And Elijah came unto all the people, and said, How long halt ye between two opinions? if the Lord be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him. And the people answered him not a word. — 1 Kings 18:21
Life is full of choices, and some of them are life-defining. A man in our church testifies, “Bad habits bound me. I smoked four or five packs of cigarettes a day. Bitterness, blasphemy, and hatred were in my heart. During World War II, I spent five years on ammunition ships and tankers, serving among men who did not care anything about life.
“One day as I stood alone by the ship’s rail, the misery in my heart overwhelmed me. I did not want to live any longer. As I looked into those murky waves, I said to myself, ‘I’m going to end it all. I will jump overboard.’ The devil told me, ‘Jump! Nobody will ever miss you!’ But in that moment, Jesus spoke to my heart. He said, ‘If you jump, what will the end be?’ I knew that Voice came from Heaven, and I did not jump.”
This man’s decision was one that had extreme consequences. Happily, he made the right choice, and later he prayed and was born again. The decisions we face today may not be life or death issues, but we are still called upon to make them. As we review the options, it may be readily apparent what choice is best to make. At other times, the best option may not be so clear.
In our focus verse, Israel was called upon to choose between two options. Elijah challenged them, as a nation, to come to a decision. Would they continue serving Baal, or would “the Lord be God”?
In our spiritual lives, we are confronted with the decision of whom we will serve. We have two choices — the God of salvation, or Satan, the enemy of our souls. Our personal decisions will determine our eternal destination.
Through the ages, many have chosen to serve the Lord. In doing so, they have found Him ready and willing to guide in all of life’s temporal and spiritual decisions. We can access His help daily by asking for it and then standing on the promises in His Word.
Obadiah is a person worthy of notice. In charge of wicked Ahab’s house, Obadiah “feared the Lord greatly.” The meaning of his name was “servant of Jehovah.” He was willing to risk his life to hide and feed one hundred godly prophets when Jezebel tried to wipe them out.
When Ahab and Obadiah were combing the land for food for the animals that were used by the military, Elijah approached Obadiah with a message for Ahab. Obadiah’s reluctance to carry Elijah’s message is understandable, since Ahab had searched internationally for Elijah for some time.
There is a significant contrast between Obadiah’s greeting when he met Elijah, and the greeting that Ahab gave later. Obadiah “fell on his face, and said, Art thou that my lord Elijah?” Ahab said, “Art thou he that troubleth Israel?”
Baal was a Phoenician god of fertility. His worshipers believed that he sent rain and abundant crops. His worship included extremely immoral practices. In addition to representatives from the tribes of Israel, 450 prophets of Baal, and 400 “prophets of the groves” were called to this contest (see “Pagan Gods” supplement). The prophets of the groves were prophets of the Canaanite goddess Asherah (or Astarte), but apparently they did not attend the confrontation. (See verses 22, 26, 40.) Because Mount Carmel was near the border between Phoenicia and Israel, the location would have seemed to be an advantage to Baal.
Elijah challenged the people, “How long halt ye between two opinions?” Many Israelites knew who the true God was. However, idolatrous worship brought sinful pleasure, which they may have been reticent to give up.
The prophets of Baal had every advantage — the choice of sacrifice, the opportunity to go first, and plenty of time. Fanatical and frenzied, they tried to get their god to perform a miracle for them. When they had exhausted themselves with vain praying, Elijah called the people near to watch while he repaired the altar. No doubt Elijah wanted them to know for themselves that there was no sleight-of-hand involved. The twelve stones symbolized the twelve tribes, even though Israel was politically divided.
In contrast to the advantages he had given the prophets of Baal, Elijah incorporated hindrances in his offering. He also sacrificed the most valuable resource in the land — water — to the God of Israel. At the Temple in Jerusalem, the evening sacrifice was offered at 3:00 p.m. That is when Elijah prayed his prayer. God answered by fire that consumed the sacrifice, the altar, the dust, and even the water from the trench.
God had commanded in Deuteronomy 13:1-5 that false prophets were to be killed. Elijah was obeying those instructions when he slew the prophets of Baal.
Although God had promised rain (verse 1), Elijah still had to pray earnestly before it happened. His burden for his people was great, and the answer took more than one short prayer. A small cloud in the distance was proof enough for Elijah. He knew the torrents of rain would soon follow.
The Lord’s hand was on Elijah, who ran down the mountain into the valley, arriving ahead of Ahab in Jezreel, which was somewhere between six and seventeen miles away.
(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
II. The reigns of the kings of Judah and Israel
K. The reign of Ahab of Israel
2. The ministry of Elijah against Ahab’s Baal worship
a. The background for Mt. Carmel
(3) Elijah’s confrontation with Ahab (18:1-19)
(a) Obadiah’s mission from Ahab (18:1-6)
(b) Obadiah’s mission to Ahab (18:7-15)
(c) Elijah’s second meeting with Ahab (18:16-19)
b. The events on Mt. Carmel (18:20-46)
(1) Elijah’s challenge (18:20-24)
(2) Baal’s failure (18:25-29)
(3) Jehovah’s manifestation (18:30-40)
(4) The cessation of the drought (18:41-46)
God’s blessing will be upon us as we choose to make decisions based on His Word and His will for us as individuals.