Date Posted: February 21st, 2011
I love the honesty of this. If Baal is God, then the thing you should do is follow Him. If Allah is God, we should close the church and build a mosque. If Shiva and Vishnu are God, we should close the church and build a temple.
Nobody has the right to say, “You should be a Christian.” That is not a good enough reason. Christianity stands or falls on the claim that it is true, “If the Lord is God follow him.” If God has revealed Himself through Moses and the prophets, if He is the one who gives life and breath to you, if He raised Jesus Christ from the dead, follow Him!
The people find it difficult to respond to Elijah’s challenge, “the people said nothing” (18:21). Elijah’s question assumes categories of truth and error. But the people have been brought up on a syncretism that says, “the God you worship is a personal choice, faith is a private matter and you must find a way to worship that fits your personality.
Elijah confronts the people with the truth. Before you can even talk about worship, you need to know who God is. Authentic worship is a response to revealed truth.
Authentic worship is directed to the living God
“Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, ‘Choose one of the bulls and prepare it first… [then] call on the name of your god.” 1 Kings 18:25
Elijah challenges the prophets: “Have Baal show himself by sending down fire on the sacrifice.” So, they danced around the altar, working themselves into a frenzy and called on Baal (18:26). Give them top marks for sincerity and effort. Their worship was no doubt meaningful and stimulating, after all six hours of dancing is a pretty good workout!
But after all the activity, “There was no response; no one answered” (18:26). This is the tragedy of false religion. They’d done everything at great personal cost, but no one was there, beyond what human minds had dreamed up and human hands had made.
Elijah wants to save the people from that, so he prays, “O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God… Answer me, O Lord, answer me, so these people will know that you, O Lord, are God…” (18:36-37). The tragedy of human history is that having lost the knowledge of God, man has invented substitutes for Him.
But God has not abandoned us. He revealed himself to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He gave His truth to Israel, so they would be a light to the world. And in the fullness of time, He came to us in human flesh. He is the living God. He sustains your life by His power, and one day you will stand before Him and give an account of your life!
Our biggest problem is that we have put the living God in the same category as Baal. But once you feel the weight of the glory of the God, the Creator and Judge, you will not have problems with worship.
Authentic worship is focused around an acceptable sacrifice
“Then the fire of the Lord fell.” 1 Kings 18:38
Elijah prepared the sacrifice on the altar, and then to make the revealing of God’s power compelling even to skeptics, he poured water over the altar and drenched the sacrifice. Imagine yourself in the crowd. You’ve bought into the belief that all religion is a human creation. You’ve heard the call to follow the God of Israel, but you remain unmoved. As you watch Elijah pray, suddenly the sky is filled with fire. The Lord is God!
Here’s the most wonderful thing in the story. The fire of God fell, but it did not fall on the people, “the fire of the Lord fell and burned up the sacrifice” (18:38). There were thousands of people there, but when the judgment of God came, the fire was diverted away from them, and onto the sacrifice. That takes us to the very heart of the gospel.
On another day, on another hill, another acceptable sacrifice was offered to God. When Jesus Christ died, the judgment of God fell and struck Him so that it would be diverted away from His people. False religion has no sacrifice that’s acceptable to God.
Authentic worship is inspired by the Holy Spirit
“When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, ‘the Lord, he is God. The Lord, he is God.” 1 Kings 18:39
Here true worship is restored to the people of God. The Scripture makes it clear that it is the work of the Spirit to bring people to the point of confessing the Lord, and that is exactly what is happening here. Join the people of God today in turning from every kind of God-substitute and worshiping the living and true God.
This week’s Scripture: Elijah went before the people and said, ’How long will you waver between two opinions. If the Lord is God, follow him, but i Baal is God, follow him.’” I Kings 18:21