Meet you at the Altar

The book of 1 Kings tells the story of a spiritual showdown between Elijah and the prophets of the pagan god Baal. Israel had gone more than three years without rain as a judgment for their idolatry. King Ahab recognized and acknowledged the drought as a judgment from the God of the Israelites, but it wasn’t enough to make him change his loyalty. When Elijah challenged Ahab to a contest of the gods, all of Israel gathered at Mount Carmel, along with 450 prophets of Baal and 400 prophets of Asherah. Baal was the sun god, and worship of him involved ritual prostitution, self mutilation, and child sacrifice. 

Elijah’s challenge to the people of Israel was that they choose, once and for all, who they were going to worship. They had been passively coexisting with pagan deities, giving tacit approval to the slaughter of children, the sexual abuse and misuse of young men and women, and demonic practices, and Elijah was drawing a line in the sand. He wasn’t challenging the pagan prophets… his focus was on the children of Israel, who had grown complacent and were contaminating their faith by tolerating evil things. 

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Elijah proposed that the prophets of Baal prepare an offering for their god, and he would do the same. But there was a catch: neither side would light the fire on their altar. The god who answered with fire from the sky would be considered the true god. The people agreed.

The pagan prophets prepared their sacrifice, and began to dance around the altar, crying out to Baal to answer them. They wailed, chanted, and slashed themselves. Nothing happened. This went on all day long, from morning until evening. At evening, Elijah called for twelve large stones to be brought, representing the twelve tribes of Israel. He dug a trench around the altar, arranged the wood and the sacrifice, and then had the people pour twelve large jars of water over the altar. The water soaked the wood and sacrifice, poured down the sides, and filled the trench.

Then Elijah prayed: “Oh, Lord, let it be known today that You alone are God, so that these people will know that You are turning their hearts back to the right.”

As his prayer ended, fire fell from heaven and consumed the offering and the saturated wood, turned the stones to dust, and then licked up the dust and the water in the trench.

The people fell down and worshipped.

Under one of my recent posts, someone asked if they could submit a pagan article. My answer to that is yes, by all means. If nothing else, a spiritual showdown between your god and mine will showcase my God’s power and might, and strengthen the faith of His people. So you bring your sacrifice, and I will meet you at the altar.

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