(Chip Chip continues. . .)
Elijah the Tishbite was a prophet of the Lord. He lived in a land where wicked King Ahab was in charge along with his even wickeder Queen, Jezebel. King Ahab, his wife, and most of the people of Israel had chosen iniquity and worshiped false gods. Jezebel’d had many of the Lord’s prophets killed, but Elijah had survived. Because he was instructed to do so, Elijah used the sealing power and brought a drought upon the land. (I Kings 17:1) After 3 years of drought, the word of the Lord came to Elijah, Go, shew thyself unto Ahab; and I will send rain upon the earth. (II Kings 18:1)
As soon as King Ahab saw Elijah, the king asked, “are you the one that is troubling Israel?” Isn’t that just like bad guys who bring about misery? It’s all their own fault, but they want to blame somebody who is just being good. Elijah set him straight. “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.”
Ahab and Jezebel not only worshiped idols, but they built idol worshiping stations all over the Northern Kingdom. Elijah announced that the time had come to decide if they were going to worship the God of Israel, or Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron.
Elijah proposed a contest. It would be him, one man, against the 450 priests of baal. And the rules were, they’d both get a bullock (cow) to prepare and put on an altar, with no fire under it. And the people would see if either of the offerings was consumed by fire. This meant that the deity who burned up the beef had accepted the sacrifice proving He was the only one they should all be worshiping.
The people thought this was a great idea. I imagine it was like a big event, well attended. I mean, what sports teams have you heard of at this time? Elijah said unto the prophets of Baal, “Here’s your cow. Prepare it, put it on the altar, but don’t set it on fire. Let your god do that.” So the priests of Baal took the beef, dressed it, and set it on top of their team’s altar. Then they called on the name of Baal from morning even until noon, saying, “O Baal, hear us.” But Baal didn’t answer, so they started hopping around, jumping on top of the altar, trying to get Baal’s attention.
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. (II Kings 18:27)
Here’s all these snooty Priests of Baal–thinking they know better than everybody and doing their “Baal, Burn the Bullock” dance–and Elijah sarcastically makes fun of them. “Maybe Baal’s on vacation. Maybe he’s on the phone. Maybe he’s out to lunch. Maybe he’s sleeping and you need to scream louder.”
I don’t think the Baal Priests appreciated Elijah’s suggestions. Because the account says “they cried aloud, and cut themselves after their manner with knives and lancets, till the blood gushed out upon them.” You know. If my prayers weren’t being answered, I’d never think that cutting myself until the blood gushed out would be a clever thing to do. But hey, what do I know? But evidently, Baal zebub was taking a bath, or something, because the cow on the Priest’s altar did not get consumed with fire.
After giving his opponents more than enough time for success, Elijah repaired the altar of the Lord that was broken down. He took twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob and built an altar in the name of the Lord. Then he dug a trench around the bottom of the altar. 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 everything. Do it a second time. Then do it the third time. And they did. Then he filled the trench around the altar with water, showing the people (and the king) if his offering burnt, it was truly a miracle, because everything was soaking wet.
When he was finished, and It was the appropriate time, Elijah said, “Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, 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 that thou hast turned their heart back again.”
And WHOOSH, fire from the Lord came from the sky and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. The fire not only burnt up the watered down sacrifice, but also the ROCKS.
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 instructed them to round up all the fake prophets of Baal. Elijah brought them down to the brook Kishon, and slew them there.
I like that Elijah was faithful, and religious, but also, that he had a sarcastic sense of humor. It gives me hope, that maybe I can keep mine, and still be considered a good disciple. And, just to prove I have a long way to go towards “perfect compassion” I also like that all the Baal priests were killed. So often in life–and in the scriptures–evil triumphs, and we have to wait until Heaven for justice. But sometimes, Grr-Trude–in life and in the scriptures–the good guy wins—and the bad guys get “slewed.”
Back to my story. . . I guess Jezebel must have not been present at the the big “Baal is a loser” event. Because 1 Kings 19:1 starts with King Ahab telling her how Elijah won the contest. The God of Israel who Elijah represented burnt up the sacrifice. Baal, who Jezebel worshiped, had done “zip.” And all her priests were dead.
Now, if I were Jezebel–and just “ew” even imagining it–I’d think, “gulp. I’m following a false deity. I’d better straighten up if I have half a brain.” And I’d get penitent and humble pretty quickly. But apparently Jezebel did NOT have half a brain, because her take on the whole “the God of Israel has been proven to be true” ordeal was to seek revenge on Elijah for daring to go against Baal. She said, and I quote, “So let the gods do to me, and more also, if I make not thy life as the life of one of them by to morrow about this time.”
With the queen basically putting a hit out on him, Elijah left and walked until he came to a Juniper tree. While there, various miracles happened. He was fed cakes and water by an angel for 40 days. He saw God’s power in a huge earthquake that crushed rocks, in a big wind, and then a roaring fire. But the voice of God wasn’t in any of those. God eventually spoke to Elijah in a still, small, voice, which asked him, “so what are you doing here, Elijah?” And Elijah answered, “all of the children of Israel are worshiping false gods. And they’re trying to kill me. I’m the only faithful one left in the land.” God then told Elijah what is going to happen to some of the bad guys in power. And also this important fact. Elijah was NOT alone. “I have seven thousand followers in Israel. Knees that haven’t bowed to Baal. Lips that haven’t kissed him.” I summarized the story, so I left a bunch of good stuff out. Read II Kings if you want to know more. It’s “riveting reading.”
In conclusion, Grr-Trude, sometimes, when I start to feel heartsick and hopeless about what’s going on right now in the world or more specifically in my country, I feel like Elijah must have. “Everyone’s following false gods. What’s the use? Just leave me alone and let me eat worms.” But when I feel this way I need to remember that God knows what is happening. And it is all a part of the plan.
“For God hath not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” II Timothy 1:7