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Stories of Faith

Elijah and the Prophets of Baal

"How long halt ye between two opinions?
If the LORD be God, follow Him:
but if Baal, then follow him"
(1 Kings 18:21).

King James Version by The Holy Spirit
with notes by Katie Stewart

The Book of 1 Kings
Chapter 18:17-40

Chapter 18

AND IT CAME TO PASS, WHEN AHAB SAW ELIJAH, that Ahab said unto him, Art thou he that troubleth Israel?

18 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. 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."

When sin becomes the standard for a nation, as it has in our United States, and as well to the world at large, then the land is
"troubled". Sin is the pollution which destroys, not only the beautiful environment of God's Creation ("Thou hast polluted the land with thy whoredoms and with thy wickedness" [Jeremiah 3:2].), but more importantly-- sin condemns the soul. Righteousness dwells in the Highest Heaven, and as well, "Righteousness exalteth a nation" (Proverbs 14:34). Loving obedience to the LORD will exalt ANY nation, even down to a solitary person, and exalts to a "higher ground" and Heaven-like resemblance of where God abides.

In the Book of Deuteronomy, Moses exhorted his people to keep God's "Statutes and Judgments":

"6 Keep therefore and do them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the nations, which shall hear all these Statutes, and say, Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people. 7 For what nation is there so great, who hath God so nigh unto them, as the LORD our God is in all things that we call upon Him for? 8 And what nation is there so great, that hath Statutes and Judgments so righteous as all this Law, which I set before you this day? 9 Only take heed to thyself, and keep thy soul diligently, lest thou forget the things which thine eyes have seen, and lest they depart from thy heart all the days of thy life: but teach them thy sons, and thy sons' sons" (Deuteronomy 4:6-9).

"But sin is a reproach to ANY people" (Proverbs 14:34). Sin violates everything so completely that even the soul of a man is consumed in an everlasting torment of fire. "10 And the devil that deceived them was cast into the Lake of Fire and Brimstone, where The Beast and The False Prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever... 14 And death and hell were cast into the Lake of Fire. This is the second death. 15 And whosoever was not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the Lake of Fire" (Revelation 20:10, 14-15).

God demonstrates in this story of Elijah, that the prophets of Baal-- being the seed of their "father the Devil" (John 8:44), and the ancient fathers of the final and greatest False Prophet of the Book of Revelation-- shall fail their trial by fire, and shall be judged by fire, as are the Devil and ALL of his seed eternally judged. And Elijah's God, The Consuming Fire, "for our God is a Consuming Fire" (Hebrews 12:29), will overthrow the false prophets with an everlasting death, "for the wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23).

"20 So Ahab sent unto ALL the children of Israel, and gathered the prophets together unto mount Carmel.If the LORD be God.

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."

Why didn't the people answer Elijah? Why were they speechless? Their muted tongues revealed their empty hearts,
"for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh" (Matthew 12:34). Their action, or inaction, bare witness to their guilt. All of us testify to the whole world, and Heaven above, what lies deep within our hearts, be it good or evil, for "even a child is known by his doings, whether his work be pure, and whether it be right" (Proverbs 20:11). These people had forgotten God for such a long time that they had to have "a sign" to remind them of Who God really was. The LORD Jesus said, that "an evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign" (Matthew 12:39). When God's people REFUSE to believe Him unless He gives them "supernatural phenomena"-- they are most certainly backslidden.

FAITH needs no physical evidence, "for we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope" (Romans 8:24). If professed Christians MUST have physical evidence BEFORE they commit their wills to believing God, then they have no FAITH in God at all. "FAITH is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen" (Hebrews 11:1). "FAITH is... substance." The "evidence" CANNOT be seen. True Christians don't Spiritually function by the limits of this physical Earth "(for we walk by FAITH, not by sight:)" (2Corinthians 5:7). We invest our limited time here "looking unto Jesus the Author and Finisher of our FAITH" (Hebrews 12:2). We do not depend upon this world for our future, but only on its Creator. "We look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are Eternal" (2Corinthians 4:18). A religion of the world is evolution, and its god is nature. "Who changed the Truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, Who is blessed for ever. Amen." (Romans 1:25). We MUST believe God. It is only His Word that we trust. "I believe God, that it shall be even as it was told me" (Acts 27:25). He is our Life. We MUST BELIEVE Him, "for he that cometh to God MUST BELIEVE that He is" (Hebrews 11:6).

Elijah stood before "ALL" his backslidden nation. Sin was their reproach. But the LORD God Almighty, in "wrath remember[ed] mercy" (Habakkuk 3:2). These wayward children of Israel had no excuse. They had a rich history-- as do we-- of just Who exactly God was, is, and always will be. "Unto thee it was showed, that thou mightest KNOW that the LORD He is God; there is none else beside Him" (Deuteronomy 4:35). He is The Great "I AM THAT I AM" (Exodus 3:14).

Elijah's task was to demonstrate to this deceived Israel that God was God-- the Only God! He approached "boldly unto the Throne of Grace, that [he might] obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need" (Hebrews 4:16). And it was God's merciful grace that allowed Elijah the opportunity to challenge the people to a trial by fire.

It is impossible to serve the LORD and serve any other god/sin at the same time. [See our article "The Beauty of Holiness" ---New Window for more on this idea.]

George Mueller ---New Window (1805-1898) put it this way:

"This way of living has often been the means of reviving the work of grace in my heart, when I have been getting cold; and it also has been the means of bringing me back again to the Lord, after I have been backsliding. For it will not do,-- it is not possible, to live in sin, and at the same time, by communion with God, to draw down from heaven everything one needs for the life that now is... Answer to prayer, obtained in this way, has been the means of quickening my soul, and filling me with much joy." --from "George Mueller of Bristol" by A. T. Pierson ---New Window, Appendix N: "The Wise Sayings of George Mueller"

"22 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."

Remember, there were
"the prophets of Baal four hundred and fifty, and the prophets of the groves four hundred, which eat at Jezebel's table." A total of 850 prophets stood against God and Elijah. And, just humanly speaking, Elijah stood alone, "for it was so, when Jezebel cut off the prophets of the LORD, that Obadiah took an hundred prophets, and hid them by fifty in a cave, and fed them with bread and water" (1Kings 18:4). There was a great host opposing Elijah:

  1. 850 false prophets who haughtily avowed that Elijah was a liar, and flaunted their god disdainfully in his face.

  2. Ahab and Jezebel, the polluting king and queen which "troubleth" the land and people by their uncleanness, and had even conspired Elijah's death (1Kings 19:2). And,

  3. an idol-worshipping people, a nation fallen from grace, defying Elijah and his LORD.

The Challenge.Yet still, this servant of the LORD "resist[ed] stedfast in the FAITH" (1Peter 5:9) and drew the lines of battle. Elijah disregarded the odds, their faces, and even the physical laws of nature (as we shall see later). The LORD told Jeremiah, another of His prophets of renown, "Thou therefore gird up thy loins, and arise, and speak unto them all that I command thee: be not dismayed at their faces, lest I confound thee before them... they shall not prevail against thee; for I AM with thee, saith the LORD, to deliver thee" (Jeremiah 1:17,19). True to his calling, Elijah laid before them the challenge.

"23 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: 24 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."

Notice that it wasn't the false prophets that agreed to the challenge. It was
"ALL the people" that agreed.

"25 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.

O Baal...
26 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, saying, O Baal, hear us. But there was no voice, nor any that answered. And they leaped upon the altar which was made."

Some of the false prophets already knew that they could not refute the Real God, and that this test was against them. After all, were they not
"of [their] father the Devil... a liar" (John 8:44), and did they not lie to the people as he did? And other of the false prophets might have been so deceived as to have actually believed they would win this derision by their dead stone gods. Satan believes he will have mastery over the ALMIGHTY! "Evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived" (2Timothy 3:13).

"27 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."O BAAL...

Elijah's taunting was meant to spur the liar's onward in their face-saving, and even lifesaving, show of desperation. They knew that it wasn't just their gods that were put on trial here. The king and queen could easily decide that they weren't worthy of life any longer. They had been outmaneuver by Elijah.
"ALL the children of Israel" were the spectators, and Elijah was on a mission to demonstrate the power of God to a foolish and backwards people.

The first thing that needed to be done, was to let the liars do their very best in proving their gods. Ultimate Authority would be advanced, if the people could witness the false prophets reaching their unrestricted limits of so-called intercession. Elijah wanted their esteemed men of religion to exhibit their powerlessness as a show for all to see; that that they had thoroughly exhausted their methods in proving even the mere existence of their contrived gods, let alone ANY ability of their gods to hear or answer in this trial by fire. Israel had long
"tempted and provoked the Most High God, and kept not His Testimonies: but turned back, and dealt unfaithfully... for they provoked Him to anger with their high places, and moved Him to jealousy with their graven images" (Psalm 78:56-58). And "Ahab did more to provoke the LORD God of Israel to anger than all the kings of Israel that were before him" (1Kings 16:33). So Elijah meant to do some "provoking" himself, "to provoke [Israel] unto love and to good works" (Hebrews 10:24).

"28 And they cried aloud, and cut themselves after their manner with knives and lancets, till the blood gushed out upon them. 29 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."

Totally expended from a full day's worth of exercised prostration and verbal exhortation to nonexistent gods, the false prophets had finally come to the inevitable conclusion of their tragedy. They had given the contest the absolute all that they could have given- even to the letting of their own blood. They had nothing left, but life itself, and that they did not offer. But Jesus did. Our LORD not only offered, but willing gave even His own Pure and Sinless Life as Our Sacrifice.

"Who for the joy that was set before Him endured the Cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the Throne of God. For consider Him that endured such contradiction of sinners against Himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds. Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin" (Hebrews 12:2-4).(Please see "Topical Links on Salvation" ---New Window.)

Elijah had "allowed" the deceivers the opportunity to go first. They could have won with the first strike. They had held the stage all day. But, they had miserably failed before "ALL the people". It is now Elijah's turn. He has been waiting, watching, and praying. He has "staggered not at the Promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith" (Romans 4:20) that he wouldn't ruin this Providential opportunity in "giving glory to God" (4:20). His FAITH in God's ability and willingness to answer him in front of this nation of doubters and traitors, held "fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end" (Hebrews 3:6).

30 And Elijah said unto ALL the people,

Come near unto me.

And ALL the people came near unto him."

Elijah has been very vocal in his convictions. His motives have been of the highest order, that he would
"do all to the glory of God" (1Corinthians 10:31). With this man, Elijah, in this pure moment of Truth, it's not a matter of himself being at risk-- his reputation, or even his life. It's not an issue with him that he is presently "on the line" of battle. Elijah is representing God to the people. He places God "on the line". God leads this charge. This is God's Divine reputation being defended. This will be God's victory, or God's defeat.This must NOT be a demonstration of power from a mere man. NO! For "thus saith the LORD; Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the LORD" (Jeremiah 17:5). No, Elijah must put God in the forefront. The vanguard must be God's alone, that "all this assembly shall know that... the battle is the LORD's" (1Samuel 17:4).

"ALL" of Israel watches, as Elijah beckons "ALL" the people, "'Come near unto me', so that you can see clearly and completely everything that God is about to execute. For the LORD GOD ALMIGHTY says, 'I Am the LORD: I will speak, and the Word that I shall speak shall come to pass; it shall be no more prolonged: for in your days, O rebellious house, will I say the Word, and will perform it, saith the LORD GOD' (Ezekiel 12:25)."

Elijah has successfully put God on trial. Jehovah knows, and is pleased with, the FAITH Elijah has in Him, and with Elijah's motives of love and reverence in proving His Divine Self to His
"chosen... special people" (Deuteronomy 7:6) who have so mired themselves in sin. Jehovah knows, and He will not confound His servant. "He that believeth on Him shall not be confounded" (1Peter 2:6).

Elijah continues in FAITH.

The altar.
"And he repaired the altar of the LORD that was broken down. 31 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: 32 and with the stones he built an altar in the Name of the LORD:"

Notice that Elijah sanctified the offering by sacrificing it upon the LORD's altar-- not the enemies'. For
"what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the Temple of God with idols? for ye are the Temple of The Living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the LORD, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be My sons and daughters, saith The LORD Almighty. Having therefore these Promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from ALL filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God" (2Corinthians 6:15-7:1). (Please read "An Urgent Call to Christian Perfection ---New Window An Exposition of the Doctrine of Christian Perfection".)

Elijah continues in FAITH.

"and he made a trench about the altar, as great as would contain two measures of seed."

Putting "a trench about the altar" was an extra dimension of difficulty not required by, nor even slightly expected of, the enemy. Elijah's FAITH in God was the only standard for this test, and he was "full of FAITH and power" (Acts 6:8) and ready to do "great wonders and miracles among the people" (6:8). It took a "great boldness in the FAITH" (1Timothy 3:13) to carry through this demonstration, but "the LORD God of Israel saith... them that honour Me I will honour" (1Samuel 2:30). Elijah's strength was that he DID KNOW his God, and he TOTALLY TRUSTED in Him, for the answer to come. "For the LORD GOD will help me; therefore shall I NOT be confounded: therefore have I set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be ashamed" (Isaiah 50:7). Elijah and Timothy, of the New Testament, Eternally agree:

"For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for
I KNOW Whom I have believed, and am PERSUADED
that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day"
(2Timothy 1:12).

Elijah continues in FAITH.

33 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."

Here again, Elijah's FAITH demands that his success in the trial appears impossible in the eyes of the people.

Elijah's objective was to set the battleground for God to magnify His Power in the most dramatic and miraculous display divinely possible. Elijah wanted God to prove Himself to these disbelieving people, in much the same way as did Samuel, when Israel desired a human king whom they could see with their eyes instead of their Divine King, with which only pure hearts of FAITH could see.

God was absolutely real to Elijah, and he wanted his beloved, but backward, nation to see with their eyes Who they refused to see with their hearts. So, he conspired to build a case for God that would multiply his own FAITH to be shared with that of his neighbors. "For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from FAITH to FAITH: as it is written, The just shall live by FAITH" (Romans 1:17). Many times, Elijah must have "upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not" (Mark 16:14). They were religiously scornful-- which, if entertained for a long period of time, makes for the hardest of all sinners. "For it had been better for them not to have known the Way of Righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the Holy Commandment delivered unto them" (2Peter 2:21). Elijah was well aware that his people had "eyes to see, and see not... ears to hear, and hear not: for they are a rebellious house" (Ezekiel 12:2). His testimony and exhortations had failed, and had led him to this confrontation where he now faced ALL of them.

So, since they refused to believe without a sign, Elijah was going to make positively sure that this sign from "the Only True God" (John 17:3) would be such "that they might know" (7:3) Him without doubt. Therefore, making the ordeal even more unimaginable to human reason and sight, Elijah resolutely engages in combat and continues in FAITH...

"34 And he said,

Do it the SECOND time.

And they did it the second time. And he said,

Do it the THIRD time.

And they did it the third time. 35 And the water ran round about the altar; and he FILLED the trench also with water. O LORD God...36 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 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.

37 Hear me, O LORD, hear me,


and that Thou hast turned their heart back again."

The more impossible a situation seems to our sight the better the opportunity for God to work through our FAITH, "for with God NOTHING shall be impossible" (Luke 1:37). Our finiteness gives abundantly, the favorable occasions to prove His Infiniteness. Our limitations implore His Boundlessness. "HE MUST INCREASE, but i must decrease" (John 3:30). It is only when we have FAITH in God's Mastery, that our helplessness extols Him. "Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted in me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance" (Psalm 42:5). "Alleluia: for the LORD God Omnipotent reigneth" (Revelation 19:6).

The fire 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."

God's Power
"consumed" the flesh and the wood, the stone altar and even the dirt that it sat upon. And then His Power "licked up" ALL the water that had wholly drenched everything. Nothing was left at the site where the sacrifice was made. The LORD's answer was a revelation of Himself. "The LORD thy God is among you, a Mighty God and Terrible" (Deuteronomy 7:21). His response was the same as of old (Exodus 20:2-5), and was adamant in resoluteness.

"2 I Am the LORD thy God...
thou shalt have NO other gods before Me.

4 Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in Heaven above, or that is in the Earth beneath, or that is in the water under the Earth:
5 thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them:

for I the LORD thy God am a Jealous God,
visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation
of them that hate Me."

If you worship ANYTHING other than God, Scripture pronounces that you "HATE" God. You are either for God, or against God. There is absolutely NO placating His Law.

"I the LORD thy God am a Jealous God." There is no such thing as obeying the LORD halfway.

39 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."

So Elijah's mission was fulfilled. His FAITH had been tested, and his Faithful God had rewarded him.
He is a Rewarder of them that diligently seek Him" (Hebrews 11:6). God's people had returned to the congregation of the Living, as "true worshippers" (John 4:23) to "worship the Father in Spirit and in Truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship Him" (23).

And with his thorough victory, Elijah-- as God's own judge-- now vanquishes the enemies of God to reinstate The Way of Holiness.

"40 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."

Elijah's reward was NOT foremost, that God's people had returned to loving obedience. No, his truest reward was that God Almighty had acted in Truth, as God Almighty would act to anyone who loved Him supremely and trusted Him completely. "Truly God is Good to Israel, even to such as are of a clean heart" (Psalm 73:1). The Great God was his Sweetest Reward! "I Am thy Shield, and thy Exceeding Great Reward" (Genesis 15:1).

This knowledge blessed Elijah, because, he knew that he had PLEASED GOD! What more can any of us desire in this life, than that our FAITH gives our Precious LORD pleasure? What pure joy, "that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service" (Romans 12:1), and to be "an offering made by [the testings and trials of His refining] fire, for a sweet savour unto the LORD" (Numbers 18:17). There is nothing sweeter, for "without FAITH it is impossible to please Him... He is a Rewarder of them that diligently seek Him" (Hebrews 11:6). And "ye also, as lively stones, are built up a Spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up Spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ" (1Peter 2:5).

"We know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is none other God but One. For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in Earth, (as there be gods many, and lords many,) but to us there is but One God, the Father, of Whom are all things, and we in Him; and One LORD Jesus Christ, by Whom are all things, and we by Him"
(1Corinthians 8:4-6).

"And this is Life Eternal,
that they might know Thee the Only True God,
A Sweet Sacrifice

and Jesus Christ, Whom Thou hast sent"
(John 17:3 ).



Related Topics:

St. Patrick and the Druid Priests ---New Window
by J. A. Wylie
A "must read" for those desiring a "church age" story similar to that of the Old Testament's Elijah.

"...girding up his loins, like another Elijah, he went on to meet the assembled Druids at Tara, and threw down the gage of combat in the presence of those whom they had so long misled by their arts, and oppressed by their ghostly authority." --J. A. Wylie

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