After many days the word of the LORD came to Elijah, in the third year of the drought, saying, “Go, present yourself to Ahab; I will send rain on the earth.” So Elijah went to present himself to Ahab. The famine was severe in Samaria.
When Ahab saw Elijah, Ahab said to him, “Is it you, you Troubler of Israel?”
He answered, “I have not troubled Israel; but you have, and your father’s house, because you have forsaken the commandments of the LORD and followed the Baals. Now therefore have all Israel assemble for me at Mount Carmel, with the four hundred fifty prophets of Baal and the four hundred prophets of Asherah, who eat at Jezebel’s table.”
So Ahab sent to all the Israelites, and assembled the prophets at Mount Carmel. Elijah then came near to all the people, and said,
“How long will you go limping with two different opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.”
The people did not answer him a word.
Then Elijah said to the people, “I, even I only, am left a prophet of the LORD; but Baal’s prophets number four hundred fifty. Let two bulls be given to us; let them choose one bull for themselves, cut it in pieces, and lay it on the wood, but put no fire to it; I will prepare the other bull and lay it on the wood, but put no fire to it. Then you call on the name of your god and I will call on the name of the LORD; the god who answers by fire is indeed God.”
All the people answered, “Well spoken!”
Then Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, “Choose for yourselves one bull and prepare it first, for you are many; then call on the name of your god, but put no fire to it.” So they took the bull that was given them, prepared it, and called on the name of Baal from morning until noon, crying, “O Baal, answer us!”
But there was no voice, and no answer.
They limped about the altar that they had made. At noon Elijah mocked them, saying, “Cry aloud! Surely he is a god; either he is meditating, or he has wandered away, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened.” Then they cried aloud and, as was their custom, they cut themselves with swords and lances until the blood gushed out over them. As midday passed, they raved on until the time of the offering of the oblation,
but there was no voice, no answer, and no response.
Then Elijah said to all the people, “Come closer to me”; and all the people came closer to him. First he repaired the altar of the LORD that had been thrown down; Elijah took twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, to whom the word of the LORD came, saying, “Israel shall be your name”; with the stones he built an altar in the name of the LORD. Then he made a trench around the altar, large enough to contain two measures of seed. Next he put the wood in order, cut the bull in pieces, and laid it on the wood. He said, “Fill four jars with water and pour it on the burnt offering and on the wood.” Then he said, “Do it a second time”; and they did it a second time. Again he said, “Do it a third time”; and they did it a third time, so that the water ran all around the altar, and filled the trench also with water.
At the time of the offering of the oblation, the prophet Elijah came near and said, “O LORD, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel, that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your bidding. Answer me, O LORD, answer me, so 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,
the stones, and
the dust, and
even licked up the water that was in the trench.
When all the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, “The LORD indeed is God; the LORD indeed is God.” 1 Kings 18:1-2, 17-39 (NRSV)
This is a great story. It’s an amazing witness to God’s sovereignty and power. It’s a reminder that God hears us when we pray. And that God’s action isn’t dependent on us but on God.
But I’m kind of interested in the water.
There hasn’t been any rain for three years but they readily have 12 jars of water on the top of Mt. Carmel. Where did they get all of this water? Maybe God provided the water just as God provided the ram for Abraham when he was on top of a mountain making an offering to God.
Abraham’s God was also the God Who Lives. Although Sarah’s womb was barren, dead, God brought life from it. Paul tells us this is the reason that Abraham was able to take Isaac up that mountain and offer him to God. The God Who Lives does not specialize in death. Death would not be the end.
No distrust made [Abraham] waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, being fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. – Romans 4:20-21 (NRSV)
Not only was God able, God was willing – as we see so often demonstrated in the life of Christ. Whether Abraham thought that there would be another child or that Isaac would be raised from the dead, Abraham trusted God.
On Mt. Carmel, Ahab and the people needed to know that the God Who Lives is the only God. I don’t know where that water came from, but it demonstrated God’s abundance and God’s power.
And what about the 12 stones and the 12 jars of water? We know they represent the 12 tribes. But the kingdom is divided. It’s no longer the 12 but 10 and 2. But this is also the Tale of Two Kingdoms: the world may see a divided kingdom in Israel and Judah but God sees a single kingdom. These are still God’s people – even in their division, even in their apostasy.
The promise, first made to Abraham, had not died despite a divided kingdom, apostate kings, and a people who didn’t know their God. The 12 stones and the 12 jars of water are a statement of hope. What God has joined, humankind cannot separate.
This story is a great story. It has drama, suspense, and comedy – and the good guy wins. But the real plot is much bigger. And it’s still applicable for our lives today.
- The God Who Lives is a God of abundance.
- The God Who Lives is a God who keeps promises.
- The God Who Lives is a God that unites what we tear apart.
- The God Who Lives is a God who always provides a way for life.
“The LORD indeed is God; the LORD indeed is God.”