Dr. Ed Young - Showers of Blessing
In the 8th century B.C., there's a man named Elijah who lived 800 or 900 years before Christ. On the throne of Israel was a pagan king named Ahab, and everybody knows the name of his wife, Jezebel. But with the rule of Ahab and Jezebel, we have something that had never taken place in Israel before. Now, paganism was institutionalized in the government, and the brought into the palace 850 prophets, pagan prophets, 400 prophets of Baal, 450 prophets of Ashtaroth. And now, suddenly, the worship of the real God, Jehovah God, was out of place, unacceptable, and Ahab lead to the killing of those who followed the real God, and we know there were 6,000 or 7,000 of those who believed in him hiding in caves in fear of their life.
And that's the situation, and, by the way, it's becoming more and more like that without the absolute murder of those, but in our 21st century, you can talk about any religion, faith, cult, name, god. You can deal with anything in the world in public life, but if you get on television or radio and any kind of secular standing and you say one word is absolutely prohibited, and that's the word "Jesus". That's the way it was in the 8th century. And in this situation, we have Elijah, unlikely prophet, last man standing. He came from nowhere and was a nobody, and God said to Elijah, "Go show yourself to Ahab and pronounce judgement on him, and say, 'It will not rain until I give my word.'"
And so, we know that after Elijah's public pronouncement, God said to his prophet, "Go hide yourself. Go show yourself, pronounce this judgement, now go hide yourself. Go to Cherith," and we saw Elijah there, hiding in the backside of nowhere in Transjordan, and he was fed supernaturally by birds, and he had fresh water from a brook. And then, in the middle of that experience, what happened? The brook dried up, and then God said to Elijah, "Go to Zarephath," and he goes to a widow there, and she was dirt poor. And it's one thing to go and let someone who has means look after you and take care of you, but it's humiliating to go to someone who has less than you have.
That's what happened to Elijah. But then you had the supernatural reproduction of flour and oil, day after day, just enough for that day. Then we have the resurrection of the son, the widow's son, there in the house, and so, he stayed there some two years in hiding. And then, finally, he showed himself, he pronounced the judgement, he went in hiding for those three years, and now God says, "Elijah, show yourself. Go back to Ahab". And this is where we pick up this dramatic, powerful story. Look at 1 Kings chapter 18 verse 1. "Now it happened after many days that the word of the Lord came to Elijah in the third year, saying, 'Go show yourself to Ahab, and I will send rain on the face of the earth.'" That's something, isn't it?
After 3 years, rain, 3 1/2 years, rain, and then, look what happens in verse 17 when Ahab sees Elijah. "When Ahab saw Elijah, Ahab said to him, 'Is this you, you troubler of Israel?'" The word "troubler" there means snake. He said, "You snake in the grass. You're the one who's brought this drought upon Israel, and now you come and face me again. Three and a half years it hasn't rained, you snake in the grass". That's how the king addresses Elijah. Look how Elijah responds. "He said, 'I have not troubled Israel, but you and your father's house have because you have forsaken the commandments of the Lord and have followed the Baals. Now then, send and gather to me all Israel at Mount Carmel, together with 450 prophets of Baal, 400 prophets of the Asherah who eat at Jezebel's table.'" He said to the king, "Go and have a national holiday and invite all the prophets of Baal and Asherah up there. Invite all the people of the land".
Now, this is what really is amazing to me is verse 20. "So, Ahab sent a messenger among all the sons of Israel and brought the prophets together at Mount Carmel". He did that which Elijah commanded, why, why? First of all, he was afraid of Elijah. Herod was afraid of John the Baptist. He was the king, John the Baptist, you know, desert preacher, why? Governor Felix was afraid of Paul, and Paul was in his prison, why? Ahab was afraid of Elijah, why? You see, when a man or a woman is clean, and right, and pure before the Living God, and has no ulterior motives, and they stand up, and they speak the truth of God, there's a fear that comes in the life of those who are godless.
There's a second reason why the king did this. The land desperately needed rain. Here was a kingdom that was going out of business. The whole issue was rain, and we've gotta have rain, and so, this is the guy who stopped the rain and closed the windows of heaven, now he's back and whatever it happens on Mount Carmel, maybe he will open the windows of heaven and we can have the refreshing rain to come an replenish our land. So, he agreed, and I have stood on Carmel many times and imagined people coming from all over the ten tribes. This was a northern kingdom, all people, I imagine thousands would have come, and they'd gathered on the slopes all around that mountain.
There were three groups on that mountain. First of all, there was the people and then there was, well, we'll let the orchestra stand for, they can stand for all the prophets of Baal. There were about 850 of 'em, Baal and Asherah. They would have been magnificently dressed, and around their neck, they would have had a piece of steel. You see, this was the fire god, and can you imagine 850 appearing on the mountain along with Ahab and all of his splendid robes carried there by all of his servants? And they'd have these pieces of steel around their neck, early in the morning, the sun would catch that steel, 850.
What a light show it would have been, you see it? A light show, 850 men here and all their servants with pieces of metal around their neck. Light going out, they were there. All the people were there, and then that solitary figure, Elijah was there. I imagine the people sort of felt sorry for him, said, "Look at him, yeah, he's representing that old-fashioned God, Jehovah, Yahweh, you know, look at him". They felt sorry for him. They didn't have to feel sorry for Elijah.
Let me tell you something, Shekinah was in his life and the angels was mentors to his servant as he spoke a word of truth. Outnumbered, absolutely, but let me tell you something, God plus one in any situation is always a majority, always a majority. So, we have the battle, the showdown, the Super Bowl, O.K. Corral revisited, a battle of the gods, and look how it opens. "Elijah came near to all the people and said, 'How long will you hesitate between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him, if Baal, follow him,' but the people did not answer a word". Isn't that typical? All the people were saying, "Hey, you know, we don't see a lot of difference in Baal and we don't see a lot of difference in Jehovah. We've got all these gods, we just want it to rain. We gotta have rain".
So, they didn't say a word. Clear choice, wasn't it? "How long halt ye between two opinions"? God or Baal, God or Baal, does anybody not understand that? Very clear, and then here we have the proposal that Elijah, this is the battle. Now, verse 23, "Then Elijah said to the people, 'I alone am left, a prophet of the Lord, and Baal's prophets are 450 men.'" Verse 23, "Now, let them choose two oxen. Let them choose one ox for themselves, cut it up, place it on the wood, but put no fire under it. And I will prepare the other ox and lay it on the wood, and I will put fire under it. Then you call on the name of your god and I will call on the name of the Lord, and the God who answers by fire, he is God.' And the people said, 'That is a good idea.'"
And now we have the battle. You know what the battle is over? The battle is over worship, it really is. We have worship of Baal, we have worship of the real God. The battle is always over worship. Show me your altar. Show me that which in your life controls you. Show me the Baal's in your life. You say, "Oh, well, I don't have any Baal's in my life". Sure, you do. Anything or anybody we put in the place of the centrality of our lives other than the living God, that is a Baal. It can be your wife, your husband, your children, your job, your vocation, your reputation, some skill that you may have in a hobby or an advocation, that can become Baal. Anything that I put in the central part of my life where God only belongs, that becomes a Baal. That becomes a Baal.
So, we've got these Baals, and we see they begin to worship Baal, the fire god with all the flashing around, and look what happens. Verse 25, "So, Elijah said to the prophets, 'Choose one ox for yourselves and measure it first, for you are many, and call on the name of your god, and put no fire under it.' Then they took the ox which was given them and they prepared it and called on the name of Baal from morning until noon, saying, 'O Baal, answer us.'" And by the way, they must have said, "Hey, we've got the advantage. Our god is the god of the sun," all the reflection, "He's the fire god, and we're going first".
Home court advantage, look, "From morning 'til noon, 'O Baal, answer us,' but there was no voice, and no one answered. And they leaped about they altar which they had made". Verse 27, "It came about at noon that Elijah mocked them and said, 'Call out in a loud voice, for he is a god. Either he is occupied or gone aside or on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and needs to be awakened.'" By the way, the phrase there, "gone aside," poor translation. You know what it really says? Elijah is saying to them, "Maybe your god has made a pit stop in the celestial restroom". That's literally what it means in the Hebrew, I promise you that. The translators just cleaned it up a little bit for us, so we'd be able to handle it.
And you see, he was saying, "Shout louder, maybe he's on a trip, maybe he's preoccupied, maybe he's, you know, doing something else, shout louder". And the amazing things is, those pagan prophets didn't see how Elijah was belittling their god, seeing how human, how trivial, how silly their god really was. You see, that's the underpinning of this, because they begin to do what Elijah suggested, it's astounding. Verse 28, "So, they cried with a loud voice and cut themselves according to their custom with swords and lances until the blood gushed out of them. When midday was past, they raved until the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice," three o'clock in the afternoon. "But there was no voice, no one answered," and get this, "And no one paid attention".
Man, this was... there's no business like show business. Man, this is a super rock concert. Led Zeppelin ain't never seen anything like this. I mean, it is out, it goes on, and on, and on, and on with gyrations, and shouts, and moanings, and confessions, and flips, and acrobatics, and bleeding, and sighing, and everything went on. I mean, you can imagine, and it went on for about seven or eight hours. And finally, no one paid attention. Can't you see 850 of 'em just sort of, "Pfft," spend, out, exhausted? But one thing had been established, Baal's not god, right? People saw that.
Look at the contrast of Jehovah worship, verse 38. "Then Elijah said to all the people, 'Come near to me,' so all the people came near to him and he prepared the altar of the Lord which had been torn down". Verse 31, "Elijah took 12 stones according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Israel, to whom the word of the Lord had come, saying, 'Israel shall be your name.'" Verse 32, "So, with the stones, he built an altar in the name of the Lord, and he made a trench around the altar large enough to hold two measures of seed. Then he arranged the wood and cut the ox in pieces and laid it on the wood".
Verse 34, "And he said, 'Fill four pitchers,'" literally it's barrels, "With water, and pour it on the burnt offering and on the wood, and he said, 'Do it a second time,' and the did it a second time. And he said, 'Do it a third time,' and they did it a third time, and the water flowed around the altar and it also filled the trench with water". Somebody said, "Now, wait a minute, you mean there was a drought, they didn't have any water? People were starving to death, people were dying from thirst and a lack of food, and now they take full barrels of water, three different times, and fill up this trench? Oh, you see the inconsistency in the Bible"?
Wait a minute, where is Carmel? On the Mediterranean. This wasn't fresh water, it was salt water, and it took a while for people to go down, but they brought it back up, and boy scout 101 will teach you, you put out a fire with fresh water, that's fine, you put it out with salt water and it is out. Salt water, not drinking water. Thought you had me, didn't you? Verse 36, "At the time of the offering, they evening sacrifice, Elijah the prophet came near and said, 'O Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel,'" you see, he's making the Lord who made a contract with Abraham, the Lord who had a compact with Isaac, the Lord of God who had an agreement with Israel.
See, he's bringing back the covenant to their mind as to who they are and where they come from. He said, "Today, let it be known for you are God in Israel that I am your servant and I have done all these things at your word," and he prays, "Answer me, O Lord, answer me that this people may know that you, O God, are God, and that you have turned their heart back again". You have got back in a covenant relationship with the living God, that was his prayer. Oh, and look at what happened. "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. When all the people saw it, they fell on their faces and they said, 'The Lord, he is God, the Lord, he is God.'"
Now, in the beginning, Elijah said, "Choose God or choose Baal," the people didn't answer a word. Now, the fire fell and consumed the stones, the sacrifice, the water, everything in the area. Lightening came down, and now the said, flat on their faces, "The Lord, he is God. The Lord, he is God". And then, look at the follow through to this, it's the most important part of the Scripture, and I missed it for many years. Verse 40, "Then Elijah said to them, 'Seize the prophets of Baal. Do not let one of them escape.' So, the seized them and Elijah brought them down to the brook Kishon," remember, at the foot of the mountain, "And slew them there". Uh-oh, somebody said, "Well, this is Old Testament, the people grabbed all those 850 phony prophets, took them down the mountain, and Elijah took a sword and killed every one of them. See how bloody and brutal the Old Testament is"?
Let me tell you something, in Old Testament law, extant in this day, those guilty of idolatry was punished by death. They were punished by death, okay. These 850 were demonic people. They had led people down paths that led them straight into the pit, and the sin dealt with radically is sin dealt with effectively. You don't just say, "Lord, forgive me of this sin. Lord, just..." let me tell you, sin in your life has to be killed. That Baal in your life, man, my Baal may be pleasure, your Baal might be applause, all these Baals in our life, we can't say, "Lord, I see that little Baal, I'm giving it priority, that hobby I have, that goal that I have, that relationship I have," oh, no, you don't just get rid of those easily, you have to take those Baals that are now in the central part of your life and my life, and we have to give 'em to the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit has to kill them.
You have to kill these Baals. They don't go away easily. Sin dealt with effectively is sin dealt with radically. And that is what you see here with these demonic people. By the way, you can go to the top of Mount Carmel, I didn't do that the last few times I was there. There's a statue of Elijah standing there to this day. In his hand, there is a sword, there's a sword. So, look what happened, and then following this, we have a scene even stranger than that which we've looked at. Verse 41, "Now, Elijah said to Ahab, 'Go up and eat and drink,'" he knew that's all Ahab could handle. He didn't understand spiritual things. "Go up, eat and drink, Ahab," that's the king. "For there is the sound of a roar of a heavy shower". Elijah says, "There's the sound of the roar of a heavy shower".
Nobody heard it but Elijah. The king didn't hear it, the people didn't hear it, he's the only one that heard it. The closer you get to God, the more you'll hear his softest whisper, the closer you get to God. And this was Elijah's faith. What does Hebrews 1 tell us? "Faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen". He heard raindrops. Nobody else heard them. And then look what happened. Latter part of verse 42, "He crouched down on the earth and put his face between his knees". Look what he did. He got in a fetal position, Elijah. He's not on top of the mountain. All the people are celebrating, answered by fire, they're going down off the mountain now. He's not high-fiving, "Boy, we showed them, what a victory today, three cheers".
Elijah's on top of the mountain, his head is down, his head is in his knees, in his hands, he is praying. What's going on here? He's praying on top of Mount Carmel, fetal position. He tells his servant, "Go out to the Mediterranean, see if you see any sign of rain". The man goes out, comes back, he said, "Not a sign of rain". He's still praying, "Go look again". "Nothing," "Go look again". "Nothing", "Go look again". "Nothing", "Go look again". "Nothing", "Go look again". "Nothing", "Go look again". "Nothing," and seven times he looked over the Mediterranean, not a cloud in the sky. Elijah's praying, then the seventh time, Elijah said, "Go and look," and the man said, "Way in the distance over the Mediterranean, I see a cloud like a little hand". And Elijah said, "We better get off this mountain, there's gonna be showers, and showers of blessing coming down over the land".
Can you imagine the people walking down the mountain? They're walking down, man, they're odd, they'd seen fire from heaven, and then, all of a sudden, they think, "Where's the rain"? And then, it begins to sprinkle and it begins to rain. And they know they're worshiping the real God now. They're back in relationship with him. The covenant has been reestablished, and it's raining. The windows of heaven is open, and it's raining. Can't you imagine the excitement of the people as they went down that mountain? Does anybody here need some showers of blessing on your life? Anybody here need a shower of blessing? Sure we do. How does it come? Exactly the way it happened on Mount Carmel, exactly the way.
There's repentance, there's confession, we begin to live a life of obedience, living one day at a time, totally dependent upon him, and we confess our sin, we turn from our sin, there's restitution, and we get back into a covenant relationship with God in Jesus Christ, and look out, there's showers of blessing coming on that life. Not before, but after. So, the choice is clear today for us as it was for the people in that day, and it's this. It's a cold, clear choice, choose Christ and go to heaven, beginning right now. Choose Baal and go to hell, beginning right now. That is always the choice.