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Elijah: Prophet Of Courage and Confrontation

Sermon #6

1 Kings 18:16b-40


Intro: We have had the privilege of observing God as He trained a man named Elijah. We saw bring him from nowhere, set him before a king and use him to strike fear into a nation. We have seen God send him through one trial after another to teach him total dependence upon the power and provision of God. We have seen the contrast between this man Elijah and others who claimed that they knew the Lord. We have learned much about this man. Yet, all we have seen Elijah go through was in preparation for the events we have read about this morning.

All the training, all the trials, and all the trusting have been to bring Elijah to the place where he could stand in the pure power of God and show a lost nation that Jehovah, not Baal, was Lord of all. You see, the entire nation of Israel, with the exception of some 7,000 faithful people, 1 Kings 19:18, had given themselves over to the worship of the false god Baal. Things were so bad that even the king and the queen of Israel were leaders in promoting the worship of these idol gods. However, God had not forgotten His investment in His people! He had not forgotten how He had chosen them out of all the other people's on the face of the earth. How He had brought them out of Egypt and led them through the wilderness. He remembered giving them the land, the Law and the covenants of promise. He never forgot for and instant that they were His people and that he had plans for them.

Therefore, God had called, trained, and groomed a an named Elijah. All the preparation had been for just this moment. A moment when God would call the nation back to Himself. A moment when God would prove beyond all question that He was Lord and God.

For Elijah, this was a event that required great faith and courage, but he had been adequately prepared by the Lord for a task such as this. In fact, it was time for Elijah to prove that he was who he was rumored to be. It was time to put up or shut up. In other words, It's Showtime!

This passage has much to say to the church this morning as well. We live in a day of half-hearted service, when people serve the gods of self, materialism, recreation and pleasure more than the serve the God of Heaven. And, I am not just talking about the world. The same mentality that drive the world today has invaded the church! God wants us to know today that He is still the Lord! He hasn't forgotten the investment He made in us, and like He called Israel back to Himself on Mount Carmel, He wants to call His people back to Him today.

I believe there are truths in this passage that speak to our hearts today. Let's dig into these verses this morning and see what they have to say to us about our relationship with and service to the God of our salvation. It's show time for Elijah, it's also show time for you and me. Let's notice the truths contained in this passage today!


A. V. 17-20 Elijah Challenges The Potentate - This meeting between Elijah and Ahab is an interesting one. Ahab is the king of Israel. He has chosen to lead the people of God away from the worship of God into the worship of a false God Baal. Elijah, on the other hand, knows nothing of compromise! He is totally sold out to the will of God for himself and for his nation. It is safe to say that these two men are not best of friends! In fact, some may wonder why Ahab would even allow Elijah to live at this point. After all, Elijah is the one who pronounced the drought that has nearly destroyed Israel and that has taken the lives of thousands of people. Why not just kill him and be finished with it? I believe that Ahab has come to believe that the drought will not end unless Elijah prays for it to. Therefore, he must indulge this man that he despises so deeply. Let's listen in on their conversation and glean from it.

1. V. 17 A Confrontation - When Ahab sees Elijah, he accuses him of "troubling" Israel. This word refers to one "who stirs something up, or causes a disturbance." However, it also carries the meaning of "a snake or serpent." This is equivalent to Ahab calling Elijah "a snake in the grass." there is no love lost between these two men! What Ahab failed to realize was that Elijah was the best friend that Israel had!

(Ill. So it is with the man of God! People will get angry when truth is preached from the pulpit. They fail to understand that when God's man tells them the truth, he does so because he loves them and God loves them. You see, the truth has the power to set you free, John 8:32. Therefore, people would do well to receive the message of God and deal with it personally. The man who tells you the truth is not your enemy. The man who tells you all is well when you are wrong is not your friend!)

2. V. 18 A Condemnation - Elijah's response to the accusations of Ahab is to look him squarely in the eye and tell him the truth. Elijah tells Ahab that the drought is really Ahab's fault! Because he, and his fathers, led the people away from the worship of God and into the worship of Baal, God sent the drought to get their attention and to call their hearts back to Himself, 18:37. In reality, Ahab was the trouble maker, Elijah was just the trouble shooter!

(Ill. Why is it that God's people forget that there is a price on sin? When we make wrong choices in our lives and wander away from God, why are we surprised when He chastens us? After all, isn't that what He promised to do? (Heb. 12:5-11; Rev. 3:19; Pro. 3:11-12) There always has been, and there always will be a price to pay for sin, Gal. 6:9. You never get away with it!)

3. V. 19-20 A Challenge - Elijah commands Ahab to sent for the people of Israel, the 450 prophets of Baal and the 400 prophets of Asherah (The female consort of Baal). Elijah even points out the fact that king of Israel is using his own resources to feed these false prophets, v. 19. Basically, Elijah is challenging these false prophets to a duel. They will decide once and for all which God will be worshiped in Israel. In verse 20, Ahab accepts the challenge and goes to round up the participants. It appears that the prophets of Asherah did not make the trip to Carmel.

(Ill. I just want to point out the fact that Elijah the prophet spoke 8 times during this event and each time he spoke, he issued a command. Why didn't someone kill him and shut him up? Because as long as you are in the will of God, you are invincible until the Lord gets through with you, Isa. 54:17.)

B. V. 21 Elijah Challenges The People - Now the people and the prophets have heeded the call of Elijah and they have gathered themselves on top of Mount Carmel. This large mountain, near the Mediterranean Sea has a large flat top that would allow such a great crowd to assemble. Once they are there, Elijah ignores the prophets of Baal and turns his attention to the people of Israel, God's chosen. Note three aspects about his challenge to the people.

1. A Question - Simply put, Elijah's questions is this: "How long are you going to waiver or vacillate between two ways of life?" These people were guilty of trying to hold hands with God and Baal. They were guilty of what many people are guilty of this morning. They wanted the best God could give them and they wanted what they could get from Baal worship. They wanted the best of both worlds! The words "How long" indicate that this had been going on for quiet some time. So it is in the church. People want to assurance that they are saved and a member of the church, but they want to hold on to their sins too. They want heaven, but they also want a beer now and then. They want the Bible, but they want to curse when things go wrong. They want to be able to pray when they have a need, but they want to live life by their own rules and do as they please! My friends, that will never work!

(Ill. We might as well come to understand right now that divided allegiance is a wicked as open idolatry! This is proven by Christ's condemnation of the church at Laodicea, Rev. 3:14-22. A person is either for Christ as he is against Him! You cannot be neutral! You cannot occupy the middle of the road! Jesus said it this way, "He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad.", Matt. 12:30. Where do you stand in regard to the Lord Jesus Christ?)

2. A Quandary - Elijah present the people with a problem. He tells them that they are being contradictory. If God is Lord, then Baal cannot be. If Baal is Lord then God cannot be. What Elijah is saying is that both God and Baal cannot both exist. There is room in the universe for only one Lord and one God! They are challenged to choose who they will follow.

(Ill. This is the same challenge we face this morning! Many who claim to love the Lord are also holding hands with the world, the flesh, material possessions or whatever. This is a contradiction! Either God is the Lord or He isn't. If He isn't, then those other things you hold to must be. The bottom line is this: you have to make a choice! Who will you serve? Who is really the Lord of your life? You really can't have it both ways! If you say you love the Lord and deny Him by your life, you actions and your activities, then you really don't love Him at all! So, what's it going to be for you?)

3. A Quietness - When Elijah extends this challenge to the people, they just say nothing! This is just what you would expect from people like these. They are cowards and they prove it by trying to stay in the middle of the road. Friends, there are times when you can walk in the middle and be all right. But, there are times when you have to have the backbone to stand for that which is right against that which is evil. Anything less is cowardice! Many people think by being quiet and maintaining a low profile that trouble and sin will just go away. My friend, if that is your philosophy, then you are deceiving yourself! Sometimes life will present you with opportunities to shut up, more often, faith will present you with opportunities to stand up!)

C. V. 22-24 Elijah Challenges The Prophet - Before Elijah finishes, he presents a challenge to the prophets of Baal. He calls upon them to put their faith in their god on the line. He tells them "It's show time!)

1. V. 22 The Teams - Elijah is just one man against 450 men. Yet, he is willing to stand for God. Talk about courage! Talk about guts! Talk about faith! Where are the Elijahs who will stand against everyone if need be, so they can stand with God? This is what I mean when I say we have to choose sides! Let us not fear the fact that we are outnumbered. Let us not waiver because it may appear that we stand alone! If we stand with God, we are never alone, Matt. 28:20; Heb. 13:5! He is ever there and He will see us through all the battles. (Ill. David - 1 Sam. 17. He stood when everyone else cowered in fear. Because he stood, God wrought a great victory!)

2. V. 23-24a The Terms - Elijah lays out the challenge to the people and the prophets. They will offer a bull and pray. The God who answers by sending fire from Heaven will be worshiped as God. Of course, Elijah tells them that they are to put not "fire under", v. 23. History records that often pagan altars had a dug out underneath where a priest could hide and light a fire, making it look as though a pagan god was responding. This was just fine with the Baal prophets. After all, Baal was the god of life! He was a fertility god who was seen in the rain and in the sun. They felt that he was responsible for life. Of course, Baal hadn't been able to send rain for three and a half years, but surely he could send fire. You see, the worshipers of Baal believed that he could be seen in the great thunder heads that brought rain to the land, but they also thought he could be seen in the sun itself. When they looked into the sky and saw the bright, burning sun overhead, they felt that they were looking directly at Baal. This was a contest that they felt confident of winning! Did you know that our English word "bonfire" came from the old Saxon word "Bael-fyr"? Interesting, huh? Of course, Satan would have given them fire if he had been permitted to, Job 1:9-12!

Of course, there were some in the crowd who would remember that Jehovah had also spoken by fire in the past. They might have remembered the burning bush, the fire on the altar of the Temple, the pillar of fire in the wilderness, the fact that God had consumed a murmuring crowd with fire, or the fact that God's fire had lit the top of Mt. Sinai. Either way, it seemed a fair challenge to the people and to the prophets of Baal.

3. V. 24b The Tragedy - The whole tragedy lies in the fact that the people are even willing to consider that Baal might be real. After all the things that God had done for them, how could they stoop to the place where they would even consider a contest of this nature? Imagine them expecting God to prove Himself to them after all He had already done for them and their nation!

(Ill. Before we come down too harshly on these people, maybe we should admit that we are often guilty of the same things. When we allow life and all of its distractions crowd God out, we are as guilty as they are. When we come to the place where we wonder what God has to offer, then we are in bad shape. When we forget His blessings, His power, His grace and His goodness, we are in terrible shape spiritually. When we live lives that are substandard spiritually, we are guilty of asking God to prove Himself to us! When God has to compete with everything else in your life just to get a minute of your attention, let alone your faithful service, you are in sad shape spiritually! Do you see how it is possible to get in this position?)

I. The Challenge Extended


(Ill. The challenge extended and accepted. Now the contest gets underway. As this story unfolds, let's notice how things work out for those involved.)

A. V. 25-29 The Problems Of The False Prophets - The prophets of Baal get to go first.

1. V. 25-26 Their Ministry - From early morning to noon these false priests prayed, screamed and called on Baal, but no fire came down and no answer was given to them at all. They appeared to be wasting their time.

2. V. 27 Their Mockery - When Elijah saw the ir foolishness and the futility of what they were doing, he stepped forward and mocked them and their god. He said, "Surely he is a god! You better cry louder! Maybe he is doing something else and is too busy to help you! Maybe he left town or is out hunting. Maybe he is asleep and you need to wake him up!" Elijah is pretty rough on these old boys, but they deserved pity! So it is with this world around us. They are so foolish that they waste their entire lives living for things that will die with them. They spend their entire lives building a dream only to see everything vanish and be replaced by Hell when they die. God help us who know the Lord to love them, to reach out tot hem and to try to make a difference in their lives for the glory of God!

3. V. 28-29 Their Misery - Elijah's mockery sent these men into a fit! They screamed, jumped, even cut their bodies in an attempt to get a response from Baal. However, the Bible tells us that there was no voice, neither any to answer, nor any that regarded! That last phrase means that by this time, even the people watching this spectacle had lost interest in what these false prophets were doing. (Ill. Just try to imagine this scene! 450 crazed prophets of Baal, prophesying, yelling, dancing, jumping, cutting themselves all in an effort to get the attention of a god that didn't even exist.

(Ill. A parallel to that are those people who live their lives in a frenzy to acquire and do more than their neighbor, only to die with nothing. They do it for their god: self. But, too late, they realize that their god cannot save nor can he give them happiness or peace. What a terrible way to live and die!)

B. V. 30-38 The Power Of The Faithful Prophet - After this pitiful spectacle, the faithful prophet Elijah steps forward. What he does teaches us about the ministry of faith in God and faithfulness to God in service.

1. V. 30-35 The Preparations - Notice what Elijah did to prepare for this event. Several things stand out to us this morning.

A. V. 30 He called the people to come near - true faith, unlike false worship, has absolutely nothing to hide! You had better watch the group that talks of secret things and hidden truth! My friend, do not be afraid to put Christianity under the microscope, it can stand the test!

B. V. 30-32 Elijah rebuilt an old altar that had fallen down. He used 12 stones to speak of the 12 tribes and he did his work in the name of the Lord. The people of Israel had constructed altars to Baal, while the altars to Jehovah had come into disrepair. There are people here today who need to rebuild their altars! Are you spending the time in prayer that you need to? Not prayer behind the wheel of the car, but real prayer, where all distractions are put away and God has your undivided attention. How many would have to be honest and say their prayer lives need rebuilding?

C. V. 33 He slaughtered and presented a sin offering. A bull was used for the sin offering. The people had sinned and Elijah is offering a sin offering for the people. Elijah knew where the real problem was! Ill. Friend, if you are saved, the sin offering has already been presented and you have been cleansed by the blood of Jesus. However, what God wants from you is a sacrifice of repentance and confession, 1 John 1:9.

D. V. 33-35 He watered the entire business down. Elijah wanted there to be no doubt that it was the work of the Lord. He was so certain that God would do this thing that he placed obstacles in the Lord's way. Ill. There were 12 stones for 12 tribes divided through idolatry. He used 12 barrels of water to signify that these 12 tribes were 12 hindrances to the glory of God being revealed in them! Elijah's primary goal was that God get every ounce of the glory! When that becomes your goal and mine, we will see the Lord work wonders in our midst as well!

2. V. 36-37 The Prayer - The Baal prophets had prayed at least 6 hours and nothing had happened. Elijah stepped up to his altar and prayed a 63 word prayer. His prayer was constructed to accomplish three things.

A. That God be glorified.

B. That the prophet be vindicated.

C. That the people be revived.

Elijah could have prayed for rain, but he did not. Why? He knew that as badly as rain was needed, the people needed revival more! We may think we know what we need in our lives, but, in truth, the greatest need we have is to get exactly where God wants us and serve Him. That was the heart of Elijah and it should be our heart as well!

3. V. 38 The Proof - When Elijah finished praying, God answered in a spectacular fashion. Note the order in which the elements were consumed. If the items had burned from the bottom up, it might have looked like man did it. However, everything burned from the top down, proving it was the work of God alone!

(Ill. Just let me remind us right here that God will honor that person who is sold out to His will! If you live by faith you need never fear the Lord letting you down! He will always come through for you! Please let me say to you that we must never underestimate the power of a totally dedicated life! If you are sold out, the Lord will use you greatly!)

(Ill. Did you notice that when the fire fell, it fell on the sacrifice and not on the sinners? What a picture of Jesus! He took our place on the cross and absorbed the wrath of God so that we might be free from wrath, death and Hell! What a Savior!)

I. The Challenge Extended

II. The Contest Executed


A. V. 39 The Repentance Of The Wayward People - The people have their proof. They should have never questioned the Lord, but they did and He answered in a brilliant display of power and glory!

1. Their Conviction - They fell on their faces. Finally the people of the Lord are bowing before the Lord in humility! If you know that the Lord is God today, you should find yourself in the same place that these wicked men found themselves. We ought to be humble and prostrate before the Lord our God! He is worthy of our love, our devotion and our praise!

2. Their Confession - They voice the truth that they have known in their hearts all the while. "The Lord, He is God! The Lord, He is God!" By their actions and their acknowledgment, they declare His glory, His place and their reverence for Him. Their hearts now burned with a new zeal for the Lord!

(Ill. Friend, you and I should find ourselves often in the place where we are laid out before him in praise, honor and worship! How long has it been since you found yourself in the presence of God for no other purpose than just to love Him and to worship Him? If it has been a while, let no more time pass! Honor Him as He deserves to be honored!)

B. V. 40 The Removal Of The Wicked Prophets - After all was done and settled, Elijah took the prophets of Baal down to the brook Kishon and killed them all. Some people read this and they are offended that all of these men were killed. However, Elijah simply did what had to be done! Why? Well, like a cancer that will destroy its host unless it is dealt with, these Baal prophets were destroying Israel and they had to go. Another reason was that Elijah was simply doing what the Lord had commanded in the Law, "And that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams, shall be put to death; because he hath spoken to turn you away from the LORD your God, which brought you out of the land of Egypt, and redeemed you out of the house of bondage, to thrust thee out of the way which the LORD thy God commanded thee to walk in. So shalt thou put the evil away from the midst of thee.", Deut. 13:5. There is no greater crime against humanity than to lead men to a Christless grave!

(Ill. As you and I examine our lives this morning, are there areas that we have allowed to become soft spiritually? Maybe it is your devotional life, or your witnessing life, or you church life, or your praise life, or any number of things. Maybe you have allowed some sin to creep into your life and you are hindered in your walk with God. You know where you stand today and what you need to do is to come before the Lord this morning and put those things to death! But, if you are thinking of doing that, be forewarned that it requires great courage and stamina!)

Conc: Do we really need to challenge the Lord to prove that He is God today? Do we need to set up a trial and ask God to jump through hoops for us? Maybe if He did, then we would serve Him! However, I think it would be far better for God's people, who claim to love Him anyway, to just come before Him and confess our sins, render our thanks, offer our praise and love Him. Don't you?

You may be like the prophets of Baal. You might not even be saved today. One day there will come a time when you will be lead away and sent to the second death in Hell. Is that what you want? If the Lord is drawing you to come to Him, please come and receive Him into your life.

Whatever the need, the altar is open and God is waiting to do business with all those who will come on His terms. Will you?

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