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YHWH; The One Who Answers

1 Kings 18:21 "How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If YHWH is God, follow him; but if Ba’al, then follow him."

These words, spoken by the prophet Elijah, call for a showdown between two gods. These words, spoken by the prophet Elijah, call for a showdown between YHWH and Ba’al. These words, spoken by the prophet Elijah, call for a showdown between two different kinds of gods.

Ba’al is the Lord of the Storm. Ba’al is the god who supposedly brings the rain. Ba’al is the god of fertility, of crops, of new life. But it hasn’t rained a drop in Samaria for 3 years because YHWH has spoken it so...

3 years before the showdown...

1 Kings 17:1 Now Elijah the Tishbite, of Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab, "As YHWH the God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word."

For three years Ba’al has not delivered the rain for the crops, for life. The famine is severe. The people are starving when the word of YHWH comes again to Elijah.

1 Kings 18:1-2 After many days the word of the LORD came to Elijah, in the third year, saying, "Go, show yourself to Ahab, and I will send rain upon the earth." So Elijah went to show himself to Ahab. Now the famine was severe in Samaria.

YHWH instructs Elijah to appear before the King of Israel, Ahab. The king is one of the more famous duo of Ahab and Jezebel. YHWH instructs Elijah to call for a showdown.

1 Kings 18:17-20 When Ahab saw Elijah, Ahab said to him, "Is it you, you troubler of Israel?" And he answered, "I have not troubled Israel, but you have, and your father's house, because you have abandoned the commandments of YHWH and followed the Ba’als. Now therefore send and gather all Israel to me at Mount Carmel, and the 450 prophets of Baal and the 400 prophets of Asherah, who eat at Jezebel's table." So Ahab sent to all the people of Israel and gathered the prophets together at Mount Carmel.

On the top of Mount Carmel with everyone gathered for the showdown, we have the challenge for a showdown between two gods.

1 Kings 18:21 "How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If YHWH is God, follow him; but if Ba’al, then follow him."

How long will you go limping between two different kind of Gods? Elijah calls them lame. The Hebrew word Elijah accuses them of is xs;P' pasach. It means lame. What a wonderful metaphor. You are lame. Make up you mind. You can’t just waffle between two gods. Limping between two different, vastly different, gods will not end well for you. Choose who you will follow... “If YHWH is God, follow him; but if Ba’al, then follow him!”

These words, spoken on Mount Carmel, 2,888 years ago, still draw a line for us, today. What kind of god do we serve? Are we going to be lame?

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The showdown continues. Elijah lays down the simple rules.

1 Kings 18:23-24 Let two bulls be given to us and let them choose one bull for themselves and cut it in pieces and lay it on the wood, but put no fire to it. And I will prepare the other bull and lay it on the wood and put no fire to it. And you call upon the name of your god, and I will call upon the name of YHWH, and the God who answers by fire, he is God." And all the people answered, "It is well spoken."

The people are all in... “Let’s have a showdown.”

This is fascinating. Elijah gives the prophets of Ba’al every advantage...

--It is on top of a mountain. The worship of the gods of Canaan were done on the high places. This is the home turf of Ba’al. The prophets get homefield advantage.

--Ba’al is the God of the Storm. If Ba’al can do anything, it is call down lightning. That’s his thing. We will play your game.

--Most of the images of the Ba’al are this guy with an odd pointy hat, but some of the versions look like a bull. We aren’t doing sheep, that is a YHWH thing. We will use a bull. We will use your ball.

--The Ba’al prophets had first pick of the bulls... you take the nicer one. Whichever one, you think, your god would like... first round draft pick.

--They got to go first... We will give you the ball first.

--This was not one on one... this was one on 450

The followers of Ba’al could hardly complain that it wasn’t fair... they had every advantage...home court – first round pick – got the ball first and had 449 more players. You can see why the people said... “It is well spoken.”

So, the showdown began.

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1 Kings 18:26-29 And the 450 prophets of Ba’al took the bull that was given them, and they prepared it and called upon the name of Ba’al from morning until noon, saying, "O Ba’al, answer us!" But there was no voice, and no one answered. And they limped around the altar that they had made. And at noon Elijah mocked them, saying, "Cry aloud, for he is a god. Either he is musing, or he is relieving himself, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened." And they cried aloud and cut themselves after their custom with swords and lances, until the blood gushed out upon them. And as midday passed, they raved on until the time of the offering of the oblation, but there was no voice. No one answered; no one paid attention.

The trash-talking began. Elijah is a pretty good trash talker...

--"Cry louder your god is hard of hearing... Get your god a hearing aide.”

--"Maybe your god is daydreaming... Do something to get his attention.”

--"Don’t bother Ba’al. He is using the bathroom. It takes him all morning.”

--“Sorry, bad time for you. Your god is on vacation”

Elijah’s trash-talking infuriates the prophets. They began to do a lame dance. We have our lame word again. “If you could dance better, maybe Ba’al would answer. Then the 450 prophets began to cut themselves until blood was gushing everywhere. They used swords and lances... these are serious weapons... blood is flying everywhere.

This is an insight into the kind of god Ba’al was...

--Ba’al was a god to be manipulated. Enough blood and their god could be persuaded to help them.

-- Ba’al was a god who wanted to be appeased. More blood. More sacrifice.

-- Ba’al was a god who granted wishes based upon how loud his servants were.

-- Ba’al wanted frenzied worshippers.

Note carefully what is said... No one answered! This is the key to the different kinds of Gods.

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But, then, it was Elijah’s turn. It was late in the afternoon, after the prophets had been at it for hours. Watch what Elijah did...

1 Kings 18:30-35 Then Elijah said to all the people, "Come near to me." So all the people came near to him. And he repaired the altar of the LORD which had been torn down. Elijah took twelve stones according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, to whom the word of the LORD had come, saying, "Israel shall be your name." So with the stones he built an altar in the name of the LORD, and he made a trench around the altar, large enough to hold two measures of seed. Then he arranged the wood and cut the ox in pieces and laid it on the wood. And he said, "Fill four pitchers with water and pour it on the burnt offering and on the wood." And he said, "Do it a second time," and they did it a second time. And he said, "Do it a third time," and they did it a third time. The water flowed around the altar and he also filled the trench with water.

Seriously, the people came near to make sure there was no trick; no secret burning embers snuck under in the altar beforehand. No way it was a magic trick. Then to make triplely sure, the altar was doused with water.

Everyone there... King Ahab, 450 prophets of Ba’al, all the people of Israel, all held their breath as Elijah prayed...

1 Kings 18:36-39 At the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, Elijah the prophet came near and said, "O YHWH, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, today let it be known that You are God in Israel and that I am Your servant and I have done all these things at Your word. Answer me, O LORD, answer me, that this people may know that You, O YHWH, are God, and that You have turned their heart back again." Then the fire of YHWH 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. When all the people saw it, they fell on their faces; and they said, "YHWH, He is God; YHWH, He is God."

The people, in that moment, give the right answer! "YHWH, He is God; YHWH, He is God."

The showdown is over. Elijah and more importantly, his God; YHWHW are victorious.

Answer me, O LORD, answer me!” YHWH is the God who answers!

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Then just to double-dog win the showdown, to show who controls the storms...

1 Kings 18:43-46 Elijah went up to the top of Mount Carmel. And he bowed himself down on the earth and put his face between his knees. And he said to his servant, "Go up now, look toward the sea." And he went up and looked and said, "There is nothing." And he said, "Go again," seven times. And at the seventh time he said, "Behold, a little cloud like a man's hand is rising from the sea." And he said, "Go up, say to Ahab, 'Prepare your chariot and go down, lest the rain stop you.'" And in a little while the heavens grew black with clouds and wind, and there was a great rain. And Ahab rode and went to Jezreel. And the hand of the LORD was on Elijah, and he gathered up his garment and ran before Ahab to the entrance of Jezreel.

Just to show YHWH is the God of the storms... it begins to rain! YHWH answers Elijah prayer and the rains come; great rain!

YHWH; the God who answers!

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Let’s think about the take away for us from this showdown between YHWH and Ba’al. The major take away has to be the point of the showdown. YHWH is God. YHWH is the only god. All this worship of idols is ridiculous. All the worship of the Ba’als is destructive. Worship YHWH only... that is the take away.

But, I think, there is a subtler take away here that might help us to understand our God a little deeper. It involves who YHWH is. It involves how YHWH interacts with us. It involves his attitude toward us.

Notice the differences in the 450 prophets approach to their god and Elijah’s simple prayer to YHWH.

They cried aloud and cut themselves after their custom with swords and lances, until the blood gushed out upon them. They raved on for hours. The relationship between Ba’al and his worshippers was of a fickle god and manipulative beggars. The 450 prophets thought with enough time, enough volume, enough lame dancing, enough prophets, enough blood, enough words... they could persuade Ba’al to do their will.

Now listen again to Elijah’s prayer... It only lasts 20 seconds...

"O YHWH, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, today let it be known that You are God in Israel and that I am Your servant and I have done all these things at Your word. Answer me, O LORD, answer me, that this people may know that You, O YHWH, are God, and that You have turned their heart back again."

Wow... not hours of violent gyrations... only 20 seconds of sincere prayer.

Notice, YWHW is a God of relationships...Abraham, Isaac and Israel... Elijah is an obedient servant... that is a completely different relationship than manipulative beggars. The motive is be the God who wants to turn the peoples’ hearts back again!

YHWH is completely different god than Ba’al... YHWH wants our hearts. YHWH wants a relationship. YHWH wants to elevate us to know that we are precious in his sight.

I think this insight is amazing. Elijah is not only winning a showdown, Elijah is revealing to his people and to us the nature of a LOVING GOD! Our God has always wanted a people who place their faith solely in Him; who trust Him for the rain; who trust him for life. YHWH has never been interested in being manipulated, or appeased, or begged. YHWH is the God who answers...

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On another Mountain, 870 or so, years after Mount Carmel, Jesus spoke about YHWH as the God who answers...

Matthew 6:6-8 "But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.”

Matthew 7:7-8 "Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.”

2,888 years ago, Elijah won a showdown to turn the people’s hearts back to YHWH. Let’s keep our hearts turned toward the God who answers.


Tim Stidham

April 29, 2017

Los Alamos Church of Christ



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