Jeff Stride tells a great story about a young man who joined the military and had just entered boot camp.
On the first morning, the unit was awakened early, dragged out of bed, and made to assemble outside by the drill sergeant. Seeking to instill fear in the recruits, the sergeant stood in front of soldiers and snarled at them: “My name’s Sergeant Jackson. Is there anyone here thinks he can whip me?”
Incredibility a young man raised his hand!!!
The Sergeant walked right over to the new recruit. And there stood the private. All 6′ 5′ and 280 pounds of him. The drill sergeant looked him dead in the eye and with all the malice he could muster repeated “So you think you can whip me, soldier?”
“Yes, sir. I do,” the private calmly replied.
The sergeant grabbed the soldier by the arm. Took him out in front of the group and bellowed, “Men, this is my new assistant… Now, is there anyone here who thinks he can whip both of us?”
While that story may be fictional, I narrated one to our VBS kids that was true. And more exciting! Yesterday I was Elijah the Prophet. We reenacted Elijah’s confrontation with the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel. Here’s what happened.
Israel had become evil under the reign of King Ahab and his wicked wife, Jezebel. But God used the prophet Elijah in a dramatic fashion to make a difference. When Abab saw Elijah he said accusingly, “Is that you, O Troubler of Israel?”
Elijah shot back and said, “I have not troubled Israel, but you and your father’s house have.” And they had. Idol worship was prominent. Especially Baal. And Asherah. And with it came immorality. Pagan practices. And heathen habits.
Elijah first confronted and questioned the Israelites, “How long will you falter between two opinions? If the Lord is God follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.” Then the Prophet challenged the 450 prophets of Baal to a contest on Mount Carmel. They would each sacrifice a bull. Cut it up. Place it and the wood on the altar. But have no fire. Then they would each pray to their god to light the fire on the altar.
The prophets of Baal accepted the challenge. They prepared the altar and began to pray. They cried to Baal from morning to noon. But there was no response. Elijah mocked them saying, “Baal was meditating. Or busy. Or on a journey. Or asleep.” But as they cried louder and even cut themselves, there was no answer.
Elijah then repaired the altar of the Lord. Prepared the sacrifice. Then built a trench around it large enough to hold about 5 gallons of seed. Then he told the people to fill four water pots to pour on the altar, the wood and the sacrifice. He had them do this three times.
Then Elijah earnestly prayed: “Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that You are God in Israel and I am Your servant, and that I have done all these things at Your word. Hear me, O Lord, hear me, that this people may know that You are the Lord God, and that You have turned their hearts back to You again” (I Kings 18:36-37)
God answered the prayer by sending fire from heaven and consumed the sacrifice. The wood. The stones. And even lapped up the water!
Elijah proclaimed victory. And the false prophets of Baal were executed.
So what do we learn from this?
1. Never be afraid to stand up for God. Even when you are out numbered 450-1! Be strong. And be courageous. Like Elijah.
2. Truth is not determined by how many people believe something. Stand for truth, even when no one else is.
3. One person and God make a majority. Like the sergeant in the story, when God is on your side you can withstand any foe. Any opposition. Any enemy.
4. Don’t hesitate to side with God. And his people. Don’t be undecided. Hesitant. Or indecisive. Too many Christians today are faltering. Walking the middle of the road between the world and the Lord. “If the Lord is God follow Him; but if “Baal”, follow him.”
5. Finally, we see the power of God. His majesty. His energy. His ability. Never under-estimate what God can do. Indeed he is “able to do exceeding, abundantly above all that we think or ask” (Eph. 3:20).
I’m thankful for VBS and the opportunity to share this great historical event with the kids. And grateful that God revealed it to increase our faith. Strengthen our resolve. And fortify our hope! Our God is an awesome God! Amen?!
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman