I had spent two nights with very little sleep. For some reason colds get the best of me, and they seem to last for weeks on end. I was exhausted when I picked up my Bible in the wee hours of the morning: “Lord guide me on this,” I prayed silently. As I opened my Bible. I was astonished at what jumped out to me: “He himself bore our sins’ in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; ‘by his wounds you have been healed.’” (1 Peter 2:24). I couldn’t believe my eyes. God’s Word is truly alive, and it guides me in all things!
For some reason however, this Bible text didn’t remain in my half-awakened brain, and when the morning dew graced the landscape, I had forgotten all about it. Right after church I went straight to the pharmacy and purchased some promising cold remedies. It’s true that they all contained the same warning: The cold will not disappear by magic, but would require time, all depending on the symptoms. I wonder why I forgot about the promise I received, even more so after my trip to the pharmacy!
One thing I have learned with my walk with God is that His promises are guarantees, unlike the promises in this world! So where was my faith? It shook me up and left me confused. How could I have forgotten such a glorious promise?
That night when I went to bed, I realized that I was indeed healed. All the cold symptoms had completely evaporated. I slept like a baby. After just two days, as promised by the Word of God, my cold had mysteriously disappeared.
Why do we so easily forget God’s promises? It would have been easy for Elijah to forget them, especially when King Ahab was so prone to eradicating him. Still, Elijah stood firm in God’s promises when he met King Ahab to accuse him with the following words: “You have abandoned the Lord’s commands and have followed the Baals.” (1 King 18: 18b, NIV)
No wonder King Ahab called him the “troubler of Israel.” (See verse 18a)
This didn’t stop Elijah from summoning all the people of Israel to meet at Mount Carmel, including the 450 prophets of Baal and the 400 prophets of the God Asherah. Elijah challenged all of them “If the Lord is God, follow Him, but if Baal is God, follow him.” (v. 21b). One sole prophet of God (See verse 2a) against 850 popular prophets of Baal and Asherah! Where were the odds?
Two bulls were to be brought to Mount Carmel. One for the numerous popular prophets, the other one for Elijah. They were to be cut into pieces and put on the wood (See verse 23). Now Elijah brought up a challenge that seemed impossible to fulfill: “Then you call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the LORD. The god who answers by fire—he is God.” (1Kgs 18:24) Had Elijah gone mad? Still the people attending this challenge were mesmerized. What would happen next?
I am not certain how the numerous prophets felt. After all, no challenge like this had ever been given before. Still, even if no fire ever appeared, Elijah would have to face the same fate.
Elijah really wasn’t crazy. He was the one with the guts, for he relied completely on God’s promises. At least he didn’t conveniently forget them! Elijah never doubted, never hesitated. He boldly went forward trusting 100% in the Miracle Maker, our Father who is in heaven. Even though no such thing had ever happened in Israel, He had no doubt that God would come true. That’s faith, real faith!
The challenge turned into a comedy. The numerous prophets were turning themselves as fools, begging Baal to answer them. No response!
Maybe if they started dancing around the altar that may attract his attention. No response!
Elijah urged them to “Shout louder!” (Verse 27).
The yelling led to no response either!
Next these prophets start slashing themselves with swords and spears. Blood should surely attract the attention of Baal! No response!
“Midday passed, and they continued their frantic prophesying until the time for the evening sacrifice. But there was no response, no one answered, no one paid attention.” (1Kgs 18:29) They had turned themselves in complete fools. There was no answer as there was no such god named Baal!
People around them started to realize that these prophets were not who they pretended to be. But what about Elijah?
Elijah invites the surrounding people to start pouring water on the offering on the wood. The pieces of meat were drenched by water, so much that “The water ran down around the altar and even filled the trench.” (1Kgs 18:35) Wait! Water doesn’t feed a fire! It extinguishes it!
Only then does Elijah step forth and pray: “LORD, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. Answer me, LORD, answer me, so these people will know that you, LORD, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.” (1Kgs 18:36b-37)
Elijah was more concerned about the spiritual health of his people than about his reputation. What if he was wrong? What if he had mistaken the message and it had not come from God? What if . . .? We humans seem to hover over all these what ifs, but not so with Elijah! God’s promises always come true, even if they seem impossible to us humans!
“Then the fire of the LORD fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench.” (1Kgs 18:38)
Only then did the people fall prostrate and cry: “The LORD—he is God! The LORD—he is God!” (1Kgs 18:39b)
God’s promises always come true! Do we believe that?
God will indeed come through, no matter what! We truly can depend on all of His promises, even on this one who has become my motto in my life: “I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” (Phil 4:13)
Only if we stand in faith will the impossible become possible. Not through our own efforts, however, for: “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matt 19:26b)
Do we believe?
(To access the entire “Facing Unimaginable Odds” devotional series, please click here.)