Study 5 THE CHALLENGE ON MOUNT CARMEL
(Scripture Portion: 1 Kings 18: 17-40)
The Holy Spirit has certainly led the writer to give us a vivid and dramatic record of Elijah’s great challenge on Mount Carmel. He is there in the presence of Ahab, the 450 prophets of Baal, 400 prophets of the groves and a company of people from all Israel. The question was: Is Baal the real God? or is Jehovah the true God, and is Elijah His servant? No one present that day was left in any doubt as to the answer to these questions when “the fire of the Lord fell…” (verse 38).
These biblical records are actual history, and in 1 Kings 18:17-40 we read of fact, not fiction. The whole story is intensely dramatic. What a great God we have! Perhaps the most important value of the incident, however, is that it is permanently challenging. The lessons of the incident abide. What are they? Let us answer this question by asking: What is the greatest need in the Church today? Is it for men, money, machinery or methods? No! What did Elijah need? He needed evidence that God was alive and active, so that the people would believe on Him and turn to Him – now read verses 23-24 and 38-39. He needed fire, and that is what we need today – fire, the symbol, evidence and manifestation of God’s presence and power – look up and compare Exodus 3:2; 13:21; 19:18; Leviticus 9:24; 1 Chronicles 21:26; 2 Chronicles 7:1; Isaiah 4:4; Luke 3:16; Acts 2:3-4 and Hebrews 12:29. What we need is the burning, consuming, illuminating and empowering fire of the Holy Spirit to fall upon the work that God has committed to us.
How can we obtain this fire? Verse 38 states – “Then the fire of the Lord fell…” What are the antecedents of this “then”? for it is clear that the fire of God only falls when all His requirements are met. When did it fall? In answering this we shall use an outline suggested by the late Canon Guy H. King.
1. IT WAS WHEN THE ALTAR WAS REPAIRED
Verse 30. The very first thing Elijah did in preparation for the coming of the fire was to repair the altar of the Lord. Idolatry and apostasy had been prevalent for so long that God’s altars had been broken down, and Elijah now engaged in the work of repair. What is the significance of this for us? Surely, that the fire of the Lord only falls, (in the life, the church or the work that He has committed to us to do for Him), when the Lord is given His rightful place. Has the Lord His rightful place in your life and in all you are seeking to do in His name? – look up Colossians 1:18. Who is upon the throne – the Lord Jesus or self? Who is first in your life – a friend, a loved one or the Lord Himself?
2. IT WAS WHEN THE SACRIFICE WAS OFFERED
Verse 33. The sacrifice was a bullock, which Elijah cut up and placed, piece by piece, on the altar. Compare Romans 12:1 and 6:13, and ask yourself: How many of the pieces of my life have I really offered to the Lord upon the altar, and how many of my members are yielded fully to Him “as instruments of righteousness”? What about my hands, feet, eyes, ears, lips, my home, job, pleasures and friendships? Have I yielded all the “pieces” or “members” to Him?
3. IT WAS WHEN THE WATER WAS POURED
Verses 33-35. The pagan priests were notorious for their trickery in deceiving the people with false signs and lying wonders. Elijah was preparing to offset this, so after placing the pieces of sacrifice upon the altar he drenched both altar and sacrifice with water, not only once or twice but three times, until – see verse 35! What things do we substitute for the fire of the Lord? Are we proud of our lovely churches, organs, choirs, dazzling oratory, good collections, etc.? What are any of these without the power of Pentecost?
4. IT WAS WHEN THE PRAYER WAS MADE
Verses 36 and 37. Elijah was a man of prayer; it was the habit of his life. He did not only pray when he was in trouble – look up James 5:16-18. Read verses 36 and 37 several times, and notice when, where and how he prayed. The one all-embracing condition which must be met if God’s fire is to fall is – prayer, more prayer and yet more prayer. If we will really pray, sooner or later the fire will fall – in our lives and in our work for the Lord.
5. THE TESTING THAT HE EXPERIENCED
It has been suggested that there is a change in Elijah’s praying between verses 36 and 37. In verse 36, Elijah prayed for the fire that all might know “that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command”; but in verse 37 the change came. He prayed “so these people will know that you, O Lord, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.” Why do we want the fire of the Lord to fall, to be empowered for service and to be filled with the Holy Spirit? Do we want it for ourselves? It is only when our motive is that God should be glorified and His Name honoured and exalted that the fire of the Lord will fall.
These are the prerequisites to Pentecost, to an outpouring of that consuming fire of the Holy Spirit. Let us pray that throughout our land and around the world the fire of the Lord may fall.
Closing Thought: Isaiah 4:3-5.