1 Kings 18:20-39
Ahab called all Israel together and assembled the prophets on Mount Carmel. Elijah stepped out in front of all the people. ‘How long’ he said ‘do you mean to hobble first on one leg then on the other? If the Lord is God, follow him; if Baal, follow him.’ But the people never said a word. Elijah then said to them, ‘I, I alone, am left as a prophet of the Lord, while the prophets of Baal are four hundred and fifty. Let two bulls be given us; let them choose one for themselves, dismember it and lay it on the wood, but not set fire to it. I in my turn will prepare the other bull, but not set fire to it. You must call on the name of your god, and I shall call on the name of mine; the god who answers with fire, is God indeed.’ The people all answered, ‘Agreed!’ Elijah then said to the prophets of Baal, ‘Choose one bull and begin, for there are more of you. Call on the name of your god but light no fire.’ They took the bull and prepared it, and from morning to midday they called on the name of Baal. ‘O Baal, answer us!’ they cried, but there was no voice, no answer, as they performed their hobbling dance round the altar they had made. Midday came, and Elijah mocked them. ‘Call louder,’ he said ‘for he is a god: he is preoccupied or he is busy, or he has gone on a journey; perhaps he is asleep and will wake up.’ So they shouted louder and gashed themselves, as their custom was, with swords and spears until the blood flowed down them. Midday passed, and they ranted on until the time the offering is presented; but there was no voice, no answer, no attention given to them.
Then Elijah said to all the people, ‘Come closer to me’, and all the people came closer to him. He repaired the altar of the Lord which had been broken down. Elijah took twelve stones, corresponding to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, to whom the word of the Lord had come, ‘Israel shall be your name’, and built an altar in the name of the Lord. Round the altar he dug a trench of a size to hold two measures of seed. He then arranged the wood, dismembered the bull, and laid it on the wood. Then he said, ‘Fill four jars with water and pour it on the holocaust and on the wood’; this they did. He said, ‘Do it a second time’; they did it a second time. He said, ‘Do it a third time’; they did it a third time. The water flowed round the altar and the trench itself was full of water. At the time when the offering is presented, Elijah the prophet stepped forward. ‘O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel,’ he said ‘let them know today that you are God in Israel, and that I am your servant, that I have done all these things at your command. Answer me, O Lord, answer me, so that this people may know that you, the Lord, are God and are winning back their hearts.’
Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the holocaust and wood and licked up the water in the trench. When all the people saw this they fell on their faces. ‘The Lord is God,’ they cried, ‘the Lord is God.’
Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Do not imagine that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets. I have come not to abolish but to complete them. I tell you solemnly, till heaven and earth disappear, not one dot, not one little stroke, shall disappear from the Law until its purpose is achieved. Therefore, the man who infringes even one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be considered the least in the kingdom of heaven; but the man who keeps them and teaches them will be considered great in the kingdom of heaven.’
How long will you straddle this issue
What chaos on Mount Carmel – the hawing bulls, the screams, the blood, the self-flagellation. The anger and fury of the masses, recorded in such graphic detail, is a reflection of the turmoil we face when we don’t have God in our lives. The reading in 1 Kings occurs at the tail-end of a natural disaster. No rain has fallen for three years now. The drought and the ensuing famine have pushed the people to mad desperation. And desperate people make bad choices. In that context, godlessness isn’t such an incomprehensible concept. When we are pushed against the wall, how would we ourselves choose, if we don’t have His word in our hearts?
Cultivating God in our hearts is a long process. In times of abundance and plenty, we seek pleasure, physical beauty and self-fulfillment before we seek God. Just open any Instagram feed and there you have it! Jesus summarized it as “… whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do so will be called least in the Kingdom of heaven”. Too often we hear the words ‘empower yourself’ bandied around like a mantra. We’re constantly bombarded with messages that are supposed to be ‘uplifting’, how we are to ‘commit to yourself’ or ‘respect yourself’ or how we are to ‘have faith in your strength’. Physical perfection is celebrated and spiritualized, self-fulfillment is applauded, celebrity is fetishized as if these were the paths to a more enlightened existence. But they’re not. When push really comes to shove, it all crumbles because these are nothing but the ‘false gods’ of our time.
We are not really that far removed from the chaos on Mount Carmel. We descend into vitriolic on social media. We hiss and cuss at each other, we scream angry pronouncements. So how different are we than the confused mob at the altar of Baal? Our hearts are just as divided, our thoughts equally confused. The times might have change, but the issues remain the same. “Their heart is divided; now shall they be found faulty: he shall break down their altars, he shall spoil their images” – Hosea 10:2
(Today’s Oxygen by Sharon Soo)
Prayer: We pray for the wisdom to discern the ‘false gods’ in our lives and to tread warily.
Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the Holy Spirit, the force that centers us around His will and His word.