It’s gotta be among the top 5 Bible stories. The odds are perfect for high drama, 450:1. And the tension in the air is palpable. Everyone’s cranky! The king’s cranky because Elijah won’t cut him any slack. The people are cranky ’cause Elijah turned off the rain. And the prophets of Baal are cranky because Elijah keeps talking smack against their god of stone. It’s noon at The O.K. Corral . . . there’s gonna be a showdown . . . ’cause this town ain’t big enough for two gods.
But as many times as I’ve read the account in 1Kings 18, what caught my eye this time is amount of limping going on.
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.
Then Elijah said to the people, “I, even I only, am left a prophet of the LORD, but Baals prophets are 450 men. 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 the LORD, and the God who answers by fire, he is God.”
Then Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, “Choose for yourselves one bull and prepare it first, for you are many, and call upon the name of your god, but put no fire to it.” And they took the bull that was given them, and they prepared it and called upon the name of Baal from morning until noon, saying, “O Baal, answer us!” But there was no voice, and no one answered. And they limped around the altar that they had made.
(1Kings 18:20-26 ESV)
Ok. Is it a coincidence that limping is used both to describe Israel’s wavering between who they’ll worship and also to describe the pathetic posture of the fire-less prophets before their man-made altar to Baal? I’m thinking not. There’s a connection here.
You don’t pick it up in the other translations because they use two different words to translate what is the same word in Hebrew (Strongs #06452 – pacach paw-sakh ; a primitive root; to hop). The fickle followers of Yahweh were hopping back and forth with their allegiance between whichever god they thought could best meet their needs. And the pathetic prophets of Baal were hopping back and forth, from one foot to the other, desperately trying to get even a spark to flare up.
They both limped along. The common denominator? Betting on Baal. Investing in idols. Worshiping wood. Trusting in inanimate things rather than the living God.
And I’m thinking there’s a bit of a lesson here for the people of God. Hang out at the altar of idols and, at best, you’ll limp along. Waver back and forth between bowing before heaven and being buddies with the world, and you’re gonna get seasick. Falter between who to serve, and know that, eventually, you’re gonna fall. Try two-timing God with your worship, and know that it’s going to impact your walk.
So, if the LORD is God, then follow Him. Stop limping between two different opinions.
Jesus was clear, we can’t serve two masters–no one can (Matt. 6:24). Paul too, you can’t drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons (1Cor. 10:21). Quit playing the field when you’ve been betrothed to a glorious Groom (2Cor. 11:2).
And why would we opt for anything but pure devotion to the Savior of our souls?
To hangout before the altar of Baal will never amount to anything more than a limp, a hamstrung life. While the gods of this earth might appeal to our flesh, only the God of heaven promises to regenerate our spirits and transform our lives. While with the Baals there might be found the pleasure of sin for a season, it will do nothing towards investing for eternity.
Stop limping, Elijah says.
Stand fast before the altar of God. And then watch the fire come down!
Because of grace! For His glory!