A week ago, I preached on the episode in Elijah’s life found in 1 Kings 18:16-46. It’s the story of Elijah taking on the 900 prophets of Baal and Asherah. It’s the story of YHWH versus Baal. If you know the account (or take the time to read it) you know that YHWH- the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel resoundingly wins.
But more than a competition- this episode in Elijah’s life is about God doing whatever was necessary to turn the people’s hearts back to Him.
Israel had turned away from God. Following the lead of Ahab (who did “more evil in the eyes of the LORD than any of those before him.” 1 Kings 16:30) and his wife Jezebel- who was the patron of the foreign god Baal. Because of this- Elijah announces that there will be no rain or dew for “the next few years.”
Baal was thought to be the god of the skies- controlling the rain and fertility. The ceasing of rain, announced by the prophet of YHWH, would be a nudge or a sign that Baal was not truly the one in control of the rain. This discipline was meant to turn their hearts back to God. But it didn’t.
Israel did not turn their hearts back to God until God showed up and consumed the altar Elijah built and the offering that was placed on the altar. Then they fell prostrate to the ground and cried out, “The Lord, he is God! The Lord, he is God!”
While this story can seem so distant and foreign to us (when is the last time you built an altar??), the truth of this account is that God will do (and is doing) whatever is necessary to turn the hearts of God’s people back to him. As God set out to restore Israel in 1 Kings 18- God is out to restore creation- and to restore you and me through Jesus.
This is what is so remarkable to me about Jesus. The idea that God would become human- and in human form die a criminal’s death on the cross and through his death and resurrection- make it possible for humanity to experience God’s love and salvation. All this is to turn our hearts back to God.
Are we open to the ways in which God is at work- turning our hearts and the hearts of those around us back to Him? Did we see this redemptive work in discipline? Trials? Blessings? Are we aware of the redemptive work taking place in the lives of those around us? I’m thankful that God is always at work in our lives- working to bring us back and bring us closer to His heart.