Have you ever sat in a worship service, prayer service or church service and thought: Wow, this is eerily similar to the prophets of Baal (found in 1 Kings 18:21)? Has the “church” become more like the followers of Baal rather than the followers of Jehovah? It has been interesting as both my family and my friends discuss what we have experienced in “church” (I use this term to define what goes on in a building) and the similarities between believers or Christians today and the story of Elijah on Mt. Carmel. I too have acted like those followers of Baal on the top of Mt. Carmel. Thinking, emulating what I have seen pastors and or leaders do. I remember in my late twenties coming back into the “church” and watching the praying going on within the church during a “Saturday prayer time” and the scripture that came to me was when Jesus spoke of the Pharisees and Sadducees and how they would pray long prayers publicly to make themselves look good (paraphrasing here). Yet I still decided to perform the same way thinking they know more than me. How very wrong I was. This only increased the longer I stayed in churches that were religious but thought they were not. The relationship God had with the Israelites was one that the Jewish people choose themselves not what God had offered. It was based on religion. Religion, as I am using it here, is when we (humanity) must perform to make ourselves right with God. Relationship, as I use it here, is when God has performed for us what we needed to make us right with Him. Elijah though was ahead of his time and this is actually God’s preference.
Let’s dig into the story of Elijah. 1 Kings 18:20 is preceded by Jezebel and Ahab (at Jezebel’s behest) leading the people of Israel to worship Baal instead of Jehovah. Because of this there has been no rain which has led to a drought and famine. People were suffering. Baal, according to the Phoenicians and Canaanites, was the God of fertility which meant he also governed the fertility of the land and was also known as the Lord of rain and dew. He was also believed to be the God of gods and the Prince, Lord of the Earth. Seven years also played a role in their belief of who Baal was along with his siring a divine bull calf from a heifer. Lastly, he was described as the storm god who rides on the clouds and the Phoenicians went as far as to call him Lord of the Heavens.* Elijah had already let Ahab know the worship of Baal was the reason for the drought before it happened. Now, after seven years, Elijah was sent back to Jezebel and Ahab to throw down the gauntlet. It was time for God to help the people of Israel remember Who God really was. Elijah invites the prophets of Baal to a battle, a showdown, at the top of Mt. Carmel and whoever burns the heifer with fire from the heavens is the one and true God. Here is what happened:
“So Ahab sent a message among all the sons of Israel and brought the prophets together at Mount Carmel. Elijah came near to all the people and said, “How long will you hesitate between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.” But the people did not answer him a word. Then Elijah said to the people, “I alone am left a prophet of the LORD, but Baal’s prophets are 450 men. Now let them give us two oxen; and let them choose one ox for themselves and cut it up, and place it on the wood, but put no fire under it; and I will prepare the other ox and lay it on the wood, and I will not put a fire under it. Then you call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the LORD, and the God who answers by fire, He is God.” And all the people said, ” That is a good idea.” So Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, “Choose one ox for yourselves and prepare it first for you are many, and call on the name of your god, but put no fire under it. ” Then they took the ox which was given them and they prepared it and called on the name of Baal from morning until noon saying, “O Baal, answer us.” But there was no voice and no one answered. And they leaped about the altar which they made. It came about at noon, that Elijah mocked them and said, “Call out with a loud voice, for he is a god; either he is occupied or gone aside, or is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and needs to be awakened.” So they cried with a loud voice and cut themselves according to their custom with swords and lances until the blood gushed out on them. When midday was past, they raved until the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice; but there was no voice, no one answered, and no one paid attention. Then Elijah said to all the people, “Come near to me.” So all the people came near to him. And he repaired the altar of the LORD which had been torn down. Elijah took twelve stones according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, to whom the word of the LORD had come, saying, “Israel shall be your name.” So with the stones he built an altar in the name of the LORD, and he made a trench around the altar, large enough to hold two measures of seed. Then he arranged the wood and cut the ox in pieces and laid it on the wood. And he said, “Fill four pitchers with water and pour it on the burnt offering and on the wood.” And 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. The water flowed around the altar and he also filled the trench with water. At the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, Elijah the prophet came near and said, “O LORD, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, today let it be known that You are God in Israel and that I am Your servant and I have done all these things at Your word. Answer me, O LORD, answer me, that this people may know that You, O LORD, are God, and that You have turned their heart back again.” Then the fire of the LORD fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. When all the people saw it, they fell on their faces; and they said, “The LORD, He is God; the LORD, He is God.” 1 Kings 18:20-39 NASB
Heaven has come to
live inside you
there is NO ceiling to hit
So many times I have seen and performed similar prayers as the prophets of Baal. Beating oneself or frantically, frenzied praying to make sure God listens to you. By stating beating or frenzy I mean twisting yourself into a pretzel making sure you are forgiven enough, good enough, have prayed enough, performed well for that day, and/or feeling like you “hit the ceiling” and your prayers aren’t going anywhere. All of this is untrue. Just like the prophets of Baal we, as Christians, many times have been found feeling like we are lacking in some way and so we must make up the lack. We may not outwardly cut ourselves, shout louder (although I have participated and seen this too), or prayed for hours on end believing the Lord has not heard us yet. Saying our prayers are “hitting the ceiling” is not true. Remember, as I have written in,Spirit and Truth and Your Soul Makes You Unique, I stated that the Holy Spirit, Who is God, comes to live inside of you. So there is no ceiling to hit.
Elijah called to the Lord in his need and this was from the very start all a part of God’s eternal plan. He did not have to do what the prophets of Baal did at all. He simply asked and he trusted. There wasn’t anything else he could do. Many times in the past I have felt guilty if I had forgotten to pray for something each day. Where does this idea come from that I need to bombard heaven until I get the answer I want? There was so much guilt I took on if I didn’t “pray enough” for any given situation. If the prayer wasn’t answered then I felt condemned because I didn’t pray “hard enough” or “long enough”.
As I pondered all of this with the Lord, I asked where does this idea of “needing to pray over and over again and if you don’t then you won’t be heard or answered” come from. The answer came almost immediately and it is found in Luke 18. (Side note: I thought it was pretty cool that it was 1 Kings 18 and Luke 18). In the beginning of Luke 18, Jesus is talking about a woman who goes to a judge that doesn’t fear God nor respect man. The woman keeps coming and requesting for him to, “Avenge me of the adversary of me”. Previous to this parable Jesus is speaking of His second coming and right after this parable Jesus asks whether or not He will find faith on the earth when He returns and goes on to speak of people who trust in themselves for their righteousness. At the beginning of this parable Luke states, ““Now He was telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart,” (NASB). Remember I have written about how to pray at all times in, How to Pray…Unceasingly. Now let’s have a look at context and definition:
- Jesus is speaking to Jews
- Jesus was just talking about His second coming and then spoke of those that trust in their own behavior to make themselves righteous.
- The word 1163 dein translated above as “ought” is actually behooves and its definition is: it is necessary, inevitable; less frequently defined as: it is a duty, what is proper. If we look further in biblehub.com we find: what MUST happen; a necessity of law and command,of duty, equity (fair and impartial).
- This word doesn’t change it’s meaning but does change the perspective from Moses Covenant to New Testament Covenant.
- Lastly, we need to look at supporting scripture to understand this word. Romans 8:26 is written after Jesus’ death and resurrection. Jesus’ death and resurrection created the New Covenant which is the time we are currently living in. Romans 8:26-27 states” “In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” NASB. The Spirit of God plays an important role in our ability to pray all the times and not to lose hope or grow weary. Once again supporting what I wrote in “How to Pray…Unceasingly”.
With the above statements in mind let’s dig into Luke 18:2-9. Jesus is talking to Jews and establishing what was and what will be, Who He is and how much God loves them. Jesus is currently living in the Old Covenant. He had stated previously there will be a second coming, if there is a second coming then it makes sense He will have to leave at some point. He is describing a judge who does not believe in God nor respect man and letting them know he would choose to finally listen to the woman and comparing this man judge to God the Judge and how much better God the Judge is. There are two words: “avenge” and “adversary” which are keys in this passage. Remember the woman is specifically asking the judge for something. This isn’t just for anything. It is actually the MOST IMPORTANT THING ANYONE COULD EVER ASK FOR ON EARTH. The word avenge in this scripture which is used twice; once for the man judge (1556) and once for God Judge (1557).
- 1556 (ekdikeo) : I give justice over, defend, avenge, vindicate.
- 1557 (ekdikesis): a feminine noun derived from 1537 /ek, “out from and to” and 1349 /díkē, “justice, judge”) – properly, judgment which fully executes the core-values (standards) of the particular judge, i.e. extending from the inner-person of the judge to its out-come (outcome). To vindicate one from wrongs, accomplish the avenging of, Luke 18:7.
The word 1557 gives the sense of a special advocate, or a champion of a city. This reminded me of what I wrote in Tzaddik. We need to remember Jesus was the answer to prayers heard day and night from His elect, the Jewish people…the Israelites, for a champion, an avenger to come and stand between them and their adversary. This has been the cry of humanity and now He was standing there in real life. Many would say why then…we have waited for so long yet it is God’s timing. The adversary of humanity is the one who stands and states that we also must be eternally separated from God our Loving Father because of what happened in the Garden of Eden. Yet, now because of the prayers of God’s elect there Jesus stood. If we look at this from the New Covenant view. We can also see that there are many people all over the earth crying out at different times for the same thing. Please stand between me and the Adversary. This is what happens when we accept the faith (pistis) we have each been given and choose in Who Jesus is. We then become part of the elect. The elect are those who will live forever in God’s presence.
He was talking about the religious then
and those in the future
who would hold tighter to religion
When Jesus asks if He will find faith on the earth when He comes again and then goes on to talk of those who trust in themselves (in their own behavior) to attain righteousness, I believe He fully understood that we would once again try to attain our righteousness through our own “good behavior”. He was talking about the religious people then and He was talking to those in the future who would hold tighter to religion than faith. This has always been a weak area in humanity and He knows that.
My behavior isn’t
what Jesus is looking
for when He comes back
it is faith
For so many years I believed I was walking in faith; yet I began to become more and more religious believing my behavior would make God happier with me. This is so far from the truth. My behavior isn’t what Jesus is looking for when He comes back….it is faith (pistis). My life now is truly Spirit-led but not crazy Spirit-led. Easy Spirit-led. I have heard this misused so many times and I myself have misused this word and lived my life in fear and not faith. I was not trusting God listened to me all the time (prayer); loved me just the way I was; was long suffering (patience); had sent an Advocate (Jesus) to take away all my sin for all time; always had the best for me (even with painful things); bad things happen it is not God’s fault (life keeps going); adversity, pain, death and bad things happen to good people this is a part of this life we live right now but God is always with me through it all.
Trust in Him
and not in our behavior
moves us away from
My prayer life has been transformed. I no longer act like the Baal prophets. I pray and I know for a fact God has heard me and I know deeply God has the best for me even when it doesn’t look like it is that great. So maybe you are asking, “Is it wrong to ask again?” Of course not. It is a relationship. What is wrong is when we feel condemnation for not praying about it again and again. As if we don’t then it won’t happen or be answered. I have learned to let God be God and trust, believe that He ALWAYS knows best. Do I like it always? No. But I trust Him as a child. I have become childlike in my faith; yet wise with my age. This is not something I planned but something my Father in Heaven planned. It is like the mustard tree: it starts out small but becomes so very large. This is how faith grows and how I believe wisdom grows. It takes time for the seed to become a very large tree and the same is with us.
I have finally learned to enjoy the journey. As we live from the place of trust in God and not trust in our behavior to make us righteous we move away from religiosity. When we do that we move into the true freedom Jesus Christ came to bring.
* Encyclopedia of Britannica
Definitions found at biblehub.com