And Elijah came near to all the people and said, “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.” And the people did not answer him a word.1 Kings 18: 21-22
When we were in Israel several years ago, we made an unexpected stop at Mt. Carmel, the site of a significant Old Testament confrontation between the prophet Elijah and 450 prophets of the false god, Baal – one of my favorite passages from the Old Testament. As you can read in the verses above, the people of Israel faced a type of crossroads and they appeared unwilling to choose between the LORD and Baal, so when Elijah demanded a choice, the “people did not answer him a word.”
If you haven’t read the whole passage in a while, click here. It’s well worth the time, but here’s a brief synopsis: Each side built an altar for a burnt offering, but Elijah and the supporters of Baal agreed to not light the fire for the sacrifices. Instead, they would depend on their God and “the God who answers by fire, he is God.”
The prophets of Baal prayed to their god for hours and “there was no voice. No one answered; no one paid attention.” Elijah mocked them each step of the way (sarcasm was not lost on Elijah). In the end, Elijah prayed a simple prayer that took less than thirty seconds to pray and the LORD did indeed answer with fire, and “when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, “The Lord, he is God; the Lord, he is God” ( 1 Kings 18:39).
Like many of the familiar accounts from the Old Testament, we can often forget that Elijah was living in his very own, “But if, not” moment. If the LORD had not responded with fire, Elijah would have met the fate of the false prophets.
And so it is for us. We are here now for a purpose and this is no time to waver.