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Best Prophet Smack Down Ever

July 9, 2007

This week’s Topic: Favorite Prophets

by Carrie Ann

1Kings 18:17-40

“So you’re the one causing all the trouble,” said Ahab regarding Elijah doubtfully.

“The same could be said of you and your father’s dubious regime in Israel,” replied Elijah. “Tell you what, you gather all of Israel to Mount Carmel. Gather all of your priests of Baal, all 450 of them, and call Jezebel’s minions too, what’s she up to? 400 now? We’re going to have a little ‘General Conference.’”

Ahab couldn’t resist the odds. He called EVERYONE.

Once everyone was assembled Elijah took the “pulpit”. “How long are you, the children of Israel, going to straddle the line? If the Lord be God, then follow Him; but if Baal be God, then follow him.”

The crowd was silent. Did they feel guilty? Probably not. Most likely they were embarrassed at Elijah’s shabby cloak against the pageantry of 450 priests of Baal with their colors and their banners.

“OK,” said Elijah. If it’s spectacle they want, so be it, he thought. “Bring two of your best bulls for sacrifice. Baal, you guys get first pick, dress it, lay it out on the wooden alter, but don’t light the fire just yet. I will take the other bull and dress it and lay it out, too. Then you call on your gods to light your fire and I will call on mine. The god that answers…let him be the only god.”

The crowd roared in approval. They loved a good showdown. The priests of Baal got to work building the alter out of the driest wood, choosing the smaller bull thinking that it would catch fire quicker and better, and “accidentally” smearing a little of the fat around to ensure good fuel for lighting. Elijah tied his bull to one of the trees of the infamous grove and let him graze as he sat down to whittle a stick of wood to pass the time.

The priests of Baal put on a pretty good show. There was lots of singing and crying and banner waving. As the morning wore on the dramatics increased to near acrobatics as they were leaped upon the alter crying, “Baal, hear us!”

Around noon the priests were finally getting hoarse and Elijah spoke up. “Hey maybe you guys should shout a little louder. Maybe your god is talking to someone else, or maybe he’s on vacation…could he be taking a nap? For goodness sake, call louder and wake him up!”

The priests of Baal seemed to go into a frenzy. They cried louder, they jumped higher, they waved their banners all the more mightily. Some priests even began cutting themselves with their ceremonial daggers in the hopes that their fresh blood would entice the nose of their god and arouse him to their aid.

Eventually, the sun began to set and nary a flame had licked at the now blood-drenched alter of the priests of Baal. Even the crowd who had been thrilled with the opening dramatics had thinned and the remaining spectators where sprawled on the grass talking amongst themselves, barely aware of the contest and just happy for a day off work.

Finally, Elijah stood up, brushed off his rough mantle and called the people to gather close around. He did not want them to miss a thing. Elijah gathered twelve stones and used them to repair the alter of the One True God that had been neglected and was in disrepair. The priests of Baal sat on the ground, exhausted and grateful for a break. They all watched as Elijah dug an unfamiliar and unusually deep trench around the entire alter.

Elijah took what wood was left and carefully arranged it on top of the stone alter. He then quickly and skillfully dressed his bull and laid the pieces on top of the wood. Elijah called to the priests and the spectators, “I want you to find and fill four barrels with water and pour them on the sacrifice and on the wood. Just drench it.”

The stunned crowd took a few moments to process his request, but then scattered to oblige. Even the priests, as exhausted as they were, seemed renewed as they helped to douse Elijah’s sacrifice.

Elijah watched the trench around the alter begin to fill. “Ok,” he called. “Do it again.” The crowd rushed to do his bidding. They knew something was up. Again the alter was doused, the water running off into the trench.

Elijah asked them one more time to fill four barrels with water and pour it over his sacrifice. By now the sun was set, but in all the excitement wives and children were fetched from their homes to return and see the prophet’s insanity.

How patient Elijah had been with this people! But his patience was wearing thin. The calm demeanor he had worn all day was hardening to a grim efficiency as he watched the crowd become increasingly animated and excited. He just wanted this whole thing to be over with.

Once the wood was wet soggy, the bull soaked to the bone, and the trench brimming with water all around the alter Elijah stood with bowed head and waited; the time for the regular evening sacrifice was near at hand. The crowd quieted in anticipation, but became impatient as they misunderstood Elijah’s hesitation. Bravely, a few hecklers began snickering.

Then looking heaven ward, Elijah raised his bowed head, took a deep breath and his voice shook like thunder, “Hear me, O Lord, hear me that this people may know that thou, Jehovah, art God, and that thou wilt soften their hard hearts once again and return to thee!”

Then the fire of the Lord fell, and consumed the sacrifice, and the wood, and the stones, and the dust. Flames even licked up the water that was in the trench.

And when the crowd witnessed this, they fell on their faces in humility, and they said, “The Lord, he is the God. The Lord, he is the God.”

Elijah spoke to the people and commanded them, “Take these false prophets of the false god Baal and let not one of them escape.”

The multitude obeyed and brought the priests to Elijah down by the brook, Kishon, where Elijah gave them their just rewards.

I love that in the next few chapters, Elijah, who has had to go through all this, becomes discouraged and is taught by the Lord that He is not in the fire nor the whirwind nor the earthquake, but is in the still small voice. We get a glimpse into the humanity of the prophets. By understanding the humanity of men of God we can love them as they love us with all our faults.

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5 comments

  1. It’s nice to be reminded even Prophets get discouraged sometimes, eh?


  2. You need to write a book. You really told the story in an intriguing and effective way. I’m calling Doubleday right away.


  3. That was awesome, CA.


  4. That was definitely Harry Potter quality, Carrie Ann. We need you in our ward teaching Sunday school!


  5. What is interesting to me is that the name “Elijah” means “the Lord he is God.” So perhaps when the people witnessed the great miracle, they started chanting, Jerry Springer-style, “Eli-JAH, Eli-JAH, Eli-JAH!”



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