Elijah’s Challenge: Waver No More
1 Kings 18:17-39
November 20-21, 2021
Amen. All right. The backstory of 1 Kings 18 is that Israel is in great trouble. There's a famine because there's a great drought that's been going on for three and a half years. God had declared this drought through the prophet Elijah because they had turned after the god of Baal who was the god of Rain, interestingly enough and fertility and produce, and their hearts were hard against God and hard hearts bring hard times. That's actually a spiritual principle. Hard hearts bring the hard times. There was something in them.
I mentioned this before. It's important to recognize. What was it? There was something in them that was drawn to these gods of the world? Was there something wrong with Jehovah? Was there something wrong with the God of heaven? That something, what was it? That thing in them that was so drawn to these gods, whether it's Baal or Asherah, Milcombe, what was it? I suggest to you that it was the nature of man, the flesh within them, very much drawn to these gods because they were worldly in every sense.
It's important for us to see because frankly, the very same thing is true today. There is something in many people. What is it? What is that thing that is drawn to the stuff of the world? What is it? It's the same? It's the nature of man, it's the flesh within them and it creates a great conflict. The conflict in the soul.
Now there is something in them that's drawn to the Lord. Yes, for sure. They understand God is calling, speaking, drawing them but there's that thing. That thing that's drawn so hard to the world and they're in the middle. You can say they're stuck in the middle. I call it the miserable middle because they're not experiencing the joy of the Lord, the fullness of peace. What does it take to be spiritually victorious, especially in the times in which we are now living? What does it take?
I suggest to you what it takes is to have a heart fully committed to the Lord. That's what this story in 1 King is about. Now, the events as they unfold in 1 Kings 18, as I mentioned, the drought now has been lasting for three years and six months. We get these specific timeframes out of the book of James. That timeframe of three years and six months should not be lost on us because it has prophetic latter-day significance. The time of Israel's trouble will be three years and six months in the latter days.
Now, you might remember that there will be a great tribulation that will come upon the world in the latter days. This is the wrath of God poured out, but that seven-year period of tribulation is divided into three and a half years and then another three and a half years. It's important to see what happens in each of these. For the tribulation period begins when a covenant of peace is made by the nations with Israel. The Antichrist will arrange a covenant of peace between the nations and Israel.
Interestingly, perhaps you have been observing or watching in the news that the last couple of years, that several Arab nations have made normalization agreements with Israel in what famously has come to be called Abraham Accords. I suggest that these things are setting the stage for that great covenant of peace with Israel that will happen in the latter days. However, the Antichrist will betray that covenant of peace and will betray Israel three and a half years into that period of time.
What he will do is that he will take possession of the newly rebuilt temple and will set up an image of himself in the holy of holy place in the temple, which as you can imagine, Israel will respond with outrage, and which was the whole point, to bring them to that point about race so that the nations of the world then could come and bring the armies into the famous battle of Armageddon?
Now, Israel would be destroyed in this battle of Armageddon except for the intervention of God. When He sends Israel's Messiah in the latter days to defeat her enemies in fulfillment of Scripture. We know His name. His name is Yeshua HaMashiach, which is Hebrew. The English is Jesus the Messiah. He will come in the latter days and He will set this world right because I'll tell you what? We pray, "Lord Jesus, come quickly because this world is messed up and this world is broken. We are asking, oh, Lord Jesus come quickly and set things right. Amen?"
In 1 Kings 18, if we come to the end of that three and a half year drought, the time of Israel's trouble, three and a half years. The word of the Lord came to Elijah at that time, "Go and show yourself to Ahab." Ahab was perhaps the most despicable King that Israel had up to that point. He had married that wicked woman, that Jezebel, and had followed after Baal, even worshipped and served Baal.
Elijah then confronts Ahab and tells him to bring 450 prophets of Baal, to bring 400 prophets of the god Asherah, and all the nation of Israel and meet him on Mount Carmel because what's going to happen is a showdown of epic proportions. The power of God is going to be demonstrated on that mountain, but first, he's going to issue a challenge. He's going to issue a challenge to Israel. "How long will you waver between two opinions?"
This is very similar to the challenge that Joshua gave at the end of his life where he brought Israel together and gave this challenge. "Choose you this day whom you will serve, whether the gods of the world or the God of Israel. As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." There's that declaration. He's calling them, he's challenging them to waiver no more.
I. Know the True Source of Troubles
Let's read it. We're in this 1 Kings 18. We begin reading in verse 16 where it says that Obadiah, who had met Elijah, and Elijah says, "Go tell your master that Elijah is here." Obadiah went to meet Ahab and told him. Ahab went to meet Elijah. It came about that when Ahab saw Elijah, that Ahab said to him, "Is that you, you troubler? You troubler of Israel, is that you?" Elijah said, "I have not troubled Israel but you and your father's house have because you have forsaken the command of the Lord."
In other words, the word of the Lord, "You have turned aside and forsaken, and you have followed after the Baals. Now then, send and gather to me all Israel at Mount Carmel, together with 450 prophets of Baal, 400 prophets of Asherah who eat at Jezebel's table." Ahab sent a message among all the sons of Israel and brought the prophets together at Mount Carmel.
Now, I've been to Israel many times and we love going to this place, Mount Carmel because when you go there, you can see all of these events in your mind's eye. You stand on Mount Carmel and you look west, and you can see the Mediterranean, then you look east, and you can see the Jezreel Valley. This is where the famous battle of Armageddon will take place. All of it is laid out before you amazingly at Mount Carmel. He brought all of these together.
Verse 21, and Elijah then came near to all the people, and he has a speech. "How long will you waver? How long will you hesitate between two opinions? If Jehovah, if the Lord is God, then follow Him. If Baal, follow him." The people did not answer him a word. This is important to see. They did not say a word. Then Elijah said to the people, "I alone am left the prophet of the Lord but Baal's prophets are 450 men. In other words, this is 450 to 1.
Now, let them gather us two oxen, let them choose one ox for themselves and cut it up, place it on the wood, but no fire under it. I will prepare the other ox, lay it on the wood, and I will not put fire under it. Then you call in the name of your God and I will call in the name of the Lord, and the God who answers by fire, He is God." All the people answered and said, "This is good."
Now, I suggest to you that the prophets of Baal are not really excited about this whole contest, but the fact that thousands of people have gathered now and have heard the terms, they say this is good. The prophets of Baal I suggest want nothing of it but now by the thousands of people, they are pressured. They must move forward. Elijah then said to the prophets of Baal, "You choose first. Choose one ox for yourselves, prepare it first for you are many, and call on the name of your God, put no fire under it."
They took the ox which was given them, they prepared it, called on the name of Baal from morning until noon. They called out and they said, "Oh, Baal, answer us," but there was no voice and no one answered. They leaped upon the altar which they had made. Now, it came about at noon, that Elijah began mocking them. This was a humorous little turn of events here. Elijah starts mocking them and he said, "Call out louder, surely he is God, call out louder. Maybe he's busy. Maybe he's occupied. Maybe he's gone aside," which is Hebrew for maybe he's in the bathroom.
This is very humorous when you see what he's doing, he's taunting them now. "Yell louder, maybe he's in the bathroom. Maybe he's on a journey. Maybe perhaps he's asleep and needs to be awakened, call louder." They cried with a loud voice and they cut themselves according to their custom with swords and lances until blood gushed out. Came about at midday when that was passed, that they raved on until the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, but there was no voice, no one answered, and no one paid attention.
Then Elijah said to all the people, "Come near now, come near to me." All the people came near to him and he repaired the altar of the Lord which had been torn down, interesting itself. Then Elijah took 12 stones according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, also interesting, to whom the word of the Lord had come saying, "Israel shall be your name."
With the stones, he built an altar in the name of the Lord and he built a trench, or he made a trench around the altar large enough to hold two measures of seed. This is a large trench. Then he arranged the wood, cut the ox in pieces, laid it on the wood and he said, "Now, fill four pitchers with water and pour it on the burn offering and on the wood."
This is not how you light a fire. Then when they did that, he said, "Now do it again, do it a second time." They did it a second time and then he said, Do it again, do it a third time." They did it a third time and the water flowed around the altar and even filled the trench with water, so much water did they pour. Then it came about at the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice that Elijah the prophet came near and he said this prayer.
Now would you notice, this is just a simple prayer said in faith. There's no ranting. There's no yelling or stomping. A simple prayer said in faith is very powerful I suggest to you. A simple prayer said in faith is very effective. "Oh Lord, He's praise, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel. Today, let it be known that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and that I have done all of these things at your word. Answer me oh Lord, answer me that this people may know that you oh Lord are God," notice this, "and that you have turned their heart back again."
This is the very thing that God desires to do, to turn their hearts, to bring them back, to revive the people. Then after this simple prayer said in faith, fire of the Lord fell, consumed the burnt offering, the wood, the stones, and the dust, and licked up all the water that was in the trench. That is some fire. When all the people saw that, they fell on their faces and they said, "The Lord Jehovah, He is God. The Lord Jehovah. He is God." Then Elijah said, "Seize the prophets of Baal, do not let them escape."
All right, we'll look at the other verses around this on Wednesday at our Verse-by-Verse service, but let's take hold of these and see the applications that God would have for us in these verses. Starting with this, know the true source of troubles. Wisdom and the discernment of the Lord to know the true source of trouble. Ahab, when he sees Elijah, "Is that you, you troubler?" What a fascinating accusation. He's going to blame, Elijah. Since Elijah is the prophet of God, he might as well be blaming God.
Interesting. Ahab had put his hope and trust in Baal, the source of rain, source of so-called fertility and produce, but instead of getting help, he got troubles. Now he's blaming. He's angry so much at Elijah that he is blaming him. You, you, you troubler. What's interesting is that's very similar to what many people do today, they cast the blame. They cannot see the source of their troubles might be themselves. God knows the way of greatest blessing. This we must see. God is trying to show them something.
"I have not troubled Israel, you have." Then he gives two very distinct and clear reasons. First reason he gives to Ahab, he says, "Because you have turned your back on the word of the Lord." See God sent His word. God sent His word in power. God sent His word with His heart and His desire is to keep them from many troubles. It would save them if they would just take hold of it. If they would just live by it, it would save them from much trouble.
A. God knows the way of greatest blessing
The very similar thing is said by the Lord in the New Testament, in the book of Luke 6:47-48 where Jesus said it this way, "Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and lives according to them, I will show you whom he is like." Now notice because it is two distinct things. The one who comes to me and hears my word and lives according to them. It's one thing to hear, it's another thing to live according to them. The one who hears and lives according to them, I will show you whom he is like.
He's like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid a foundation on a rock. Then when the flood occurred and the torrent burst against that house, it could not shake it because it had been well built. He's giving the principles of the spirit. You take hold of the word that God sets forth, and you live according to it. This is how you build your life well because it's built on a foundation. Then when the troubles come, the storms arise, is well built, it will not be shaken. He's trying to save you from much trouble.
By taking hold of the word, by abiding by it, He's saving you from much trouble. I was thinking of an illustration. It's like teaching teenagers to drive. Now, in the course of my life, I have taught five teenagers how to drive. I'm okay.
I have been in counseling ever since, but no. Actually, and before we drive, before we even turn on the car, I have this speech. This is my before we even start the car speech. "I am now going to give you," this is my speech. "I am now going to give you the one rule which is the most important rule of all rules. That one rule which is the most important rule of all rules is this. You must do exactly as I say, when I say it. That is the most important rule. For if you will do what I say, when I say, I can keep you from much trouble."
This is a great illustration. God wants to speak forth words that if we take hold of them and abide by them, it will save us and keep us from so much trouble. Notice, Jude chapter 1:24, "Now unto Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in His presence of glory, blameless and with great joy." See, then He gives us our response. Notice, in Psalm 119:103 and 105. God says, "I speak words. If you'll take hold of them and abide by them, it will keep you from so much trouble."
Our response is found in Psalm 119. "Oh, how sweet are your words to my taste? I delight in them." Yes, they are sweeter than honey to my mouth. Your word is a lamp to my feet, it's a light to my path. Your word is good. I love your word. Your word is wise. I take hold of it. It's good." It's like that glorious moment that a teen, eyes open and they say to their parents, "Mom, dad, your wisdom is high." It could happen.
He says, "Ahab, you are the trouble," and he tells him why? He goes, "You've turned your back on the word of God," but then he gives a second reason, "Because you have followed Baal." Literally, in Hebrew, it means walk behind. Who's leading who here. Interestingly, Baal in Hebrew has a meaning. The name means master. Isn't that interesting.
I suggest that there is a spiritual connection. This thing will master you. That thing which you follow, that thing which you seem to be drawn to, yes, be very careful. This thing will master you. See, today is very similar. There are those who do not abide by the word, that brings trouble enough, but when they deliberately go after the things of the world, they are going to have more troubles than they can reckon with, for this thing will master you. I was thinking of a way to picture it and to see it. If your life could be written in a book, if your life story could be written in a book, how many chapters would there be in that book of the times when you took the wrong turn, did the wrong thing, and it ended gloriously, beautifully well? I suggest you that there wouldn't be any chapters in that book like that at all, for there's a scripture that says, Proverbs 14:12, "There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death."
B. If God brings trouble, it’s good
God wants to keep you from that way of death, of destruction, of difficulty, of trouble. In that book that was written, the story of your life, how many chapters would there be of the times when you took the wrong turn, did the wrong thing, and then it ended poorly, it ended disastrously, it brought great troubles on your life? I suggest to you that there would be many chapters. Let me add one thing. Show of hands. How many then would say this?...
Before I made that wrong decision, before I took that wrong turn, God warned me not to do it. Anyone raised their hands? It's interesting, isn't it? God wants to show you, He's warning you, He's drawing you to keep you. "I love you. I want to keep you from that way of trouble. I want you to have the way of greatest blessing." Note this also, that if God does bring trouble, it's good. God knows how to agitate to bring someone back. This is what this drought was about, to bring them back, to understand.
Notice what Elijah said in his prayer, that these people would know that you are the one who have brought them back to yourself. It's like, "I'm showing you the way." Jeremiah 21:8, "You say to this people, you say, Thus saith the Lord, behold, I set before you the way of life and the way of death. Now choose." You know what He also adds? "Choose life. Choose life. I love you. I want you to have life, I want you to have life to the full. I want you to have a peace that passes understanding."
He uses even agitation to bring someone back. Ahab is angry now. Ahab was so angry, he was sending soldiers, messengers to find Elijah. He sent messengers all around Israel. He sent messengers all around the nations. "Find that man. When you find him, you bring him to me." He's angry. Interesting. I suggest that Ahab's angry at the wrong person. What he ought to be is angry at himself.
How many people get angry when what they should be is humble? This happens a lot. People get angry when what they should be is humble. People get angry at the police officer, or they get angry at the referee. We know that one, or they get angry at the teacher for their bad grade, or they get angry at the parents for checking up on them. "Why are you checking up on me? You're making my life so miserable, you're making so much trouble in my life."
God can use it. God can use agitation to bring us back. He's loving us in the process to bring us to something that's better. I was thinking of an illustration. I remember when I was very young, I just had a really hard time waking up in the morning. Maybe it's an aspect of youth, I don't know, because today, my alarm is set on the lowest volume setting. I think marriage does that to you.
Anyway, back in those days, I could not wake up. My mom, she would use agitation to wake me up. It would go something like this. She would use my name over and over and over. It would go like this, "Richard, Richard, Richard, Richard, Richard, Richard, Richard, Richard." Finally, I couldn't take it anymore. Then I go, "Okay, fine, I'm out of the bed." See, it's an illustration of agitation. God knows how to agitate, but if He does, it's good. He's bringing you to something far better.
II. Don’t Waver Between; Commit Fully to God
Hebrews 12:6-11. "For those whom the Lord loves, He disciplines, and He scourges every son whom He receives. All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful. It's sorrowful. Yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness." God has done a good thing.
Back to our story of Elijah, 1 Kings 18. This life lesson is the main point of the story. Don't waver. Don't waver between two opinions. Commit fully. That's what he's saying. Commit fully to God, don't waver. He brings all of Israel together, 450 prophets of Baal. He's going to prove His power and His might. God has demonstrated His power and His might to Israel over and over and over, and He's going to do it again, but before this great epic show of power, He has this challenge.
How long will you hesitate? How long will you stay in this place, wavering between two opinions? How long are you going to stay there? If the Lord is God, follow Him. If Baal's God, follow him. Choose. Stop wavering. Interestingly, it says, "The people answered him not a word." They did not say a word. Why? Because they were wavering, because they were hesitating. They wanted to have both. They were in the middle.
A. There comes a time for faith to be counted
James 1:6-8, "The one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways." His point is when He challenges them, how long will you waver? Decide. If the Lord is God, then follow Him. What is He saying? He's saying, "There comes a time for faith to be counted. There comes a time for faith to stand up. There comes a time to settle this matter. There comes a time to declare it."
We know where Elijah stood. Elijah stood with the Lord, 100% committed. He loved the Lord. There was fire in Elijah. We know where the prophets of Baal stood. They clearly stood in the world. They clearly stood with Baal, but there are thousands of Israel, silent, would not say a word, wavering between two opinions. God calls this being lukewarm. Lukewarm is the combination of hot and cold. It's blended. It is blended together, that's what makes it lukewarm.
Jesus says this in Revelation 3, speaking to it. Jesus says, "I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish that you were one or the other, either cold or hot. Choose." Isn't this the very same challenge? Isn't this the very same? "Choose today whom you'll serve." Elijah's challenge, "How long will you waver between two opinions?" Choose, be one or the other, be cold or hot. "Because you're lukewarm and neither cold nor hot, I'll spit you out of my mouth."
This was Solomon's problem, I suggest to you. He didn't want to turn his back on God. He wanted God and the things of the world. There are a lot of people like that today. They want both. They want a relationship to God and they want a relationship to the world, but they're in a place where they're stuck. They cannot grow, they cannot experience the fullness of God's joy, they cannot experience peace that passes understanding.
In fact, in 2 Corinthians 6, I read this on Wednesday at the Verse-by-Verse service, but I want to mention it because it bears repeating. 2 Corinthians 6:15-17, where Paul makes a similar challenge and says, "What harmony does Christ have with Belial?" You want both, but there is no harmony between them. Belial is another word for Satan, picturing the wrongfulness, sinfulness, treachery of the world. There's no harmony. What do you mean you want both? There's no harmony.
What agreement does the Temple of God have with idols? There's no agreement. "Therefore, come out from their midst and be separate," says the Lord, "I'll be your father. You'll be sons and daughters to me. We'll have a relationship as glorious." Here's another interesting thing in Joshua 24:23-24. This is that place where Joshua makes this challenge, "Choose you this day whom you'll serve." As part of that larger speech that he gives, would you notice these words. "Now, therefore, put away the foreign gods, which are in your midst."
B. Don’t be functionally dysfunctional
You might say, "Wait, wait, what? Are you telling me they still had foreign gods in their midst? After Israel brought them out of Egypt with His great power and outstretched arm, and then He preserved them through the desert, those 40 years, brought them into the land of promise, brought them to a place of great victory through Joshua, are you telling me that they still had foreign gods in their midst?" This is yes. Joshua challenges them, "Put away, put away these foreign gods which are in your midst and incline your hearts to the Lord, God of Israel."
The people, listen to their response, the people said to Joshua, "We will do it. We will serve the Lord our God and we will obey His voice." Did you notice there what they didn't say? Oh, something is missing there. They didn't say, "And we will put away these foreign gods that are in our midst." They didn't say that, and that would be their great undoing. They wanted both. We just have to find the balance. I call that being functionally dysfunctional, which the word is don't be that way. Don't be functionally dysfunctional.
There are those who are functional alcoholics, they think. There are those who are functional drug users. There are those who are functional adulterers. See, it gives the impression that sin is quite manageable. If you find the right balance, sin is quite manageable. What they cannot see is that it keeps them from all that God has for them, that they're quite empty and blind and poor and naked.
This is what Jesus says, Jesus speaks to it in Revelation 3:17-18, "You did not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked. I advise you," I love that phrase. I don't know why, that just touches me, "I advise you," Jesus says, "to buy from me gold that is refined by fire so that you may become rich, truly rich." He's speaking spiritually here, "truly rich in the spirit." You get that from me He says. "I advise you to buy from me white garments," oh, the depth of this is tremendous.
"I advise you to buy from me white garments that you may cloth yourself and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed. I advise you to buy from me eye salve to anoint your eyes and then you may see. For the one who opens his eyes and sees will see that which is beautiful, that which is of the Lord, anointed."
See, the problem with the one who thinks that sin is quite manageable if we can just find the balance, somewhere there's a balance between God and the world if we can just find it, that one will never grow in their relationship to the Lord, they will never experience the fullness of joy, the fullness of life, peace surpasses understanding. It's like Psalm 16:11, "You will make known to me the path of life and your presence, in your presence, there is fullness of joy, and at your right hand, there are pleasures forevermore." This is what God wants for you.
C. God answers by fire; God proves Himself
I want you to have this. I want you to have joy, joy that's not like the world gives, joy that comes from your heavenly Father. I want you to have peace that surpasses understanding. I want you to have a love that comes from heaven itself. Your cup will overflow. I want this for you. How long will you waiver? How long will you hesitate? Settle this matter. There comes a time when faith must be counted.
Then I love the way the story finishes. He makes this great challenge, "How long will you waver?" Then he calls out to God in a prayer of faith and God answers by fire. God proves himself. A fire, you might know in scripture, fire represents the judgment of God. Well, if fire represents the judgment of God, then where should that fire have fallen that day? I suggest it should have fallen on those who had turned their backs on God, but it didn't, it fell on the sacrifice instead.
Does God do such a thing today? Absolutely. For the fire of God's judgment fell on Jesus Christ on the cross that day when He gave His life and paid for our sins, He paid for them in full because the condemnation that we deserved fell on Him, that we might have newness of life because God proved it. When Jesus was raised from the dead on the third day, that was proof and evidence, and that matter is settled in heaven and let it be settled on earth. Amen. Amen.
For when Jesus was raised from the grave, the matter was settled, proof and evidence. Buddha, Muhammad, Joseph, Smith, they're all in the grave, but Jesus was raised from the dead. The matter needs to be settled, choose you this day. For we have to ask the question, "What good do the gods of this world do?" None. I ask this question, "What does an atheist have to say to an alcoholic?" Nothing, they have nothing to say. "What does an atheist have to say to a person whose life is broken?" They have nothing to say for there is no help.
Jeremiah 2:28, "Where are your gods which you made for yourself? Let them arise if they can save you in your time of trouble," because they cannot. God has taken so many lives out of the pit, out of despair, set their lives on solid ground, built into their lives peace and joy and love. Psalm 32:7, "You are my hiding place, you preserve me from trouble, you surround me with songs of deliverance." Let this matter be settled.
I have decided to follow Jesus and there's no turning back, there is no turning back. I've set the course, I know in whom I have believed. The cross is before me, the world is behind me, I know in the direction of which I walk. I am headed toward heaven and I am not turning back. This matter is settled, let that be the decision of our hearts today. This matter is settled. I have decided you have my heart, Lord, you have all of my heart, there is no turning back.
Father, thank you. Thank you for showing us the way of greatest blessing. Revealing to us your heart, your desire to pour out life, life to the full. Joy that's ever-lasting, peace that surpasses understanding, relationship to the everlasting Father. God, this matter is settled. Church, how many would say that to the Lord today? This matter is settled with me, I know in whom I have believed. I choose the cross is before me, the world is behind me, there is no turning back, I have decided. I have decided this is settled.