Baal with a Pinch of God on the Side

“So Ahab sent for all the children of Israel, and gathered the prophets together on Mount Carmel.” (I Kings 18:20; NKJV).

Let me paint the scene.

A range of mountains, called the Carmel range, stretched some thirty miles from the shores of the Mediterranean Sea into the Jezreel Valley. Lush and green with trees over rounded peaks and valleys, it symbolized fruitfulness. Along its ridge a historic confrontation between good and evil took place. The story is found in I Kings 18:20-40. It’s well worth the read.

The protagonists were many, but three took center stage:

  • Ahab, the wicked ruler.
  • Elijah, a prophet of God.
  • Jezebel, the ax murderer and wife of Ahab.

Oh, and did I mention that Ahab had the distinction of being the most wicked king up until his time. He won the evil contest.

1 Kings 16:30 (NKJV).  Now Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the Lord, more than all who were before him.”

And Jezebel…well let’s just say that beauty can be deceitful. She slaughtered God’s prophets, in the hundreds, (not a popular time to be counted as one of God’s people) while she fattened up 450 prophets of Baal (a god of Satan) and 400 prophets of Asherah (mother goddess) at her table.

It was a large table. Without a doubt, a lot of politicking happened. After all, Jezebel had no qualms about off with the head. Her favor carried import and a large dose of fear.

“…as though it had been a trivial thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, that he took as wife Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal, king of the Sidonians; and he went and served Baal and worshiped him.” (I Kings 16:31; NKJV).

It’s never trivial to walk in sin and can lead to some nasty choices.

So Ahab sent for all the children of Israel and gathered the prophets together on Mount Carmel. On one side were God’s chosen. On the other Ahab’s. The number tally weighed heavily on the bad side. Elijah stood in the minority.

“How long will you falter between two opinions?” Elijah asked the two candidates. “If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.”

If only it were that simple now, with misinformation and fake news floating through our tweets and uproar in streets. If only it could be like choosing sides on the baseball team, “you here and you there,” or splitting the last piece of pie. But life is complicated, lines blur, facts weighted and hunkering sides get crazy.

Now here’s an interesting development in I Kings 18:21… “The people answered him not a word.”

Elijah’s question literally was how long will you “limp along between two twigs?”

God’s people wanted to have it both ways. They weren’t really looking to get massacred, nor did they want to embrace idolatry completely….sort of a mix might be nice. They wanted a combination of worship.

Baal with a pinch of God on the side. 

Honoring God cannot happen without knowledge of God. In the gap between our thinking and God’s is a Royal Gorge. We, the body of Christ, try to construct a bridge from one side to the other by reasonable thinking fraught with human error rather than God’s perfect law. If we don’t know allow Scripture to form our definitions and understanding, our walk is like on a bridge in mid-air, without roots, filled with misplaced allegiances, and gods of opinion and sway.

Reasonable becomes relevant to popular opinion, like Baal with a pinch of God on the side.

“O Baal, hear us!” one division called on the name of Baal from morning till noon. But there was no answer. They cut themselves with knives and lances, they prophesied, but “no one answered, no one paid attention.”

It must have been unnerving and difficult for God’s people to shut out the voices.

As one called to know Christ, the One found in Scripture, rather than a misrepresentation, I duel with the voices around me, especially when the voices claim to follow the same God as I do.

Alone with Him, His book open on my lap, I recognize He is my instructor and His voice shuts out the others. My thoughts form to meet His, not the other way around. His laws must mold my understanding about life’s complexities and its personal daily angst. Rarely is the loudest, most prevalent, or most popular His route. He often speaks in a still small voice.

We cannot embrace wisdom or discernment with a well chosen verse thrown in for good measure. His Word in its entirety, the tedious and the rich, unites our thought processes with His. As Christ followers His Word is our love language. It is God’s most direct communication. Without this anchor we will be like those that limp between two sticks.

Where are you standing?

Ultimately, the story in I Kings is not about destruction, although there was plenty of that, it was about building God’s name.

“…That this people may know that You are the Lord God, and that You have turned their hearts back to You again.” (I Kings 18:37, NKJV).

And there it is. Elijah nailed it.

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