Jul23WedJuly 23, 2014
By Joe Smith
I discovered a long time ago that I enjoy cheering for the underdog. I think I found that out when I started pulling for the Sharks in the 90’s (they couldn’t find a win with a map). So, it also makes sense that I really enjoy the story of Elijah and his prophet showdown in 1 Kings 18. I don’t enjoy it because Elijah couldn’t get a win, but because he got “the win” against all odds. To everyone except himself he was the underdog in every sense of the word.
The story takes place in Israel during the 9th century BC. Israel’s most recent king, Ahab, has decided to incorporate Baal worship into his reign. That means the one true God of Israel has been
exchanged for a block of wood. Obviously Elijah can’t handle this craziness and challenges the prophets of Baal. He asks the 450 prophets to prepare a bull on an altar to offer as a sacrifice to their god, Baal. Elijah will do the same to the God of Israel. They will each call out to their god and the one who sets the bull on fire will be declared the true God (1 Kings 18:22-24). In the eyes of the people that was a pretty bold move. 450 voices calling out to their god compared to one calling out to his god? It’s the 90’s Sharks all over again!
So, the prophets do their best to bring fire down on their sacrifice, but nothing happens. They do this morning, noon, and night. At one point Elijah even gets chirpy with them. He tells them: “Shout louder! Perhaps he is deep in thought, or busy, or traveling. Maybe he is sleeping and must be awakened” (18:27).
Once the prophets call it quits Elijah builds up his altar with stones, wood, and finally the chopped up bull for the sacrifice. However, he’s not satisfied. He orders four large jars of water poured on the wood and the offering…three times each! Elijah then says: “Answer me, O Lord, answer me, so these people will know that you, O Lord, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again” (18:37). Fire came down and incinerated it all. The people were shocked. They realized they had been worshipping a false god and had just witnessed a small taste of the almighty God.
Now, before you start building your altar in the arena parking lot and searching for the closest cattle farm just hear me out. God has revealed Himself through His Son Jesus Christ, which took place a long time after Elijah walked the earth. Jesus’ story is written in the Bible which is reliable, applicable and contains all the proof we need. Some days may feel like you’re the underdog, and that maybe God even seems far away when you call out to Him. But don’t be discouraged. He can reveal himself to you in ways that are even more powerful than fire coming down from the sky. We serve the God who created the sun, moon and stars. He holds you in the palm of His hand and He will never let you fall.
“Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD” (Psalm 27:14).