Wavering Between Two Opinions (Part Two)

1 Kings 18:16-24

We have considered the need for this confrontation between the Lord’s prophet, Elijah, on one side, and the prophets of the false god and goddess, Baal and Asherah, on the other. God acted to call his people Israel back to himself when they were far away. Let us give thanks to our God that he seeks people!

Next, let’s look at the terms of the confrontation. We should notice the fairness of the terms.

  • Elijah allowed himself to be opposed by a greater number of pagan priests (18:22). Baal had four hundred fifty priests against the lone prophet of the Lord The odds of “strength in numbers” were decidedly on the side of the Baal’s priests.
  • The test should have been something that Baal could have done if he was a god. Why worship someone who can’t demonstrate his power and defend his own honor?
  • The results would be highly visible. Anyone could “Go and touch the smoldering remains.” This was not a debate about philosophical and religious systems. People love to sit back and assume that they are capable of making such evaluations. No, this would furnish indisputable evidence in the real world.

The specifications for the confrontation were identical (18:23-24).

  • There was the same sacrifice: One bull. Elijah allowed his opponents to choose which one they wanted. This would prevent charges about him choosing the best for the Lord and the worst for Baal.
  • They were to use the same method: Sacrifice the bull and pray for fire.
  • Both sides were forbidden to “help” their God or god win. Neither could use fire.

The test clarified. Why can’t we have the same contest today? First, we have no right to demand such a contest. The Lord has already given ample evidence. After he had suffered, he also presented himself alive to them by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God (Acts 1:3 CSB). Someone might wish, “If only the resurrection of Christ had happened today! All could have been photographed and videotaped.” I answer, “Would you then believe? Or would you object that it all was a computer-generated deceit?” Second, this miracle was given for the confirmation of the word of God. God acted at this time to prepare Israel for the coming of his Son through them. So then, the principle holds true that was written about the appearance of the Messiah. How shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard, while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will (Hebrews 2:3-4 ESV). At times of giving new revelation, the Lord testified to its reality by signs, wonders and various miracles. Elijah stood for the Lord at the time when the prophets began their ministry.

Grace and peace, David

Wavering Between Two Opinions (Part One)

1 Kings 18:16-24

It is easy for Christians to frustrate themselves as they view world conditions and the response of non-Christians to those conditions. If the times are good, then we think that they should give thanks to the Lord for his goodness, because we know that it is meant to lead people to repentance. Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance? (Romans 2:4 NIV) And if God’s judgments are present, we think that they will surely turn to God for help. My soul yearns for you in the night; my spirit within me earnestly seeks you. For when your judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world learn righteousness (Isaiah 26:9 ESV).

The difficulty in both cases is that we underestimate the power of sin over unbelievers. Examine the context in both of those cases. Sin is not something external to man. It is not a slight problem that can be removed by some external pressure (whether mercy or judgment.) But the unsaved are slaves of sin and captives of the devil. Jesus responded, “Truly I tell you, everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin” (John 8:34 CSB); Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will (2 Timothy 2:25-26 NIV). It takes more than good or bad times to change a person; instead, you must be born again!

Elijah had been sent by the Lord to confront a people who had turned away from him. We need to learn from Elijah’s boldness for the faith. Such a stand requires a firm trust in the living God. Let us learn to stand for God boldly as we consider these verses.

Let’s begin with the need for the confrontation between the Lord’s prophet and the false prophets in the presence of the people of Israel. In general, we might think it was strange that such an event was needed at all.

  • Since they were the visible people of God (Romans 3:1-2; 9:4-5). There lack of positive response to the Lord would be like my children demanding that I produce their birth certificates or DNA testing that they might know that I am their father.
  • Since God had done so much for them in the past (Psalm 78). God had blessed his people through many generations. They ought to have sought the one who had made them his own and provided for them.
  • Since God was fulfilling the “curses of the covenant” upon them (Deuteronomy 28:15, 22-24). It was time to seek the Lord.

All these were intended to define how they looked at themselves and the world.

God had other particular reasons for this public clash between Elijah and the false prophets.

The Lord desired to vindicate Elijah (18:17). God desired to make known that Elijah was God’s prophet and that he was right in withholding rain. Don’t be surprised, Christian, if you are called a trouble maker (cf. Matthew 5:11-12).

It would serve as a public condemnation of Ahab and his ways (18:18). His sin would specifically be pointed out. Ahab had turned from God to idols. He was involved in both apostasy and idolatry. Blame was placed on him. The Bible teaches human responsibility. If you violate God’s laws, you are guilty.

It would display the condition of the people (18:21). Indifference sets in the hearts of people during a time of religious declension. Various explanations could be given for the people’s silence: They were guilty and didn’t care or want to change. They were guilty but afraid of Ahab. They were guilty and didn’t know how to respond. But in any case, they did not repent.

Let us learn this lesson. We should know the danger of spiritual indifference, which in one way is to be swayed by the visible and sensational rather than the word of God. Let the Scriptures influence your mind, heart, and the choices you make.

Grace and peace, David

Not an Easy Path (Part One)


Acts 16:16-24

Once, as we were on our way to prayer, a slave girl met us who had a spirit by which she predicted the future. She made a large profit for her owners by fortune-telling. As she followed Paul and us she cried out, “These men, who are proclaiming to you the way of salvation, are the servants of the Most High God” (16:16-17 CSB).

A few years ago, my son Trevor and I planned to hike up North and South Bubble “mountains” in Acadia National Park during a vacation trip. As we reached the far end of Jordan Pond and started our ascent, we saw a trail marker for South Bubble. There I made a serious miscalculation. “It’s only four-tenths of a mile to the top!” Right, but it was also hot, steep, and the granite path was exposed to the sun. I also was not in good physical condition. It was not an easy path, and as a result, we only climbed South Bubble.

True Christianity is a good path, since it is a saving relationship with Him who is the Way, the Truth and the Life. But it is not an easy path. Perhaps in the sheltered, Christianized west, it has seemed easy, but that was always more apparent than real. Had professing Christians been more zealous and faithful, we might not have wrongly assumed that it was easy.

Now we live in a rather twisted kind of intolerant pluralistic culture. We must face challenges from postmodernism, various eastern religions, and the pursuit of personal pleasure that tolerate anything except a truly Christian viewpoint. (If you doubt this, try to tell others the gospel, especially in public settings.) Christians must regain our balance and strength, so that we do not collapse on the trail. Since we are united to Christ, we will certainly follow the trail to the end in heaven, but we ought to want to be useful along the way. So, let’s look at this picture of the early church and learn from the experience of that great pathfinder, the apostle Paul.

True Christianity will always have to confront other religions and philosophies (16:16-18). In western civilization, this was not the case for many centuries, as institutional Christendom provided a Christian illusion as the dominant outlook. Under the protection of Christendom, true Christianity could influence western culture with little challenge from other religions or philosophies. This happened because of three events.

  • The “walling off” of Europe from Muslim expansionism
  • The elimination or total suppression of competing cultures in the Americas
  • The salvation of many people through great revivals, such as the Reformation and the First Great Awakening

Part of our present problem in this time of change is the need to retool our thinking. Years ago, Bob Dylan wrote a song called, “The Times They Are a Changing.” He was right, as our culture changed very quickly, but Christians did not listen. We can’t waste our time looking back at supposed “good old days”, which weren’t as good as we imagine. (Most people never read history books!) The old ways are gone forever. We must live in the culture God has permitted to develop since World War II. Therefore, we need to pray.

Usually, the church must compete in a non-Christian world for survival or expansion. This was Paul’s situation at Philippi. In God’s providence, he was breaking a new trail into the utterly non-Christian continent of Europe. When Paul, Silas, Luke and a couple others went to Philippi, they were the only Christians anywhere in the west! They were entering a new world uninfluenced by God’s Word, the Bible, and the ideas that flow from being true followers of Jesus.

Christians must be aware of various aspects of life in a culture where true Christianity is challenged. We must know the reality of the spiritual forces of evil. The Philippian slave girl in our text was under the control of a demon, and so she could do what was beyond natural human ability. True Christianity acknowledges the existence of spiritual powers that are unholy and wicked. They have power—sometimes great power (Matthew 24:24).

We must realize that wickedness will misuse truth for evil goals. What the slave said (16:17) could be heard as true, if you don’t realize her context. Her intent was mockery and disruption of Paul’s evangelistic mission. Some in our day think, “There is no such thing as bad publicity.” The Lord Jesus and the apostle Paul did not share that view. God’s work must be done in God’s way (Romans 3:8; 1 Corinthians 3:10-15; 2 Timothy 1:13-14; Titus 2:7-8

Our great need is to comprehend and lay hold of the greater power of God the Holy Spirit (16:18; cf. 1 John 4:4). This requires love of God and truth and… prayer.

Grace and peace, David