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Baal Gets Booted

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Sermon on 1 Kings 18:16-46

Theme:  God’s people ought to enthusiastically serve the really real God

Goal:  to encourage the people to make up their minds and motivate in their hearts to serve the one true God.

Need:  God’s people can waiver between two positions all the time.

Outline:

  1. Introduction
  2. Accusations
  3. Contest on Mount Carmel
    1. Baal Gets prime time.
    2. Yahweh Gets handicapped.
    3. Symbolic Altar
    4. Yahweh consumes the offering
  4. The People chose Yahweh.
  5. Conclusion

Sermon in Oral Style,

           

            Congregation,

          So the US elections are coming up soon.  Only 8 months of political ads and debates and everything else that goes along with it.  The candidates use any number of different strategies in order to gain the upper hand on their opponents.  I heard on the radio of one strategy called “google bombing.”  Its something political activists will do on the internet.  When George Bush was up for reelection against John Kerry 4 years ago, if you tried to search the internet for the word “wafflehouse” you would be directed to the home page of the John Kerry for president campain.

          Waffling is something politicians are accused of all the time.  Election year or not, they are accused of saying one thing at one time.  Then doing or saying the complete opposite the next time.  It not just the politicians that should be accused of waffling, do you think?  We are awfully good at pointing out when someone else is going back on something they have said or done, but we don’t like to think that of ourselves. 

          The truth is, we waffle all the time, don’t we.  Most of us have probably made profession of faith in front of the church at one point in our lives.  We stood up here and we made a promise.  To love God.  To serve him.  To commit to the fellowship of believers.  That commitment is so important. 

          But whose the wafflers now?  We promise to love God with all our heart, but there are so many things to do…. How could we every just give ourselves completely to God.  We need to give ourselves to catching up on the latest stuff on the internet.  We need to give ourselves to making more money then we have before.  We need to give ourselves to making sure we don’t miss the episodes of our favorite show.  We need to give ourselves to information, entertainment, athletics, stock portfolios, work.  We give ourselves to all these other things then we shy away from what Christ calls us to most of all.  Be disciples and Make disciples.  Be a learner of God’s truth.  Be a promoter of the power and love of God.

          That’s the biggest problem still with the people of Israel.  These are supposed to be God’s people.  God saved them.  Made them a great nation.  Now their kings have been bringing in foreign gods.  Instead of being distinctly God’s they are giving themselves away to the other gods as well.  Totally divide attention.

          God isn’t standing for it any more.  He is going to prove again that he is truly the living God of really real life.

          Already he has shown his power over Baal the God of fertility, including storms and rain.  Baal doesn’t control fertility, rain, and life.  God has shut off the rain.  God has left the whole region in a drought to show that he, not Baal is in control. 

When there has been obedience and respect for the word of God that comes through Elijah, there has been miraculously really real life.  The oil and flour that wouldn’t run dry for the widow.  Raising the widows son back to life again.  This is real life through Yahweh.  The true God of Israel.

 

          But, so far God has only promoted himself as the God of really real life in the far away place of Zarephath.  In the story, the tension has been rising.  God can be a blessing in foreign lands, but not in Israel.  Not for his own people?  What is going on!!??!?!

          It is time for the showdown.  Its time for there to be only one God in Israel again.  That means the other god is going to have to be voted off the island, fired, kicked off the program, not given the final rose.  Whatever you want to call.  One God is going to win out once and for all. 

          Elijah goes first to King Ahab and lays a complaint against him.  Verse 17 is the confrontation of Ahab and Elijah.  I like this exchange they have between them.  “17When he saw Elijah, he said to him, “Is that you, you troubler of Israel?” 18“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 has lead Israel to completely disregard all of the God’s word and has them worshiping Baal as the God of life.  Elijah says, let’s figure this out.  He tells Ahab to tell the people of Israel to go to Mount Carmel, and then arrange 450 prophets of Baal to participate in the elimination round between God and Baal.

 

          Why Mount Carmel.  Its really no where near to the heart of Israel.  But it is a strategic location.  It’s a mountain by the Mediteranean Sea.  And it was part of the Northern defenses of Israel.  It served as a kind of entrance point into the land of God’s people.  Symbolically, its saying, whoever wins gets the land.  Whoever doesn’t is out and has to stay out.

          It really is a battle for the whole land.  The people of Israel are stuck.  They are waffling between the true God and Baal.  They don’t know which way to turn.  Elijah lays his accusation against them when they are assembled to see this show down on mount carmel. Verse 21. 21Elijah 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.” 

          They are waffling… “follow Yahweh?  Follow Baal?  Oh, we are just simple people.  We just do what we feel is right.”  Elijah says stop wavering.  Stop waffling.  Start standing up for the truth of God’s word and start trusting again that God is the God of really real life.  He is the God of blessing.  No one else.

          So the showdown begins.  450 prophets against 1.  Hardly seems fair, but you already know that Baal will need at least that big of an advantage against God.

          Really the contest seems a little bit unfair as well.  Baal, being the God of storms was pictured to have lightning as his main weapon.  And what do the prophets need to do to win this showdown and get Yahweh booted out of the land.  They just need to get Baal to flash some lightening and ignite the offering they put out there.  Yahweh is at a serious disadvantage.  This is right in Baals realm of expertise. 

          Things keep pushing further and further in the favor of Baal. The prophets take up the whole morning time crying out like it says “O Baal, answer us.”  Then they take all afternoon as well.  “O Baal, answer us.”  They start cutting themselves and doing any number of things to try and get the attention of Baal. 

They take the whole day, but Elijah isn’t worried.  He knows God doesn’t concern himself with a silly things like deadlines.  In fact, he taunts them around noon.  Verse 27 27At 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.”

          Some comentaries say the word busy there is slang for using the bathroom.  Maybe he is predisposed doing something of more importance.  Thinking, using the little boys room, traveling, or taking a little nap. 

Elijah knows they can have the whole day for crying out to Baal.  Yahweh won’t take very long to make his point and win this showdown.

          When it’s the last moment, the evening sacrifice, Elijah calls everyone around.  He tells them to gather 12 stones.

          The significance of the number of stones shouldn’t be missed.  Twelve stones is one for each tribe of Israel.  And not just the Northern tribes.  This is all twelve tribes of Israel.  All of God’s people.

          Do you know when else twelve stones were used?  Joshua sets up 12 stones in Joshua 4.  As the people of Israel cross into the promised land for the first time he tells them to set up 12 stones.  Its symbolic of the presence of God entering into the land with his people.  It’s a memorial for all people to see, reminding them that 12 tribes together are to be God’s people.   It’s a reminder of what God has done for them, giving them life in the promised land.

          Here Joshua uses 12 stones, and it’s a reminder that these people are God’s people.  And this land is the land that is promised for the life of God’s people.  This is not for waiverers and wafflers.  This is for those who are committed to worshipping the Lord their God and serving him only like it says in the ten commandments. 

          This is the altar that’s used.  Then a trench is dug around it and barrles of water are brought to the altar.  Four jugs are used, and verse 34 says, do it again.  And then do it again.  3 times the 4 barrels of water are poured over the altar.  12 barrels poured over the 12 stones.  This might symbolize how Israel has tried to douse the fire, the presence of God in the land by worshipping other Gods. 

          All of these things should put God at a huge disadvantage against Baal.  But then Elijah offers the simple prayer in verse 36.  You can almost imagine all the prophets of Baal exhausted from all day trying to wake up Baal or get him out of the bathroom.  Thousands of people from Israel waiting to see what carrying on Elijah is going to do to try and get Yahweh to ignite this soggy altar on fire.  Then Elijah steps forward and prayed. “O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be know 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.”

          That’s all it took and fire came down… Baals specialty.  Fire comes down and burns up the sacrifice, wood, stones and soil and evaporates all the water in the trench.

          When you see that power of God at work there is no wavering and no waffling.  The people of Israel are immediately turned back to God.  “The Lord—he is God!  The Lord—he is God!  Baal is booted off the mountain and out of Israel and out of the hearts of God’s people… at least for a time.  They kill the prophets of Baal in the valley.

          Then there is more evidence that God is the God of really real life.  When the people turn back to him, he ends the drought and famine.  Elijah warns Ahab to God because he hears the sound of heavy rain. 

          Elijah’s servant looks out over the Mediteranean Sea 7 times and then finally sees a tiny cloud.  And that cloud is followed by more clouds.  And they get darker and wind picks up.  And now with Baal expelled from peoples hearts finally, there is the blessing of life giving rain.

 

          This whole event is meant to bring God’s people around from wavering between wondering about the truth of Jesus Christ and whether or not God is the God of true life or not. 

For us as Christians what is it really motivating us for?  Is it telling us to go out and destroy those who are against the only true God?  Of course not.  It is calling us to ask the question of ourselves, what are we doing that wavers like the Israelites?  What are we doing that makes us go… maybe I shouldn’t… ahh, why not.  God is forgiving.”  Maybe its calling us to think again about priorities.  And I know it is trying to assure you that whatever steps you take in life, if they are returning you to being a better disciple of Christ and a better disciple winner for Christ, you are going to receive the fire from heaven and you are going to be blessed like the rain after three years of draught.  Leave the waffling to the politicians who try to please everyone.  Let’s stand for Jesus Christ, and his word. 

This is God’s will.  And all God’s people say.  AMEN!

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