We are all familiar with Elijah’s daring challenge to the prophets of Baal. It is one of the most dramatic and powerful moments of the Bible. The time when God sent fire out of Heaven and established His sovereignty and supremacy; The time when the whole of Israel witnessed false religion fall on its face before the one true God. It definitely was a “once in a lifetime” moment!
The scene was very tense: Elijah pitted against 450 prophets of Baal.
“How long will you falter between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.”
The crowd was silent, and did not speak a word. Tension was rising in the air and Elijah cleared his throat and put forth the ultimate challenge: A bull would be given each to Team Baal and Elijah. They would dress it and set it on top of the firewood, without lighting the fire. They would both then pray to their respective deity, and
“the God who answers by fire, He is God.”
The people immediately shouted their approval- Why not? It was a radical and zealous challenge to settle the dispute; Elijah was all alone, while Team Baal was jam-packed with 450 prophets endorsed by King Ahab himself. It was definitely going to be a lopsided contest!
Phew, we all know what was the actual result: God sent fire from heaven and endorsed Elijah.
The fire not only consumed the sacrifice, but also “the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench”.
Now, that was a wonder to behold! The crowd was stunned- plagued by astonishment and utter disbelief! Completely overwhelmed, the people fell on their faces and cried in unison, “The LORD, he is the God; the LORD, he is the God.” On Elijah’s orders, they slaughtered all the 450 prophets and none of them escaped.
The story ends here, but have we ever examined what Elijah did before God answered him with fire? He repaired the altar of the LORD that was broken down (1 Kings 18:30).
Yes, Idolatry began to extend its grip over the nation of Israel, and the people started building altars to false gods. With direct support from King Ahab and Queen Jezebel, the false prophets thrived and idolatry greatly flourished. The true prophets of God were scarce to find, and as a result, the LORD’s altar was left uncared and unattended for. Slowly it was being forgotten and turning to ruins.
Similarly, we too have an altar in our lives- the altar on which we offer our sacrifices of praise, thanksgiving and worship. It is the time we spend alone in God’s presence, praying and meditating on His word. It is the life which we live according to His divine will.
When we first got saved, we were very faithful to God and our altar was brand new. Slowly we became careless and complacent, and did not notice the altar breaking down. How can our sacrifice be accepted if the altar on which we offer is in ruins? How can we challenge the prophets of Baal and witness to the people if our altar is in a sorry state?
Just like Elijah, let us also repair the broken altar in our life. Let us go back to spending time in God’s presence. Let us go back to praying and meditating on His word. Let us submit to His divine will and be careful to live a godly life. If we do so, then we too have the assurance that God will answer us with fire from Heaven- the fire of His Holy Spirit. Amen.