“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 18:29 (NIV)
Have you ever found yourself in a place of utter desperation? A season of life where you don’t understand why God won’t please just rain down some form of relief?
This is where we find God’s people in 1 Kings 18 — a passage of Scripture I’d love to look at together today. It opens with the Israelites longing for rain in the midst of a long season of drought.
That word “drought” stirs up such vivid images. Sun-scorched land that’s dry as dust. Fields once lush and green left brown, brittle and barren. Parched lips cracked and thirsting desperately for even the tiniest drop of relief.
And while we may not all be able to identify with a drought, most of us can probably testify to going through an incredibly dry season within. A drought of the soul.
It’s in those drought seasons when we can be tempted to turn to anyone or anything to satisfy the ravenous thirst of our aching soul. We want something or someone to bring us relief. To fill us up and make us feel whole. It’s as if we walk around carrying a little heart-shaped cup that we extend to whomever or whatever we perceive might fill it — friends, family, material possessions, achievements, goals.
But anything we turn to instead of God to satisfy us or to save us is an idol. It’s a false god.
Which brings us back to 1 Kings 18. This passage depicts a showdown of epic proportions between the prophet Elijah and the 450 prophets of Baal — the false god they’d been worshipping instead of the one true God.
Elijah challenges the people of Israel to choose whom they will serve — God or Baal. In 1 Kings 18:21, Elijah tells the people they couldn’t keep wavering between two different opinions. The Hebrew word for “opinions” is se‘ip·pîm and can literally be translated as a “crutch, which is used to support a weak leg.” The idea here is that the Israelites found themselves limping between Baal and Yahweh. The only stability they would find was the solid foundation of God. The word in Psalm 119:113 translated as “double-minded” comes from the same root word as se‘ip·pîm: “I hate the double-minded, but I love your law” (ESV). Elijah was clearly letting the people know that the time of living on the fence was over. They had to determine whom they would worship.
When they say nothing in response, Elijah throws down the gauntlet to King Ahab and the prophets of Baal. Each side will build an altar, sacrifice a bull and call on their deity to rain down fire and consume the sacrifice. The deity who responds with fire is the one the people will accept as God.
The prophets of Baal go first. They prepare their altar. They shout. They dance. They even slash themselves until their blood flows. “But,” Scripture tells us, “there was no response, no one answered, no one paid attention” (1 Kings 18:29b).
Reread that last sentence again.
There was no response. No one answered. No one even paid attention.
What’s so ironic is that Baal was known as “the god of the storm.” Yet … they heard no thunderous noise when they called on him. No booming response. Not even one drop of rain to ease the land or one spark of flame to ignite their offering. Instead, there was only silence.
Elijah then ups the stakes by having the altar of the Lord doused repeatedly in water in order to magnify the grandeur and supremacy of the God of Israel. Baal’s silence and inactivity sets the stage for the splendor of God.
Then God does what only He can do. He sends a consuming bolt of fire and dramatically devours the altar Elijah had prepared. The people of Israel repent, and the prophets of Baal are slaughtered. All because the one true God — our God — made Himself known that day.
Oh, friends. This passage holds such a strong warning for us. Especially when we find ourselves in a drought season, longing for relief — the reminder that no other god will do.
No person, possession, profession or pain-relieving substance will ever fill the cup of a wounded, empty heart — not my heart, not your heart. It’s an emptiness only God can fill.
Our God who responds. Our God who answers. Our God who always pays attention.
Father God, forgive me for the times I’ve turned to anyone or anything other than You for soul satisfaction. You and You alone are worthy of my worship and my praise. And so, I fix my eyes on You. Confessing I want You to be the One who reigns in my life. Asking You to rain down fresh hope on my heart. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
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