesting, prove a point, push the limits, and how God didn’t just light the fire it was such an over-the-top bonfire the water evaporated and burnt everything to a cinder – and in my head I hear na na na na na.  I love this story it appeals to my sense of humour. And yes it is a good story but that is not why we chose to share it with you today.

So from this story – what can we learn about God? What can we learn about ourselves?

Elijah said “If the Lord is God follow him. If Baal is god, follow him. You can’t have it both ways.The first Commandment: You shall have NO other Gods but me.

Jesus said: Love the Lord God with ALL your heart, mind and soul. This is the greatest and the most important commandment.

We don’t put God first. I don’t put God first – not all the time, that’s the truth. I think I will have time to read the Bible, or have some time with him later, but the day disappears before I get to it, and that’s OK because I will do it tomorrow, really I will. Sometimes I don’t.

I have been thinking…. what is it that we are putting before God. In today’s society there is more emphasis on Jesus’s second commandment “You shall love others as you love yourself“ than on the first. You are taught to show respect, be kind to one another and to have good morals, but there is a growing resistance to having the Bible taught in schools. There is a resurgence of people looking for God in all kinds of spiritual ways – but not Jesus. And what is this new thing that at Christmas as a society we are starting to say Happy Holidays to each other instead of Merry Christmas. Why? because it refers to Christ and we don’t want to offend anyone who isn’t a Christian. It is Christmas – it has Jesus’ name in it, not to mention it celebrates the day he was born.

Where has God gone? We can’t change society or our community, we can’t change our friends, or our husband, wife, or children. Don’t look at anyone else – look up at God and then look in the mirror. That is who God wants to know and that is who he wants to change. And then, it is only through God that everything can change.

In this moment, lets stop and ask if there is anything in your life that takes precedence over God, where God doesn’t come first – you can’t have it both ways.

Elijah soaked everything in water so it would be so impossible to light a fire – it would take an act of God; it would take a miracle. There are symbols in the Bible that represent the Holy Spirit – a dove, wind, water and fire. Water and fire. Elijah was soaking the whole moment in the Holy Spirit. When you are praying for God to show himself and feeling outnumbered or alone – do an Elijah and soak that moment in the Holy Spirit, stand back and get ready for a miracle. Hey – even expect a miracle, it can get quite exciting. God likes to do the hard stuff, it shows that he is the one true God.

And so all the people turn fully towards God, not sharing him with any other worship. Then after a 3 year draught, the rain came, just like that – no. Elijah sent his servant out seven times to look for clouds. For the big bonfire moment, Elijah prayed and BOOM – action. Rain – that took time. Sometimes the miracle is BOOM just like that, sometimes it takes time, it just always happens in God’s perfect timing.

Vanessa

The Prayers:
Amidst the noise around us, the crying out in desperation for answers from today’s false gods, let us be still.

Let us lift our eyes to the Lord God and send our cries and pleas to the only one who can answer us. Let us wait in confident expectation of a miracle.

We cry to you Lord God, for those afflicted with an abundance of rain, and those afflicted with not enough. Work your miracles through us, that all may have sufficient food and safe shelter.

We cry to you Lord God, for those who suffer at the hands of their own governments – the very people who should uphold their rights and welfare. Work your miracles, that all peoples may know freedom and security.

We cry to you Lord God, for all who suffer in body, mind, or spirit. Work your miracles that they may find the healing they need, in you, and through those who are your hands in this world.

We cry to you Lord God, for those who do not know you; those who do not know that they are lost, who do not know who to cry out to. Work your miracles through us Lord, that we will shine as beacons, leading them to you.

Let us lift our eyes to the Lord God and send our cries and pleas to the only one who can answer us. Let us wait in confident expectation of a miracle.

Amen

Gail