Eyes to See, Ears to Hear, Hearts to Understand and Obey – Part One of Two
~~ by James J. Fire
In the John Wayne film, McClintock, George Washington McClintock (Wayne) saw Mrs. Warren, the housekeeper and cook (Yvonne DeCarlo) going up the stairs of the McClintock residence and offered a hand in ‘helping’ her up in his somewhat inebriated state. As they near the top, they lose their balance and tumble back down the stairs, with Mrs. Warren landing on top of him. The commotion brings out Katherine McClintock (Maureen O’Hara), estranged wife of G.W. and when she sees the situation at the base of the stairs, her eyes blaze with indignation.
Immediately G.W. understands her suspicion of foul play with the household help and speaks up before his wife has a chance to lay an accusation and says in typical ‘Wayne-ian’ fashion,
“Now Katherine, are you gunna believe what you see, or what I tell ya?”
BELIEVING is SEEING –
The film is a somewhat rare exception for Wayne as almost an entire comedy, and is one of my favorites of his; yet how many times has the Spirit of the LORD brought back to my mind those words when my circumstances look suddenly disappointing, bad, grim, tragic etc.
All too often in life we can fall under the sway of our circumstances and become discouraged; we become despondent of any good coming from the situation, when all along we have God’s Word assuring the saint who is walking in His ways, that He has good in store, and even the bad situations He is going to work out for our good (Jere. 29:11; Rom 8:28).
~ We are constantly challenged to see any given situation in life from one of two different perspectives: the NATURAL or the SPIRITUAL. God lamented often over unspiritual Israel for their hearts that didn’t understand Him or His ways, and refused to hear His Word, but insisted upon their own ways (Deut. 32:28-29; Is. 6:9-10; 58:3-5, 13; Ps. 95:10). The LORD Jesus was likewise exasperated at times with His unspiritual disciples who often were clueless of what He was trying to teach them (Matt. 15:16; 16:11; Luke 18:34; John 14:9).
Are we, the church of the LORD Jesus Christ, going to believe what we see in the natural realm with natural insights or are we going to believe God with spiritual understanding and perception in the light of His Word and by His Spirit which are our counselors and guidance? Will we allow circumstances or the Word of God to dictate our view, our actions and reactions?
In the domain of spiritual warfare, it’s just the same challenge, and even more so when the “enemy comes in like a flood” – are we trusting in the LORD to raise up that holy standard (which denies the enemy his strength, impoverishing him of power)?
So shall they fear the name of the LORD from the west, and his glory from the rising of the sun. When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the LORD shall lift up a standard against him.
Certainly there is much today that would seek to rob us of our peace and joy in the LORD, that would inspire fear, insecurity, doubt and despair; just look around at the affairs of State in this country, and at the world at large!
We know that the LORD’s return is quite soon; there are so many signs of biblical prophecy coming to pass today, its hard to keep up with it all (On TTUF we have just recently included another tab; this one on “END TIMES” where we have posted - and will periodically update - reliable videos that go into details regarding eschatology and its ramifications in our world today!).
We have a very limited time of opportunity to share the Gospel with the lost and see souls ushered into the Kingdom before the Father observes that the church is complete (“the fullness of the Gentiles” as in Romans 11:25) and any endeavor to deliver these souls from their present citizenship in the kingdom of darkness will meet with severe hostility from our enemy, now more than ever!
Even in our abilities to provide for our families we are being challenged today as financial resources are depleting, job sources are drying up, wages remain stagnant while prices for the basic necessities of life climb relentlessly upwards. The enemy can do much to instill icy cold fear and dread into the minds of God’s children.
Or perhaps our church is being infiltrated with the insidious doctrines of demons, and our implorations to our pastor is going unheeded; we are being continuously looked upon as “judgmental, unloving, contentious” by our fellow church members, and we search in vain for a church that will teach the pure Word of the LORD . . . and nothing but!
Satan will use any and all means to get us, in this dire hour, to doubt and mistrust El Shaddai, the “God of Almighty provision”, and His Word.
Whatever our challenge, the Scriptures provide for us the answer to any dilemma we might face and the power of the Holy Spirit to realize them in our lives!
For this segment on OT Examples of Spiritual Warfare, I’ve selected two readings from two prophets of Israel: Elijah (1 Kings Chapter 18) and his successor, Elisha (2 Kings 6: 8 – 7:20). Both of these men of God faced great challenges and opposition from the perilous powers of darkness and their palpable puppets whose strings Satan is keen on pulling. Both are examples to us to . . .
Judge [discern] not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.
See also these scriptures regarding spiritual discernment and revelation from God - Matt. 16:17; Dan. 2:22; Amos 3:7; 1 Cor. 2:9-10.
Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself:
In this part we will examine the passage from 1 Kings dealing with Elijah (whose name means “Yahweh is my God”), the prophets of Baal, Ahab and Jezebel; and in the second we will look at the passage from 2 Kings where we see shall Elisha, his young servant and the host of the Syrian armies.
Yet before we get into these, perhaps you would like to examine another situation of warfare where spiritual, rather than merely natural insight was employed in the vanquishing of a great enemy of Israel:
Have You Slain Your Giant Today?
The PROPHET of FIRE –
Elijah the Tishbite (Tishbi, a region of Gilead to be differentiated from another Tishbi in Galilee; Tishbi of Gilead bordered on Arabia) is first seen in 1 Kings Chapter 17.
From Barne’s Notes we have the following observations:
“It is clear that a succession of prophets was raised up by God, both in faithful Judah and in idolatrous Israel, to witness of Him before the people of both countries, and leave them without excuse if they forsook His worship. At this time, when a grosser and more deadly idolatry than had been practiced before was introduced into Israel by the authority of Ahab, and the total apostasy of the ten tribes was consequently imminent, two prophets of unusual vigor and force of character, endowed with miraculous powers of an extraordinary kind, were successively raised up, that the wickedness of the kings might be boldly met and combated, and, if possible, a remnant of faithful men preserved in the land. The unusual efflux of miraculous energy at this time is suitable to the unusual emergency, and in very evident proportion to the spiritual necessities of the people.”
Elijah appears in scripture without any preamble to Ahab, a prophet of God before this apostate king of the house of Israel and pronounces a judgment from God upon the northern kingdom:
1 Kings 17:1
. . . As the LORD God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word.
This pronouncement was in accordance to God’s Holy Word of warning to Israel, that if she should forsake the LORD their GOD, then He would afflict them by depriving the land of rain (Deut. 11:17; 28:23; Lev. 26:19).
God then miraculously provides for His prophet at the brook Cherith, but once the brook dried up, the LORD directed Elijah to the house of Zarephath of Zidon (a Gentile woman) where not only his needs, but the needs of this widow and her son who were nearly starved because of the drought were also miraculously provided for, even to the point of raising her son from the dead!
Zarephath declared after witnessing her son raised to life that
. . . Now by this I know that thou art a man of God, and that the word of the LORD in thy mouth is truth.
Would to God that king Ahab and more importantly, the rebellious house of Israel perceived and understood what Zarephath herself knew! Now, we begin with the next chapter:
The DROUGHT and FAMINE of GOD’S WORD –
1 Kings 18:1-6
And it came to pass after many days, that the word of the LORD came to Elijah in the third year, saying, Go, shew thyself unto Ahab; and I will send rain upon the earth.
And Elijah went to shew himself unto Ahab. And there was a sore famine in Samaria.
And Ahab called Obadiah, which was the governor of his house. (Now Obadiah feared the LORD greatly:
For it was so, when Jezebel cut off the prophets of the LORD, that Obadiah took an hundred prophets, and hid them by fifty in a cave, and fed them with bread and water.)
And Ahab said unto Obadiah, Go into the land, unto all fountains of water, and unto all brooks: peradventure we may find grass to save the horses and mules alive, that we lose not all the beasts.
So they divided the land between them to pass throughout it: Ahab went one way by himself, and Obadiah went another way by himself.
The days of drought were extreme in a land known for its arid climate to begin with; it actually lasted for three and a half years according to the epistle of James (5:17), and it rightly reflected the condition of Israel herself – she was barren, dried up, unfruitful and not receiving the water of the Word of God (Eph. 5:26), even refusing it, and rather preferring the pagan proclivities of Ba’al worship and other idols that Ahab and his heathen wife, Jezebel introduced to the Hebrew nation, causing them to apostatize.
We see very much the same thing today in the church; the introduction of unbiblical beliefs and practices are likewise causing the church to become barren and unfruitful (oh, to be sure we have some churches with incredibly huge numbers, in the tens of thousands even; but what of their spiritual depth and understanding of God’s Word? What of holiness and walking in purity?); yet if we heed God’s Word and instruction, ample guidance is provided on how we can prevent such dilapidation and drought in our lives. I refer to –
2 Pet 1:2-8
Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord,
According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue:
Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.
And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge;
And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness;
And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.
For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The aforementioned knowledge of our LORD Jesus Christ that brings spiritual fruitfulness and plenty comes by God’s Word alone. Yet the church today is rejecting His Word much as Israel did in the days of Elijah, and as a result they are suffering spiritual drought, poverty and famine (Amos 8:11).
Therefore also now, saith the LORD, turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning:
And rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the LORD your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil.
The LORD does not afflict willingly, nor does He delight in the death of the wicked; even His judgments upon His own people are tempered with exacting degree – just enough chastening to get the desired result, and not any more at all. The drought was at an end in the days of Elijah as God told His prophet. He met with king Ahab, and the first thing the ignoble king says to this holy man of God is:
The TROUBLE with TRUTH –
1 Kings 18:17 … Art thou he that troubleth Israel?
And to this Elijah properly replies:
… I have not troubled Israel; but thou, and thy father's house, in that ye have forsaken the commandments of the LORD, and thou hast followed Baalim.
The Scripture says, Woe to him that calls good, evil and evil good, that puts light for darkness and darkness for light (Isaiah 5:20) and this reversal is seen quite clearly in Ahab’s remark. Elijah’s desire to turn Israel away from the paganism of their leadership and back to the Living God is perceived as “trouble” by Ahab!
It is also seen in our relativistic society, among our political and religious leaders, where good and bad as well as truth itself are measured by one’s own sense of morality (Judges 17:6; 21:25), apart from any standard whatsoever, let alone the holy standard of God’s Word!
Yet a standard is being raised today by the forces of darkness poised as ‘change agents’ and ‘new spirituality’ leaders; these troubadours of tolerance that proclaim that EVERY way is the right way: except for those who would declare that there is only ONE Way – those are the evil ones of “intolerance, hate, narrow-minded bigotry and judgmental attitudes”.
The world is gathering together all of its components to form a global unity, led by religious forces diametrically opposed to biblical Christianity. It would appear that we are drastically outnumbered! I’m sure that Elijah felt the same way; in fact I know he did eventually.
SHOWDOWN at the O.K. CARMEL –
Yet at this point the prophet of the LORD is empowered and ready for a classic ‘show-down” like we have all seen in those old Western movies as the good guy and bad guy go slowly pacing down the town street, ready to draw and fire. Elijah will likewise ‘fire’ as we shall soon see (and the pagan priests of Baal . . . ‘misfire’?)!
1 Kings 18:19-21
Now therefore send, and gather to me all Israel unto mount Carmel, and the prophets of Baal four hundred and fifty, and the prophets of the groves four hundred, which eat at Jezebel's table.
So Ahab sent unto all the children of Israel, and gathered the prophets together unto mount Carmel.
And Elijah came unto all the people, and said, How long halt ye between two opinions? If the LORD be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him. And the people answered him not a word.
Note that Elijah is not going up against the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal only, but an additional four hundred prophets of the groves. These groves were high places where trees were carved into shapes of gods and other profane images used in worship according to pagan traditions. Could you picture yourself going up against eight hundred and fifty adversaries, every one of them hostile opponents against Jesus Christ, the Bible and Christianity, but yet maintaining a perspective of unquestioned victory?
Even without the one hundred prophets, hidden by Obadiah in a cave (where were they anyway? Why didn’t they join with Elijah in this great contest?), Elijah was prepared to conduct himself in this great trial, confident in his God and able to stand for His Name’s sake. It would seem that Ahab was likewise confident for his side, because he willingly gathers together the prophets of Baal to meet Elijah, and of course there is the eager audience of the nation of Israel who, no doubt, were quite interested in how this would turn out.
A LONG DISTANCE HEART CALL –
The prophet challenged God’s people and the choice was laid before them: if the LORD is God, then serve Him – and as with the Shema of Israel to also love the LORD wholly and enduringly. Yet if Baal is God, then serve him – if this god could prove himself worthy of such…
It’s sad that after such a challenge, that “the people answered him not a word.” What apathy or hard heartedness is this? What calloused indifference is demonstrated by these who are supposed to be the people of the Living God? Where was their zeal, their passion, their love for the LORD their GOD?
And where is ours?
We who know the LORD Jesus Christ, or claim to, and have received “so great salvation” (Heb. 2:3) if we are so enamored and given to affection for this world and to those things which this world esteems, how can we claim to be His followers?! Recall the words written in:
1 John 2:15
Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
I am reminded of something a pastor said (more than once) to us, the congregation: “If the world has what you want, don’t waste your time coming here in church, GO FOR IT! If you think you can find satisfaction, peace, contentment, joy, and love anywhere in this world, why do you need to come here for those things? Yet, if you know in your heart that this world doesn’t hold any answers for you, then why even spend any of your affection on it? Why not give yourself wholly and completely to the LORD Jesus Christ?” And to that may I add a hearty AMEN!
The word used “halt between” in the Hebrew means “to stagger” as one who is in a drunken state; a meanderer who sways first one way, then the other, with no sure direction, no steadfast stride, no steady and balanced walk at all, but a life of compromise and half-way obedience, and almost half-hearted devotion (James 1:6-8).
But could you hear your spouse saying to you, “I love you dear, with half or even most of my heart”? You would wonder where the remaining part of their heart was, wouldn’t you?
This is why David cried, “Unite my heart to fear Thy Name” (Psalm 86: 11). He wanted to share his reverential love and honor for the LORD with NO ONE and NOTHING else!
The LORD Jesus admonished the church at Laodicea to either be hot or cold, not lukewarm (Rev. 3:15-19). He desires whole hearted commitment and nothing less; Paul the Apostle likewise told his protégé Timothy:
1 Tim 4:13, 15-16
Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine.
Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all.
Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.
The PROTEST of PLURALISM INCORPORATED –
It wasn’t that Israel didn’t worship YHWH or pay Him homage at all; they just had other gods that they liked to worship too. They were ‘ecumenically correct’ and seeker sensitive towards pagans who might find worship of YHWH alone distasteful or even offensive. So while they rejected the Word of the LORD, they would still retain the worship of YHWH (but in name only) – an outer shell of piety and dedication, but without sincerity and genuine faith: a “form of godliness, but denying the power thereof” (2 Tim. 3:5), precisely as we see in today’s apostatizing church. They worship another ‘Jesus’ but they reject the Word of God.
So now we find ourselves on Mt. Carmel; a challenge has been raised and opposing forces are gathered together: in the minority we have 850 false prophets, the king of Israel, and an apathetic nation; in the majority we have 101 holy prophets, minus 100… and the LORD God Himself! Let us remember these kind of odds any time we feel outnumbered, or cornered by ‘overwhelming’ numbers and recognize that the One that we are allied with measures this universe in the span of His Hand! Hear the words of Elijah the Prophet!
1 Kings 18:22-24
Then said Elijah unto the people, I, even I only, remain a prophet of the LORD; but Baal's prophets are four hundred and fifty men.
Let them therefore give us two bullocks; and let them choose one bullock for themselves, and cut it in pieces, and lay it on wood, and put no fire under: and I will dress the other bullock, and lay it on wood, and put no fire under:
And call ye on the name of your gods, and I will call on the name of the LORD: and the God that answereth by fire, let him be God. And all the people answered and said, It is well spoken.
I’ve been told that ancient pagan priests of various religions would secretly heat rocks and then erect an altar above them, so that when they added oil-soaked wood, the heated rocks (which would appear normal) would combust the wood into supposedly miraculous flame. If that’s true, the prophets of Baal didn’t have any opportunity to conduct a covert deception by ‘prepping’ the rocks of any such altar they erected. Everything was done in the sight of the king, Israel and Elijah the prophet of the LORD. Only a genuine, supernatural display of power would be allowed in this show down.
The SWORD and the SERPENT –
While Satan does have an incredible amount of power, because as Lucifer the cherub he was anointed over the angelic realm; he was (and is) probably the greatest, most powerful, most intelligent of all of God’s creatures. Yet he is also a liar and a deceiver whose intent is to fool the saint of God that he possesses far more power than he really does. He also desires to deceive us, the church of the LORD Jesus Christ into thinking that we are powerless against him and his dominion. Yet this is hardly the case for the Christian who is armed with the Sword of the Spirit, walking (living daily) in the Spirit and not fulfilling the lusts of the flesh:
Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.
Put on the whole armor of God that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
Wherefore take unto you the whole armor of God that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
(See also Psalm 44:5; Mal. 4:3; Luke 10: 17-20; Rom. 8:35, 37; 2 Cor. 2:14; 10:4; 1 John 5:4)
1 Kings 18:25-26
And Elijah said unto the prophets of Baal, Choose you one bullock for yourselves, and dress it first; for ye are many; and call on the name of your gods, but put no fire under.
And they took the bullock which was given them, and they dressed it, and called on the name of Baal from morning even until noon, saying, O Baal, hear us. But there was no voice, nor any that answered. And they leaped upon the altar which was made.
And so it begins: Elijah tells the Baal prophets to ‘choose your weapon’ as it were, and call on the “names of your gods” but to refrain from adding fire to the altar. “Leave that for your gods to do”, he was basically saying. These false prophets realized they were in a quandary: they couldn’t conduct themselves as they had formerly done, with their sleight of hand and trickery. Even if they had witnessed some form of demonic power in spontaneously igniting the wood for their sacrifices, such powers were apparently forbidden from doing so here by the LORD Himself.
God would not allow any ‘god’ and their spiritual power to receive any glory whatsoever, only He and He alone will ever be so glorified for all eternity! For in reality, there are no gods, only the LORD God – this could include Allah, or Brahman or the many various gods of Hinduism, or Mormonism, etc. which are not deities but if anything, spirits and fallen angels.
Hath a nation changed their gods, which are yet no gods? But my people have changed their glory for that which doth not profit.
How shall I pardon thee for this? Thy children have forsaken me, and sworn by them that are no gods: when I had fed them to the full, they then committed adultery, and assembled themselves by troops in the harlots' houses.
(See also Isaiah 37:19; Jer. 16:20; Acts 19:26)
DERIDING or DANCING with the DEVIL –
1 Kings 18:27
And it came to pass at noon, that Elijah mocked them, and said, Cry aloud: for he is a god; either he is talking, or he is pursuing, or he is in a journey, or peradventure he sleepeth, and must be awaked.
Note the tact, the sensitivity, the respect with which Elijah gives to these of another religion! Rather, here we have the prophet mocking the false prophets and the lies that surround their worship of false gods, and rightly so. This is so contrary to the tolerance and ‘dialoguing’ between those that claim to be ‘Christ-followers’ like Brian McLaren, Doug Pagitt, and Rob Bell (Emergent leaders) to try to find common ground, and agree to join forces with those of other religions, such as the Dalai Lama and . . .
The Seeds of Compassion
A March 13th, 2008 entry on Doug Pagitt’s blog said:
“I will be part of the Seeds of Compassion event in Seattle April 14-17…. I am extremely excited about this event. Rob Bell is the only other friend who is part of the portion of the event I am part of, but the other panelists look terrific.
“So what is Seeds of Compassion?
“According to the SOC website it was an event…
“Anchored by the deep wisdom of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, this community–focused event celebrated and explored the relationships, programs and tools that nurture and empower children, families and communities to be compassionate members of society”.
“There are those that would argue that this was a secular event. However the Dalai Lama is unquestionably a religious leader and innumerable sources describe the event as an interfaith event. Not just a conversation between people of different faiths, but an effort to bridge the gap and make spiritual connections.
“For example one attendee, the Rev Katie M Ladd, a United Methodist Pastor in Seattle, Washington described herself as “fortunate to attend the closing event on Tuesday” and said she spent…
“… the whole day listening as the panel discussed compassion, interfaith dialogue and respect, hope in the midst of despair and destruction, and the inviolability of the self”.
“For more information see Rob Bell - Emerging Church Leader or Fully Emerged Apostate?
Taken from the web site: The Emergent Church ‘Leaders’...What They Say/Believe and Who They Endorse
This is a policy and practice unknown to Elijah, or to Moses or Paul the Apostle for that matter; but this is common fare among today’s so called evangelicals and self-professed Emergent leaders.
Elijah further taunts the prophets of Baal, suggesting that maybe their god is in conference with his colleagues, or on his way to one, or perhaps he is indisposed being in need of relieving himself (“pursuing”), which is actually what the text says! Maybe their god is in need of regular naps to recover his strength and must be awakened. This sort of diatribe is comparable to scathing criticisms of such false gods by other prophets, like Jeremiah and Isaiah:
For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe.
They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not.
They are upright as the palm tree, but speak not: they must needs be borne, because they cannot go. Be not afraid of them; for they cannot do evil, neither also is it in them to do good.
Forasmuch as there is none like unto thee, O LORD; thou art great, and thy name is great in might.
Let them bring them forth, and shew us what shall happen: let them shew the former things, what they be, that we may consider them, and know the latter end of them; or declare us things for to come.
Shew the things that are to come hereafter, that we may know that ye are gods: yea, do good, or do evil, that we may be dismayed, and behold it together.
Behold, ye are of nothing, and your work of nought: an abomination is he that chooseth you.
SWEET VICTORY in CARMEL –
1 Kings 18:28-29
And they cried aloud, and cut themselves after their manner with knives and lancets, till the blood gushed out upon them.
And it came to pass, when midday was past, and they prophesied until the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that there was neither voice, nor any to answer, nor any that regarded.
When the answer from Baal was not forthcoming, these prophets started getting REALLY serious, and began to cut themselves so that their blood was pouring out of their bodies as an offering. It’s worthy of noting that among various sub-cultures, especially the heavy metal (and like) groups, it’s a common thing for fans to use razor blades to cut their arms and hands. Likewise in Satanic cults, blood offering is made to incite powerful magick and the interaction of demonic power.
Some have even suggested that the infants aborted under the auspices of Planned Parenthood (formerly The Birth Control League) of Margaret Sanger are dedicated to ‘the gods that be’ (See - Theosophical Quotes)
These false prophets were at it all day long, well past afternoon and into the evening; nothing at all happened. Elijah was probably patiently doing his finger nails, casually waiting for his turn . . .
1 Kings 18:30-32
And Elijah said unto all the people, Come near unto me. And all the people came near unto him. And he repaired the altar of the LORD that was broken down.
And Elijah took twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, unto whom the word of the LORD came, saying, Israel shall be thy name:
And with the stones he built an altar in the name of the LORD: and he made a trench about the altar, as great as would contain two measures of seed.
Observe how the prophet is now rebuilding the altar of the LORD – due to neglect, it had fallen into disrepair and he took twelve stones, representing the twelve tribes of Israel; each and every one whose place was rightfully at this altar, for they were (and are!) a peculiar (specially chosen) people of the LORD. It’s considered spiritual adultery to worship anything other than the LORD God, especially for the Christian. We must each of us consider whether the altar of God in our hearts is in need of repair due to neglect or another ‘god’ who has stolen our affection and dedication from our LORD and SAVIOR.
Worship is not a ‘Sunday morning thing’; it’s a life style that should be as natural and as fluent as breathing. Such worship if it’s to be acceptable to the LORD must be in accordance with the Spirit and with Truth. No sacrifice of worship can be accepted unless it is accompanied by atonement for sin. It was true for Abel (Gen. 4:4) and for David (1 Chron. 16:29) and for our own admittance into the church whereby we are even able to approach the holy throne room of the heavenlies and there worship God, but by better sacrifices than of bulls and goats (Heb. 9: 23-28); and worship of God by the sacrifice of ourselves (Rom. 12:1-2). Worship is most certainly a form of spiritual warfare as Satan hates the exaltation of the LORD God at his own expense who deems himself worthy of such. As we become like that which we worship, worshipping Jesus Christ is obvious in its vital importance and benefit for the disciple of the LORD of Glory.
Now getting back to the text: why did Elijah build a trench around this altar? What was this for? We will find out now!
WATER-SOAKED WORSHIP –
1 Kings 18:33
And he put the wood in order, and cut the bullock in pieces, and laid him on the wood, and said, Fill four barrels with water, and pour it on the burnt sacrifice, and on the wood.
This was certainly not part of the agreement! In the instructions by the prophet there was no mention of water being poured out over the sacrifice. This was not something Elijah insisted upon the Baal prophets, but only by the prophet for himself.
1 Kings 18:34-35
And he said, Do it the second time. And they did it the second time. And he said, Do it the third time. And they did it the third time.
And the water ran round about the altar; and he filled the trench also with water.
Imagine the consternation of all that observed this – both Israel and the Baal advocates; how was this sacrifice supposed to burn now, being drenched with water (a precious commodity by the way, seeing that the drought only just ended)? No problem for the God of all creation! Here is a perfect picture of worship according to the Spirit of Truth (again, the Word is typified often as water)!
1 Kings 18:36-37
And it came to pass at the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that Elijah the prophet came near, and said, LORD God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, let it be known this day that thou art God in Israel, and that I am thy servant, and that I have done all these things at thy word.
Hear me, O LORD, hear me, that this people may know that thou art the LORD God, and that thou hast turned their heart back again.
Did you catch what Elijah said in his prayer? Usually when we read about the patriarchs, we read them as Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; and yet here the third patriarch is named Israel; why is this?
Once Jacob had wrestled with the angel of the LORD and the dawn came, and with it the blessing of the LORD on this man’s life, his name was changed (Gen. 32: 24-28). This sometimes occurs in scripture – where at a landmark of spiritual significance in the life of a person, they receive a new name or a variation of the old one – such as Abram becoming Abraham, Sarai becoming Sarah; Jacob is renamed Israel; Cephas becomes Peter and Saul becomes Paul. A name in Hebrew culture represents a characteristic whereby the person may be known. This is why there are so many names (titles, actually) of the LORD – for He desires to be known by His people.
Here in the midst of this terrible apostasy, God is referred to as the God of ‘Israel’ which intimates that even though His people were fallen from Him at this time, His view of and His promise to them is that they will brought to spiritual life and blessing (Ezek. 36:26-38). Such promises are granted to those also who are true members of the body of Christ (Phil. 1:6).
And as for the prayer itself, note that it’s because of the prayer of this righteous man, that much was availed in Israel that day – God was glorified, the gods of the enemies of Israel were disgraced and seen as utterly powerless before YHWH. Though Satan would have squelched any such opportunity if he could, the prayer of Elijah intervened on behalf of his people, thwarting by the power of God, the plans and deceptions of the enemy.
We cannot always see the fruit and effects of our prayers, but we do know that those prayed in accord with God’s will ARE ANSWERED – in God’s timing (Luke 18:7; 1 John 5:14).
This is the essence of spiritual warfare, and it’s not a quick-fix solution! This is a long term enterprise that requires patience, diligence, and sensitivity to the Spirit of God, as well as a compassionate heart that yearns for the lost, the empowerment of the saints and to see God glorified above all.
We need to pray for our pastors and church leadership, for our brothers and sisters, for those who herald the gospel and God’s Word – that they may do so without compromise, without adding to or taking away from the message that God would give them through the Holy Scriptures, to deliver to the people (Jer. 26:2); for the lost souls that have believed any of the myriad falsehoods paraded by the enemy, that God would open their eyes and turn them from darkness to His Light (Acts 26:18).
CONSUMING FIRE –
1 Kings 18:38-39
Then the fire of the LORD fell, and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench.
And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces: and they said, The LORD, he is the God; the LORD, he is the God.
I can’t imagine the intensity of that fire of the LORD – it not only consumed the wood and the sacrifice, but also the water . . . and even the stones were consumed! Indeed, our God is a consuming fire (Deut. 4:2; Heb. 12:29). His Spirit consumes the sinful nature from the life of His saints in salvation (sanctification) as they yield to Him; it also consumes the ‘life’ of the unrepentant sinner in Judgment.
Such a fire from God indicated that the offering was acceptable to Him there on Mt. Carmel that day. Though all Israel was in such a deplorable state, the life of this one man, this prophet of the LORD had an impact as he worshipped God by sacrifice. The people fell on their faces and proclaimed the LORDSHIP of YHWH. Yet even here, we still see the ties of apostasy because they said “The LORD, He is God” rather than “The LORD, He is OUR God”. However, the time will come when “all Israel shall be saved” when the Messiah returns at His Second Advent, and God will prove faithful to bring His people to that point where their salvation will be realized.
In our own day, as we contest the pluralism and apostasy that’s all around us, we Christians are tempted to remain mute, to just ‘go with the flow’ and ‘co-exist’, when in all actuality we are the Light of the world, according to the LORD Jesus Himself, and we ought not to be hid, but stand in a place for all to see, as His faithful witnesses (and in some parts of the world, His martyrs as well - “witness” in the Greek is martos).
See Stephen Gibney’s article on his site,The SOUL Doctor: Anatomy of Apostasy
Elijah commanded, and the people obeyed, in gathering up all the prophets of Baal, and slaying them at a nearby river; the prophet then told Ahab to leave for “the abundance of rain” was coming”. When righteousness is declared and upheld, God will bring blessing; when one saint stands alone against the tyrannical tide of deception, compromise and evil, they are used by God as a burning brand to bring Light and to scorch satanic hindrances and scatter them: God is glorified and He often arrests judgment and brings blessing.
The abundance of rain did in fact come for Israel and the drought was fully at an end, but the ramifications of such were still felt because the region was still suffering from extreme famine. Yet God was and is faithful to provide from His hand of grace, for His people, as we shall soon see in the life of the prophet Elisha in part two of this article!