June 28, 2017
1 Kings 18:20-40
Matins - Higher Things Conference "Here I Stand"
Here I stand. And there Elijah stood: It's time to fish or cut bait, people. You've been going back and forth, to and fro. Either serve the true God Yahweh, or go after your false god, Baal. Let's have a contest. You build an altar, I'll build mine. We'll make a sacrifice. Whoever gets their god to send down fire on it, well that God is the real deal. You go first.
What? Your god isn't listening? Maybe you need to pray harder. Cry louder. Maybe Baal's in the bathroom. (And who says the Bible doesn't have any bathroom humor?) Today he might say Baal's internet is down, or his phone is on “do not disturb”. Oh, now you're cutting yourselves? Ew. Gross. But even all this blood won't get his attention? But after half a day of this nonsense, there was no fire. There was no voice. No one answered. No one paid attention.
Elijah says, “Let's make this interesting. Dump a bunch of water on my altar. No wait, dig some trenches so we can even surround with with water. Douse it good. Not once, not twice, three times.” And then Elijah prayed. And the fire fell. And it was no mediocre fire, it was Texas hot fire. To burn the bull, the wood, the water and the very stone... you need fire about 2800 degrees Farenheit. Yahweh means business.
And so you could say Elijah proved his point, or rather Yahweh did. And Elijah took those 450 false prophets and had them executed. Which made wicked queen Jezebel put a price on his head, but that's another story. So what do we make of this dramatic contest, the smackdown on Mt. Carmel? What does it have to do with you, and with Jesus for you?
So where do you stand? You can see yourself, perhaps, in the audience. One of those curious onlookers waiting to see how this would all go down. You're not watching Baal vs. Yahweh, but the contest today is between Yahweh and, well, lots of other things. You probably even have your own personal little Baals. Worldviews, ideas, lifestyles opposed to God, vying for your attention and loyalty and even participation. Will this contest end with you in the camp of the true faith? Or will the false prophets of the world convince you with their gesticulations and persuasions? Or maybe they already have. Don't be a human ping-pong ball, back and forth between the truth and lies. Repent. Turn away from all that. Look to Christ, to Yahweh, and live.
God does what he says he will do. He keeps his promises. Now, he has not promised to send down fire from heaven whenever you want. That would probably cause us some trouble, anyway. But he has promised to send down his forgiveness on you just as gratuitously, or even more. His grace in Jesus Christ melts away all your sins. His baptismal waters power-wash away every spot and stain. There's nothing left. This is no half-way, strings-attached, mealy-mouthed, mamby-pamby, all for show, sissy-pants forgiveness. This is a full-throttle, take-no-prisoners, super-sized, punch in the gut, for all-the-marbles, complete annihilation of sins kind of forgiveness. God does not mess around.
And where's Jesus in all of this? He's the Elijah that prays on our behalf. Where's Jesus? He's the sacrifice on the altar who is himself consumed, so that the fires of hell can't touch us. Where's Jesus? He's the one who shed his own blood – and unlike with those loser prophets, with Jesus' blood - Someone listened, Someone answered, Someone paid attention. God the Father answered and accepted the sacrifice on the cross, and showed it by raising Jesus from the dead. And so, Jesus wins.
You know the score: Sin, death and Devil – zip. Baal nothing. Yahweh everything, forever. Jesus wins it all - and he wins you, not just now, but forever. That you may be his own, live under him in his kingdom, and serve him in everlasting righteousness innocence and blessedness. This is most certainly true. This is where it stands. In Jesus Name. Amen.