There is dramatic showdown between a prophet and state religion supported by the royal palace narrated in the Old Testament. 1 Kings 18 tells the account of a faithful person of God in conflict with the 450 representatives of Baal on a mountain of Israel. We need to remember that the worship of Baal was promoted by King Ahab and his wife Jezebel. The royal palace issued orders to seek and kill prophets of Yahweh.
The Biblical account narrates that God responded to Elijah’s prayers in a way that was decisive, powerful, and political. There was no doubt that God had triumphed over the forces of evil.
The fire on Mount Carmel matches our longing that God will reveal himself in power and strength in our own time. I find that prayerful desire expressed in Isaiah 64.
Oh, that you would tear open the heavens and come down,
So that the mountains would quake at your presence….
To make your name known to your adversaries,
So that the nations might tremble at your presence.
I read these words from Isaiah as a statement of despair about the world coupled with faith in God. The prayer comes out of a context of confusion and disappointment. It was uttered during a time when public and individual morality were on shaky ground. There was little confidence in national leaders outside their tight circles of sycophants. People of faith felt marginalized and weak.
People of faith had felt this way during the time of Elijah. They were on the losing side in contests of power. The civic religion of Baal had become dominant in the nation. King Ahab was corrupt. Elijah was forced into exile in Phoenicia during the purge of Yahweh’s prophets. He knew that Ahab had search parties in surrounding countries with orders to kill him.
Elijah kept his faith during the dark period of marginalization and threats to his life. I am attracted to his faith and his faithfulness. I am reminded that Jesus spoke about resiliency using the phrase steadfast endurance. I need this virtue in my life and witness.