Read through the Bible Plan: 1 Kings 17-19
36 And at the time of the offering of the oblation, Elijah the prophet came near and said, “O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel, and that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your word. 37 Answer me, O Lord, answer me, that this people may know that you, O Lord, are God, and that you have turned their hearts back.” 38 Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. 39 And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, “The Lord, he is God; the Lord, he is God.” (1 Kings 18:36-39)
One of the most dramatic stories in the whole Bible is Elijah’s showdown with the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel in 1 Kings 18. Ahab is king, and although Israel didn’t have a single good king, Ahab was the worst. He and his wife Jezebel were just horrible people. 1 Kings 16:29-33 gives us an overview of how evil they were.
As punishment, God sent a devastating drought to Israel, which lasted three years. At the end of this period of drought, God sent the prophet Elijah to Ahab, where he proposed an epic challenge: Ahab was to assemble the prophets of Baal to meet him on the top of Mount Carmel. They would build an altar and prepare a sacrifice for their false god. Elijah would build an altar to Yahweh. Whoever answered by fire would prove himself to be the true God.
On the appointed day, the prophets of Baal build their altar and pray their prayers and dance their dances, and nothing happens. Elijah mocks them, suggesting that their god is thinking it over, on the road, asleep, or even “wandered away” (a phrase many scholars take as a euphemism for relieving oneself). By the end of the day, the prophets of Baal have even resorted to cutting themselves, to no avail. “No one answered, no one paid attention” (verse 29).
It would be funny if it weren’t so familiar. But the fact is, people today go to similar extremes chasing after false gods that can never satisfy. We need look no further than the effects of drug addiction and sexual promiscuity to see the self-destruction false gods can bring.
Preparation (1 Kings 18:30-35)
Notice verse 30 says that Elijah “repaired” the Lord’s altar. He didn’t build one from scratch. Revival often starts with rebuilding a foundation that has already been laid. What Elijah does next is especially remarkable given how precious water would have been after a three year drought. After stacking the wood and laying the sacrifice on the altar, Elijah commands his servants to drench the altar with water. Not once, not twice, but three times, until water filled up the trench around the water. Talk about putting yourself out there! Had God not responded, Elijah would have been seen as wasting the most valuable resource of the day—water. But for the sacrifice to be consumed by fire, God would need to show up in a big way.
Response (1 Kings 18:36-39)
Compared to the prophets of Baal, Elijjah’s prayer was simple and understated. No shouting. No dancing. No cutting himself with knives. Elijah didn’t even actually pray for fire to come down. He simply said, “Lord, let it be known that you are God.”
And how the fire fell! Verse 38 says it didn’t just consume the sacrifice and the wood. It evaporated the water in the trench, and even consumed the stones of the altar! Science tells us wood burns at 1,112 degrees Fahrenheit. To melt rock, temperatures have to be in excess of 2,400 degrees!
God is able to do “exceeding abundantly, beyond all we ask or think” (Eph. 3:20-21). He certainly proved this on Mount Carmel. As a result, all the people fell facedown and proclaimed that He is God.