This article on 1 Kings 18:20-40 is about idols. We tend to follow them, but they are nothing.

Source: Clarion, 2008. 2 pages.

1 Kings 18:20-40 - From Silence to Confession

This is not about what Baal couldn’t do. It’s not about what Baal didn’t do. It’s about that Baal is not. He is not God. He is not anything. But, then, the religion of Baal represents something. It represents trying to get milk and honey, inheriting life, without the Lord God who promises it and gives it. Baal religion is trying to get the kingdom apart from its sovereign King.

God, the King, knows that this cannot be done. God knows it’s going to hurt if we try. This is why the Lord is busy doing what He is doing in these events. He stopped the rain so that Israel would learn the emptiness and the sure destruction of Baal worship. But now the Lord was going to bring back the blessing. That’s what we read at the beginning of 1 Kings 18. The Lord initiated a new return to milk and honey so that his people could live. But it would only happen in a certain way, through showing the altar of Baal for what it is and through the return of his people which the Lord Himself would bring about. That’s what the events on Carmel are about. It’s not between the Lord and Baal. It’s between the Lord and Israel. The Lord bringing renewal, return to kingdom life, through renewing his people, turning their hearts.

At first Israel had nothing to say – death’s silence. Lifeless Israel. But see where the Lord brings his people through the events on Carmel. In the end the people declare, The Lord, He is God! The Lord, He is God! From silence to confession, from death to life. Covenant renewal – through Elijah, Christ.

The first half of the story shows the prophets of Baal doing their thing. Everything is designed for their advantage. And they tried everything. Lots of religion, with lots of cutting of flesh and blood. In the end, these prophets are what? Tired, with sore throats, and bleeding – with nothing to show. There was no voice, no one answered, no one paid attention. Silence. Emptiness. And lots of pain. And that’s what you get at the altar of Baal. The altar of Baal takes your blood and it gives nothing.

Sure, everybody is doing it. In the malls, in the halls of power, in the work place, and in the bedrooms. Baal. But he is not god. He can do nothing. This altar will take your everything and leave you with nothing but pain. Thank God that He exposes this through his living Word, through his prophet – through his Son.

Then comes the work of Elijah at the altar of God, at the covenant meeting-place. This is set up to Yahweh’s disadvantage. There’s not much time left in the day. There is lots of water. And just one prophet to pray, just a short prayer at the hour of prayer. But see: the Lord answers emphatically – at the covenantally-designed Israelite altar. The Lord, who is God. The fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust and licked up the water that was in the trench. An all-consuming fire, signifying consuming judgment fire, holy fire which took the ox and the altar and everything. Israel, represented in that twelve-stoned altar, was utterly consumed.

But watching, Israel was entirely spared. Israel came out on the other side of that all-consuming judgment fire alive, confessing God’s name and glory. “The Lord, he is God.” And that is the point. The grace and power, the holiness and justice of God at the altar brings a people falling on their faces before Him, confessing Him.

And ready for blessing – kingdom life. Ready to receive the rain – the poured out Spirit. Nothing deserved, but repentance given. Restoration was given, life from the dead – through the altar. Yes, through Christ Jesus. God’s judgment fell on Him and so God brought a people to Himself on the other side of that altar, the cross.

A people spared the just punishment of God. We are spared the all-consuming judgment fire because God gave one to mediate for us. He gave a greater Elijah who built a last altar, made the supreme intercession, offered the definitive sacrifice, gave a better covenant meeting-place, gave the ultimate in covenant renewal that we may confess and worship Him: the holy, just, and merciful God.

From death to life, in Christ, by the Spirit, through the altar – the cross. And with the Spirit, pouring new life from heaven. Knowing the harm of the altar of Baal, the draining of life, we must come away to this altar, the only life-giving one. Come to Jesus. Who gives his Spirit, pouring rich kingdom life from above.

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