TEXT: I Kings 18:17-39
EARLY one morning there was a terrible noise on top of a high mountain. It was on Mt. Carmel.
Once upon a time the people had climbed up the steep, steep side of this mountain and made an altar up there so they could pray to God. They said they felt nearer to God way up high like that.
Now the altar on Mt. Carmel was all broken down and nobody came up there any more to talk to God. What was all that noise? What were all those people doing up there? No one had prayed up there for a long, long, long time.
Elijah was the one who had told all the people to come up there. For a long time Elijah had to hide from a mean king. The king wanted to hurt him just because he loved the real God.
Elijah told all the people that they were praying to a make-believe god called Baal. He could not help them. They needed rain for their land but Baal could not hear them. He could not send the rain. Now they were going to see who is the real God, Baal or the God in Heaven.
Here is what they were going to do. They were going to bring two piles of wood. One for the make-believe god, Baal; one for the real God in Heaven. On top of each of the piles of wood they would put an animal cut up as a gift to God. They were to pray for fire to come down from Heaven and burn up the wood and the animal. They would know that the God who sent the fire was the real, true, living God. Elijah said for the people who prayed to Baal to try first.
Such a noise they did make! A crowd of men were jumping up and down around their altar. They were praying, singing, crying, trying to make Baal send down the fire. Pretty soon they began screaming and cutting themselves so the blood came. They thought if they did that, Baal would feel real sorry for them, and send the fire. These people who prayed to the make-believe god, Baal, cried, begged, called, and did everything they could think of to get Baal to answer them. Baal could not answer. He was not alive. He could not hear them. He could not hear or speak. He was made out of wood. He was an idol.
Elijah waited a long time so the people would have a good chance to get their idol-god to send the fire. There were a lot of people calling and praying to Baal. All Israel was there with the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal. All those people dancing and jumping up and down and screaming made a big noise. Still the idol-god did not help them.
Now it was Elijah’s turn. Just Elijah, all by himself! He was not afraid. He knew he loved a real God who could hear him when he prayed. He knew this God would send the answer right away.
“Come near unto me,” Elijah told them. He wanted them to see what God would do.
The people all watched Elijah carefully as he took twelve big rocks and made a place to put the wood on top of the rocks. He did it just as God had told him to.
Elijah laid the wood on the rock altar. Then he laid the meat of the animal on top of the wood. Elijah was going to do something to make it even harder to make the fire burn. He knew God could do anything. He wanted these people to know that his God was the real God.
All around the big twelve rocks, Elijah made a deep ditch. “Fill four barrels with water,” he said to the men. “Pour the four barrels of water all over the cut-up pieces of the animal, and the wood.” You use water to put out a fire, not to make one. The men probably thought that his God could not make wet wood burn.
Elijah knew just what he was doing when he said to get four more barrels of water and really make the wood and the animal wet. This time it even ran down into the ditch that Elijah had made all around the altar. Now the ground was wet, too.
All the people stood so quiet and still. They must have thought Elijah was going to get it so wet even God could not send a fire hot enough down from Heaven to burn it.
Still Elijah wanted four more barrels of water. It was poured all over the wood, the pieces of the animal, the rocks and now into the ditch. Everything was sopping wet.
The people knew there was no fire hidden anywhere in the altar Elijah had made. They watched him build it and then they saw all the water go on it. That was just what Elijah wanted. He wanted to show them how foolish and silly it was to pray to an idol that is not even alive.
Elijah walked out all alone by God’s altar, the altar Elijah had built to our heavenly Father. A hush came over all the people. Here was just one man praying to God all by himself and the altar was all wet. Would his God really answer?
Oh yes, God heard him. God hears each little boy, each little girl, each man and each woman who prays to Him.
Elijah looked up into Heaven. He said, “Lord, God, let these people know today that You are a real God and that I love You. Hear me, oh God, hear me, so all these people may love You, too!”
Quick as lightning the fire of God fell upon the altar. Crack, crackle, pop, burned the wood. The pieces of the animal were quickly burned. Even those twelve big rocks burned up, the fire was so hot. The water in the ditch burned and even the dust. God can do anything. He can even make rocks and water burn.
All the people just fell right down on their knees and put their faces on the ground, and began to cry: “The LORD, he is the God.” They did not believe in an old idol-god any more. They saw that God was the true and loving God.
Elijah was a good helper for God. He was not afraid to tell those people that God was the true God even when he was all alone. He knew God would take care of him.
God needs helpers today. Would you like to be a helper for God and tell someone else about all the wonderful things that God can do?