By Benjamin H. Liles
Then it happened, when Ahab saw Elijah, that Ahab said to him, “Is that you, O troubler of Israel?”
And he answered, “I have not troubled Israel, but you and your father’s house have, in that you have forsaken the commandments of the Lord and have followed the Baals. Now therefore, send and gather all Israel to me on Mount Carmel, the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal, and the four hundred prophets of Asherah, who eat at Jezebel’s table. ~ 1 Kings 18:17-19, New King James
There are certain men who in their lifetimes called by God to do great things in His name. I can think of a few who helped advance the kingdom of God: Abraham with his faith, same with Isaac, and Jacob also for realizing he wrestled with God. But there are others like Ezekiel, Elijah, John the Baptist, Isaiah, and more who prophesied God would come down and become like one of us.
One of those things these men did in that process wasn't just pronouncing judgment on certain key leaders, such as Elijah to Ahab. They also condemned sin in the nation. These men were under the influence of God's Holy Spirit. They were guided by God's hand to not simply just give a message, but to perform in such a way to prove and show He exists. Jesus Christ said, "Truly, truly, I tell you, whoever believes in Me will also do the works that I am doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father" (John 14:12, Berean Study).
I'm a bit ahead of myself, however. Let me go back to the text I posted up in regards to Elijah. At the time of Ahab, sin: such as idolatry (see 1 Kings 16:31), murder (see 1 Kings 20:1-14), and theft (see 1 Kings 15-16). But this isn't the message I want to fully explain. There's much much more.
If we look at the verses we see that Elijah has come to Ahab. Ahab is saying to Elijah, "Ah, troublemaker, you have come!" Elijah replies back to him, "You and your father have troubled Israel, not I. You forsook the commandments of God and followed after foreign gods. Here is what you will do: gather all together Israel on Mount Carmel, as well as four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal. While you're at it bring also four hundred prophets of Asherah, who ate at Jezebel's table" (paraphrased, 1 Kings 18:17-19).
When it comes to serving God, and when I say this the Christian God is the same as the Jewish God. I know this is a bit of a tangent, but follow me here. Since Jesus Christ and His disciples were Jewish, and it was foretold in scripture that Jesus Christ would be born of a woman by God's Spirit, it follows that those who conformed to the power of His Holy Spirit these people wouldn't be Jewish in nature anymore. Yes, they still had their Hebraic background, but they identified as followers of Christ. These people now lived under grace, and not under the letter of the law, which Judaism still expects of its adherents.
Going back to Elijah though. Within the context of what Elijah performed under God's Spirit, as God allowed him, not only was it found that idolatry is one of the worst sins (actually, it doesn't matter as all sin is terrible in the sight of God. Paul lists these as being reprehensible: unbelief - the source of all sin, unthankful, foolishness, idolatrous, degradation, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness, strife, deceit, evil-minded, gossipers, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents--and all, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, and unmerciful [somewhat paraphrased from Romans 1:18-31]).
James says this of breaking one commandment of God, "Whoever keeps the whole Law but stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it" (James 2:10, Berean Study). Again, I digress.
The whole point on Elijah is that God empowered and enabled him to slaughter all those who served a god who would not answer them. From morning to noon not once did Baal answer his servants. They cried, they danced, they slashed themselves with knives and lances, and yet Baal didn't answer his adherents once (see 1 Kings 18:20-29). Why? The first thing is that man often creates or serves something already created by God. Nature is God's tool to show us His creative power. The act of worshiping creation over the Creator, God, is idolatry. It means we don't believe the words God gave to us. This is the main issue Elijah preaches against.
It is also why God, when Elijah repaired God's altar, rebuilding His altar in God's name, that he prepared a fitting sacrifice to atone for Israel's sin. We're told: "he made a trench around the altar large enough to hold two seahs of seed. And he put the wood in order, cut the bull in pieces, and laid it on the wood, and said, “Fill four waterpots with water, and pour it on the burnt sacrifice and on the wood.” Then he said, “Do it a second time,” and they did it a second time; and he said, “Do it a third time,” and they did it a third time. So the water ran all around the altar; and he also filled the trench with water" (1 Kings 18:32b-35, New King James).
What happens next is that Elijah prays to God to reveal Himself to the whole assembly. Elijah says, "Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that You are God in Israel and I am Your servant, and that I have done all these things at Your word. Hear me, O Lord, hear me, that this people may know that You are the Lord God, and that You have turned their hearts back to You again" (1 Kings 18-36b-37, New King James).
God proved Himself by sending a consuming fire over the bull, the seed in the trench, and even the water that had been poured over the meat, also now in the trench. The scene after this shows that Israel bowed down in worship of their God (see 1 Kings 18:39). So, what does Elijah do? He tells the people of Israel, "Seize the prophets of Baal! Do not let one of them escape!" (1 Kings 18:40. The people did that, and thus Elijah executed them, the servants of Baal.
Fast forward to the time of Jesus. He tells us, about John the Baptist, "For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John, and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come" (Matthew 11:13-14). John the Baptist prepared the way for Jesus Christ. As it says in scripture, "Behold, I send My messenger before Your face, who will prepare Your way before You" (Malachi 3:1). While all of scripture refers to Jesus Christ, this is one of the few times God spoke of sending someone who would announce the arrival of His Servant, His Son, Jesus Christ.
But does this mean the work of John the Baptist is done? I don't believe so. If we look to Ezekiel 33, we see God commissioning him to be Israel's watchman, a prophet: "Again the word of the Lord came to me, saying, “Son of man, speak to the children of your people, and say to them: ‘When I bring the sword upon a land, and the people of the land take a man from their territory and make him their watchman, when he sees the sword coming upon the land, if he blows the trumpet and warns the people, then whoever hears the sound of the trumpet and does not take warning, if the sword comes and takes him away, his blood shall be on his own head. He heard the sound of the trumpet, but did not take warning; his blood shall be upon himself. But he who takes warning will save his life. But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, and the people are not warned, and the sword comes and takes any person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at the watchman’s hand" (Ezekiel 33:1-6, New King James).
How is the modern Church, and even after Jesus' ascension to Heaven to go back to His throne, to interpret the Old Testament when so much of it was written for Israel's benefit? In a way Israel is like the Church. Christ Himself warned, "Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit" (Matthew 7:15-17, New American Standard).
I realize just how long this article is. Stay with me a little longer here, I'm wrapping it up. My point is that those of us who are called to be in ministry alongside Jesus Christ and His Holy Spirit we are His witnesses. just like the prophets of old who warned of falling into unbelief and laziness isn't good. James said, "Be doers of the word, and not hearers only. Otherwise, you are deceiving yourselves. For anyone who hears the word but does not carry it out is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror, and after observing himself goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the one who looks intently into the perfect law of freedom, and continues to do so--not being a forgetful hearer, but an effective doer--he will be blessed in what he does" (James 1:22-25, Berean Study, emphasis mine).
We no longer live under the law, which God gave to Israel. The law could only point to the fact Israel had a deep need for a savior. God told them how to look for Him, Jesus Christ, His Son. Just like Abraham, even though he is dead, he kept his faith until his dying day that God would fulfill His word. And He did. Jesus Christ came to conquer sin and death, canceling out our outstanding debt while we were still at odds with Him. In a way, I'm like Paul. I preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. I do so out of a deep and abiding love on your behalf. I want to see people reconciled to God in their faith before it's too late. There is a time, fast approaching, where God's saints--you and I--will not truly be able to worship as freely and willingly without being actively persecuted. Yes, in some parts of the world this is happening and continued to happen since 33 A.D. Christians by and large are hated by the world. It's because the world at large is at war with God. They don't believe God exists. And it's why God handed them over to a debased mind. Thanks for sticking in there with me.
"The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding" (Proverbs 9:10, New American Standard).
Father, You are so holy. I am not. I realize I sin in some way everyday. I forget to uphold You and Your word. Whether it's slight or not I know I break Your heart when I do this. I hate the sin that is prevalent in my life. I don't want it anymore. I want You, to glorify, magnify, thank, and praise You and Your holy and precious name. I want to always give a willing and accurate witness so that others see my plain devotion to You. I want others to want the same as I have with You. I want their yearning, their zeal for You to want to get to know You better. Not simply being a servant of Yours, but to truly being in a committed relationship with You. You show great and mighty things to those who love and honor You. Allow me, Lord, to be like those who before me did great works in their faith toward You. I want a great work to be done like no one has seen or will ever see again while I still have breath. I want everyone to know You, and to have a heart for You as I have. Please, Lord, do this. Bring Your people in and allow Your kingdom to come. We're tired of hurting. Send us Your Son so we can come home to You. In Jesus' name, I pray. Amen.