We shall read at this time the story of Elijah’s challenge to the priests of Baal. Remember that there had been three years without dew or rain. The whole country was dried up till it seemed to be a desert; and all were famished for lack of water.
1 Kings 18:17-18. And it came to pass, when Ahab saw Elijah, that Ahab said unto him, Art thou he that troubleth Israel? And he answered, I have not troubled Israel: but thou, and thy father’s house, in that ye have forsaken the commandments of the LORD, and Thou hast followed Baalim.
It is the way of men to cast the blame of their trouble not upon their sin and upon themselves, but upon those who have warned them. Mark Elijah’s holy boldness. “I have not troubled Israel, but thou.”
1 Kings 18:19. Now therefore send, and gather to me all Israel unto mount Carmel, and the prophets of Baal four hundred and fifty, and the prophets of the groves four hundred, which eat at Jezebel’s table.
He knew how many there were of them. The man’s heart was so engaged in this battle for God against idols, that he had counted all his adversaries.
1 Kings 18:20-21. So Ahab sent unto all the children of Israel, and gathered the prophets together unto Mount Carmel. And Elijah came unto all the people, and said, How long halt ye between two opinions? If the LORD be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him. And the people answered him not a word.
So undecided were they — perhaps so cowed by the presence of that brave man who feared none, but only feared God.
1 Kings 18:22-24. Then said Elijah unto the people, I even I only, remain a prophet of the Lord; but Baal’s prophets are four hundred and fifty men. Let them therefore give us two bullocks; and let them choose one bullock for themselves. and cut it in pieces, and lay it on wood, and put no fire under. And I will dress the other bullock, and lay it on wood, and put no fire under: And call ye on the name of your gods, and I will call on the name of the LORD and the God that answereth by fire, let him be God. And all the people answered and said, It is well spoken.
And the Baalite priests could not refuse the challenge. For they worshipped the sun-god — the god of fire; and if he could not answer the sun-worshippers, he must be no God at all.
1 Kings 18:25-26. And Elijah said unto the prophets of Baal, Choose you one bullock for yourselves, and dress it first; for ye are many; and call on the name of your gods, but put no fire under. And they took the bullock which was given them, and they dressed it, and called on the name of Baal from morning even until noon.
Which was Baal’s own high time, for then the sun would be at its zenith — “from morning, even unto noon.”
1 Kings 18:26. Saying, O Baal, hear us.
Repeating their cry again and again. For this is the way of all false worship — to use vain repetitions, as the heathens do, which is forbidden to us.
1 Kings 18:26. But there was no voice, nor any that answered. And they leaped upon the altar which was made.
Which was their superstition. They were going through the whole performance of the genuflexions of some kind or another. They leaped upon the altar which was made.
1 Kings 18:27; 1 Kings 18:31. And it came to pass at noon, that Elijah mocked them, and said, Cry aloud: for he is a god; either he is talking, or he is pursuing, or he is in a journey, or peradventure he sleepeth, and must be awaked. And they cried aloud, and cut themselves after their manner with knives and lancets, till the blood gushed out upon them. And it came to pass, when midday was past, and they prophesied until the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that there was neither voice, nor any to answer, nor any that regarded. And Elijah said unto all the people, Come near unto me. And all the people came near unto him. And he repaired the altar of the Lord that was broke, down. And Elijah took twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, unto whom the word of the LORD came, saying, Israel shall be thy name:
For he meant this day to prove that God was God of the twelve tribes —not of himself and his tribe, but of all the families of Israel.
1 Kings 18:32-37. And with the stones he built an altar in the name of the LORD: and he made a trench about the altar, as great as would contain two measures of seed. And he put the wood in order, and cut the bullock in pieces, and laid him on the wood, and said, Fill four barrels with water, and pour it on the burnt sacrifice, and on the wood. And he said, Do it the second time. And he said, Do it the third time, And they did it the third time. And the water ran round about the altar; and he filled the trench also with water. And it came to pass at the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that. Elijah the prophet came near, and said, LORD God of Abraham, Isaac, and lsrael, let it be known this day that thou art God in Israel, and that I am thy servant, and that I have done all these things at thy word. Hear me, O LORD, hear me, that this people may know that thou art the LORD God, and thou hast turned their heart back again.
There was the prayer. How different altogether from this repetition of words — this leaping — this cutting with knives. He states his wish; he pleads his cause; he brings forward his arguments; and this is his prayer.
1 Kings 18:38-40. Then the fire of the LORD fell, and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces: and they said, The LORD, he is the God; the LORD, he is the God. And Elijah said unto them, Take the prophets of Baal; let not one of them escape. And they took them: and Elijah brought them down to the brook Kishon, and slew them there.
And thus did he prove that he was the prophet of God, and that God was the God of Israel.