“Then you call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the Lord. The god who answers by fire – he is God.” – 1 Kings 18:24
The prophet Elijah is standing on Mount Carmel before King Ahab, the 450 prophets of Baal (a pagan god), and all the people of Israel. He had just said to them all before this,
“How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.” – 1 Kings 18:21
How fitting that Elijah suggests that the god who answers by fire is God, for Baal was considered to be the possessor of fire. What a challenge to the prophets of Baal and the people. Israel had become a country that had turned their backs on God and begun worshipping pagan gods, gods of their own making. Much of this was due to the evil Queen Jezebel. Nonetheless, Elijah was a follower of the one true God and a lone prophet in his own country.
When faced with great trials and persecution, what is our response? Elijah stood firm and courageous, faithful and confident in his God. Though he was surrounded by 450 pagan prophets and the king, he stood firm, resolved to see his God, the One True God, come through and display His sovereignty. And come through He did…with a great fire from heaven that burned up the sacrifice on the altar, the soaking wet altar itself, and even all the water that filled the trench all around the altar! Notice too, that God’s fire did not come until after Elijah’s display of great faith! So must be our faith.
God spoke through fire when He appeared to Moses in the burning bush. In Egypt, God had used fire to rain down havoc and pain on Pharoah and the Egyptian Empire to set His people free. Again He used a pillar of fire to shield the Hebrews from the Egyptian army when they were trapped at the edge of the Red Sea. Then again, the Lord used that same fire to lead and light the way at night for His people through the wilderness. The Holy Spirit fell upon the disciples in Jerusalem like ‘tongues of fire’ after Jesus’ resurrection and ascension. Certainly there are a ton more examples of God using fire, most often in one of two situations – when His sovereignty and glory are on the line and when our freedom is on the line.
Fire provides light. It provides a shield. It provides guidance. It cleanses. It purifies. It consumes. It burns up the old and dying to make room for new life. We all need God’s fire from heaven to reach deep into our hearts and burn us alive, cleansing, purifying, and making all things new. If you do not believe in the God of the Bible though, does your god answer by fire? Can your god shield you? Guide you? Cleanse you? Make you new? Can your god purify your heart?
“The god who answers by fire – he is God.”