Showdown at Mount Carmel
Showdown at Mount Carmel
We all love a good showdown in movies or sports.
Showdowns are a final confrontation to settle a dispute.
The word originates as an Americanism- derived from card playing (poker) whereas eventually the players had to put their cards down face up and show them when called to determine who won and who lost.
Today we use the word “showdown” in a variety of ways- i.e. a showdown between Alabama and Georgia, a showdown between boxers or even a showdown amongst rival chefs on Food Network.
There was a time when this word was used to describe lethal confrontations between gunfighters.
One of my favorite movie showdowns is in Tombstone between a character named “Doc” Holiday and Johnny Ringo- (not Ringo Starr the drummer for the Beatles)
Show movie clip
As the story goes, Johnny Ringo was the leader of a gang called the “cowboys”.
The cowboys were a bunch of no good bullies who took what they wanted from hardworking settlers.
They did not follow the law and their greed made life in Tombstone impossible for newcomers.
Through the course of the story they end up in a confrontation with Wyatt Earp and end up killing one of his brothers and severely wounding another.
Doc was a good friend of the Earp’s and takes it upon himself to stand in Wyatt’s place when Johnny Ringo challenges him to a “Showdown”.
The result of the Showdown would determine whether the people would be ruled by the ruthless cowboy gang or be able to live their lives in peace.
The Showdown between Doc Holiday and Johnny Ringo is filled with the tension as the two square off
Holiday appears confident and poised and even invites his rival to, “say when”.
There was no doubt in the Wild West- a showdown meant life or death
The Old Testament provides record of many Showdown’s Israel encountered in their history.
One of my favorites is found in 1 Kings 18:16-40
1 Kings 18:16-40
1 Kings 18:16-40
Key players: Elijah, Ahab, Jezebel, the prophets of baal, Israel
It is absolutely vital to know that the land had experienced a three year drought.
In those days people were dependent upon wells for fresh drinking water and for growing crops. Those wells were replenished by rain water from storms.
After three years of not a drop of rain the land was so parched that the king was desperate for a solution.
There were no crops, the animals were dying and the people were suffering
The King and his wife were wicked and blamed the prophet Elijah for the trouble that had come upon Israel but their sin of idolatry was the reason the drought occurred and their lack of repentance put everything they had at risk.
God told Elijah the Prophet that He was going to end the drought and to go stand before Ahab the King
Name means “my God is Yah”
He was a Tishbite
At Yahweh’s command Elijah proclaimed a three year drought upon Israel due to their faithlessness and idolatry
The sole remaining prophet of Yahweh who had survived Ahab and Jezebel’s massacre
The drought ends with Elijah’s call for the people to repent and come back to Yahweh via a Showdown to determine whether Baal was god or Yahweh was God
He was a man of faithful to Yahweh who lived amidst a culture of paganism and idolatry
Do you ever feel surrounded by a culture that is hostile to your faith in Jesus Christ?
7th King of Israel and he reigned twenty-two years
Reign was characterized as wicked
Wife’s name was Jezebel
(a name that holds the connotation of an impudent, shameless, or morally unrestrained woman.)
Disobeyed Yahweh in marrying Jezebel
A poor leader who allowed his wife’s paganism & idolatry to usurp his authority
Daughter to a Sidonian King
Responsible for the murder of God’s prophets
The prophets of Asherah were her personal attendants
Asherah was a Caananite goddess that was worshipped- an idol
Prophets of Baal-
Followers of a false god named Baal
Baal was worshipped as the god of Lightning and Storms (keep this in mind)
Sincere in their faith but sincerely wrong
Outnumbered Elijah 850 to 1
Important to remember- Just because a false god has many followers it is still a false god
The people of Israel struggled to remain loyal to Yahweh
Preferred to worship whatever was convenient or “felt” right at the time
Key Verses 1 Kings 18:17-18, 21, 24, 27, 29-30, 33-34, 36-39
When he saw Elijah, he said to him, “Is that you, you troubler of Israel?” “I have not made trouble for Israel,” Elijah replied. “But you and your father’s family have. You have abandoned the Lord’s commands and have followed the Baals.
Ahab refers to Elijah as the “Troubler of Israel”
-Ahab holds Elijah responsible for the difficulties Israel was experiencing when in fact it was Ahab and his abandonment of God’s Law that was responsible
-Elijah turns the epithet back on to Ahab
Have you ever felt God has been causing trouble for you?
Is it possible that we are causing our own troubles by departing from God’s ways?
Israel’s issues arise from following an evil King and abandoning the Lord’s ways.
Believe it or not God wants us to live righteous and holy lives-
Christians, We are not “confined” in our behavior, We are FREE to say NO to sin
But those who do not know Jesus are SLAVES to SIN and are truly NOT free to refuse sin!
Elijah instructs King Ahab to gather all Israel together at Mount Carmel to settle this dispute as to WHO is God- There will be a SHOWDOWN AND ONLY ONE GOD WILL WALK AWAY!
Elijah went before the people and said, “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.” But the people said nothing.
The Hebrew word used here is “Poshim”
This word means to “limp” or jump between
Elijah is demanding the people make a choice to follow Yahweh or Baal
Similar statement is made in Joshua 24:14-15 and Revelation 3:16
We can feel Elijah’s frustration with the people in his words
Yahweh had delivered Israel from countless troubles i.e. slavery, attack etc.
Baal had done nothing for Israel
(CIT) Following Jesus requires loyalty- It is a COMMITMENT
Especially in the ‘DRY” seasons of life
Are you experiencing a “DRY” season
Jesus does not force mankind to worship Him but just as certainly he will never play second fiddle to a second rate false god
God wants ALL our worship and He is WORTHY of all our worship!
Yet we often worship false gods in our lives and bow down to them
Some of us worship money (call it Baal) relationship (Baal), Food (Baal)
There is only ONE in Heaven and on Earth worthy of our worship
His name is NOT Baal it is JESUS CHRIST
Nothing is more pathetic than a reluctant indecisive worshipper
limping along in their convictions
Never maturing- never growing- never wholeheartedly giving themselves to one belief or another
Have you been limping along in your opinion about Jesus?
Have you been jumping from one false god to another? Trying them on like clothing and seeing what fits YOU?!
Notice that Elijah addresses the PEOPLE and confronts their idolatry and even leaves the door open for them to repent
Yet no one speaks to acknowledge that the LORD is God- in fact, you can feel the people avoiding eye contact with Elijah!!
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—he is God.” Then all the people said, “What you say is good.”
Elijah issues a challenge- a SHOWDOWN- pitting Baal against the Lord.
Elijah chose a contest that the Prophets of Baal could not refuse
In those days Altars of Stones were constructed in which to sacrifice burnt offerings of animals to God
Mount Carmel was a significant place where Yahweh has once been worshipped by the people of Israel
The animal would be slaughtered and butchered and placed on top of the stone altar and wood and the fire would be lit
Elijah contends that the ONE & TRUE God will confirm his authority and power by responding with fire
The prophets of Baal god was supposedly the storm & lightning god- easy day for a god of lightning to respond by “fire”
The prophets of Baal were to call or request that their god, Baal, respond to them by fire/lightning
Elijah chose Mount Carmel as the site of the epic Showdown
Show image of Mount Carmel
Mount Carmel offered a full view for ALL the people to witness the event
The people could spread out over the entire area
One against Eight Hundred fifty - Elijah the Prophet of the Lord versus all the prophets of Baal- Yahweh versus Baal- THIS WAS A SHOWDOWN
The people like what Elijah proposes
It provides a clear “winner” for the people to follow rather than engaging “FAITH”
(TRANSITION) Elijah strategically allows the prophets of Baal to take the first “shot” if you will at their god being able to do what he KNOWS only YAHWEH can do
He gives them
At noon Elijah began to taunt them. “Shout louder!” he said. “Surely he is a god! Perhaps he is deep in thought, or busy, or traveling. Maybe he is sleeping and must be awakened.”
The prophets of Baal “Shout” to their false god
When “Shouting” does not work the begin to “Dance” around the altar- LIMP around
Finally, when they realize “Shouting and Dancing” are not working they resort to cutting themselves
They were trying to imitate behavior as prophets but their god was NOT real
After several hours Elijah POINTS out that perhaps Baal is busy
One of my favorite aspects of Elijah is his sarcasm
Elijah taunts the prophets of Baal saying that maybe this “god” is limited in the attention he can and his availability
One translation even describes Elijah stating that perhaps Baal is “relieving himself”
Midday passed, and they continued their frantic prophesying until the time for the evening sacrifice. But there was no response, no one answered, no one paid attention. Then Elijah said to all the people, “Come here to me.” They came to him, and he repaired the altar of the Lord, which was in ruins.
The prophets of Baal had a lot of ENTHUSIASM but absolutely NO TRUTH
One almost feels a little sad for the prophets of Baal
They shouted, danced, cut and slashed their bodies all to no avail
We still have people who are enthusiastic in their efforts to follow a LIE
In many ways they are MORE enthusiastic in following a FALSE god than those of us who CLAIM to follow the ONE TRUE GOD- JESUS CHRIST
Throughout the better part of a day NO ONE paid attention to their wild fanatical gyrations
By a non-answer Baal confirmed he was no god at all
A false god CANNOT ANSWER PRAYER
(TRANSITION) As evening approached it was now Elijah’s turn
He calls the people close in to him because he wants to ensure they can see no trickery is being employed
He wants the people to know that all points he has had the cards stacked against him in this SHOWDOWN
He arranged the wood, cut the bull into pieces and laid it on the wood. Then he said to them, “Fill four large jars with water and pour it on the offering and on the wood.” “Do it again,” he said, and they did it again. “Do it a third time,” he ordered, and they did it the third time.
Elijah was removing all obstacles of doubt from the people
Drenching the sacrifice would remove any possibility of spontaneous combustion- Not just once, not just twice- three times Elijah had water poured over the sacrifice
So much water was poured onto the altar that it ran down and filled the trench Elijah had dug around the altar
Human perspective tells us that lighting soaking wet wood is “IMPOSSIBLE”
Due to the drought water was at a premium and Elijah was demonstrating his faith that God would make Fire and Rain fall from a cloudless sky!
This entire contest was for the benefit of the people Israel
It would demonstrate to them that Yahweh was Elohim- The LORD- God of ALL not just God of the weather
Soaking the sacrifice, the wood the altar and even the ground was NOT an OBSTACLE for God to overcome but it was a demonstration of His AUTHORITY
Are you willing to put your FULL FAITH in God to defeat the “impossible” obstacles in your life?
At the time of sacrifice, the prophet Elijah stepped forward and prayed: “O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. 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.” Then the fire of the Lord fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench. When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, “The Lord—he is God! The Lord—he is God!”
It was around 3:00pm when Elijah repairs the altar of the Lord
He uses 12 stones reminding the people of who they are and of the twelve tribes of Israel
He reminds them that their name is ISRAEL
The name Israel means “GOD PREVAILS”
Once all the preparations are made Elijah steps calmly forward- NOTE:
He did not need to shout for God to hear his simple prayer
He did not need to dance around wildly to gain God’s attention
He did not have to cut and slash himself for God to respond
Elijah’s prayer hearkens the people’s memory back to their ancestral times when they followed YAHWEH alone
Abraham,Isaac and Jacob (aka ISRAEL) were the forefathers of Elijah’s generation and men of amazing faith
Elijah’s heart is evidenced in his petition to the Lord
Simply put Elijah prays
Please God- respond so that all of Israel will know that I am YOUR SERVANT- THE ONE TRUE LIVING GOD AND NOT A FALSE IDOL AND THAT IT IS YOU WHO BRINGS THE HEARTS OF MANKIND BACK TO WORSHIP YOU
Elijah did NOT have to REPEAT his request
God is PLEASED to answer His children when our prayers express humility and give honor & glory to Him
IMMEDIATELY- LIGHTNING (FIRE) STRIKES THE ALTAR
The sacrifice is consumed in the fire
The wood is consumed
The stone is consumed
Even the dirt and water is consumed by the fire
An OVERWHELMING confirmation from Elohim- The LORD
The people fall on their faces in reverence and awe and shout- ELOHIM (The Lord) He is God!- ELOHIM (The Lord) He is God!
The people of ISRAEL dramatically and instantaneously begin following YAHWEH and the prophets of Baal are executed to rid their idolatrous influence from the land
Elijah teaches us something about the CHARACTER and NATURE of God in a Showdown to win back the hearts of God’s people
God will NOT share HIS PLACE in OUR LIVES with a FALSE god
Our “limping” between worshipping different “gods” will leave us crippled and “thirsting” for the living water of the ONE TRUE GOD- Jesus Christ
God’s power is not limited to human understanding- what seems an impossible obstacle for us is an opportunity for God to demonstrate His authority
Just because a lot of people follow an idol it does NOT make it a “god”
If we are honest with one another we have all behaved like Israel in chasing after something other than God in our lives.
God still seeks to bring YOUR heart back to Him
Sometimes his drawing you back comes in the form of an extended drought in your life
If you feel like your faith has been “dry” then today, in your heart maybe you need to proclaim Elohim- He is Lord and prepare for rain
Sometimes in dramatic fashion God will demonstrate His power in your life by exerting overwhelming power over what you perceive as an IMPOSSIBLE situation
NOTHING IS BEYOND GOD’S ABILITY IN YOUR LIFE
But God demands our loyalty
He commands our worship
If today you are tired of “LIMPING” between two opinions
If you desire to fall prostrate before Jesus and say YOU, Jesus, are Lord
Come forward to the altar, pray with one of us- confess Jesus as your LORD and begin following Him all your days
Let the SHOWDOWN be over and May the LORD be the ONE & ONLY God in your life