A Mere Matter of Believing God
“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.” – 1 Kings 18:38
It was a supreme competition to determine who was truly God and who was not. The stakes were high: life or death. Elijah had brought the idea to King Ahab, who was at his wits end with Elijah having conducted a country-wide search for him. Surely he planned to put Elijah to the sword upon finding him as he had done to countless others who appeared to obstruct him. Elijah’s idea to put a test to the prophets of the false gods, Baal and Asherah (750 false prophets to be exact), over against the true God stayed Ahab’s hand against his and Jezebel’s nemesis. Ahab really wanted to see this competition. It intrigued him. You have an idea that the worship of Baal and Asherah was his Sidonian wife Jezebel’s thing more than Ahab’s. He just went along. Nevertheless, he did go along and as the Scripture describes Ahab, he did more evil in the sight of the Lord than all his fathers, the previous rebellious Kings before him.
The competition was simple: two altars prepared with the sacrifice of an ox, cut up and placed on wood on a stone altar at the top of Mount Carmel before all Israel. The false prophets went first, praying for an entire day for Baal and/or Asherah to send down fire to burn this sacrifice. Elijah mocked their god’s silence, suggesting he was eating, sleeping, or relieving himself. In any case these non-entity gods remained silent all day, because they were man’s invention. Elijah built his stone altar, laid wood on it, and the cut up sacrificial ox. Then he went another length to prove the existence and power of the one true God. He dug a trench around his altar and then had four large jars of water poured on the altar, the sacrifice, and the wood. Not once, but three successive times. The water soaked the wood, the sacrifice, the altar, and then even filled the trench like a moat around the altar. Elijah then prayed to the one Almighty and True God, who did not remain silent. Fire came down from heaven and consumed the sacrifice, the wood, the altar, and licked up the water like it was gasoline. The 750 false prophets were then put to the sword. With no other recourse, Ahab and the people of Israel proclaimed Elijah’s God the True God, for He had spoken in response to Elijah’s prayer. Blinded to the powerful witness of God, dense Jezebel, who was not there to see it, claimed she would put Elijah to death for killing her prophets. Such hardened sin makes those like Jezebel completely irrational in utter disbelief.
So did this really happen? Does our idea of scientific fact allow this? Have any of us witnessed the like? Do the accounts of the Bible include myth and fairy tales? There are other accounts in the Bible of people being raised from death to life, great bodies of water dividing against the laws of gravity to allow passage on sea bed as dry land, the creating of human beings from dust and rib, the standing still of the sun, or should we say the orbit of the earth around it, the going back of the same so time reverses, the flooding of the earth with over-abundant water, the wrestling of Jacob with an angel appearing as a flesh and blood man, the remarkable miracle-plagues on Egypt, and the list goes on and on. Still such miracles are not an every day occurrence. In actuality, they are relatively rare; but are they real?
If you have no videos, only the word of the Scripture authors, and witnesses which are long dead, do you have acceptable proof? Like skeptics of the resurrection of Jesus say today, “If there was a camera at Jesus’ tomb on Easter Sunday morn, it would have recorded nothing!” Not according to eye witnesses, including those fear-intimidated soldiers; not according to those sent by Pilate or Pharisees to search for the missing body of Jesus (they knew he was dead, they had seen him die, and then pierced in his heart with the Centurion’s spear), or the need to bribe with money all the soldiers guarding the tomb to lie in telling an untrue story of his body being stolen, though they themselves had guarded the tomb; not according to over 500 witnesses who saw the risen Christ in multiple occurrences, speaking and eating, and disciples touching his healed wounds with their own hands.
So how do we respond? Do we think, or say, “This is all important stuff, good stuff, but it is still not actually true. It does something, something “good” for me, despite its not really happening.” There are those who have such convoluted, irrational thinking. That doesn’t do anything for me! Like Paul, I agree that if Christ is not raised, or these things that Scripture say actually occurred, did not, we are of all men to be sadly pitied!
Or, do we read the accounts thousands of years after, and because it is in God’s Word, and because Jesus verified by his own testimony its truthfulness and reliability and authority, we say and really believe, this is true? It happened just as it is written. If we had been there, we would have seen it with our own eyes. We would actually have walked through the Red Sea bed and escaped Pharaoh’s chariots and soldiers. We would have seen fire come down from heaven destroying Sodom and Gomorrah, and later Elijah’s stone altar and sacrifice on Mount Carmel, burning all the water as if it were gasoline.
Is this your personal witness of God’s Word? Is this Word your authority for how you live your life? Is it the sole guide to your world and life view? Do you see all things through its lense with the Holy Spirit as an ever present verifier of its truth? This is vital. It is essential to vibrant, genuine faith. “I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this scroll: If anyone adds anything to them God will add to them the plagues described in this scroll. And if anyone takes words away from this scroll of prophecy, God will take away from that person any share in the tree of life and in the Holy City, which are described in this scroll.” (Revelation 22:18-19)
Jesus said, “Thy Word is truth.” If it is just as He said, God rained down fire from heaven on Mount Carmel that day, and the destructiveness of that fire burned stone, wood, sacrifice, and water. God made His presence and power clear to every human eye witness that day. He doesn’t do such every day. Why? You are to live by faith, not sight. Faith says to Jesus, “I believe, help thou my unbelief.”
“I know not how this saving faith to me he did impart, nor how believing in his Word wrought peace within my heart. But I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I’ve committed unto him against that day.”
(2nd verse of Daniel Whittle’s hymn, “I Know Whom I Have Believed,” 1883)
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