The Lord, He Is The God!
Based on Series of Sermons on the Repetition of Name and Titles
Preached in PCC Worship Service, 26 February 2017
Part 3 of 3


We are continuing our study of 1 Kings 18:1-40. In our previous article, we looked at the challenge of the prophet Elijah to the false prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel. In this article, we will look at the Lord’s answer to the prophet as well as some lessons we can learn from this whole contest on Carmel.

The LORD’s Answer to the Prophet (vv. 30-40)

According to verse 29, the time of the evening sacrifice had arrived, which would have been 3pm in the afternoon. Elijah gathered the people to him and then he repaired the altar of the LORD that had been thrown down. This could have been an old altar which people used to use to sacrifice to the LORD prior to the establishment of the tabernacle or temple.

Elijah repaired it using twelve stones, according to the number of tribes of Israel. Even though the nation at that time had been divided, politically, into the northern and southern kingdom, still, there was but one church or one people of God, not two. And so Elijah used 12 stones for this altar symbolizing the unity of Israel as the covenant people of God.

Then having completed the altar, he made a trench about the altar, large enough to hold two measures or about 15 litres of seed. This means that the trench itself must have been fairly large. He then arranged the wood, cut the bull into pieces and laid it on the wood. Then he ordered four large jars to be filled with water and poured out upon the offering and the wood. This was repeated twice, which means a total of 12 jars of water were emptied on the altar so that the trench around it was filled with water as well. The purpose of pouring all this water on the altar was simply to show that only a supernatural act of God could account for the burning of the drenched wood and sacrifice. There could be no other explanation for the fire.

Then at the time of the sacrifice, Elijah the prophet stepped forward and prayed in these words, “LORD God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, let it be known this day that thou art God in Israel, and that I am thy servant, and that I have done all these things at thy word. Hear me, O LORD, hear me, that this people may know that thou art the LORD God, and that thou hast turned their heart back again.”

What a contrast this prayer of Elijah is to that of the prophets of Baal. Whereas those prophets prayed continuously from morning to evening, Elijah prayed but once in the evening. Whereas they cried and shouted at the top of their voices and even bloodied themselves with knives, Elijah offered up a simple prayer without ranting and raving and great commotion. Whereas they prayed to Baal, the god of the storm and of fertility, Elijah prayed to Yahweh, the Sovereign God of the whole universe and the covenant God of His people. And this made all the difference. Elijah prayed that the LORD would glorify Himself among His people that day and that He would turn their hearts back to Himself.

Verse 38 records the LORD’s answer to Elijah’s prayer, “Then the fire of the LORD fell, and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench.”

The LORD accepted Elijah’s sacrifice by sending fire to consume the burnt offering. But unlike other occurrences of fire from heaven in the Bible, this one was even more dramatic and wonderful. We are told that the fire of the LORD consumed the burnt sacrifice, but it didn’t stop there. It consumed the wood and the stones, and the dust and even the water that was in the trench, so that by the time the fire died down, there was absolutely nothing left of the altar which Elijah had built. It was entirely consumed. Everything that was combustible and incombustible was gone! Without doubt, this fire came down supernaturally from the LORD, and the people recognized it at once.

Verse 39, “And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces: and they said, The LORD, he is the God; the LORD, he is the God.” The people were filled with awe and wonder of God. They fell prostrate and confessed that the LORD is God not once but twice. The LORD – He is God, the LORD – He is God.

Remember what Elijah said in verse 24, “call ye on the name of your gods, I will call on the name of the LORD: and the God that answereth by fire, let him be God. And all the people answered and said, It is well spoken.” The LORD or Yahweh had indeed answered His prophet by fire and the people rightly acknowledged that He is God. He is God. And the unmistakable implication is that Baal is not god. The bull that was lying on his altar was still unconsumed – a clear testament to the utter impotence and indeed the non-existence of Baal.

But the contest was not over. In verse 40, Elijah said to the people, “Take the prophets of Baal; let not one of them escape.” And they took them: and Elijah brought them down to the brook Kishon, and slew them there.

We must not view this act of Elijah as one of personal vengeance and retaliation against the prophets of Baal. Rather, he was simply carrying out God’s capital punishment on those who led His people astray into idolatry and rebellion against God. You can read of that in Deuteronomy 13. 

Well, what are some lessons or truths we can draw from this passage? I’ll like to call our attention to two.

Lessons

First, let us be filled with awe for the living and true God.

As I mentioned earlier, the question of who is the real God dominates this chapter. One commentator even names this chapter as, “Will the real God please stand up?” Again and again, we see the contrast between the real God Yahweh and the false god Baal.

Let me just reminds us again of the contrasts or differences between them, and there are at least four of them.

Firstly, there is the issue of geography. Mount Carmel was supposed to be Baal’s sacred or if you like home ground. If this contest had taken place in say Jerusalem, the prophets and followers of Baal might have given the excuse that Yahweh had won because of home ground advantage. But on Mount Carmel, Baal was on home turf whereas Yahweh and his prophet were the away team. And yet the away team won.

But actually, if you think about it, there is really no place on this earth that may be considered away ground for the LORD for as Psalm 24 says, “The earth is the LORD'S, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.” Every square inch of ground on this earth and indeed every cubic inch of space in this universe belongs to the LORD. Not a single piece or bit of it belongs to Baal or any other idol.

Secondly, there is the issue of numbers. The prophets of Baal outnumbered Elijah, but that didn’t matter. In 1 Samuel 14:6, Jonathan said to his armour bearer, “for there is no restraint to the LORD to save by many or by few.” The LORD’s power and ability to save is not dependent at all on how many people are on his side. The victory is and always will be His. Opinion polls and majority reports are of no consequence when it comes to the LORD. 

Thirdly, there is the issue of religious fervour and emotions and activities. The prophets of Baal outdid Elijah in terms of their outward zeal and action and display of emotions. He could not match them for their flurry of passionate religious activity, even to the point of self-mutilation. But here is where our God is so different from the false gods of paganism. True religion does not consist in how emotional or active or outwardly zealous we are.

The LORD Jesus teaches us the same thing in This ought to be a great encouragement to us as God’s people in this world for we are often the minority report and the ones who are despised by the rest. But always remember that our God is unlike all the other false gods of this world. He is the God for whom numbers are of no consequences.

 Matthew 6:7-8, “But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.”

And because of that, we can seek the LORD in simplicity and sincerely, and we do not need to imitate the antics and hype of the pagans or even certain groups that call themselves Christians.

But fourthly, there is the issue of natural obstacles and handicaps. Elijah made it as difficult as possible for the sacrifice to ignite. The prophets of Baal and all the people might have thought that he had lost his mind when he ordered even one jar of water let alone twelve large jars to be emptied on the altar. Surely he had ruined his chances of winning the contest. At best, the contest would end in a draw or stalemate since surely no god had the power to ignite something like that.

But drenched wood and soaked meat and dripping stone and saturated dust are no obstacles to the Lord’s power. The patch of scorched and smoking ground on Mount Carmel that day testifies to that. May this encounter between Yahweh and Baal reignite and rekindle our fear and awe of the living God. He is a God like none other, a God to whom nothing and no one can compare. 

And oh what a joy and privilege and comfort it is to worship and serve Him! The whole world may be against us. The devil and all his hosts may war against us. But if the LORD God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is on our side, then the victory is ours. 

The second lesson from our text is this: let us turn our eyes to the Lord Jesus Christ, the only mediator between God and man.

1 Timothy 2:5, “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;” We’ve already talked about the “one God” part earlier on in contrast to Baal, but now, let’s focus very briefly on the “one mediator” part.

When the LORD fully consumed the bull and indeed the entire altar, He was showing that Elijah was His servant and that He had accepted Elijah’s sacrifice. Many years later, and on a different mountain, the LORD would powerfully demonstrate His acceptance of another of His servant’s sacrifice. This time, the altar was made of wood not stone, and it was made in the form of a cross; and the sacrifice was His only begotten Son.

Three days after His death, He arose from the dead and walked through the tomb, and forty days after that, He ascended into the glories of heaven and sat down at the right hand of God as the victorious King of kings. The resurrection, ascension and session of Christ all demonstrate that His sacrifice on the altar of the cross on behalf of His people is well-pleasing and accepted by God.      

Dear unbelieving friend, understand that there is no other sacrifice for sin and no other mediator between God and man except Jesus Christ. There is no other way to God but through the Son of God. Baal will not do. Dagon will not do. Molech will not do. Chemosh will not do. And neither will all the other false gods and religions throughout history. All who trust in them will be like the prophets of Baal that day – disappointed, frustrated, mutilated, ashamed and eventually executed. Oh would you not bow before Yahweh, the true God, and seek reconciliation with Him through His Son Jesus Christ?

But finally to you my beloved brethren, understand this – that the real God not only sent fire down from heaven that day on Carmel, He has also come down into this world in human flesh to dwell among us. Keep looking to Christ for acceptance with God, and not to your own merits or good works. Keep looking to Him to provide for all your needs and to give you victory over the enemy.

And continue to serve the Lord faithfully and courageously wherever you are. You do not need to be an Elijah to be of service in His kingdom. You can serve Him like Obadiah – quietly and behind the scene. You do not need to be like the prophets of Baal serving in a flurry of activities and emotions. You can serve Him simply and sincerely. What a liberating thought that is! Praise God for His amazing grace to us in Jesus Christ.

—Linus Chua