The Revival that Began with Fire And the Execution of 400 Men

It was a terrible time to live in the land of Israel. The evil queen Jezabel reigned with her husband. She instituted practices that would lead the people away from the worship of the one true God and into a wicked worship of the false god Baal. Baal didn’t have any real power. It was just an idol crafted as fine as human hands could sculpt it. The false god Baal couldn’t speak. It had no throat. It had no lips, no mouth. It was mute. This false god had no hands. It could not extend it’s arm to save. It didn’t have ears. It couldn’t hear the prayers of the people. It had no eyes. It couldn’t see the people or the sacrifices they made on this Baal’s behalf. It only appeared to have these things, but in reality it was powerless. Yet the wicked Queen Jezabel had prompted the people to worship this powerless and impotent god.

One often wonders why men would offer their hearts so freely to something they made with their hands. Surely they understood that they were the power brokers in this situation. Surely they must have known that they were the one’s yielding control over the blocks of wood and figures of clay, silver and gold. This false god only contained the power given it by the weak minds of men… Perhaps that is why the people of Israel were so quick to follow Jezabel in this idolatry. There is an upside to having a less than sovereign god. A false god could easily be manipulated, cajoled, or extorted… providing the worshiper with the real power. Like a doll in the hands of a little girl a false god would have to be cared for, comforted and helped.

We shouldn’t be quick to condemn the ancient Israelites. We do much of the same thing with money. We think that if we have a little more, we will be happy. We try to bring ourselves comfort by stocking up, spending wildly or even stretching our dollars. We think that if we have enough of these that we will be safe… that we will be “okay.” But dollar bills don’t have eyes to see your need. They don’t have ears to hear your cry. Your bank account can’t hear your prayers, much less answer them. Your credit card doesn’t really solve any of your problems. In many cases… it creates them. But somehow we still think that if we can manage these bills, get enough money, get a higher paying job or even turn the economy around… then, then we will be okay. But money doesn’t buy you time, health or even happiness. In fact the over-pursuit of money can steal from your time, your health, your family and even your happiness. We really aren’t much different than the ancient Israelites at all.

Whatever the reason the worship of Baal was in and the worship of God was out. Jezabel had done her best to hunt down the prophets of God and have them killed. She wanted no competition for her false god, Baal. But there was one thing she didn’t count on… You see God wasn’t like her false god. He not only had eyes to see, but he created the human eye. He not only had ears to hear, but he created the human ear. He not only had a mouth to speak, He actually had spoken the whole earth into existence. Her god Baal was false. The one true God was real… and you can’t get rid of him by killing a few prophets.

Elijah stood on the side of the mountain and challenged the 400 prophets of Baal. They were doing their best to get a god who didn’t really exist to light a fire that wasn’t happening. Elijah mocked them, telling them to call out a little louder because their god Baal was perhaps asleep or maybe he was in the bathroom. They tried everything, but in the end, the god whom they so desperately wanted to respond was incapable of responding.

So then it comes Elijah’s turn:
And at the time of the offering of the oblation, Elijah the prophet came near and said, “O LORD, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel, and that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your word. Answer me, O LORD, answer me, that this people may know that you, O LORD, are God, and that you have turned their hearts back.” Then the fire of the LORD fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, “The LORD, he is God; the LORD, he is God.” And Elijah said to them, “Seize the prophets of Baal; let not one of them escape.” And they seized them. And Elijah brought them down to the brook Kishon and slaughtered them there.
(1 Kings 18:36-40 ESV)

Elijah prays a three part prayer. He confidently asks God to reveal himself as the one true God in Israel, to reveal that Elijah is God’s true prophet, and for God to mercifully allow the people to repent and turn to Him at once.

You see, not only were the people worshiping a false god, but they were rejecting the worship of the one true God. Not only were they calling on a god that couldn’t hear them, they were being offensive by forsaking God alone as their provider and sustainer of life and giving respect and homage to a little statue in His place.

Much like many of us seek to control our lives through the spending, saving, and moving around of our money without a thought or prayer as to how God would have us live our lives. We pursue P-R-O-F-I-T-S but not P-R-O-P-H-E-T-S. It is not as though we have rejected God completely. Our money still says that we trust Him, but we do not seek His will for our lives. We seek OUR will for our lives and if He or any other god can help us get there, then we are game. But in our day and age we don’t worship at the altar of Baal. We worship more often at the altar of consumerism.

Elijah prays that God would reveal Himself as the one true God in Israel. That the Israelites would no longer seek a false god who cannot hear their prayers (that much is obvious from the demonstration of the 400 false prophets.) Perhaps the most loving thing God can do is let us come to the end of our rope after we have tried it our way and then come in and show us who He really is.

Even though these people rejected God, he did not reject them. It gives me hope in the character and nature of God, because I know my own heart. I know how often and easily I am tempted to pursue small pleasures that don’t even satisfy. I know I need God.Even in the midst of the people’s rejection of God, He loved them enough to send them a righteous prophet who would show them the way and turn their heart back to God.

Elijah prays secondly that the people would know He is God’s servant and has done everything at God’s word. God had not left himself without a witness in Israel. While the rest of the nation was worshiping an idol, God had kept for himself the prophet Elijah and others who refused to worship a false god.

Elijah’s job was then to call the nation to repentance. They needed to see the futility of worshiping an idol when they had a special relationship with the one true God. They needed to see that it wasn’t Elijah’s will to hold off the rain, it wasn’t Elijah who would light the fire, it wasn’t Elijah who could call a nation to repentance in just a moment. It was God who called Elijah to the task at hand.

God uses people much in the same way today. When we have opportunity to share our faith with others we are really only doing a small thing. We are telling others about who God is and what God has done on their behalf. The real power to save someone is accomplished by God. He is the one who made us in His image. He loved us enough to send Jesus to die on the cross for our sins and raise him from the dead. He is the one who takes up residence in our lives once we become believers. It’s by his authority and in his power that we tell others about him.

Elijah was just being obedient to God. He was the right man, at the right time to call a nation to repentance. The people not only heard Elijah’s prayer, but they saw a holy and awesome display of God’s power. They knew immediately that there was one true God in Israel and they had been following after the false god of Baal. They immediately fall to their faces in repentance declaring that God was God and no one should take his place.

However they didn’t just repent with their lips, they also repented with their actions. They obeyed Elijah and killed the 400 prophets of Baal. God had already given them the command way back in Deuteronomy that if anyone came proclaiming to be a prophet for a false god that they were to be put to death. Israel needed to clean house and that started with killing the 400 false prophets. This was at once an act of obedience to God and a way of reducing the temptation to go back to Baal worship by removing the promoters of Baal.

Question: What is it in your life that competes with God? What needs to be removed so you can worship God more freely?

The family tree changes here with me (1 Kings 15)

My family tree changed the day my dad became a follower of Jesus Christ. I have no doubt about it. The legacy given me by my father is different than the one he received from his dad.

The same thing seems to happen here in 1 kings 15 when Asa reigns. He is 3 generations removed from David. The Nation has been divided. Both parts are slipping deeper and deeper into idolitry. Yet here Asa makes strong advances towards a resurgence of true worship. He removes idols and gets the perverts (the ones practicing a hyper-sexual form of worship dedicated to false gods). He even removes his grandmother from being the queen mother because of her idolitry and cuts her obscene idol into pieces and has it burnt.

The only thing he doesn’t do is remove the alters at the high places.

Application: we are not destined to repeat the sins of our fathers. Each person is responsible for their own relationship with the Lord.

Truth and Lies (1 Kings 13)

1 Kings 13 tells the interesting story of an unnamed prophet. He speaks a prophecy against the false alter that Jereboam has set up. His prophecy is spectacular in that he calls the name of a future king who will as end to the throne some 300 years later.

Jereboam is angry at the prophet and reaches out to cause him harm, but God controls Jereboams hand and the prophet must pray for Jereboam to get the use of his hand back. The king Jereboam then tries a different tactic and tries to persuade the prophet to come over for a meal. The nameless prophet insists he must not stop for food and return home… For this was the command of the LORD.

Note: the message is clear. God’s prophets are not to be swayed… Either by force or by money, the word of the Lord is the word of the Lord.

At this point the story gets interesting as an older prophet enters the scene and persuades the nameless prophet to turn aside and done with him. Obviously he lies to the nameless prophet, but the apparent younger prophet is pursuaded to join the older in a meal (in opposition to the earlier revelation he had from God).

At the meal the older prophet rightly prophesies the death of the nameless prophet and it shortly comes to pass.

Application: the nameless prophetess used by God to utter one of the most spectacular prophecies, yet was easily decieved into not believing what the Lord told him, because of a lie told him by another prophet. How often are we like the nameless prophet? We will believe and know something is true, yet when confronted with our own tender areas of sinfulness we will be quick to make excuses as to why God would allow our particular version of sin.

This man would not be persuaded by a king, but would trust the advice of an old prophet over the Word of God.

Eat your veggies and listen to your elders (1 kings 12)

Chapter 12 opens on Solomon’s son Rehoboam. Rehoboam has inherited a kingdom in disarray evidenced by the fact that he needs to travel to Shechem to be crowned king.

Prior to the unification of the 12 tribes there was great rivalry between the tribe of Ephriam to the north and Judah to the south. Solomon had called on the tribes of the north to do heavy manual labor in the south. With the rise of a new king they wanted assurances that the forced manual labor would not continue.

The fact that the royal court is meeting in shechem and jereboam is called up out of Egypt indicates that the northern tribes are already ready to pull away from the new king. At the moment, the only thing holding the nation of Israel together is the worship of the LORD.

Rehoboam meets with Solomon’s advisors (how smart do you have to be to advise the wisest guy in the world?). He rejects his dads advisors and attempts to play a strong hand against the tribes that are threatening to withdraw.

Point: technically Rehoboam is in the right. He is the rightful king, he has the right to raise taxes and labor. His appointment comes from the LORD. The 10 tribes lead by Ephriam that are threatening to rebell are in the wrong. It’s not that Rehoboam made the wrong decision, he just made an unwise one in a seemingly impossible situation. He would gave done well to follow his fathers advisors, but most likely would have lost the 10 tribes anyway.

Jereboam was promised by the Lord that he would lead the 10 northern tribes if he would rule like David. The problem is he acts completely opposite of David. He Leads Ephriam in rebellion. David submitted to Sauls authority. David consolidated worship for the nation. Jeraboam divided it. Later Jeraboam will come to terms with his rebellion.

Note: this small chapter of scripture changes everything for the nation of Israel. The nation moves from a consoladated state with the largest boarder in it’s history to two smaller states who are not strong enough to defend themselves from their enemies. The worship of the Lord is further poluted as Jeraboam introduces idol worship in the North. Thus will ultimately bring greater consiquences on the North and the South.

Application: Solomon is credited with ruling Israel in it’s prime, however his sin and his quiet rebellion of idolitry lead to the weakened state of the nation. Solomon’s rule adversly affected every king who would rule behind him. Every step we take away from the Lord bot only effects us, but those around us and ultimately our children. What kind of legacy are you building for your children? Solomon was handed an united empire by his father, yet with all his wisdom he passed off a weakened state ready for civil war to his son.

It’s not so much about how you start as it is about how you finish (1 Kings 11)

The first 10 chapters of 1 Kings build an incredible resume for Solomon. However, in chapter 11 things take a turn as Solomon turns after the idols of his many wives. This is in clear violation of the agreement that Solomon has with the LORD.

To get the real tragedy of this it is important to understand a little geography. It is sad that Solomon builds temples to these false gods, it is a tragedy that he builds them overlooking the temple mount (1 Kings 11:7). This temple to a false god would be in plain sight of anyone going to offer sacrificed at the Temple on Jerusalem.

Also note that these false gods were often worshipped in the most terrible fasion including child sacrifices. That is human sacrifices of infant children. That Solomon would even build a temple to these false gods is a rejection of the LORD.

Here Solomon is guilty of many sins, the most important being idol worship. In Deuteronomy 17:14-20, There are certain commands given for the conduct if a king of Israel. You see Israel is not like the other nations. Other nations belong to their kings and the kings flaunt it. Israel belongs to the LORD. It is a God ruled government. As such the king is supposed to live much closer to the people than for himself.

Here we have seen Solomon living much for himself. He has violated the commands of God. He has gone against the law to marry many cannanite women and they have lead his heart astray.

Because Solomon has broken covenant with the Lord, the Lord raises up opposition for Solomon. A troublemaker arrises in the south, another in the north and finally God calls out a man from within Israel to cause problems for Solomon and eventually split the kingdom.

Application: How you start is not nearly important as how you finish. If Solomon the wisest and wealthiest man to ever live can blow it, so can I. He started out great, but lost focus in the end. Are you living in such a way as to finish well? Or are all your greatest days of trusting God behind you?

How far would you go to get the truth? (1 Kings 10)

In 1 Kings 10 we read about how rumors of Solomon’s wisdom have spread all over the known world. The queen of Sheba travels over 1500 miles to verify what she has heard (in a day when travel over 1500 miles took months to accomplish). She first verifies Solomon’s wisdom and then gives credit to the LORD for loving the nation of Israel and blessing them with such a great king.

In the New Testament Jesus gives the queen of Sheba props for traveling to hear Solomon’s wisdom first hand (Matthew 12:42). Sadly he states the reality that he was greater than Solomon yet the Pharisees were demanding a sign from Him. If they only would have seen what was right in front of their eyes.

We live in a day and age where people pride themselves on being Intelligent, but few are actually seeking wisdom. I recently stopped by a blog discussing science and religion. Though I weighed in with some rational arguments early in the comments, I was saddened to see the debate was not at all about truth or wisdom but became focused on namecalling as theist (people who belive in a god) and atheist (people who don’t believe in a god) began insulting one another’s intelligence.

Near the end of the comments section it became apparent that the Truth about the existence or non-existence of God no longer mattered. Nobody was looking for God or wisdom about how we got here. Sadly some of my Christian brothers were blindly throwing scripture out of context and my athestic friends were calling us all dumb and making unresearched and unfounded ideas about the bible based largely on a recent work of fiction. Needless to say the pursuit of truth got lost in the shuffle or was never there to begin with.

On the otherhand I have had people come to me asking genuine questions about some of the same things. Being a skeptic by nature I’ve sought alot of the answers on my own and am always delighted to share. The difference was that one was pursuing truth and the other propigating that they were right in order to win an argument.

Application: how far will you go to get the truth? To gain wisdom? To know God?

How far will you go to live in the grace and knowledge of Jesus? Does your lifestlye provoke others to come to you for the truth?

God keeps His Promises (1 Kings 8)

Wow, a lot happens in 1 Kings 8. Perhaps the most important thing as it pertains to God’s character is that God keeps his promises (1 kings 8:20, 24 – 26, 53, 56). Many of God’s promises are contingent upon our willingness to trust Him and obey. For Israel to receive the promised blessings of God they needed to honor God and keep the covenant.

Just like a good parent gives good rules their children to protect them God established a covenant with Israel that bless them if they kept it. And just like a good parent, when Israel broke the covenant, God would discipline them to keep them from further harm.

Application: God loves us. He keeps His promises. Are you trusting Him?