17 Elijah was a human being like us, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. 18 Then he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain and the earth yielded its harvest. (NRSV)
Elijah was a prophet during the reign of King Ahab. Elijah means “Yahweh is my God.” King Ahab and his wife, Jezebel, left God and worshiped Baal and Asherah. God sent Elijah and warned Ahab to repent and come back to God. However, the king did not repent. Not only the king but also the people of Israel continued to worship the idols instead of God. It seemed there was no more hope for Israel.
Even so, God did not give up the sinners and want them to repent and return. God sent Elijah and warned the king that there would be no rain for many years. As Elijah prayed, the rain stopped. The same God calls the sinners to come back to Him today. However, Satan blocks their eyes and ears so that they cannot know God’s love and calling.
Elijah showed up after three and a half years as in the scripture we read. He challenged the king, “Bring the 450 prophets of Baal and the 400 prophets of Asherah to Mount Carmel and have them to set up an altar and pray to your gods. Then, let’s see who sends fire from heaven and burns the sacrifice on the altar. I will set up the same one and let’s see who the real God is.”
King Ahab was confident Baal and Asherah would defeat Elijah by sending file. The king proudly summoned his prophets to compete with Elijah. They appeared with majestic dress and gowns, and great pride. It was 850 vs. 1 match.
By the way, who is Baal? Baal was known as the sun god and the rain god. People in the middle east believed Baal as a fertility god for both people and agriculture because they relied on farming.
Likewise, they also believe Asherah as the moon goddess complementary to Baal. They made sacred poles and trees as Asherah and worshiped as a mother goddess.
When the Israelites returned to the land of Canaan from Egypt, God warned them not to follow their gods. God knew their ritual of prostitution and other detestable things would corrupt people’s mind.
Prophets of Baal and Asherah deceived people to believe in their gods had greater power. However, they knew their manmade gods were powerless. They probably thought God of Israel would be the same false god. Their gods had been there forever even before Abraham moved to the area. Actually, he worshiped those idols until God called him. Then, he rejected them and believed in the Lord only.
Elijah allowed prophets of Baal to start praying first. They were excited and called upon Baal from morning to noon, but there was no answer. Elijah teased them, “Cry aloud. Is he mute, or sleeping? If so, wake him up!” By this, they were very humiliated. They cried even louder and started to cut themselves with swords like giving themselves as the sacrifice.
They tried all day long but could not have their gods to send fire from heaven. At the time, Elijah called the Israelites, who were around and watching the prayer match, and asked them to pour more water onto his altar. Then, he prayed, “O Lord! Answer me so that these people may know you are God and have them turn their hearts back to you.” As he prayed, the fire of the Lord fell from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the wet altar. At this, the people fell down and said, “Your God is true God!”
It is a long story, but it gives us many lessons. I will share three things for today.
1. We must have confidence in the Lord because our God is the true God
We have discussed this at our Thursday Bible class. We agreed, other than Christianity, all gods demand unconditional and ruthless obedience. At this, you may think our God in the Ten Commandments seems to be like that also. It could be true for Jews.
However, as a Christian, we follow Christ. He said, “Love the Lord with all your mind, heart and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.” Amazingly, this Agape love supersedes the Ten Commandments.
We come to God not because God punishes us, but because we response to His love for us. Our God is not ruthless or heartless God, but full of love. He manifested to us as Agape love. He is Jesus Christ, our Lord. Praise the Lord!
If we believe and are confident of His love, our joyful and peaceful heart will reflect it in our life. We can serve and forgive others happily in the name of Jesus. If my priority is to please God, that would be a sign that I am His child.
We cannot have this kind of lifestyle unless we look upon Jesus who loved me and died for me. In other words, we have to give up the ungodly lifestyle of this world and make a firm decision to follow Jesus as my Lord and Savior. In that context, just attending the worship might not be enough to enjoy the true love and joy of Christ.
Pastor Yu Kisung said, “That is why we should not neglect to walk with the Holy Spirit in everyday life because the joy of the Lord does not come naturally. It comes to the people only when they look upon Jesus with a grateful heart. We better check our heart and assure this joy in any circumstance. I can give up everything in this world, but I cannot give up the joy of the Lord in my heart.” Amen!
I pray that all of us would have the same blessing as him.
2. Let’s learn a few lessons from Elijah.
He was a man just like us. However, he proved the intimacy with the Lord made him a prayer warrior. God answered everything he prayed. How could it be possible? Yes. It was possible because:
a. He prayed and communicated with the Lord always and listened to what God told him. At this, I have to confess that I don’t pray like him even though I try to put my priority on prayer always. I want to be like him and continue to walk until I go to His kingdom.
b. He prayed to follow God’s will and obeyed God’s command faithfully so that he could perform many miracles including raising a dead boy and doing things beyond our capability.
When he prayed, there was no rain, and fire came down from heaven. When he prayed again, God sent rain. Baal could not do both even though Baal was the god of sun and rain.
c. Even though he was a man of God, he became an average person who emotionally discouraged and scared when Jezebel put out evil threats on him. He ran away and hid himself. He lost his confidence until God encouraged him to have it back.
d. He was eventually taken up to heaven while his disciple, Elisha, was watching. The resurrected Christ went up to heaven in front of his disciples.
3. The Israelites and their king Ahab deserted the Lord and worshiped Baal and Asherah.
How did they give up God and followed different gods? The most and serious issue was that they did not fully trust God. They heard and learned how God delivered them from Egypt. However, they forgot their learning about God who told them to put the Word of God on their head and wrist and meditate them day and night.
Unfortunately, they followed the gods of the Canaanites. How did it happen? That is because those false gods, Baal, enticed with all kinds of adulterous opportunities and fake holiness by worshiping golden calf and other idols. It gave them earthly pleasure and made them believe earthly richness.
Likewise, it happens in our generation in almost the same way. We can easily follow all kinds of ungodly freedom, which entices us to follow. Post-modernism nullified the Biblical value from our lives. It teaches everything is acceptable as long as the majority of people accept. This kind of social trend and ungodly evil desires are modern Baal and Asherah. Non-believers worship them and even Christians follow them because the trend in the Postmodernism’s trend.
We learned a lesson from Elijah. He was a prayer warrior and performed many miracles. However, he was discouraged when he did not look upon the Lord. Likewise, it may happen to us also. Even so, let’s not give up our faith, hope and love in Christ. Our Lord knows our weakness and strengthens us.
He encourages us, “In the world, you will have tribulation, however, take heart! I have overcome the world.” Amen! Our Lord loves us. We should not worry because the devil cannot harm the children of God. Praise the Lord!