13 June 2016

1 Kings 18:20-39

"Then the fire of the Lord fell ... and even licked up the water that was in the trench." (v. 38)

Psalm: Psalm 102:1-11


King Ahab's wife Jezebel worshipped the false god Baal. She had brought hundreds of her own priests of Baal over from her own country of Phoenicia to infiltrate the Israelites and had killed nearly all of the Israelite prophets. Her main target now was Elijah.

In today's story Ahab and Elijah meet face to face. It is time for a show down. Elijah challenges Ahab to a contest on Mount Carmel.

All the people gathered on the hillside to witness the confrontation. They saw Elijah alone facing the 450 priests of Baal. Undaunted, Elijah turned to the crowd and reminded them of their fickleness, turning from one god to another as it suited them. He realised that the outcome of the contest would enable the people to decide once and for all who was the living God. Elijah suggested that two altars be built: one for their god, Baal, and one for his. On these altars they prepared burnt offerings but they were not allowed to light the fire. The fire was to be lit by their respective gods. The altars were prepared and a bull slaughtered for the altar of Baal. The people and the priests sang and danced, they chanted and called on Baal, but nothing happened. Elijah made fun of them and urged them to shout louder - perhaps Baal can't hear you? Still nothing happened and eventually Elijah told them to stop. It was now his turn.

Elijah commanded the people to pour water on his altar. They did this until it was absolutely soaked and then Elijah called to God. For a second nothing happened but then the altar burst into flames and the flames even consumed the water that had flooded the altar. The people were overwhelmed as the power of the living God was revealed to them through the flames of fire.

To Ponder

  • If you were a member of the crowd that day, what do you think your reaction would be as Elijah's god caused the altar to catch fire?
  • What are the false gods that need to be challenged today?
  • Where are the flames of the Spirit of Pentecost evident in our world today?

Bible notes author

The Revd Barbara Calvert

Revd Barbara Calvert is a Methodist minister and superintendent of the Bromley Circuit. Before becoming a minister she was an RE teacher, area coordinator for Christian Aid and chaplain to international students in the three universities in Glasgow.