20 So Ahab sent to all the people of Israel and gathered the prophets together at Mount Carmel. 21 And Elijah came near to all the people and said, “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.” And the people did not answer him a word. 22 Then Elijah said to the people, “I, even I only, am left a prophet of the Lord, but Baal’s prophets are 450 men. 23 Let two bulls be given to us, and let them choose one bull for themselves and cut it in pieces and lay it on the wood, but put no fire to it. And I will prepare the other bull and lay it on the wood and put no fire to it. 24 And you call upon the name of your god, and I will call upon the name of the Lord, and the God who answers by fire, he is God.” (I Kings 18: 20-24)
Presently, we are engaged in a study of “Missio Dei” or The Mission of God. This is about how he still sends, still acts, still shows himself to be God, especially when people say he doesn’t exist. Our text for this morning comes from the Old Testament in the book of I Kings.
In this famous text we will be examining the rest of this week, we find one of God’s Prophets acting in a similar fashion to Peter and John, representing God among the unbelievers and religious people. Both Elijah and his counterparts believe their god to be the solution to Israel’s problems. Elijah is supremely confident that there is no god but Yahweh. His experiences in Phoenicia have confirmed to him this truth. Elijah wants to eliminate Baal from consideration whenever Israel decides theological matters.
To achieve this goal Elijah suggests a contest. He says that a sacrifice should be offered and that the real God must come take it by fire. The people like this contest, and the text does not indicate the Baalists object at all. Again, at least the prophets of Baal do not lack conviction. As storm god Baal was thought to be responsible for lightning as well as rain, so this should be an easy contest, right? We will look further at this story tomorrow and see how it progresses but for today, we can see that God has always had people who will make a stand for him in the most difficult of situations.
I just read a post from a face book friend who takes great delight in mocking his idea of what a Christian is, by mentioning all the “idiot” republican political leaders who believe the earth to be only 10,000 years old. Of course he wouldn’t dare entertain the idea that there are a lot of Christians who have no trouble with the earth being a lot older than that, because then he may have to actually engage the issues of Christianity rather than just blow smoke with faux arguments to dismiss the idea of God’s existence altogether.
I believe it’s a good time to discover the boldness God wants us to have to engage the unbelieving world by seeing what God will do as we do so. Believe me, God is up to the challenge, because he loves everybody and wants to show himself to his most antagonistic opponent.