The Showdown

In 1 Kings 18:20-46 Elijah the prophet is seen setting up a competition. 

Earlier Elijah had asked Ahab, Israel’s King at that time, to have all the people of Israel, including the 450 prophets of Baal and the 400 prophets of Asherah who always sat at the table of Ahab’s wife Jezebel, gathered together on Mount Carmel.  This site was ideal for what was about to transpire because the soil, with its stony surface and large fragments of rock, was thoroughly adapted for the erection of an altar.  In addition, the area was perfect for digging a trench and the nearby springs flowing from the Kishon River would provide plenty of water.  Also, Elijah could not have chosen a more conspicuous spot for those who would need to witness everything from the distance below because of not being able to climb the mountain and being left behind.

Subsequent to everybody arriving (except for the 400 prophets of Asherah who sat at Jezebel’s table) Elijah began to address the assembly saying: "How long will you falter between two opinions?  If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him."   The audience remained silent because the people wanted to combine worship of the God of Israel with worship of Baal and they chose not to assume a hostile attitude toward either.  Isn’t this precisely what is happening today in America as people stand together in our capital city honoring and addressing the true and living God whose name is Jesus, along with various other gods?  When will an Elijah arise and appear on the scene saying: “How long will you falter between two opinions?  If the Lord is God, follow Him, but if Baal, follow him.”   

As the people adhered to their double mindedness, Elijah suggested to them that The Deity Himself decide who was the true God.  In seeing Elijah stand alone in opposition to the large number of Baal’s prophets, yield precedence to his rivals, give them choice of the two oxen to be offered, they viewed his proposal as fair and everybody agreed.  Elijah had successfully established a competition for supremacy! 

As decided, the prophets of Baal would offer a sacrifice to Baal and Elijah would offer one to the God of Israel.  In answer to the invocation of His name, the true God would make Himself known by kindling the offering with fire from heaven. This would not be the first time God manifested Himself in such a way because fire from heaven had fallen upon and consumed the first sacrifice presented in front of the tabernacle (read Lev.9:24).  Elijah, being a man who sought God in all things before doing anything, had to have heard from God directly so he was able to believe God and trust Him to demonstrate His glory in like manner.

The prophets of Baal proceeded according to the prescribed rules; they prepared the sacrifice and seriously called upon Baal from morning until noon.  No voice was being heard so, according to their custom of rushing about wildly in perfect confusion, they cried out even louder than before and scratched themselves with instruments until blood trickled down their abused bodies.  Still no answer!

Now it was Elijah’s turn and as he began to prepare for his own sacrifice by restoring an altar of the Lord that had previously been broken down he asked the people to draw near so they might see and hear with greater clarity.  Elijah took twelve stones according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob (whose name was changed to Israel) and built them into an altar.  The twelve stones were a practical declaration on the part of the prophet that the division of the nation into two kingdoms was at variance with the divine calling of Israel.  The design of twelve tribes was to form one people not two; therefore, this was a prophetic act directing attention to the fact that the ten seceding tribes had done wrong in claiming the name of Israel for themselves.  The name Israel belonged to the whole nation, by the authority of God and for His glory.

Next, Elijah made a trench of considerable breadth and depth, signified by the expression two seahs of seed.  He arranged the wood, placed the cut pieces of bull on the wood and poured upon the burnt sacrifice and the wood four buckets of water three consecutive times.  Everything was saturated with water!  The trench was filled with water and water flowed all around the altar so the incredulous would not be able to deny that the miracle they were about to observe was executed by The Deity.

At the time of the evening sacrifice, having made all necessary preparation, Elijah prayed: "Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel (used the name Israel versus Jacob as acknowledgment that one nation, not two was in the perfect will of God), let it be known this day that you are God in Israel, and I am your servant, and do all these things through your word. Hear me, O Lord, hear me, that this people may know that you are God, and turn back their hearts!"   In hearing this and in being pleased with the sacrifice, God caused His fire to fall.   The fire consumed the burnt offering and pieces of wood, the stones of the altar and the earth that was lifted to form the trench and it licked up all the water that was in the trench. 

At the conclusion of this showdown, everybody knew which of the gods was The True Deity and they dropped to the ground on their faces in worship, as people had done once before at the consecration of the altar in Leviticus.  Fully convinced, they all said in unison, “The Lord, He is God!  The Lord, He is God!”   

Now, Elijah commanded the people to seize the prophets of Baal and had them slain at the brook Kishon to carry out the Old Testament’s fundamental law which prohibited idolatry on pain of death and commanded that false prophets be destroyed (Deut 17:2-3; 13:13).  As a representative of God, Elijah dealt a fatal blow to the enemies of God who tried to entice His people to turn against the Lord and His way.  

Many centuries later Jesus, typified in Elijah’s sacrifice of cut flesh with dripping blood placed on pieces of wood, dealt a fatal blow to the one called the Devil and Satan, Adversary, Tempter, Deceiver, Father of Lies, Accuser of the Brethren, etc.  Jesus in His atoning sacrifice, having taken the sins of the world upon Himself and having shed His precious blood on the Cross made of wood, destroyed the works of the devil. 

Immediately following the showdown, God caused Elijah to hear the sound of rain long before it arrived.  The idolatrous priests/prophets had been destroyed and the curse upon the land would now be removed; the three years of drought was about to be lifted.  Elijah called King Ahab to come to the place of sacrifice upon Carmel and eat and drink because, in his eagerness to see the result of the contest, he had gone without food from morning until evening.  While Ahab was being refreshed Elijah went to the top of Carmel to pray that the Lord would complete His work and fulfill His promise; he continued praying until the commencement of rain was announced. 

Elijah’s servant looked out upon the sea seven times and at last saw a small cloud ascend about the size of a man's hand.  Upon hearing this, Elijah sent the servant to tell the king to go to his chariot which stood at the foot of the mountain and make haste to return home.  Most likely, three years of drought made the plain of Jezreel a deep layer of dust so a downpour was sure to create a bed of mud through which chariot-wheels would never move.

After Ahab drove off, the hand of the Lord came upon Elijah and propelled him to run ahead of Ahab as far as Jezreel.  God sent Elijah before Ahab to demonstrate respect for his kingly position and to show that he was a faithful subject and servant.  Elijah's action was to serve in deepening the impression already made upon Ahab's heart and to fortify him against the temptations of his wife, who abused his weakness to support the cause of ungodliness.

This showdown on Mount Carmel is a miniature picture of another showdown spoken of in Revelation 16:16 and 20 referred to as the battle of Armageddon, situated in the valley between Mount Carmel and the city of Jezreel.  This battle will take place when Jesus returns to destroy the armies of Satan and set up His rule on this earth for a thousand years.  At that time everyone will see and know that Jesus is the one and only true and living God and every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord!  At the end of His thousand-year reign on this earth, when Satan is released and for the last time gathers the nations to come against God’s saints and His beloved city, fire will again descend from God out of heaven.  All of God’s opposition will be devoured and the devil will be cast into the lake of fire where he will remain forever.






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