1 Kings 18:20 So Ahab (king of the northern kingdom of Israel) sent to all the Israelites, and assembled the 450 prophets (of the false god “Baal”) at Mount Carmel…25 Then Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, “Choose for yourselves one bull and prepare it first, for you are many; then call on the name of your god, but put no fire to it.” 26 So they took the bull that was given them, prepared it, and called on the name of Baal from morning until noon, crying, “O Baal, answer us!” But there was no voice, and no answer. They limped about the altar that they had made. 27 At noon Elijah mocked them, saying, “Cry aloud! Surely he is a god; either he is meditating, or he has wandered away, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened.” 28 Then they cried aloud and, as was their custom, they cut themselves with swords and lances until the blood gushed out over them. 29 As midday passed, they raved on until the time of the offering of the oblation, but there was no voice, no answer, and no response… 36 At the time of the offering of the oblation, the prophet Elijah came near and said, “O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel, that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your bidding. 37 Answer me, O Lord, answer me, so that this people may know that you, O Lord, are God, and that you have turned their hearts back.” 38 Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt offering, the wood, the stones, and the dust, and even licked up the water that was in the trench. 39 When all the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, “The Lord indeed is God; the Lord indeed is God.”
Sorry for the long passage, but can’t be helped. It’s a great story. Remember that the kingdom of Israel, formerly led by kings David and Solomon, had split into a northern kingdom and southern kingdom. Ahab was ruler of the northern kingdom, which had turned from worshipping God to worshipping Baal. God sent the prophet Elijah to help steer the people back to the true faith. And what an amazing demonstration!
Elijah is so bold here. He taunts the 450 prophets of Baal who fail to call down fire, but Elijah is successful – by the grace of God. Elijah then put all 450 prophets of Baal to the sword. It’s a bloody ending for sure, not what I would prefer, but a definitive one nevertheless.
What comes to mind for me today is the fact that Elijah would not remain bold for the Lord, but would soon be a broken man. He would lose all confidence, run from Queen Jezebel, and ask the Lord to end his life. Soon thereafter the Lord would allow Elijah to retire (taken up to heaven, actually) and would appoint the prophet Elisha to take his place.
The prophet Elijah is perhaps the quintessential prophet in all scripture. When Jesus was transfigured before three of his disciples, many years later, it would be the prophet Elijah, along with the law-giver Moses, who would appear with Jesus. Yet despite his greatness as a prophet and man of God, he was also human.
In Elijah I see one who is both a servant of the Lord and very human. He had ups and downs. It’s biblical figures like Elijah that give me hope – that God might be able to use someone as human, and flawed, as me. Lord let it be so. Amen.