You will need a rope and something very heavy and strong, preferably a fixture such as a font. Secretly, if possible, tie one end of the rope to the immovable object.
Ask for teams for a tug-of-war and have all the volunteers on one end of the rope. Then have one small child on the other end of the rope. This is like the battle between the 450 prophets of Baal with all their yelling and raving, and Elijah with his quiet prayer.
Start the tug-of-war. Surprisingly, the small child will easily hold off the team on the other end. (A bit of taunting would not go amiss here.) Why? Because she has something immensely strong behind her. Elijah had a far greater power behind him that the prophets of Baal could ever imagine.
The fire hats are also great for this story, if you have not used them at Pentecost.
Did you know that the Bible does pantomime? Oh yes it does!
The middle section of today’s long reading is pure panto, so please don’t miss it out – it’s one of the funniest parts of the whole Bible!
For my non-British readers, pantomime is a traditional Christmas entertainment full of slap-stick humour, appalling jokes and plenty of audience participation such as, “He’s behind you!” “Oh no he isn’t!” “Oh yes he is!” And the Principle Boy is a girl. And the Dame is a man. Preferably with a beard. Weird? Brit.
What do we learn about God from this fabulous episode? The first is that it’s OK for God’s people to have a sense of humour. Perhaps he’s sitting on the toilet? Love it! We don’t have to have a personality-ectomy when we become Christians any more than we have to have a brain-ectomy. (As an academic I passionately believe that faith is not opposed to rational thought. My Lord is intellectually credible and can cope quite happily with being examined rationally.)
The second thing is that it’s OK for God’s people to be down sometimes too. There’s just a tiny hint in verse 22. Later on Elijah has a bit of a melt-down about this, and in chapter 19 he is so down that he wants to die. And God understands. He doesn’t tell him to snap out of it, or point to the great victory he has just won. God feeds him, listens to him, reassures him and sends him off with a new goal.
The third thing we learn is that you don’t mess with the Lord Almighty, maker of heaven and earth. This is your full-blown, honest-to-goodness, 1000 gigaWatts of power, divine thunderbolt. If you’re a Back to the Future fan, by the way Doc Emmett Brown underestimated by a factor of 1000! Seems the prophets of Baal made the same mistake.
I find it interesting where the fire from heaven struck, and when. It struck the altar at the time of the usual evening service. (This is not an excuse for missing the 6:30 next Sunday.) God could have turned the pagan prophets to a pile of ashes. He could have toasted wicked king Ahab and his notorious wife Jezebel. But he didn’t. He answered Elijah’s prayer with an awesome display of power which was, for him, just the flexing of a pinkie.
I have a friend who is a black belt in Karate, 3rd dan. You’d never know it. He’s a sweet guy, gently spoken and funny. He doesn’t act macho. He doesn’t need to. Neither does God.
But disrespect him at your peril.
It is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God. Heb 10:31
It is good to know God as our Father and to revel in the joy of adoption into his family, but let us also give God his due reverence. He is not to be trifled with or kept as a pet, brought out for a walk on Sundays. He is Lord of all, or not Lord at all.
In Elijah’s words, “How long are you going to waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him!”
May my life be lived to your glory so that so ‘these people will know that you are God’.
1 Kings 18:20-21, (22-29), 30-39 Living Bible
So Ahab summoned all the people and the prophets to Mount Carmel.
Then Elijah talked to them. “How long are you going to waver between two opinions?” he asked the people. “If the Lord is God, follow him! But if Baal is God, then follow him!”
[Then Elijah spoke again. “I am the only prophet of the Lord who is left,” he told them, “but Baal has 450 prophets. Now bring two young bulls. The prophets of Baal may choose whichever one they wish and cut it into pieces and lay it on the wood of their altar, but without putting any fire under the wood; and I will prepare the other young bull and lay it on the wood on the Lord’s altar, with no fire under it. Then pray to your god, and I will pray to the Lord; and the god who answers by sending fire to light the wood is the true God!” And all the people agreed to this test.
Then Elijah turned to the prophets of Baal. “You first,” he said, “for there are many of you; choose one of the bulls and prepare it and call to your god; but don’t put any fire under the wood.”
So they prepared one of the young bulls and placed it on the altar; and they called to Baal all morning, shouting, “O Baal, hear us!” But there was no reply of any kind. Then they began to dance around the altar. About noontime, Elijah began mocking them.
“You’ll have to shout louder than that,” he scoffed, “to catch the attention of your god! Perhaps he is talking to someone, or is out sitting on the toilet, or maybe he is away on a trip, or is asleep and needs to be wakened!”
So they shouted louder and, as was their custom, cut themselves with knives and swords until the blood gushed out. They raved all afternoon until the time of the evening sacrifice, but there was no reply, no voice, no answer.]
Then Elijah called to the people, “Come over here.”
And they all crowded around him as he repaired the altar of the Lord that had been torn down. He took twelve stones, one to represent each of the tribes of Israel, and used the stones to rebuild the Lord’s altar. Then he dug a trench about three feet wide around the altar. He piled wood upon the altar and cut the young bull into pieces and laid the pieces on the wood.
“Fill four barrels with water,” he said, “and pour the water over the carcass and the wood.”
After they had done this he said, “Do it again.” And they did.
“Now, do it once more!” And they did; and the water ran off the altar and filled the trench.
At the customary time for offering the evening sacrifice, Elijah walked up to the altar and prayed, “O Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, prove today that you are the God of Israel and that I am your servant; prove that I have done all this at your command. O Lord, answer me! Answer me so these people will know that you are God and that you have brought them back to yourself.”
Then, suddenly, fire flashed down from heaven and burned up the young bull, the wood, the stones, the dust, and even evaporated all the water in the ditch!
And when the people saw it, they fell to their faces upon the ground shouting, “Jehovah is God! Jehovah is God!”
Living Bible (TLB)
The Living Bible copyright © 1971 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.