Baal was worshiped as a sun god, storm god, warrior god, and fertility god of crops and children. In appealing to these gods the priests would shout and cry out loudly, and cut themselves.
1 Kings 18:20-40 Easy-to-Read Version
So Ahab called all the Israelites and those prophets to Mount Carmel. Elijah came to all the people and said, “You must decide what you are going to do. How long will you keep jumping from one side to the other? If the Lord is the true God, follow him. But if Baal is the true God, then follow him!”
The people said nothing. So Elijah said, “I am the only prophet of the Lord here, but there are 450 prophets of Baal. So bring us two bulls. Let the prophets of Baal have one bull. Let them kill it, cut it into pieces, and then put the meat on the wood. But don’t start the fire. I will do the same with the other bull, and I will not start the fire either. Prophets of Baal, pray to your god, and I will pray to the Lord. Whichever god answers the prayer and starts the fire is the true God.”
All the people agreed that this was a good idea.
Then Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, “There are many of you, so you go first. Choose a bull and prepare it, but don’t start your fire.”
So the prophets took the bull that was given to them and prepared it. They started praying to Baal and prayed until noon. They said, “Baal, please answer us!” But there was no sound. No one answered. Then they began jumping around on the altar they had built.
At noon Elijah began to make fun of them. He said, “If Baal really is a god, maybe you should pray louder! Maybe he is busy. Maybe he is thinking about something, or maybe he stepped out for a moment! He could be sleeping! Maybe you should pray louder and wake him up!” So the prophets prayed louder. They cut themselves with swords and spears. (This was the way they worshiped.) They cut themselves until they were bleeding all over. The afternoon passed but the fire still had not started. The prophets were out of control and continued to act this way until the time came for the evening sacrifice. But nothing happened—there was no answer from Baal. There was no sound. There was no one listening.
Then Elijah said to all the people, “Now come here.” So they gathered around Elijah. The Lord’s altar had been torn down, so Elijah repaired it. Elijah found twelve stones. There was one stone for each of the twelve tribes. These twelve tribes were named for the twelve sons of Jacob, the man who the Lord had named Israel. Elijah used these stones to repair the altar to honor the Lord. He dug a small ditch around the altar. It was wide enough and deep enough to hold about 4 gallons of water. Then Elijah put the wood on the altar. He cut the bull into pieces and laid the pieces on the wood. Then he said, “Fill four jars with water. Pour the water on the pieces of meat and on the wood.” Then Elijah said, “Do it again.” Then he said, “Do it a third time.” The water ran down off the altar and filled the ditch.
At about the time for the afternoon sacrifice, the prophet Elijah approached the altar and prayed, “Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, I ask you now to prove that you are the God of Israel and that I am your servant. Show these people it was you who commanded me to do all these things. Lord, answer my prayer. Show these people that you, Lord, are God and that you are the one who is bringing them back to you.”
Then fire came down from the Lord and burned the sacrifice, the wood, the stones, and the ground around the altar. Then it dried up all the water in the ditch. All the people saw this happen and bowed down to the ground and began saying, “The Lord is God! The Lord is God!”
Then Elijah said, “Get the prophets of Baal! Don’t let any of them escape!” So the people captured all the prophets. Then Elijah led them down to Kishon Creek and killed them all.
Elijah drew a line in the sand. Who do you worship, Baal or God? Now the Israelites knew the stakes. If Baal controlled the rain, wind, storms, fertility of crops and people, they needed him on their side. If God was the One True God, they would have to change their way of living, and abide by the Law of Moses and the Ten Commandments.
It was much easier for the Israelites to let their passions run wild with Baal; following a moral life obeying God’s Law was much less exciting and a lot more work.
Did they actually choose? I think not. Stubbornly the Baal prophets chanted and shouted and cut themselves refusing to believe their efforts would fail.
Then Elijah prayed a simple prayer, asking God to show the Israelites He was, is, and will forever be the God of Israel, and to act by starting the fire. Nothing else was needed. Elijah asked and believed God was God.
Their choice was made for them; Baal’s impotence was revealed; God’s Almighty Power revealed His Glory.
The decision then is to faithfully follow the Lord, God … or not.
We have the same life situations today. We worry over our jobs, families, money, possessions, and health. We do whatever we can to succeed; we google search for answers, methods, prescriptions, opportunities, any new thing that might fix what’s wrong with us.
Time after time I have found all sorts of remedies for fixing me. I assume I am not perfectly okay the way I am. Searches bring up other areas of need, more research ensues; believing if I work hard enough, I will be fixed.
God, You patiently wait on me to give up all the rigamarole. Finding myself completely distraught and hopeless, I finally stop from total exhaustion.
Thank You, Dear Lord. I am tired. You are ABLE. I am Yours. Amen
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