Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Jun 22 2019 - 1 Kings 18:30-45 – Fire from heaven

The prophets of Baal have failed to get any response from their god, despite the frenzy of their activity and the noise they have made. Now it is Elijah's turn. He rebuilt the altar of the Lord that had been torn down. He rebuilt it using twelve large stones, one for each of the twelve tribes of Israel. Then, as the prophets of Baal and the assembled people looked on, he dug a trench around the altar. Those watching him must have wondered what he was doing. Then Elijah placed the wood and slaughtered bull on the altar.

Three times Elijah then instructed those around him to fill four large jars with water and to empty them over the sacrifice, the wood and the altar, until the trench around the altar was full to overflowing. This in itself must have amazed the crowd. After three years of drought and with water now in short supply, why waste 12 large jars of water? But Elijah knows that rain will soon be on its way. Elijah is concerned to demonstrate the power of the living God. He does not have to make it easy for God by leaving the wood tinder-dry. The mighty creator of wood and of water can alone set fire to this sodden sacrifice.

Now Elijah turns to prayer. With him there is no desperate frenzy of dancing and shouting, nor does he cut himself with knives to seek to gain God's attention. Elijah calmly but confidently called upon the name of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, the God who had chosen these people to be his people, who had promised to bless them and make them a blessing. He calls on God to send down fire so that the people "'will know that you, LORD, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.' Then the fire of the LORD fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench. When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, 'The LORD – he is God! The LORD – he is God!'" (18:37-39).

At Elijah's command the false prophets are put to the sword. Then, again in answer to Elijah's persistent prayer, the rain fell on the dry ground.

It's a wonderfully dramatic story. The living God is the God who speaks and acts; he is not blind, dumb and inactive like the idol gods that others may worship. We delight in this story and in the power of our God.

But if we are honest, is not our experience more often like that of the prophets of Baal? We plead with God to send his power from heaven to heal our friends or to bring those whom we love to see that "The Lord is God", but nothing happens. We plead with God again and again until we are frantic but he does not answer. Is he asleep?

We deal here with mysteries – see Pete Greig's helpful and moving book, God on Mute. But we cannot forget that our God has shown us his power; he has heard and answered prayer. In the person of the Lord Jesus Christ, God has opened heaven and come down to act for us. Jesus laid down his own life as a sacrifice for our sins, and God raised him from the dead. The Lord is God. He has acted for our salvation and he will act for us. We can trust him.

More than that, the living God has poured out his Spirit upon us from heaven. He has set our hearts on fire with love for him and has filled us with a desire that others may come to know him. He also stirs up in our hearts a desire that he would send fire from heaven to revive his people and set them – set us – on fire for God and for his kingdom.

Father God, help me to focus my attention upon the Lord Jesus Christ, the one in whom you have acted to reveal your grace and power. Help me to trust you when you seem silent and inactive. Help me to know that there is nowhere else for me to turn; Jesus alone has the words and power that give eternal life. Fill me with your Spirit and keep me careful never to put out the Spirit's fire in myself or in others.

Peter Misselbrook