After a very short night in the resort town of Netanya, we began in earnest our first full day of seeing the “land of promise.”
Our first stop was Caesarea Maritima, where the gospel was first preached to the Gentiles by the apostle Peter. The Roman Centurion Cornelius lived there and was the first Gentile convert. (Ax 10). We also saw the amphitheater. The site of Herod the Great’s Mediterranean palace. And the place where Herod Agrippa I was stricken dead by the Lord (Ax. 12).
Other highlights included Mediggo, an important commercial crossroads between Europe, Asia, and Africa. And the old village of Nazareth that provided great insight to the culture and customs where Jesus grew up.
But my personal highlight was visiting Mt. Carmel where the prophet Elijah confronted the prophets of Baal. Ralph Walker read the account from 1 Kings 18. And then Craig Bean led us as we sang “Trust and Obey.”
The cliff notes version of the Elijah narrative goes like this.
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 Ahab 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 challenged the Israelites, “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, then 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 relieving himself. 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. And 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: “O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel, and that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your word. Answer me, O Lord, answer me, that this people may know that you, O Lord, are God, and that you have turned their hearts back.” (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 taken down to the brook Kishon (which we could see from our vantage point) and executed.
Stand on top of Mt. Carmel, 1700 feet above sea level, looking down on the Jezreel Valley, and thinking how long it took for the people of Israel to climb the Mountain. Witness the power of God. Take the prophets Baal down the mountain. Return again. What an incredible sight that must have been
The lessons of Elijah are more firmly fixed in my mind than ever before.
1. Never be afraid to stand up for God. Even when you are outnumbered 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 does.
3. One person and God make a majority. 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 underestimate 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 the opportunity to stand where this historical event occurred. I’m 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