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Calling on the Name of the Lord

In 1 Kings 18:16-39 Elijah challenges the people of Israel saying “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.”

We are all tempted to tell ourselves that we can hang onto our idols and God at the same time. What God taught the people of Israel, and what he wants to teach us, is that it is impossible to hold both God and idols in our heart. There is simply not enough room.

Few people actually bow down and worship stone idols these days. But idolatry is still present in our day. A Baal is anything that tempts us away from full devotion to God. For example, a Baal can be:
  • A relationship that dishonors God
  • A lifestyle that keeps us from being generous to the poor
  • A habit or an addiction that we know God wants us to give up but we refuse
  • A grudge against someone who has hurt us
  • A struggle with pride and the power it has over us
Elijah challenges the prophets of Baal to a test of prayer saying “You call on the name of your god and I will call on the name of the Lord. The god who answers by fire-he is God.”

It is helpful to observe the vivid contrast between the way the prophets of Baal pray and the way Elijah prays. The 850 false prophets yell, scream, act out, and put on a show. Elijah simply speaks and watches God manifest his power. Sadly, sometimes Christians pray more like the prophets of Baal than like Elijah. It’s as if they think that they have to get God’s attention by doing something dramatic: praying loud enough, long enough, with the right formula, with enough boldness, or with some kind of radical and special behavior if God is going to hear. This is simply not true. Elijah talks to God calmly and expects God to take care of the results.

Imagine you are part of the crowd standing on Mount Carmel watching the battle between Elijah and the prophets of Baal. Years later, when you tell your grandchildren what happened on that mountain, what would you tell them about one of the following lessons:
  • What did you learn about Yahweh, the God of Israel?
  • What did you discover about Baal and idol worship?
  • How did you see God at work in Elijah?
  • What did you learn about yourself?

© 2014 by Zondervan. Used with permission. All rights reserved. Visit JohnOrtberg.com for more about John Ortberg's work and ministry.

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