By Stephen A. Curry
1 Kings 18 tells the story of the showdown at Mount Carmel. The king, Ahab, had taken as his queen a Phoenician woman named Jezebel who sought to replace the religion of God with her religion. The prophet Elijah warned that the kingdom would suffer a drought as a consequence. Ahab’s prime minister, Obadiah, however, remained faithful to God and hid Hebrew priests from Jezebel’s pogrom.
Three years into the drought, Ahab was running out of grass for his warhorses. Elijah sent word to Ahab through Obadiah to bring all of Jezebel’s priests to Mount Carmel. Elijah then went to the people of the kingdom and reminded them that they must choose between God and the religion of Jezebel.
Ahab met Elijah at Mount Carmel with Jezebel’s priests. A large crowd gathered to witness the event. The challenge was this: Jezebel’s priests would build an altar, prepare a sacrifice, but not light a fire. Elijah would do the same. Jezebel’s priests would call on their god to light their fire and Elijah would call upon God to light his. Elijah let Jezebel’s priests go first.
All morning, Jezebel’s priests prayed and danced at their altar. At noon, Elijah started trash talking. Jezebel’s priests began to cut themselves and pray harder. Still, no fire. Then Elijah built his altar and prepared his sacrifice. He poured 12 jugs of water on it, then called upon God. Fire came from heaven and consumed the sacrifice. The people seized Jezebel’s priests and killed them. It rained and the drought ended.
God made a covenant to bless the people of Israel. He freed them from slavery in Egypt. Out of love, He had given them the loving guidance of the Torah, teaching them how to live good, decent, moral lives; how to live together in love and peace. God had given them the land and the kingdom. Now that the people were comfortable, they had wandered to Jezebel’s religion. All they had to do was kiss a pole or sacrifice to appease a temperamental idol.
It is the one true God of all creation that blesses us. It is the loving God that desires for us peace, love, and joy, that gave us the example of Christ as a way for us to live and the blood of Christ to cleanse us of our sin. We are called to reject the false idols of this world and remain faithful to the One who has always been by our side and brought us safely to where we are today.