Today’s Text and Thought of Encouragement:
“So Peter was kept in prison, but fervent prayer for him was persistently made to God by the church assembly.”
Acts 12: 5
“Beware in your prayer, above everything, of limiting God, not only by unbelief, but by fancying that you know what He can do. Expect unexpected things, above all that we ask or think. Each time you intercede, be quiet first and worship God in His glory. Think of what He can do, of how He delights to hear Christ, of your place in Christ; and expect great things.”
Today’s Study Text:
“So they (the prophets of Baal) took the bull given them, dressed it, and called on the name of Baal from morning until noon, saying, ‘O Baal, hear and answer us!’ But there was no voice: no one answered. And they leaped upon or limped about the altar they had made. At noon Elijah mocked them saying, ‘Cry aloud, for he is a god; either he is musing, or he has gone aside, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened. And they cried aloud and cut themselves after their custom with knives and lances until the blood gushed out upon them. Midday passed, and they played the part of prophets until the time for offering the evening sacrifice, but there was no voice, no answer, no one who paid attention.”
1 Kings 18: 26-29
“A Counterfeit Conflagration”
Definition of Counterfeit: To make a copy with the intent to defraud. To carry on a deception. Made in imitation of what is genuine. To pretend or feign.
Definition of Conflagration: A large, destructive burning force or fire.
“The false gods of Baal and Ashteroth had given not only their prophets, but all other worshipers false hope, false aspirations, false expectations. The gods of this world always do that. It matters not whether those gods be something as absurd and stupid as a chunk of cedar carved into an idol or as sophisticated as a humanistic philosophy based only on human reason. The world has always been plagued with a plethora of false and futile gods. They run the full gamut from something as sordid as a slab of stone chiseled by a pagan stonecutter into the shape of a serpent, to the most intricate and elaborate occult rites devised under devilish design, suggested by the old “serpent” himself. Multitudes upon uncounted multitudes of men and women, deluded in their darkness have followed and fallen for the falsehood of false gods and their false prophets.”
W. Phillip Keller
Are there any “false gods” which have fixated my attention on their false claims?
How have the falsehoods of the “serpent” lured me into a false worship of someone or something I have replaced God with?
In what way has God called me back to a true and pure worship of Him?
“Whatever a man (or woman) seeks, honors, or exalts more than God, this is the god of idolatry.”
William Bernard Ullathorne
“When men (women) have gone so far as to talk as though their idols have come to life, it is time that someone broke them.”
Richard Henry Tawney
I ask you to take a moment and draw a mental picture for yourself which contains 450 prophets of Baal, leaping around and howling at the top of their lungs, begging their god Baal to respond with fire to an offering placed on an altar at the top of Mount Carmel.
Here’s the way the distinguished author, F. B. Meyer, in his tremendous book, Elijah and The Secret of His Power, paints this word picture:
“Round and round the altar they went in the mystic choric dance, breaking their rank sometimes by an excited leap up and down at the altar which was made; and all the while repeating the monotonous chant, ‘Baal, hear us! Hear us, Baal!’ But there was no voice, nor any that answered. ‘Their idols are silver and gold, the work of men’s hands. They have mouths, but they speak not; eyes have they, but they see not; they have ears, but they hear not; they that make them are like them, so is every one that trusteth in them.’”
Hours passed and the hullabaloo continued. The people who had gathered began to tire -- waiting for the gods of Baal to respond. Apparently by this time, Elijah felt that a little encouragement would be in order.
At first Elijah urged the prophets to shout louder so that they could get the attention of their god. However, Elijah didn’t stop with a small nudge, trying to promote an increase in volume. As M.B. Van’t Veer explains, in his mockery, “Elijah presented four possibilities for Baal’s silence. One was that Baal was simply too busy and could not find any time to pay attention to what the priests on Mount Carmel wanted. The second was, that the great god was occupied with relieving himself. The third was that he was on a journey, and the fourth was that he had fallen asleep.”
There are some rather logical reasons for what Elijah was saying, especially when we consider some of the historical lore surrounding Baal. Baal, it was thought, hibernated during the dry season, thus a sleeping Baal wasn’t totally out of the question. And because the Phoenicians were renown sailors, the idea of Baal being on a trip to watch those on the ocean, could explain his unresponsive behavior. Nor would having something more important on his mind be an outlandish idea, either. In terms of nation’s, Israel wasn’t the biggest and so a battle with an unimportant country also might have been an excuse for Baal to ignore the calls of his followers.
Finally, as the sun started lowering in the afternoon hours, the screaming turned to violence -- directed on themselves -- as the prophets of Baal took knives and daggers, cutting wounds in their own flesh. Here’s how Phillip Keller describes the scene:
“The whole appalling performance was a bestial blood bath. Even the toughest onlookers in the crowd must have blanched at the bedlam…Even the most cynical and obdurate of the onlookers must begun to wonder about the veracity of these pagan deities…No doubt a substantial percentage of the people on Mount Carmel that divine day realized that they had been deceived and double-crossed by the false gods. They had been completely duped because they had taken seriously the smooth, slick insinuations of their deceivers.”
As I read this passage, I reflected on the times when a “deceiver” with insinuations and smooth talking caught my attention, leading me to drift into uncharted territory where my Father’s guiding hand was not visible. Maybe you have found yourself in a similar situation -- where false words and deceptive actions have caught you in a net of nonsense -- just as God’s children in Israel were led to partake in behavior they most likely could have never imagined. Just think how once deeply spiritual individuals must have felt as the prophets of Baal gashed their bodies with knives and hollered in desperation, pleading with a false god to hear their cries, yet to no avail.
May you and I, in those times when we long for a response to our prayers never forget that gods made with earthly hands are nothing but deceivers, sent by the evil one to draw us away from our only source of power. As author Corrie Ten Boom so beautifully expressed in her book, Not Good If Detached, “The devil smiles when we are up to our ears in work, but he trembles when we pray.”
Let us never try and substitute the worship of a false god, as did the children of Israel, for our Creator -- the One and only God of heaven and earth, who really hears us when we pray.
“It is the nature of God, so terribly pure that it destroys all that is not pure as fire, which demands like purity in our worship. He will have purity. It is not that the fire will burn us if we do not worship thus, but that the fire will burn us until we worship thus.”
Sermon – “The Consuming Fire”
O Worship the Lord
“O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness,
Bow down before Him, His glory proclaim;
With gold of obedience, and incense of lowliness,
Kneel and adore Him; the Lord is His name.
Low at His feet lay thy burden of carefulness;
High on His heart He will bear it for thee,
Comfort thy sorrows and answer thy prayerfulness,
Guiding thy steps as may best for thee be.”
J.S. B. Monsell
Dorothy Valcárcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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