A longer than normal post this morning. Re-working some thoughts from 2009 on today’s readings . . .
Talk about your high drama and suspense! They had been at it for hours. The 450 prophets of Baal and the 400 prophets of Asherah had tried everything. They had called on Baal for hours. They had jumped around, they had screamed at the top of their lungs, they had even cut themselves until their blood was freely flowing. But nothing, nada, not a single spark so much as appeared anywhere near the sacrifice. Elijah’s challenge rang in their ears, “Call upon the name of your god, and I will call upon the name of the LORD, and the God who answers by fire, he is God.” But nothing, not so much as a puff of smoke. And then, it was Elijah’s turn.
“Come near to me,” he says to the people. They draw near and watch carefully. Elijah takes twelve stones and builds his altar. He digs a trench around it–a moat for water. He places the wood on the altar and then slices and dices the sacrifice and arranges it over the wood. And then he gets some in the crowd to pour four large containers of water over the would be bonfire. And then has them do it a second time . . . and then a third time. Everything is soaked, everything is dripping with water. The flesh of sacrifice, the wood intended to fuel the fire, the altar of rocks, and everything around it . . . soaked!
And Elijah calls out to his God. And the crowd takes a breath. And the response is dramatic.
“Answer me, O LORD, answer me, that this people may know that You, O LORD, are God, and that You have turned their hearts back.” Then 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.
(1Kings 18:37-38 ESV)
Man, wouldn’t that have been something to see?
So what was the point of it all? It was an attention getter. Ya’ think? And the intention of getting their attention was that they would get off the fence.
How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.
(1Kings 18:21 ESV)
Pretty simple, pretty straight up. Quit limping along on two uneven paths. Pick a side and get in the game. That’s what it was all about. When Elijah prayed to the Lord his objective was pretty clear, “Let it be known this day that You are God in Israel” (v.36). That’s what the showdown was about. Proving Baal nothing more than a chunk of wood was secondary, the primary purpose was to get the people off the fence, to turn their hearts back to the Lord, to remind them who is God.
And I guess sometimes we as God’s people need those wake up calls. Need to get reminded . . . need to get refocused . . . need to get revived. I experienced a little bit of that this morning after reading 1Kings 18. It came as I read in Ephesians 5.
No great showdown in Paul’s letter. No fire from heaven. But something just as dramatic, just as attention grabbing, just as revival invoking, just as much a demonstration of the power of God, just as convincing that He is Lord!!! Paul called it a great mystery!
“Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.
(Ephesians 5:31-32 ESV)
More than just two becoming one flesh, marriage is a divine mystery and a divine reminder. An over the top object lesson of the oneness made possible between the Savior and the sinner. Beyond the fact that He is the Savior of the body (5:23) . . . that He loved the church and gave Himself for her (5:25) . . . that He will sanctify her, cleanse her, and present to Himself a glorious church holy and without blemish (5:26-27) . . . that He nourishes and cares for the church (5:29), beyond all this is the mystery that we are as His own flesh and bone. Members of His body. Shouldn’t that send us facedown?
I don’t need fire from heaven consuming some water-drenched altar to be reminded He is God. Rather, behold the mystery!
No need for some cosmic showdown with principalities to turn my heart back toward devotion to Christ. Just a few minutes considering again the wonder of the relationship I’ve been brought into should get me off any fence upon which I’m sitting. Should be enough to correct the limping and restore me to walking.
Oh, the wonder of the mystery of life in Christ. Oh, the love of God which has betrothed His Son to the church and the church to His Son. Oh, the power of God to redeem, resurrect, reconcile, and bring into relationship those who were once dead in sin. How can I not respond, as did the people before Elijah’s burned up altar, by falling on my face, and with a heart turned towards Him alone, declare, “The LORD, He is God! The LORD, He is God!”
All because of grace. All for God’s glory.