I Kings 18 records Elijah’s confrontation with Jezebel’s prophets of Baal. The kingdom of Israel was ruled by a wicked king and a more ruthless queen. The land was in its third year of drought. Famine covered all of Samaria.
God told Elijah, who had been in hiding, to present himself before Ahab. After that God would send rain. Elijah obeyed God. He confronted the idolatrous worldview that enslaved Israel. He was not afraid of conflict. In fact, conflict was obedience to God.
The confrontation was not meant to win over the hearts and minds of the prophets of Baal, but to challenge the children of Israel to worship God exclusively.
“How long halt ye between two opinions? If the LORD be God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.” And the people answered him not a word. (I Kings 18:21).
The word halt translated in the King James Version is the Hebrew word pâçach (paw-sakh’). This word is from the root word that means “to hop,” figuratively “to skip over.” It literally means “to limp” or “to dance.” It is typically used to mean halt, become lame, leap, pass over. Here, Elijah seems to be accusing the children of Israel of hesitating between two positions. They have become lame and will not definitively make a choice. Even when Elijah challenged them they “answered him not a word.” A spirit of moral cowardice held the people captive.
Elijah then stood against the prophets of Baal and their idolatrous worldview. The prophets appealed to the god of their worldview. But there was no answer. Elijah mocked them. The prophets didn’t give up. They simply got louder, more obnoxious, and began acting irrationally. All day the prophets of Baal acted this way but still they received no answer from the god of their worldview.
To demonstrate that YAHWEH is God, Elijah made his part of the challenge even harder than it was for the prophets of Baal. After the sacrifice was prepared, Scripture records that Elijah didn’t perform some religious ritual. He didn’t “fall out in the Spirit.” He didn’t dance around wildly or genuflect in just the right way. He didn’t recite a liturgy or incantation. He simply said. He prayed a simple prayer. God heard him and fire fell down on the sacrifice and consumed it.
The children of Israel responded to that demonstration of God’s holiness and power. They fell on their faces and said “YAHWEH, he is God! YAHWEH, he is God!”
I see a current application of this passage of Scripture. America is falling apart. Lawlessness plagues our land from the top offices of the federal government to the streets of America, like in Ferguson, MO, or Baltimore, MD.
We have rejected the God who provided the virtue necessary for our system of self-government. We have loved other gods. I am specifically talking about us, the Church, the Christians of this land. We are the reason for the nation coming unglued.
I am not saying this in condemnation, but in recognition. I include myself in this call to repentance. I have placed my throne above the heavens. I have disobeyed God’s commands. I have loved other gods. I have reduced God to being my buddy, my therapist where I turn to for helpful advice that I may or may not follow.
How long will we be lame, halting between two opinions? If the SEC (South Eastern Conference) is god, let us serve it and stop pretending that Sundays are more important to us than Saturdays. If pop culture is god let us serve it unashamedly and stop putting limits on our pleasures.
But, if the LORD is God, let us repent for our idolatry. Let us fall on our faces before an awesome, holy, and fearsome God. Let us turn from our sins before we tell the world to repent from theirs.
Let us repent first. Then, let us pray for rain.