Today's Bible reading: 1 King 18:1-40
In order to give us an illustration of the decline in the north, let’s take a look at one king in particular: King Ahab, with his infamous queen, Jezebel. This wicked king and his queen introduce the worship of Baal in the northern kingdom. We’ve talked about Baal worship in recent weeks – with its human sacrifice and temple prostitution. Baal was regarded as a nature deity – the owner of the ground and hence the force of nature which provided fertility. Actually there were many Baals worshiped in different localities. This worship was thought to ensure good fortune and prosperity and was associated with these gross forms of immorality. It is obvious why Baalism was so totally offensive to the God of Israel.
Baalism became the official state religion in the north … with a temple set up in his honor even in Samaria, the capital. As a result, the prophets who remained true to the Lord were persecuted. This is the setting for the appearance of the great prophet, Elijah. After providing a refuge for 100 faithful prophets, he challenges Ahab and Jezebel to a “dual” on Mount Caramel.
The scene which follows is one of the most dramatic in the Old Testament. From morning to noon, the false prophets dance around the altar, vainly calling on Baal to hear them. In the frenzy, they gash themselves until blood flows … but there’s no answer! Elijah doesn’t miss the opportunity to ridicule them: “Maybe Baal’s taking a nap, or he has gone on vacation!”
The God of Elijah is the only God that can hear people’s cries! And when it is Elijah’s turn to call on his God, God hears … and God answers. Not only the sacrifice, but even the twelve stones of the altar … the water in the ditch … and the surrounding ground … are burnt by the fire from heaven. Now it is the false prophets who are put to death. Their overthrow is a classic example of how God makes sure the truth ultimately prevails. No matter how entrenched and powerful the forces of evil are in the world, God is still guiding history for the good of His people – for our everlasting salvation.
Prayer: Lord God, how bold the wicked are, yet I know that You will always be with those whom You have brought into your family by faith in Jesus Christ. Amen.
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