“Our God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases him” —Psalms 115:3
One of the greatest confrontations in the Old Testament—Elijah meets Ahab and the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel. Elijah proclaims to Israel, “How long will you go limping between two different opinions?” Elijah then proposes a contest. “Let’s get two bulls. We’ll sacrifice them . . . but without fire. Let’s see which God answers.”
The prophets of Baal go first. This section is one of my favorites. The writer of 1 King tells:
[They] called upon the name of Baal from morning until noon, saying, “O Baal, answer us!” But there was no voice, and no one answered. And they limped around the altar that they had made. 27 And at noon Elijah mocked them, saying, “Cry aloud, for he is a god. Either he is musing, or he is relieving himself, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened.” 28 And they cried aloud and cut themselves after their custom with swords and lances, until the blood gushed out upon them. 29 And as midday passed, they raved on until the time of the offering of the oblation, but there was no voice. No one answered; no one paid attention. (18:26-29)
The best part of it all is Elijah mocking them. “I bet Baal is relieving himself . . . just a little louder.” Elijah is deadly serious when it comes to his loyalty to God, but he’s not so serious that he can’t poke fun at a false god.
What happens next is amazing. Elijah basically says enough! He sets up his bull on the firewood then has water dumped on the flesh and wood as if to add further insult to injury. Elijah stands and prays, “O Lord, answer me.” The fire of the Lord pours out of the sky and consumes everything—including the water.
The ultimate mic drop.
Folks that’s the God we serve. Yet I wonder how many of us have the kind of confidence in God that Elijah did? Now none of us are sacrificing bulls or challenging prophets of Baal, but many of us are facing the prophets of pragmatism. We’ve fallen prey to their song and dance—which doesn’t even work. It doesn’t bring the fire of the Lord. Churches train people in evangelistic methods that are nothing but sales techniques. We’ve got churches who plan their services around a schtick to generate numbers, false conversions, and baptisms.
Oh that more churches would stand before God and their churches and pray, “O Lord, answer me. Take the hearts of your sheep and make them new.” And stand back with confidence as the Spirit of the Lord comes down and does the work.
When our life and worship makes saving people ultimate instead of glorifying God and proclaiming his gospel. Instead we turn to the prophets of pragmatism instead of standing with confidence with the prophets of the living God. How silly must some of our stunts look to God as if he needed our schticks. J.A. Medders nails it:
The Father is eager to hear from you. He is game to help. He is on call. There are no hoops or red tape; you have all you need and are qualified to approach the throne of grace. You are a child of God. You don’t have to perform an evangelical rain dance with the right amount of Bible reading, prayer, Christian music, missional living, fasting, and podcasting to earn God’s interest. It’s yours in Christ. —Gospel Formed (Kindle Locations 1874-1882). Kregel Publications. Kindle Edition.
Christians, proclaim the gospel with confidence in your homes, work, and churches. Trust God for the harvest knowing that not a single one of his children will fail to hear his voice and respond. Get rid of the evangelistic schticks and faithfully make disciples, teach them to obey God, and baptize them. No rain dance required—God isn’t relieving himself.
Mathew B. Sims is the author of A Household Gospel: Fulfilling the Great Commission in Our Homes and a contributor in Make, Mature, Multiply (GCD Books). He completed over forty hours of seminary work at Geneva Reformed Seminary. He also works as the managing editor at Gospel-Centered Discipleship and the project manager for the Journal of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. Mathew offers freelance editing and book formatting. He is a member at Downtown Presbyterian Church in Greenville, SC.