This message is part of a series entitled, “God Tries His Children”. To see all of the messages in this series, please click here.
Our last discussion concerning God’s trials for His children concentrated on a very special friendship between Jonathan and David. Both were willing to give their lives for the other. Both were willing to take anything to the extreme to prove their love for one another. Both were devoted to the will of God in each others’ lives. Both were driven by a spirit wholly focused upon God’s will, His greatness and His goodness for Israel. Both knew the cost of that idealism.
In today’s society, idealism and fundamentalism are both very bad words, unless the motivations and objects are acceptable to the world. When we use those words, we rather automatically think of the cowardice masquerading as religion in Islam. There could be no two more opposite forces in the world today than Islam and Christianity. The Islamist’s idea of idealism and fundamentalism is total manual suppression of life. The Islamist tries desperately to do enough to please their god. Unfortunately, they are never told what “enough” is. Their god’s hunger for blood is never satiated. To Allah, everything must die; unbelievers, creativity, freedom, commerce, confidence, everything except fear must go. Allah has never demonstrated what he expects because this false god does not exist to demonstrate it.
Christ’s idea of idealism and fundamentalism is selfless love as He has personally demonstrated and taught. Jesus says follow Me, follow where I have already tread. He asks us to have pure faith in Him for all things just as He displayed His faith in our heavenly Father. He asks us to submit wholly in faith to His will just as He submitted wholly in faith to our heavenly Father’s will. For the Christian it is simple: be like Jesus in every way you can. He makes friendship and followership even simpler. Jesus commits to doing that work in you, He will change you. You need do nothing except follow.
For the Islamist and any other religion, including most that claim to be Christian belief systems, one must DO. You must submit. You must obey. You must pray 5 times a day to the east. You must give 10% to tithes, go on deputation, participate in missions, be baptized (preferably as an infant), or any number of things. Just read “you must” and you see why many in our world rebel. Further, as you read, “you must” consider that their god is not enough for them because they have to do something to earn a place in heaven, paradise or utopia.
True Christianity is not a “you must.” True Christianity is instead, “God will.” God will renew our minds. God will convict us to change. God has saved us. God has given Himself for us. God will use us and our testimony for His glory. The function of faith is to turn these trials over to God and let Him work on us, and others through us. This is what David and Jonathan did. They trusted God to change Saul if He would, show Jonathan Saul’s evil nature if he would, or even condemn either David or Jonathan if they were in sin. Both the Spirit of God (Ezek 37:14; Jn 14:17; Rom 8:9, et al) and the Son of God (Jn 14:20; 15:4; Rom 8:10; Col 1:27) indwell the believer. With two thirds of the Godhead living within you, God will change you. You will not contain Him. David and Jonathan rested in God’s power for their friendship above all that was in the world for them.
Please turn to 1 Kings 18:17. Today we consider Elijah’s challenge to Baal and the priests of Baal. This passage contains one of the most powerful testimonies in scripture where God’s power is witnessed in a direct and visible answer to the pagan and believer alike.
Christians can demonstrate a bold faith. Many call this courage and assertiveness arrogance. I have heard from more than one unbeliever who felt that saying you are sure you are going to Heaven is a very arrogant thing. Yet, there it is in scripture in 1 John 5:13:
“These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God. ”
For the believer, this verse is one of the most comforting and hopeful in all of scripture. This is not to say it is more important than any other. The verse itself says the things in scripture, therefore it points to the entire tome (large book) of scripture. Being familiar with scripture is vital to our understanding of and the assurance we can have in salvation. Contrast the surety of God with any surety on earth.
As a nation, our confidence has been tested and the patriot knows freedom comes at a recurring price. As a Christian, our faith is always tested and we know our confidence suffers a recurring cost as well. We have confidence because our faith is always tested. God tests us in a variety of situations, individuals and experiences. Praise God for the care He shows to test our faithful confidence in Him.
Today we discuss tests of confidence. Confidence results from faith. You have and will see continued intermingling of the words confidence and faith. They are not synonymous. They do however have a relationship. Confidence in our relationship with God comes through faith. We will not find Elijah asking, “What if it doesn’t rain?” Elijah does not wonder, “What if God does not accept my sacrifice?” Elijah simply obeys God. In simple obedience, Elijah rests in God’s full faithfulness. Elijah has every reason to be confident that God will redeem him (Job 19:25).
I. Confidence communicated (1 Kings 18:17-19)
Elijah opens this section of scripture in discussion with King Ahab. Ahab is angry with Elijah and he has good reason for this anger. When Ahab assumed power over Israel, the scripture says he “did evil in the sight of the Lord more than all who were before him.” Ahab wanted to do what he wished, and those things he desired were evil. Elijah told Ahab that because of this evil, there would be a three-year drought (1 Kings 17:1). Ahab, not believing in God, blamed all these circumstances on Elijah. Man cannot fight God. He chooses instead to persecute and accuse His servants. Ahab was no different. False accusations and anger are evident in this passage today. Ahab literally calls Elijah a troubler; we could say rabble-rouser, provocateur or mischief-maker. However, Elijah had nothing to do with the troubles Israel currently faces. He is simply God’s servant. Elijah is actually serving Ahab’s best interests as he tells him how wicked Ahab has been.
Elijah is positive God will glorify Himself. He chooses worship as the perfect platform for God to do so. He does not “feel” God will do a great thing; Elijah knows it. If one reads this section outside of faith, it is easy to claim arrogance on the part of Elijah as he tells Ahab to bring 850 pagan believers to worship their gods. Faith brings about this kind of confidence, but we should note that only properly placed faith receives God’s approval.
The event Elijah is organizing at Mount Carmel is purely an opportunity for God to glorify Himself. Elijah simply wants Ahab to turn to God for all things instead of Baal. Elijah simply wants Israel to follow Jehovah instead of Baal. Elijah wants Israel to be blessed, not cursed. Elijah knows that if Israel’s leadership seeks Yahweh’s face, they will be blessed. (1 Chron. 7:14)
When we think of confidence, and we consider our relationship with God, we should think it is an issue of faith. Confidence is born from faith. The deeper and more profound one’s faith is, the greater and more active ones confident testimony for Christ. Elijah’s faith was so deep he knew God would glorify Himself for His people to see. Elijah knew the prophets of Baal would fail. He had every confidence Jehovah-jireh was in control (Gen 22:14).
Some have mistaken our next passage as some sort of fleece (Judg 6:38-40). This is nothing of the sort. What Elijah does here is show us what true worship is and how we should present ourselves for that worship. He also proves the ineptitude of any other god.
II. Confidence challenges (1 Kings 18:20-27)
This boils down to who you will choose. Here a single man challenges 850 pagan prophets, the people of Israel including the King and Queen. He tells them, “Believe who you will but stop being double-minded. Believe either Baal or Yahweh. Follow the one you choose. I alone have chosen Jehovah.”
Not only does Elijah stand-alone, (few true believers among many claiming faith) he chooses a venue for proof that optimizes his confidence and obedience, coupled with a visible display of God’s power. Elijah chooses worship.
He asks the pagans to choose the two bulls they wish to sacrifice (23a). One can presume they would choose their best to impress their gods most. Elijah will take whatever the prophets of Baal do not choose (23c). Elijah gives them every opportunity to optimize their sacrifice.
Elijah also shows pagans how to worship. If we read this section carefully, we have to note that he tells them how to prepare their sacrifice and helps them do their best (23b). He seems even to guide them through the process.
Then the challenge is clear. Put no fire under the sacrifice. God needs no help to accept worship from man. Elijah certainly makes that statement as he says,
“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.”
This is a direct challenge to all the unbelievers present. Elijah, in essence tells them, “I am going to worship the one true God the way I know He wants to be worshipped. You do everything perfectly to worship your gods the best you know how. Let us see who comes out on top.”
In verse 27, we find something that must shock the soul of the believer and unbeliever alike. Many of us operate under the delusion that we have to be quiet, we have to be private, we have to be tempered, we have to walk on eggshells concerning our faith around unbelievers. We cannot challenge them. We dare not be too bold. Many unbelievers ridicule Christians for being meek. Many deride and scorn us for our faith in God. We are often offended by arrogant affronts to our faith when we should expect it. However, we also have an obligation to provide righteous offense and ridicule of false gods and religions.
Here we find a true testimony of a confident faith in God to honor faithful worship and the destruction of false gods. Yahweh is going to destroy Baal on this day. Yahweh is going to show how worthless and impotent any other ‘god’ is. We should be as bold to scorn the likes of Allah and other false gods and faiths such as Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormonism, which both deny the deity of Christ. We should be as bold to call down Shamanism, Buddhism, Bahá’í, Wicca, Scientology and New Age theologies like Black Theology and Transcendental Meditation. Christians who know Jesus should never shy away from opportunities to permit God to glorify himself through real worship.
Many leave these things up to their pastor, but that is not the construct of the New Testament church or the testimony of scripture. Believers are called to know and have knowledge of these wicked forms of idolatry and false prophets. We are all members of a holy priesthood (1 Pet 2:5, 9). We all offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God just as Elijah does here. Just as Elijah knew about Baal then, all believers are to know about false gods and prophets of today. We are to show forth the praises of God who called us out of darkness and gave us marvelous light. We, like Elijah, are to worship God and show others how confident we are in Him.
People that claim Christ are often afraid of offending others through a bold testimony for Christ. Why are you afraid? Are you afraid that a soul might be saved? Are you afraid God will show His glory and you might be judged by it? Are you afraid that you may be wrong about God? What fear of any man on Earth should we have? God does not give the spirit of fear, but of power, love and sound mind (2 Tim 1:7). If God does not give fearful spirits, there are only two choices for where they originate. Fear’s spirit comes either from our own sinful hearts, or from Satan who is sin. Either way, fearfulness is born of sin in us. That paragraph was direct. It was meant to be. Elijah was direct. He meant to be.
If we focus on worship, we should have a bold witness and a direct argument for God’s requirements in worship. He is God. He sets the standards. We are merely to follow Him. I see nothing in the passage that permits worldly worship for Elijah. There is no believer’s license in worship. Everything here testifies that Elijah used the best he had available. He offered that best to the Lord in the fashion prescribed by the law.
III. Confidence produces results (1 Kings 18:28-38)
We look at the testimony in verse 28 and we have to pity those who worship false gods. They mutilate themselves physically, spiritually and mentally trying to cultivate favor from an imaginary being. How many of us go through great gyrations trying to get a result we want only to find out there was nothing there in the first place? The worst part about these efforts is that they can even seem satisfying. Man is normally satisfied if he has put in a good effort even if he has not completely succeeded. This is as if to say, “We did all we could, after all.” You can almost hear the priests of Baal saying, “Well, it was a nice ceremony.” Even something like, “That was one of the best bulls we’ve ever offered.” Good intentions are not on the final agenda of God. He wants results. Our comfort is in knowing He produces them, we are not required to. While the prophets of Baal work so desperately to elicit some recognition of their work, the one true God Yahweh and His confident servant simply wait patiently.
Confident in the God of gods, Elijah takes center stage in verse 30. Where the false prophets prayed, ministered, sang hymns, prophesied and praised Baal, they do not know our God who controls the “prince of the power of the air.” Jehovah controls Satan. God restrained him from making any effort to accept their worship, to deceive Baal’s followers. Satan could have deceived them with fire as it might appear to come from heaven (Rev 13:13). God wanted this moment though for His glory, for His people, for His faithful priest Elijah.
Elijah’s boldness does not stop with ridicule and mocking. Where the worshippers of false gods had destroyed a previously existing altar, he repairs it (v30). This tells them this is not something new, but something that has been established long ago. Unable to be in Jerusalem, the perfect place for this event, he uses what is available to him. He repaired the altar according to specifications prescribed in the law with 12 stones, one for each tribe. He also prayed over it and dedicated it to the Lord, His word and His people (31-32). He prepared the bull for the ceremony just as Abraham was to prepare Isaac in Genesis 22:7. Then he takes a bold step. He prepares an altar so waterlogged that no fire could be kindled in the wood. Some have questioned how he could possibly have this much water in a drought. The sea was nearby and no doubt he used what was ready and at hand.
Unlike the false prophets of Baal, Elijah solemnly addressed God by prayer alone. His prayer asks God to glorify Himself, not His servant. Elijah asks to make it clear that Yahweh is God and that Elijah is only a servant. He humbly beseeches God and asks specifically that it be shown that the preparations and events, drought and all, are performed by and in the power of God. Elijah does not say, “Take all this pressure off of me.” He asks God to show everyone that Elijah has served the one true God faithfully. Elijah asks God to let Himself be known to the people of Israel. He asks God to turn their hearts back to Him.
It did not take an evening of prayer. There was no waiting through midday. Elijah did not have to wait through a morning. God answered immediately indicating His approval and testimony that Elijah was His servant. No one had to goad God. No one had to awaken Him or get Him interested. Unlike Baal, Allah and all the other gods of the world, man does not have to engender Yahweh’s interest with some good deed before recognition. Yahweh loves His children and wants their worship. He will answer, and answer quickly.
God’s answer involves power. The flame of the Lord fell and consumed everything, bull, wood, water, altar, rocks, everything. This is the result of confidence; God shows His great power to glorify Himself. All we need do is prepare according to the scripture.
We should notice how God glorifies Himself through His faithful and confident servants. God did not just take the offering prepared for Him. God went further. He accepted not just the offering, but approved the entire preparation for the offering. By taking the offering, the wood, the stones, the dust and the water God approved of the entire event Elijah had organized. If this were a prideful thing on Elijah’s part, God would never have condoned it. If Elijah had acted sinfully in any way, God would not have accepted the offering. This is evident in refusing Cain’s offering. Instead, we find God approving of all that which Elijah offered. God made room for a new altar to be built on Mount Carmel. Faith and confidence in God’s glory produces results.
IV. Confidence results in salvation (1 Kings 18:39)
Salvation is the ultimate result born from faith and confidence in God’s promises. In verse 39, God’s power is undeniable. The people see the error of their ways. They see there is only one God and it is not Baal. They see that there is only one prophet present and he is not among the 850 for Baal. They see all these things in an instant, as God approves of Elijah’s offering while Baal’s offering remains on the altar, rotting in the sun.
The people of Israel utter six wonderful words “The Lord, He is the God.” They are in such awe of the power they have just witnessed that they repeat the words, “The Lord, He is the God.” These people did not shout it, they did not leap with joy for it, they simply stated the fact proven to them. Jehovah is “the” God. They also used the most sacred of names for God as they said, “Yahweh the Elohim, Yahweh the Elohim.” They were prostate and on their faces completely submitted to this great demonstration of power. At that moment, they gave themselves wholly to the Lord God. That, ladies and gentlemen, is the picture of salvation. Knowing God’s greatness and wholly giving yourself over to Him and His will.
Psalm 118:8-9 tells us that it is better to trust in the Lord than have any confidence in man or political leaders. Proverbs 14:26 tells us that the fear of the Lord is strong confidence and provides a place of refuge. The Apostles preached the kingdom of God and taught all the things of Christ with confidence and no man hindered them (Acts 28:31).
Will you see God for His greatness? He has shown you so much more than even this display of power. Romans 1 tells us that we see His power in creation, things made, all testify of His eternal power and Godhead. We are without excuse. Every man has seen these very things. Be confident in your testimony for God. He is all powerful, not man. He knows all things. Man does not. He is the one we bow, to not man. Be confident in your faith. Be confident in your salvation. Be confident in your eternal life. You have every reason to be confident and not afraid.