That people may know! 1 Kings 18:37

Our culture today is obsessed with winning. Nothing plays more into this than the classic feel-good story where the ending surpasses all expectations that one had at the outset. Many love the story of the underdog who overcame all the odds and emerged victorious. Today’s secular society is so desperate for that story. They’ll take real life events and adjust them with “based on a true story” caveats so that people are sold with its authenticity, all while blurring the lines between fact and fiction, reality and perception. They start out seeking to enthuse, encourage, engage; but very soon lose their footing on the slippery slope of entertainment.

Despite this sensationalist, secular desire of storytelling, humans are still inspired by stories depicting the possibilities of making a difference when no one else has the courage to. God knows that about our hearts and minds. It is at the root of how He communicates to us through His Holy Word, and how His Son communicated to people when he walked the earth – through parables.

One of the most effective collations of factual inspiration that we have at our disposal is the Old Testament, setting out real events that showcase a real God.

Introducing – Elijah, Ahab, and the prophets of Baal

The account of events recorded in 1 Kings 18:16-40 is one of those depictions that showcases an actual “against all odds” story that we need reminding of today. Elijah, incensed by Ahab and his family abandoning God’s commands, challenged the prophets of Baal to a duel. A battle of the “gods” at Mount Carmel.

After 450 prophets could not demonstrate any existence of Baal, despite having home ground advantage, the right to go first, and having occupied most of the day’s play, it was now up to the lone prophet of The Almighty to reveal reality.

While Elijah prepared for his turn, and just before the Lord demonstrates His power and might before the prophets of Baal, Elijah utters these words in 1 Kings 18:37: “Answer me, Lord, answer me, so these people will know that you, Lord, are God…”. Elijah understood what this was about. Do we?

Everything in this story that Elijah seeks to demonstrate is that everything is entirely about God, that He is God, and that He is the only God. To demonstrate this effectively to the people at Mount Carmel Elijah demonstrates three things that we need to remember:

1. God always wins

Elijah, already confident of the Lord’s victory, did not just spring into action the minute the prophets of Baal failed. Instead, he first sets up an impossible scene for those present. He builds an altar with twelve stones to represent the tribes descended from Jacob. He saturates the wood, offering, and altar with water. We’re not talking a light sprinkle of water here – Elijah made sure that water entirely filled the trench around the altar. So confident is Elijah in God’s ability to win that he even makes it interesting for those witnessing to think it’s impossible. But the fire of the Lord consumes the offering. Against all odds.

Elijah does all this, already knowing that when God does reveal Himself on the day there will be no doubt, not even in the minds of the enemy, that He is Lord.  We too need to have this confidence exhibited by Elijah. As John writes in 1 John 5:13, “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.” We have every reason to display Elijah’s confidence when we know that God always wins. It is humbling that our persecuted family often demonstrates this unwavering faith too. They know God always wins, and we should have that same faith – a faith that stirs up a confidence within us to live a life boldly that displays the truth. God always wins.

“Answer me, Lord, answer me, so these people will know that you, Lord, are God…”

2. The enemy is always outnumbered, even when they’re not

Though common sense would dictate that 450 is more than 1, Elijah showcases a confidence here that disregards the size of the opposition. When you understand whose side you are on, and accept the reality of who God is and the truth that He always wins, the size of the enemy will never be a calculation or consideration when deciding to act or not. This was passed well onto Elijah’s successor, Elisha. 

In 2 Kings 6:16 Elisha, without hesitation, assured the servant witnessing the city being surrounded by the King of Aram’s army that, “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” One could forgive the servant if he questioned Elisha’s maths when comparing the two of them against a whole army. But just like Elijah, Elisha knew that there is no one greater than the one true God. No enemy, no obstacle, no trial is greater than God. In understanding this, one also must understand that it is not about whose side God is on, but more about whose side we are on. The story is always entirely about God. He is the main character. The central theme. The opening scene and the end credit. When we surrender to that, we come to understand the power of God in Him always winning and never being outnumbered.

3. Faith pleases God

When you read the account of Elijah’s response in 1 Kings 18 you will find that Elijah does the necessary, but God does the impossible. Elijah acts in faith to prepare the altar, drench the offering and wood, encourage the people, and then lead them in prayer. But it was God who did the impossible. Hebrews 11:1 defines faith for us as being “the confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see”. The author further confirms in Hebrews 11:6 that without faith “it is impossible to please God”. Nothing about Elijah’s actions made sense. They were illogical. Contrary to basic science. Even absurd. This was most assuredly the view that the 450 prophets of Baal had. But for Elijah it was a natural response in serving God. His acts of faith pleased God. There are no doubt times when your actions, in pursuit of serving God, will appear as nonsensical to others. That’s okay. The only thing that really matters is what pleases The One who always wins, who can defeat any enemy, and who is pleased by the faith displayed in those who serve Him.

Through the ministry of Barnabas Aid we have the privilege to participate in these acts of faith as we witness God do the impossible. What a journey and a witness! May you be encouraged by this story of the “underdog” Elijah as he journeyed close to the God who always wins, who is never outnumbered, and who forever will be pleased by our obedience through faith. To Him be the glory.

Noel Frost
Chief Executive Officer (Global), Barnabas Aid

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