I think most people would agree that a battle is going on in America right now. It is a battle for right and wrong and, really, a battle over worldviews. Essentially, it is a battle of the gods.
In the Bible, there is only one God; it isn’t multiple choice. There is the true and living God, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; the God who loved us so much that he sent his son, Jesus Christ, to die on a cross. Then there are all the other gods. Only one of these gods can be true. So the battle rages today.
Some may feel as though there is no hope, as though there is nothing they could do to make a difference in our nation and culture.
Yet in the Old Testament book of 1 Kings, we find a story from Israel’s history that, in many ways, parallels our times today. The conditions back then were strikingly similar to our own, and in some ways, they were even worse. Yet one man made a difference. His name was Elijah, and he appeared on Israel’s stage at one of the darkest and most evil times in Israel.
Israel had turned to blatant idol worship. They still wanted to worship the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, but they wanted to worship their idols, too. They couldn’t have it both ways, so it was time for a showdown on Mount Carmel. It was the ultimate conflict as Elijah faced off with the prophets of the false god Baal on Mount Carmel.
As 1 Kings 17 opens, we see Elijah exploding on the scene: “And Elijah the Tishbite, of the inhabitants of Gilead, said to Ahab, ‘As the Lord God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, except at my word’” (verse 1 NKJV).
Here came Elijah, storming boldly into the court of the notoriously wicked King Ahab. He flung down the gauntlet, a challenge to the very nerve center of Israel. He didn’t follow any protocol. He made no introduction. He didn’t defer to the king.
Elijah’s name alone said it all. It meant “God is Jehovah” or “the Lord is my God.” It was almost as though his name was a rebuke to the wicked king and queen: Your god may be Baal, but my name is “God is the Lord.”
After Elijah delivered his message, he was not a popular guy. There were WANTED! posters all over Israel. So Elijah disappeared for a while – three years in fact. Then God told him, “Go, present yourself to Ahab, and I will send rain on the earth” (1 Kings 18:1).
When Ahab saw Elijah, he said, “Is that you, O troubler of Israel?” The word “troubler” could be translated “snake in the grass” or “viper.”
But Elijah came right back and essentially said, “Hey, I’m not the snake in the grass. You are the snake in the grass. You brought this on yourself because you turned to false gods.”
It is always amazing to me how people will break God’s commands again and again, resist his loving warnings, and then, when hardship hits (often as a result of their own actions), they blame God. Why did God let this happen to me? That is what Ahab was doing.
Then Elijah challenged Ahab to a showdown. He basically said, “You bring your gods, and I will bring my God, and let’s see who wins.” Amazingly, Ahab agreed and assembled the prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel. I think he was desperate. He just wanted some rain.
So Elijah and the prophets of Baal gathered on Mount Carmel for their face-off. Elijah allowed the Baal worshippers to go first. The prophets began calling on their god who could not deliver them. Then they started cutting themselves. It was a grotesque mess. They prayed from morning to evening, and the Bible simply says, “But there was no voice; no one answered, no one paid attention” (verse 29).
Then came Elijah’s turn. He rebuilt the Lord’s altar that was lying in ruins, placed the firewood and his sacrifice on it, and ordered it to be doused with water – not once, but three times. We read that at the time of the evening sacrifice, Elijah prayed. Then “the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood and the stones and the dust, and it licked up the water that was in the trench. Now when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces; and they said, ‘The LORD, He is God! The LORD, He is God!’ ” (verses 38–39).
We don’t see a lot of idol worship, at least outwardly, in our culture. But I think that in some ways, maybe there is after all. Anyone or anything that takes the place of the true and living God in our lives can potentially become an idol. Some bow before the altar of philosophy. Others bow before the altar of possessions. Others bow before the altar of their looks. Others bow before the altar of their bank account. But when a crisis hits, is their god going to save them? I don’t think so. But God will.
Elijah was no compromiser. And today, God is looking for men and women like Elijah – people who will stand up for what is true. As pastor and author Charles Swindoll wrote, “Those who find comfort in the court of Ahab can never bring themselves to stand in the gap with Elijah.”
A lot of people today say they want tolerance, but what they are looking for isn’t tolerance. What they really want is acceptance and approval. I think Christians are very tolerant people. I may not agree with someone, but I will not try to censor them and silence them. I would actually like to persuade them to believe what I believe, but if they choose not to, then they have that right.
But there are people who would say to Christians, “You can’t express that view. Not only that, but the only way we will be satisfied is when you come back to us and say, ‘Not only do I tolerate what you believe, but I accept it and approve it.’ Then we will be happy.”
Sorry, but I can’t do that. To do so would mean to walk away from what the Scriptures say. It is not my job to edit God’s Word, to try to improve on it, or to remove the things that I think might be offensive. This fight will come to every doorstep of every Christian in some way, shape, or form. When it does, are we going to stand on the teachings of the Bible or on the shifting sands of our culture?