I recently learned that someone had reused one of my chapel devotions from MVL. It got me thinking about my stored material from over the years. Just like I have posted photos from old sketchbooks, I'll try posting full texts from some of my devotions. I pray that God works through these words to give you what you need.
Have you read this? This bit of history, this duel. Can you imagine being there. Everyone was there. The king and queen, all the people in the land turned out for this showdown. They brought their families, young and old, they packed some food and water for the trip. There must have been some talk about the duel. No doubt there were some bets placed. It was one outlaw versus 850 of the king's men. One man confidently challenged the odds. It was at his suggestion that this was all happening. He was going to settle a misunderstanding. He was going to be convincing. Something had to be done.
So everyone showed up. The One man proposed some rules to this challenge. This was to be a fair match. Both sides would have a chance. Both would hail their god to start a fire to burn an animal sacrifice. Both sides would prepare an animal sacrifice and get their god to light the fire. All agreed to his suggestion. It just seemed natural for everyone to agree to his rules, after all, what chance did he stand against 850 of them. There were so many of them. 400 priests of Asherah sat this one out. They went off to the side. Now it was 450 priests of Baal against the 1. These were the official priests of Israel. They ate at the kings table. They were officially endorsed by royalty. It was all the same to the One man because he knew the truth. Imagine these bleachers packed for a game. Imagine these bleachers shoulder to shoulder with high-intensity fans, unified and focused in their support. The bleachers on the stage are filled with the 400 reserves sitting out. Imagine this mass of excited people against just one man.
There were spectators too. Witnesses to this great showdown. The historical documents don't tell us how many. The king called all of Israel to this event. Let's speculate a bit here and imagine a mass of people like you may have seen at a major concert or sporting event. Stadium-size crowd. They were on the mountain too. Not everyone had a good seat, but word traveled fast.
It began as the sun rose. Early in the morning members of the 450 slit their bull's throat and cut it to pieces. This task is neither easy nor clean. Blood flowed and smeared, mingled with gravel and dust. It was not an unfamiliar site. They put the chopped pieces of animal on a stack of wood and began their chants. Like a mob of fans at a game they feverishly raised their voices together to support their cause. One of their sayings is recorded for us, "O Baal, hear us, O Baal, hear us, O Baal, hear us." They did this from morning until noon. There was no response from Baal. Some of them started jumping on the altar. You know how things can escalate with a crowd of passionate people.
The One man starts to talk smack at noon. He started mocking this large crowd that was unified against him. He came over to the crowd of impassioned prophets and tauntingly told them to get louder because maybe Baal was preoccupied with something else. So they did. They got louder. They show their sincerity. They cut themselves with knives and spears to get Baal's attention. Blood mingled with the gravel again that day. They nearly sacrificed themselves to get a reaction from their god.
As the afternoon wore on, the One man, Elijah, prophet of the Living God, looked at the pitiful, exausted, bloody prophets of Baal and decided it was time for his turn. There had been no voice from Baal. He told all the people of Israel to gather around him. He repaired the old altar of the Lord using 12 stones to represent the 12 sons of Jacob. Elijah was reminding the people of their history with the Lord. By building the altar of 12 stones he brought the Lord's promises back to the minds of the Israelites. The Lord had changed Jacob's name to Israel and thus gave this mass of people on the mountainside their very identity. The Lord had made promises to their forefathers. The Lord was their God whether they knew it or not.
He dug a trench around the mound of stones. He stacked the wood in order. Elijah, the one man was doing a lot of heavy, messy, manual labor. He slaughtered and cut up the bull. He lifted the heavy, bloody parts onto the altar. I saw some bulls at the state fair this year. That would be a lot of animal to carve up and move around. That's alot of work when you think about it. Elijah would have been a muddy, bloody, scraped up mess of a man after that afternoon's work. After hauling stones, and wood, digging a trench, and carving up a huge animal, Elijah took a break. He had others drench the altar three times until the trench had standing water in it. Soaking a burnt offering with water was not the usual procedure, in fact it seems counter productive. There was surely some chatter among the people as Elijah progressed. What were they saying when he dumped water on the burnt offering? Its hard enough to find dry wood, this would never light.
This was all timed to coincide with the evening sacrifice. As the sun approached the horizon, he approached the crowd and prayed out loud. He said, "LORD God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that You are God in Israel and I am Your servant, and that I have done all these things at Your word. Hear me, O LORD, hear me, that this people may know that You are the LORD God, and that You have turned their hearts back to You again."
Then it happened. Elijah's carefully prepared altar was blasted by fire from the sky. Everyone, I mean everyone, had to look. At that moment there was nothing to think about except, "Elijah's God is alive and real." It was like Elijah had called in an airstrike. Everyone watched the smoke clear, the gathered people of Israel, the prophets of Baal and Asherah, even wicked king Ahab and his poisonous queen Jezebel and all their advisors waited to see the results. When the smoke cleared, Elijah's altar had been annihilated. God's answer was powerful and clear. The stones, the bones, the wood, the water, we're told even the dust, were all vaporized in this demonstration of God's might. Israel was convinced. They fell on their faces and said, "The Lord, He is God. The Lord, He is God." The hearts of God's people were turned back to Him again. The opposition got nervous.
Elijah told the people of Israel to grab all the prophets of Baal, take them down in the valley and kill them all. These prophets of false gods had lured God's people away from Him. The people of Israel killed every last false prophet. These false prophets had hardened their hearts and acted in public displays of idolatry. Blood mingled with the gravel yet again that day. The fact that God allowed them to live up until that day had been gracious on God's part.
Elijah then told the king, Ahab, to go home before he gets caught in the rain. Rain? It hadn't rained for years! Israel had been in a drought. Elijah climbed to the top of Mount Carmel and sat quietly for a while. Ahab got his chariot ready because even though he didn't like Elijah, he couldn't deny what had just happened. As Ahab rode home in his chariot with its pounding team of the fastest horses in the land, the weather shifted. Soon Ahab was pelted by driving wind and rain, imagine the look on his face when Elijah sprinted past. God had ended the drought and brought the life giving rain on the land in the same day that he had brought in his lost sheep of Israel. The people of Israel were given powerful reminders that day. They knew with certainty that the Lord is God and they knew that it was he that provided for their every need.
Back at the beginning of the day, before any chanting, or slaughtering, or jumping on altars, Elijah addressed the crowd. He laid down the stakes for this duel of the deities. He said to the people of Israel, “How long will you falter between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.” This was all about retrieving the straying sheep of Israel. This was about winning souls for the Lord, not about the Elijah stunt show.
What about you? Do you falter between two opinions? As amazing as it must have been to be there when Elijah's altar was blown to bits, you don't need that. You have what could never be, but is. Instead of a Bull, God put his boy on the altar, laid every sin of every person from the past present and future and annihilated him. Jesus died. From the ashes Jesus proved that though he had known death and separation from God, he remained God. He is the way and the truth and the life. Know with certainty that the God of Elijah is alive and real. Know that he provides for your every need. He provides rain for you. He provides manna for you. He provides governments for you even when they may be run by bad people. God brings the right people into and out of your life at the right times. He provides guidance and comfort for this life in his word. He assures you of your place at his table in heaven thanks to Jesus' innocent life, death and resurrection. Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.
O Lord God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. You are the living God. We thank you for the record of your guiding hand in history. Surely there are countless stories of your faithful people throughout history that would fill rooms of books. You have wisely chosen selections from the lives of your prophets for our learning. Lord keep us steadfast in your word. Let your word be our anchor as the storms of life rage around us. Remind us in your word of your fierce power and tender grace. We are your aimless lambs. Please show us the way. Amen.
See more artwork from Jason Jaspersen at jjjaspersen.com, and on social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.