Elijah went before the people and said, “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.” But the people said nothing. 1 Kings 18:21 (NIV).
Who are you following? We follow all sorts of people like Mark Zuckerberg, Leonardo DiCaprio, LeBron James, Neymar, Donald Trump, Adele, and so on. Who are you following? For many people, it’s not God. He’s very small in some people’s eyes – relegated to the sidelines …
Humanity has a tendency to try and push God into the margins. And that’s where we resonate with 1 Kings 18. The nation of Israel is worshipping Baal and Asherah and no longer following God while the few devout believers are hiding in caves or secretly following God because they’re afraid of the governing authorities (Jezebel) and in fear for their lives. Fortunately, most Christians in the Western World aren’t persecuted and don’t need to live in fear for our lives. But, like Israel during Ahab’s reign, we desperately need to be called to a whole new view of the living God.
So how is that done? How is a nation called to see God in a new way? Is there something we can learn from 1 Kings 18 that could change our nation – that would cause us to follow God? And do we, like Elijah, have a part to play in bringing change to our nation, i.e., creating an environment that leads to people proclaiming, “The Lord – he is God!” 1 Kings 18:39. Yes, absolutely, here are four things we should do:
- Repair the altar of your heart. Elijah repaired the altar of the Lord (1 Kings 18:30). Do you need to repair the altar of your heart? It’s scandalous to be luke-warm. “Why are we so icily regular, so splendidly null?” Leonard Ravenhill. God doesn’t want our leftovers, He wants our lives. And He wants us to be single-minded (1 Kings 18:21). The “Baals” of today are sex, entertainment and money. What and whom do we love? “If the Lord is God, follow him” 1 Kings 18:21. God does not want to share us with the world any more than I would share my wife with another man. He wants every ounce of our worship – every throb of our heart.
- Pray earnestly. Elijah repaired the altar of the Lord, then he stepped forward and prayed (1 Kings 18:36, James 5:17-18). Prayer should flow from us like water. But prayer that turns a nation to God is forged in the wilderness. Elijah spent three and a half years in the back side of the desert preparing for the showdown on Mt. Carmel – learning how to watch and wait on God. His extremity became God’s opportunity and his wretchedness became his strength. Desperate times call for desperate measures. Change isn’t something that’s drummed up at political rallies – it’s prayed down. Listen, the only power God yields to is that of prayer. We must keep on praying and not rest until the burden is lifted (James 5:16).
- Act on God’s command. Elijah acted on God’s command (1 Kings 18:36). Compliance was the key note of his character. He repaired the altar of the Lord, stepped forward and prayed because that’s what God told him to do. Do we want to see our families and communities following God? We need to act on God’s command. And what is God’s command? It took Elijah more than three years to find out what God wanted him to do and it may take some time to discover what God wants you to do. But look at Elijah’s outcome: a nation turning back to God and revival in the land!
- Expect God to act. In the conclusion of his prayer Elijah says, “Answer me, O Lord, answer me, so these people will know that you, Lord, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again” 1 Kings 18:37 (NIV). Do you hear the intent in these words? It was all or nothing. He didn’t pray, “According to your will.” He knew it was God’s will. And he wanted two things – for God to be exalted and the people to be edified. When we want to see God’s glory, and people built up in Him, then we’re praying the will of God. Can God incline people to Himself today? Absolutely! But we need to be in one accord with Him. We must repair the altars of our hearts, pray earnestly, act on His command, and expect Him to act.