It really wasn’t about wicked king Ahab or his prophets of Baal. Nor was it about a showdown on Mt. Carmel. It wasn’t even about fire from heaven. As I’m reading 1Kings 18 this morning, I’m reminded it was about God’s people. God had determined to show Himself powerful . . . God had determined to show Himself preeminent . . . for the sake of a people who were limping along.
And [Elijah] answered (Ahab), “I have not troubled Israel, but you have, and your fathers house, because you have abandoned the commandments of the LORD and followed the Baals. 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 Jezebels table.” So Ahab sent to all the people of Israel and gathered the prophets together at Mount Carmel. And Elijah came near to all the people and said, “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.” And the people did not answer him a word.
(1Kings 18:18-21 ESV)
Oh the lengths to which God would go to call back the hearts of a people who were “limping between two different options.” Like a kid going down the street with one foot on the curb and one foot on the road, never really in balance. Like a lame man who, while seeming to make progress, is always encumbered by an inability to walk properly. In fact, the people’s attempt to walk both sides of the fence was pictured in the futility of the actions of the prophets of Baal who were also stumbling about as “they limped around the altar that they had made” (18:26).
The futility of the prophets of Baal before their sacrifice was a reflection of those who tried to have “the best” of both worlds. Though Baal was a god who could claim a place in the hearts of people, just as the God of Israel could, Baal was a god without voice, one incapable of answering (18:26). No matter how much they cried aloud . . . no matter how much they cut themselves and offered their own blood for this poor excuse of a god . . . no matter how much they raved and limped along . . . “there was no voice. No one answered; no one paid attention” (18:29).
Stupid to sacrifice to such a god . . . dumb to waste a good bull . . . crazy to offer your blood to some composition of earthly materials. But that was one “opinion.” That’s one world to put a foot in so that you don’t risk missing out just in case the god does answer. But as long as there’s a foot in that world . . . it will always result in nothing more than limping along.
How much do we, as God’s people today, limp along in similar fashion? When we look at how we set our priorities and invest our time, what does it say about the “gods” that we are looking to, in addition to the God of heaven, in order to find happiness, fulfillment, or satisfaction. What sacrifices are we offering? What kind of crazy dance are we performing? How much blood are we pouring out in the futile attempt to hear some voice that validates our lives and makes us feel good. If the people of Israel teach us anything it’s that, at the very best, to try and follow the God of creation as well as the creations we make gods, it’s nothing more than just limping along.
Instead, what about wholeheartedly seeking and following the God who sacrificed for us? . . . the God who called out to us? . . . the God who shed His blood for us? . . . the God who made Himself known from heaven for us? That’s solid ground . . . when it’s not about how much we sacrifice and dance around, but all about a God who, motivated by eternal love and because of overflowing grace, showed Himself from heaven . . . not in some blaze of fire, but through the cross of Calvary.
For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. (Galatians 5:1 ESV)
No more “two opinions” . . . “The LORD, He is God; the LORD, He is God” (18:39).
No more limping along . . . by the grace of God . . . for the glory of God.