Why was Elijah able to challenge the 450 prophets of Baal to prove who the true God is? We might say that the answer to this question is his confidence in his God. This might be true, but where did he get this confidence in his God from?
Elijah Knew Sweet Communion With his God
That is, he was a man of intimate, confident, intelligent prayer. Consider this:
1Ki 18:36 At the time of sacrifice, the prophet Elijah stepped forward and prayed: “O LORD, 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. 37 Answer me, O LORD, answer me, so these people will know that you, O LORD, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.”
Perhaps the rebuilding of the altar took a few hours … but I feel the timing was purposeful. He waited until the evening sacrifice to the true God was to be made … and in this area it had not been offered in a long, long time. Then we observe Elijah taking middle stage. What he is about to do requires that everyone sees and understands. You see, his mission is to turn the hearts of the people back to the true God … so in coming forward he does not speak to the people … he speaks to God. He has such a unique prayer relationship (communion) with God revealing where his confidence to challenge the 450 prophets of Baal to a “prayer contest” came from. O that we Christians and especially spiritual leaders learn and cultivate such a relationship with God, empowering us with boldness, fearlessness and faithfulness to the Gospel Cause and Mandate. Notice that his prayer is very specific and focusses on four aspects.
He Calls on YAHWEH (JEHOVAH – LORD)
That is, he calls on the Covenant God of Israel who revealed Himself to Abraham, the father of the nation. To establish his God without anyone being confused, he includes the names of Isaac and Israel (Jacob – Isaac’s son). No one should think that from Abraham another god or gods are meant. As God’s people today, we must never ever permit people to be confused about who the God of the Bible, Creation and Salvation is. He is the Triune God who was incarnate in the Revelation of God the Son, Jesus Christ. People must know whom we love, follow, worship and submit too.
He Requires that the True God Confirms He is the True God, not Baal
To the prophet of God, the people need to know they have been led astray over the years of Ahab (and Jezebel) and his father’s family. As we pray for people we need to ask God to show them how they have been deceived by the evil one and reveal Himself to them.
Elijah Wants God to Affirm him as a True Prophet of Yahweh
Points 2 and 3 will show the people that Elijah is God sent. All Christians and especially Christian workers need to pray that God would authenticate them to their hearers.
Elijah Wants the People to Understand That he is God’s Servant
In praying for ourselves and all Gospel workers, people need to know we serve God and not ourselves. This is important in the world in which we live because far too many are in “Christian Ministry” for personal gain. Notice that he starts his prayer wanting the glory and authority of God to be made manifest amongst the many people present (likely a few thousand), including the 450 false prophets … but he also wants God to authenticate him as the prophet of the True God. Not only does he want God to reveals His omnipotence … he wants God to reveal His relational covenant love as the God of Israel!
1Ki 18:37 “Answer me, O LORD, answer me, so these people will know that you, O LORD, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.”
His prayer is unlike that of the prophets of Baal. They “perform their prophetic rituals” for personal gain as they serve the evil one (satan). He is reverent, God honoring, scriptural, earnest but at the same time, urgent. We see this in him praying … “Answer me, O LORD, answer me.” He has put himself on the platform of Carmel. There are people who were worshippers of YAHWEH and have drifted, or have been seduced to follow the Baals and Elijah wants these people to know that his prophetic actions are from the True God who wants them to return to Him through faith, confession of sin and repentance. What is outstanding here is that Elijah knew who he was and what his mission was because he knew who God was.
O my beloved, we need to pray urgently for God to raise up such men and women to serve him in the church, in parachurch ministries and in missions. We need people to understand that ministry is for the Lord Jesus because of His substitutional, sacrificial penal death for mankind. How many people have grown up in the church as children and even as teenagers and as soon as they leave school and enter the market place or tertiary institutions, so many of them turn away from the LORD they worshipped, prayed to and committed their lives too? The same is true for adults. Their love and commitment to Jesus could lessen due to relational failure or health complications or financial devastation. So many seem to leave the Lord. Maybe some were not saved. Maybe some have just backslidden seriously.
We need powerful Gospel Workers to go into the world around them and find these who have drifted and lovingly and gently draw them back into the fold … yet we must never forget the motive for doing this … and for praying for such a harvest. Ministry is never to draw attention to self or followers for self. All ministry much be because … “so these people will know that you, O LORD, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.” If we miss this important point we shall fail in ministry!
Dear Lord God, thank You for showing us how You used Elijah and how he responded to the ministry You gave him to do. Help us to remember whom we serve and why we serve for. Remind us the Gospel is all about King Jesus. Amen.