Repair the Altar and Look for Fire

1 Kings 18:20-39- Ahab sent to all the people of Israel and gathered the prophets together at Mount Carmel. And Elijah came near to all the people and said, “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal, then follow him.” And the people did not answer him a word. Then Elijah said to the people, “I, even I only, am left a prophet of the Lord, but Baal’s prophets are 450 men. Let two bulls be given to us, and let them choose one bull for themselves… and lay it on the wood, but put no fire to it. And I will prepare the other bull and lay it on the wood and put no fire to it. And you call upon the name of your god, and I will call upon the name of the Lord, and the God who answers by fire, He is God. And all the people answered, “It is well spoken.” … … … And they (the prophets of Baal)… called upon the name of Baal from morning until noon, saying, “O Baal, answer us! But there was no voice, and no one answered. And they limped around the altar that they had made… … … And they cried aloud and cut themselves after their custom with swords and lances, until the blood gushed out upon them. And as midday passed, they raved on until the time of the offering of the oblation, but there was no voice. No one answered; no one paid attention. Then Elijah said to all the people, “Come near to me…” And he repaired the altar of the Lord that had been thrown down… And he said, “Fill four jars with water and pour it on the burnt offering and on the wood.” And he said, “Do it a second time.” And they did… And he said, “Do it a third time.” And they did… And the water ran around the altar… And at the time of the offering of the oblation, Elijah the prophet came near and said, “O, Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that You are God in Israel… Answer me, O Lord, answer me, that this people may know that You, O Lord, are God…” 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… And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, “The Lord, He is God; the Lord, He is God.”

 

It’s hard to turn on the news channels today, isn’t it? There’s so much violence, betrayal, deception, and hatred… It makes a heart break. And nearly every mainstream circuit reports negatively anything relating to Jesus Christ. They rally and march for anything that opposes Him, and petition and mock things He commands. As a Christian, we can sometimes feel lost in a sea of angry, vengeful faces, can’t we?

We’re like a lone Elijah surrounded by 450 prophets of Baal.

Are we responding the way he did, though?

“Wrong does not cease to be wrong because the majority share in it.” – Leo Tolstoy

I’ve noticed so many who claim wholeheartedly to follow Christ become easily swayed by the view of the majority. I’ve watched as their beliefs drowned from the wave of opinions constantly crashing over them. Truths were all of a sudden viewed as preference and faith in Jesus Christ was deemed equal to any other.

It’s so easy to blend into the crowd. Instead of discerning when it’s time to speak up and disciplining ourselves to radiate the spirit of Christ, we just sit back and say short, silent prayers. I’m guilty of taking on this pattern myself. But, I hunger for something more. I yearn to be used in a mighty and purposeful way. We were called to lift Him up and offer hope to this world.

Can we do that if we just hide among the crowd?

Elijah knew his God. He knew His attributes, His abilities, and His Sovereign power. And when a time came for Elijah to proclaim what he knew, he didn’t let it slip by. The strength of his faith was so intense, he was ready to put the glory of his God on display.

As we mentioned before, there were 450 people who claimed to be prophets of Baal… and there were, mingled in the throng, people who simply followed after them. They shouted out for answers all day long… They asked for proof, an act of power, any kind of sign of Baal’s existence… and they received nothing. “…there was no voice. No one answered; no one paid attention.”

Can’t this be said of the world today? People have all these “amazing” ideas that are sure to bring about equality and peace… but are we seeing that? No! There’s more division and violence than ever before. There’s a push to “be true to  yourself,” yet people are changing their affections, their genders, and their appearances on the regular! What’s wrong with this picture?

They’re following after the wrong gods… They’re going about all of this the wrong way.

When it was Elijah’s turn to call on his God, the first thing he did was “repair the altar that had been thrown down.”

Altars are known as a place of prayer, right? Prayer is something that this world has thrown aside, for sure. Yet, even honest Christians admit that it’s lacking in their lives, as well. And it’s the very core of the Christian faith! I firmly believe, (because it’s scriptural), that when we fall back on our faces before the Lord and pray consistently for this world in which we live, we will see wonders. We will see “fire fall from heaven.”

If we want to see miracles- if we want to see change- we have to do things differently than the majority. We can’t hang everything on walks and rallies. Life changing moments can’t be achieved simply by meetings and gatherings. While it’s definitely necessary to put our faith into action, we have to lead our hearts back to prayer.

Elijah didn’t have to do anything elaborate. He didn’t need excessive resources or a support system. He had faith in the One True God, and that was enough! He prayed a short prayer and God moved on his behalf and a whole nation was turned back to Him.

There is so much power in prayer! “Satan tries to limit your prayer, because he knows your prayer will limit him!” It’s so simple, right? So why does it seem nearly impossible to find time to fit it in? Going forward, let’s make time! Let’s repair the altar of the Lord! He is sure to intervene!

 

Prayer: God, thank You for always being readily waiting to hear me. Give me the determination to make time every day to be alone with You, for You are the only Thing that can make an effective difference in this world. I love You, Lord. Amen.

 

Do It Yourself!

(Numbers 18:2-7 NLT) 2 “Bring your relatives of the tribe of Levi–your ancestral tribe–to assist you and your sons as you perform the sacred duties in front of the Tabernacle of the Covenant. 3 But as the Levites go about all their assigned duties at the Tabernacle, they must be careful not to go near any of the sacred objects or the altar. If they do, both you and they will die. 4 The Levites must join you in fulfilling their responsibilities for the care and maintenance of the Tabernacle, but no unauthorized person may assist you. 5 “You yourselves must perform the sacred duties inside the sanctuary and at the altar. If you follow these instructions, the LORD’s anger will never again blaze against the people of Israel. 6 I myself have chosen your fellow Levites from among the Israelites to be your special assistants. They are a gift to you, dedicated to the LORD for service in the Tabernacle. 7 But you and your sons, the priests, must personally handle all the priestly rituals associated with the altar and with everything behind the inner curtain. I am giving you the priesthood as your special privilege of service. Any unauthorized person who comes too near the sanctuary will be put to death.”


The book of Numbers records the strategic plan of God for the operation of the Old Testament Tabernacle. Honestly, I wonder why God requires all of these intricate details. I’ve studied the details and listened to the scholarly explanations, and I still can’t make any case for the logistics of it all. I simply choose to believe that God has a reason for it all.

The thing that struck me this morning was the very specific duties that the priests were required to complete. In verse 5 God says, “You yourselves must perform the sacred duties inside the sanctuary and at the altar.” And in verse 7 He instructs, “You and your sons, the priests, must personally handle all the priestly rituals associated with the altar and with everything behind the inner curtain.”

God made it very clear that while there were helpers who had been assigned to assist the priests, there were limitations as to what those helpers could do. God’s requirements were so specific that He said, “they (the Levites) must be careful not to go near any of the sacred objects or the altar. If they do, both you and they will die. (Verse 3)

I’m fully aware of the historical context of these commands and the very specific interpretation that accompany the Scripture. But, while reading these verses, I was impressed with the idea that there are certain things I must do myself. There are some things that only a father can do for his children. Likewise, a mother can provide nurturing and love like no one else. A husband/wife can provide spousal support like no one else can. The list certainly could be a long one indeed!

As a pastor, I realize there are times when my voice, touch, input, etc. is needed. While I am blessed with a very capable assistant pastor, office assistant, and other support staff, there are times when I must interject my presence, experience, and decisions into a particular scenarios. I must do what only I can do.

The same is true for you. You have divine purpose that only you can fulfill. God is waiting for you to step up and represent His interests as only you can.

This is not a pressure. Instead God said, “I am giving you the priesthood (calling/assignment) as your special privilege of service.” Special privilege? WOW! God has provided a way for me to make a significant contribution into the Kingdom of God. That, my friend, is an incredible honor!


PRAYER: Father, help me to remember when I’m walking through the difficult assignments that You’ve asked me to perform, that You have provided a way for me to contribute significantly to the eternal kingdom of Heaven. I’m grateful that You trust me like that! Amen.

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