IN THE DAYS OF HIS POWER SERIES.
TOPIC: THE GOD WHO ANSWERS BY FIRE IS STILL THE GOD
Rev. Innocent Chukwudi Peace Udochukwu
President Living Fountain Ministries Int’l LIFOM
“Then the fire of the Lord fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench. When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, “The Lord—he is God! The Lord—he is God!”
These are days when the spirit of Elijah must prevail so that the heathen may chose to worship the only true God and believers can seek God’s holiness, truth, and justice.
What do I mean when I say that God is a God of fire? We first see this thought in Exodus 3, when Moses heard a voice speak to him from the bush that was burning but was not consumed in the flames. In Exodus 13, God points the way for the Israelites in the desert as a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. And in Exodus 19, God appears as a fire on Mt.Sinai, where Moses received the law. In fact, in Exodus 24, God appeared as a consuming fire, a familiar verse quoted again in Hebrews 12:29 – “our God is a consuming fire.”
symbol of God’s very nature. Fire is a symbol of who God is – His purity, His perfection, His passion. In fact, that’s probably how you could sum it all up… His passion. His energy. His vigor. His excitement. His drive. A burning, a yearning that defines who God is. A supreme, overwhelming personality that fuels everything He does.
We often picture a laid-back, easy-going, mild-mannered kind of God.The picture the world has is a wimpy God, a weak God. When in reality, He is a meek God. Meekness is vastly different from weakness. Meekness is power under control. That means that God does not fly off the handle, but He is certainly no-one to be trifled with either.
The prophet Elijah demonstrated the stark contrast between the demand placed on our lives by pursuing false idols and the resources God provides for us to pursue our relationship with Him. In the end, one pursuit leaves us bled out and used up; the other pursuit builds us back up and ministers to us so we can minister to others.
As a young Christian, when I first read the story of the contest between Elijah and the prophets of Baal, I thought, The Israelites must have been shallow to have fallen so easily into worship of Baal, a pagan god! Modern Christians, who have thousands of years of Jewish and Christian writings at their fingertips, are so much better educated and informed. We’d never fall into such a trap! Now I realize that people today are not that different from people thousands of years ago, especially when it comes to human disloyalty to God.
How long will you hesitate between two opinions?” Elijah asked. The Israelites, the people who should have adamantly opposed giving their loyalty to false gods, gave no answer. Their lack of response revealed their unfaithful hearts and minds. Beginning with King Solomon’s allowance of foreign religious and cultural influences and all the way down to the kingship of Ahab, the Israelite people had gradually strayed from the worship of God.
THE acts of Elijah were very singular. It had not been known from the foundations of the earth that a man should shut up the doors of the rain for the space of three years. Yet Elijah suddenly leaped upon the scene, announced the judgment of the Lord, and then disappeared for a time. When he reappears, at the bidding of God, he orders Ahab to gather the priests of Baal; and to put to the test the question as to whether Baal or Jehovah was indeed God. Bullocks shall be slain and laid upon the wood without fire; and the God who shall answer by fire shall be determined to be the one living and true God, the God of Israel.
“I have done all these things at thy word; now let it be known that it is so.” It makes the character of Elijah stand out, not as an example of reckless daring, but as the example of a man of sound mind. Faith in God is true wisdom: childlike confidence in the word of God is the highest form of common-sense. To believe him that cannot lie, and trust in him that cannot fail, is a kind of wisdom that none but fools will laugh at.
“And Elijah said unto the prophets of Baal, Choose you one bullock for yourselves, and dress it first; for ye are many; and call on the name of your gods, but put no fire under. And they took the bullock which was given them, and they dressed it, and called on the name of Baal from morning even until noon, saying, O Baal, hear us. But there was no voice, nor any that answered. And they leaped upon the altar which was made. And it came to pass at noon, that Elijah mocked them, and said, Cry aloud: for he is a god; either he is talking, or he is pursuing, or he is in a journey, or peradventure he sleepeth, and must be awaked. And they cried aloud, and cut themselves after their manner with knives and lancets, till the blood gushed out upon them. And it came to pass, when midday was past, and they prophesied until the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that there was neither voice, nor any to answer, nor any that regarded.”
Notice the effort put forth by the prophets of Baal to provoke their god to action: shouting, cutting themselves with spears and knives until covered in blood, dancing, and raving, crying out, “Baal, answer us!” Note how much time and effort the false god took from the human worshipers.
False idols use up our time and energy and deplete us, often demanding much of our physical and spiritual resources. The true God is the One who builds us back up and ministers to us so that we have the potential to be effective witnesses to the power and grace of God.
The prophets of Baal brought ritual, tradition, ceremony, and religion into the call to Baal. Elijah brought trust when calling upon the only true God.
The prophets of Baal demonstrated their belief that the people must be for their god. However, Elijah showed that the God of glory is for us. What a vast difference between the two views! God wants us to be free to live in relationship with Him, free from the mindset that we must bleed out our lives in servitude to false gods, traditions, rituals, idols, and the worship of created things. It is the true God who gives humans true life.
Elijah began by repairing the dilapidated altar to the Lord. In this place where humans had once glorified God, an altar to a false god had supplanted the altar of the living Lord. Doesn’t this passage reveal a great truth in the lives of God’s followers? When we neglect to give God our trust and neglect glorifying Him, we erect other “altars” on which we sacrifice our lives.
In the contest between Elijah and prophets of Baal, Elijah left no room for those prophets to continue misleading the people of God. He had so much water poured over the sacrifice that there was no way for the sacrifice to burn naturally. He left no excuse to exchange truth for a falsehood; no physical evidence for God’s glory to be denied.
“At the time of sacrifice, the prophet Elijah stepped forward and prayed:“Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. Answer me, Lord, answer me, so these people will know that you, Lord, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.” Then the fire of the Lord fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench.When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, “The Lord—he is God! The Lord—he is God!”
1King 18: 36-39
It is no easy task to untangle ourselves from the deceptive falsehoods we encounter daily. Sometimes we are already so bled out that we feel as though we have nothing left to offer. So let’s ask God to reveal to us where we have sacrificed ourselves to the things of the world (or perhaps even just one area), and offer those things up to God, trusting in Him to redeem us even now.
And let’s go one step further, asking the Lord to show us how these things have possibly kept us from God’s mission of turning others’ hearts back to Him. May we find the redemptive power of God just as alive and full of grace as did the Israelites that day on Mount Carmel.
Now, you understand that this makes the God we worship unique. No other religion will claim such a God. They will claim a lazy God, an unaffected God, a wrathful and vengeful God. But they can’t picture a God who would run undignified to the very ones who run away from Him. Contrary to what others may say, no other religion would claim a God who burns with a passion to know us and to be known by us.
“Whenever you hear someone say all religions are basically the same, you can safely assume the person you are talking to is ignorant. He or she doesn’t know anything about religions. Anyone who has made a serious study of the world religions would never claim they are all the same.” No, we all alone who believe in the Bible worship a God of fire, a God of a burning passion to reach out in love and holiness.
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