Elijah calls on the people of Israel to decide between following God or following the prophets of Baal. The showdown begins. Elijah, a brilliant showman, highlights the impotence of the prophets of Baal as they whip themselves into a frenzy and call out to a god who does not act. They call on the name of Baal for four hours to no avail. No matter how frenetic they become or how much they abuse their bodies to get Baal’s attention, nothing happens.
Then Elijah takes his turn, all alone. He rebuilds the altar of the Lord, using twelve stones—one for each of the tribes of Israel. He digs a trench. After arranging the sacrifice on the altar, he has the people pour bucket after bucket of water over the meat and the altar until the trench is full of water.
And then Elijah simply prays to the God of Israel. Interestingly, he doesn’t ask God to send fire to consume the sacrifice. Instead, he calls for God to make it known that the Lord is God in Israel. He asks God to answer him “so these people will know that you, Lord, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.” Elijah, though alone, trusts that God will not abandon him and will act.
And God answers Elijah’s prayer. God’s fire falls, burning up the sacrifice, the wood, stones, soil, and all of the water in the trench. And, more importantly, the people fall before God and cry out, “The Lord—he is God!”
Isn’t it amazing what great lengths God will go to in order to turn people’s hearts back to God!
Lord, give us undivided hearts. If we have turned away, bring us back to you once again. Help us see and respond to your great love. Amen.