Peaks and Valleys

At noon Elijah began to taunt them. “Shout louder!” he said. “Surely he is a god! Perhaps he is deep in thought, or busy, or traveling. Maybe he is sleeping and must be awakened.” So they shouted louder and slashed themselves with swords and spears, as was their custom, until their blood flowed. Midday passed, and they continued their frantic prophesying until the time for the evening sacrifice. But there was no response, no one answered, no one paid attention. 1 Kings 18 27-29

It’s rare to see a prophet of God in the Bible having fun. He had challenged them, and they were failing miserably. You have to know that there were a lot of prophets of Baal who were getting more and more frustrated as the daylight hours faded. They were now bleeding for their god. More than anything, I like Elijah’s confidence in his ability to call on the name of the Lord. It was quickly becoming Show Time for Elijah. In the vernacular, he would have to “put up or shut up.”

I find that confidence, in general, comes and goes. In the next chapter, Elijah cowers and runs for his life. We’re not supposed to compare ourselves to these men of God, but we do. Many times you’ll hear about the boldness that Elijah had when he called down fire, but that’s not the full story. Elijah, like us, experienced peaks and valleys, times when the world was for him and the world was against him. We wish we were more consistent, but we’re not. Actually, that’s comforting to me because if these great men of God had their ups and downs, it’s a pretty safe bet that we’ll also have those ups and downs too. Does that mean we shouldn’t “go for God” with everything we have? Absolutely, we should. But if we fail, we shouldn’t beat ourselves up over it and let that be the hallmark of our faith. We should, however, repent if needed, get back up and do it all over again.

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The Battles

Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, “Choose one of the bulls and prepare it first, since there are so many of you. Call on the name of your god, but do not light the fire.” So they took the bull given them and prepared it.
Then they called on the name of Baal from morning till noon. “O Baal, answer us!” they shouted. But there was no response; no one answered. And they danced around the altar they had made.
1 Kings 18:25-26

Again, we see that Elijah seems to be having a blast at giving these so-called prophets of Baal and Asherah directions. In the verses following, we’ll see him mocking them. There were 850 of them all doing this. What a sight it might have been. At any time, though, these men could have turned on Elijah and torn him apart with their bare hands, but they chose the way they knew: to pray to a god who wasn’t there, begging him to ignite their altar.

All around us is an enemy who wants to destroy us. If we knew how many times God has protected us, we would be rejoicing daily. If you are doing the work of God, you will be severely tested and tried. You will be mocked and laughed at. Your beliefs and faith will be tested, and often at the hands of fellow Christians.

But, I’m happy to tell you that “He who is in us is greater than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4). We don’t see the unseen world. We would probably be astounded if we did. Even though we don’t see the invisible spirit world, it exists. Battles are raging even as you read this. The battles are won daily, hourly, and minute by minute. But the battles can be won.

Continue to seek more of God. Continue to seek His face.

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The Spirit Will Prompt

Then Elijah said to them, “I am the only one of the LORD’s prophets left, but Baal has four hundred and fifty prophets. Get two bulls for us. Let them choose one for themselves, and let them cut it into pieces and put it on the wood but not set fire to it. I will prepare the other bull and put it on the wood but not set fire to it. Then you call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the LORD. The god who answers by fire—he is God.”  Then all the people said, “What you say is good.” 1 Kings 18:22-24

Sunday School teachers young and old love this passage of Scripture. Elijah is displaying the boldness that we all feel at times (but rarely act upon). In fact, as we can see, Elijah does not lack in confidence. He is ready to take on the world quite literally. If he had been wrong, then he would be humiliated and laughed at. Think of the challenge: call on your god. Whichever God answers by fire wins. Thousands of years removed from Elijah, we can speculate about what we would do. Why most certainly, we would have done the same as Elijah. We would have been as bold.

Or would we?

Opportunities come our way every single day. Many are small and insignificant; a few are large. Someone is blaspheming the Lord, what do you do? Someone is telling you that the Bible is mythical, what will you say? You are being watched and tested whether you know it or not.

There are times when you will be compelled to speak up. But if you don’t, it certainly doesn’t make you a lesser Believer. You will know when the time comes. You will know very clearly. And when you do, the Holy Spirit will be there prompting you with the very words you need to say.

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So Ahab sent word throughout all Israel and assembled the prophets on Mount Carmel. Elijah went before the people and said, “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.” But the people said nothing. 1 Kings 18:20-21

Onlookers. Gapers. Rubberneckers. The masses. We’ve all been them, seen them, and silently scolded them. They are the people passing a roadside wreck and slow down to see the carnage and the condition of the “other guy.” We’ve done it too.

In today’s devotional, Elijah has just challenged the people of Israel to follow God or Baal, but they said nothing. Ahab had summoned them all to come and observe. They weren’t sure what to expect since the prophets of Baal and Asherah were also called to Mount Carmel. We know that they’re able to speak because a few verses later they said, “what you say is good.” But now when they had a choice, the people said nothing. Perhaps these people wanted to see the carnage and wreckage that would take place. Nobody spoke up. In a crowd of many many people, there was bound to be someone who would speak up. Nothing.

Sometimes when you speak to people about spiritual things, they will remain silent. Don’t misinterpet the silence because the people could just be onlookers, observers, confused, troubled. Their silence is often misinterpreted as approval or disapproval (because they didn’t speak up), but that could be far from the case. People need time to process what they are seeing and hearing.

Often silence just means silence.

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The Challenge

“I have not made trouble for Israel,” Elijah replied. “But you and your father’s family have. You have abandoned the LORD’s commands and have followed the Baals. Now summon the people from all over Israel to meet me on Mount Carmel. And bring the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal and the four hundred prophets of Asherah, who eat at Jezebel’s table.” 1 Kings 18:18-19

Elijah confronted Ahab about some of his sins, and then commands the King to bring all of Israel plus the prophets of Baal and Asherah to Mount Carmel. This is a classic showdown: good guy meets bad guy and issues a challenge. At this point we don’t know what precisely Elijah is challenging but we can easily surmise it has something to do with the 800 prophets.

We all face challenges in life. Very few of them are as dramatic and “in your face” as Elijah’s, but they are nonetheless real. When was the last time you were challenged (not badgered or nagged or scolded) to go deeper spiritually? When was the last time a friend challenged you regarding something you said or did? Or when was the last time you lovingly challenged a fellow Brother or Sister in something he/she had done or said?

Initially we don’t like these challenges because it exposes weaknesses (even as a challenger, it exposes a weakness of not loving the person enough to tell the truth). And yet, what does Scripture teach: “But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

These opportunities come along almost daily. Pray that you’ll have the courage to do the right thing when the time comes.

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Elijah said, “As the LORD Almighty lives, whom I serve, I will surely present myself to Ahab today.” 1 Kings 18:15

Obadiah was very concerned about going to Ahab on Elijah’s behalf. He feared that Elijah would abandon him. But Elijah said that if the King would come to meet him, he would be there. It’s a fairly simple statement but don’t miss the significant point in its simplicity. Eliah was giving Obadiah his word that he would present himself to the King if the King, in fact, came to meet him.

We would say today that his ‘word was as good as gold.’ Is your word good as gold? If you say you’ll pray for someone, do you? If you say you’ll be some place at a certain time, do you make the other party wait? If you say the project will be done by a certain date, do you make excuses as to why it is still in process?

We all stumble and I’m afraid this is an area we can all improve upon. Ask the Lord to help you to do what you say you are going to do (or not make the promise in the first place).

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I don’t know where the Spirit of the LORD may carry you when I leave you. If I go and tell Ahab and he doesn’t find you, he will kill me. Yet I your servant have worshiped the LORD since my youth. Haven’t you heard, my lord, what I did while Jezebel was killing the prophets of the LORD ? I hid a hundred of the LORD’s prophets in two caves, fifty in each, and supplied them with food and water. And now you tell me to go to my master and say, ‘Elijah is here.’ He will kill me!” 1 Kings 18:12-14

How is that the man that Scripture calls a “devout Believer in the Lord” in 1 Kings 18:3, can cower when Elijah asks him to get Ahab for him. In his own defense, he told Elijah about how he had helped 100 prophets, an action that would have meant certain death if he had been caught. Hiding and feeding 100 men in two caves is risky business to say the least. Now another prophet wanted to actually inform Ahab of his existence?

Before we’re too hard on Obadiah, think of the many times you were bold for God and all of a sudden you were fearful. All the ‘what if’ questions arose: what if they don’t believe? What if I make a fool of myself? What if they DO believe? What if? What if? What if?

Pray for boldness in your own life. Pray that you will be strengthened with God’s grace and knowledge and that you will go with God’s favor. Then open your eyes to the many opportunities that face each of us.

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Risk Takers

(Obadiah was a devout believer in the LORD. While Jezebel was killing off the LORD’s prophets, Obadiah had taken a hundred prophets and hidden them in two caves, fifty in each, and had supplied them with food and water.) 1 Kings 18:3-4

Obadiah was in charge of Ahab’s palace but he also knew what Jezebel was doing with the prophets of the Lord: she was killing them. At his own risk, he hid 100 prophets and supplied them with food and water. Jezebel would have surely put Obadiah to death if she had found out what he was doing.

Fortunately we don’t read about the Obadiahs doing the same thing in our world. If we did, they would cease to exist. But there are men, women, and children risking their lives for the sake of the Gospel. People continue to smuggle Bibles into closed lands, hold secret house church meetings, and even print Bibles in the cloak of darkness. There are others who risk it all too so that those in the closed lands can function. We don’t know their names but God does. And He understands their plight.

Pray for these nameless risk takers. Pray that they will continue to have strength and boldness. Pray that they will continue to fight on behalf of those who don’t have a loud voice in the West. Ask God what YOU should do to help them.

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Now the famine was severe in Samaria, and Ahab had summoned Obadiah, who was in charge of his palace. (Obadiah was a devout believer in the LORD. While Jezebel was killing off the LORD’s prophets, Obadiah had taken a hundred prophets and hidden them in two caves, fifty in each, and had supplied them with food and water.) 1 Kings 18:2-4

Obadiah was in charge of Ahab’s palace. Ahab and his wife Jezebel did many evil things, and yet, they had placed Obadiah in charge of the entire palace. Time and time again throughout Scripture, we see that rulers put devout Believers (Joseph and Daniel immediately come to mind) in positions of high authority. Kings and other rulers need people they can depend upon.

Even today we hear stories of many of the Muslim leaders who put Christians in positions of authority. Why? Even though Muslims in general are opposed to many Christian beliefs, the leaders realize that Christians in their administrations won’t lie when asked a direct question. They are honest and dependable. What an incredibly unique opportunity.

Pray for leaders around the world who might have Christians in their midst. The Believers may not have the status of an Obadiah, but as they cook and clean and iron clothes for these leaders, they have opportunities that you and I will never have. And yet, they are often in grave danger at the hands of these rulers.

Pray for boldness. Pray for them to reap a ripe harvest. Pray that they will continue to grow in grace and knowledge of Christ our Lord.

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