Commentary by Walter Albritton


November 5, 2006


Trusting God Means to Depend On His Power, And His Alone


1 Kings 18:20-39


Key Verse: When all the people saw it [the flames], they fell on their faces and said, “The Lord is God; the Lord indeed is God.” – 1 Kings 18:39


          Centuries pass but people seem about the same when it comes to God. Multitudes still worship many gods instead of worshiping the Lord God Jehovah. To be perfectly honest, we are not much different in this regard from the Israelites in the days of the Prophet Elijah. We live in a society that worships many gods, and mostly false gods. Pluralism has gone to seed before our very eyes.

          The Israelites did worship Jehovah. The problem was that they did not worship Jehovah alone. They also worshiped Baal. They set up altars to both Jehovah and Baal. They prayed to both and they sacrificed to both. Their loyalty was sorely divided.

          Elijah asked the piercing question: “How long will you go limping with two different opinions?” In other words, when will you decide which one is truly God? This was the crucial question Elijah posed at Mount Carmel: “If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.”

          Sad indeed is the response of the people. They said nothing! They were completely silent. Is this not still true today? Multitudes, confronted with the opportunity to “choose this day whom they will serve,” say nothing; they simply continue in their vain effort to worship both the Lord God and the false gods of pleasure and materialism.

          The silence of the people must have motivated Elijah to persuade them to make up their minds that very day. So he proceeded to demonstrate God’s power over Baal by calling down fire from heaven, fire that consumed not only the wood and the offering but the water as well.

          We should remember that this was not the first time God sent fire to consume the offering on an altar. He did so after the tabernacle was completed (Leviticus 9:24), after David repented (1 Chronicles 21:26), and after the temple was consecrated by Solomon (2 Chronicles 7:1).

          Observe also the remarkable timing of Elijah’s prayer. Verses 29 and 36 tell us that he prayed at the time of the evening sacrifice. This has special meaning. Elijah prayed to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Israel) at the very moment when the priests in Jerusalem were in the Temple lighting the sacrificial flame at the altar of Jehovah! Elijah knew the true God and thus he knew what he was doing!

          In this story Elijah teaches us something about prayer. The prophets of Baal show us the futility of “putting on a show” when we pray. They did everything but stand on their heads trying to persuade Baal to answer their prayers, to no avail. Such antics are foolish for Christians for God is not impressed.

          Elijah was fervent in prayer but not desperate. He calmly trusted God and called upon him to do what needed to be done in that hour. We shall be wise to pray with that same calm assurance. As Christians we know to pray not for spectacular evidence of God’s power but for grace that enables us to honor our Lord in any and all circumstances.

          This scripture shows us the terrible consequences of worshiping Baal. The end is death and destruction compared with the gift of eternal life for faithfully worshiping God. Imbedded in this story is a stern warning to turn to Jehovah before it is too late. We need to stop “limping” as the Israelites did, trying to be on both sides.

          The Bible makes it clear that God is a jealous God. He is uncompromising when it comes to idolatry. We cannot know God and at the same time worship other gods. There is only one God, and there is only one way to God – through His Son Jesus Christ. Christ is the Way.

Baal’s priests had a chance to repent and they refused. In reality they chose death instead of life. Centuries later God continues to give people that same choice: life or death, God or Baal, Jesus or a pack of false, cultural gods. We each have a chance to repent – unless we wait until it is too late.

          A certain Rabbi once put it this way, “Live any way you wish, do whatever you want to do. Then the day before you die, get right with God.” At first glance he seems to offer great liberty to do what you please – until it hits you that you never know the day when you will die! So he was really saying was: Since you never know when you will die, you had better get right with God today!

          Since the fire of God is the focus of this lesson, perhaps we should close by remembering that Elijah was a forerunner of Christ, who also spoke of fire. Our Lord warned us of the fire to come at the end of all things. But it was John the Baptist who spoke of Christ with these stirring words:

His winnowing fork is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire" (Luke 3:17).

By choosing to worship God alone we may escape one kind of fire but by loving and serving Christ we may experience another kind of fire. Our hearts can be set “on fire” by a fierce desire to serve our Savior and worship Him alone. This is what happens when we trust God and His power alone.

Such a fire burned in the heart of the missionary Amy Carmichael. Though she suffered greatly, she loved Christ passionately. Would to God we might make her words our words today:

Give me the LOVE that leads the way,
The FAITH that nothing can dismay,
The HOPE no disappointments tire,
The PASSION that will burn like fire,
Let me not sink to be a clod:
Make me thy fuel, O flame of God.

  (Contact Walter at