1 Kings 18
“Here we are now with the falling sky and the rain,
Here we are now with our desperate youth and the pain,
Maybe it’s called ambition, you’ve been talking in your sleep
About a dream, we’re awakening”
A far cry from the “LA curbside endings” that Jon Foreman references in his hit song, the people of Israel found themselves in a similar predicament. For over two decades, the Israelites were led into idolatry by leaders who failed to deliver lawful leadership in the eyes of God, and suffered for it. It’s easy to see how, especially when God stopped the rains: in a place like the Middle East, this is a very big deal. You lose your water source; you begin to lose things dependent upon those water sources. Soon your fruits and veggies aren’t growing like they used to, your animals can’t quite get enough to live on. Droughts; you get the idea. You eventually have a starvation crisis on your hands with not too many options. What was ironic was that Baal was worshipped as a fertility god, thought to enable the earth to produce crops and mothers to bear children. Neither tends to work out too well without water.
God: 1, Baal: 0.
However, there’s something a bit more to it than just losing their sustenance. The people of Israel were made to adhere to Baal worship, which was rooted in sensuality and involved ritualistic prostitution, human sacrifice, and self-inflicted pain. While any sin can seem to be fun for a time, anyone who’s ever been held captive by sin will tell you that what once seemed like a choice becomes like slavery. Sin is unfulfilling in nature, and you can imagine after a few decades, the people of Israel’s probably had noticed that something was up. Where had the prophets gone? Why, from a god who supposedly provides crops, have we had no rain for three and a half years? And why during the showdown on the mountain was a god, who was associated with hurling thunderbolts at his enemies, not sending down a single ember?
Something was definitely wrong, and you can tell the people felt it when it was written “No one answered; no one paid attention.”
Perhaps this is why when Elijah said to the people “Come near to me”, the bible says “all the people came near to him”. Here was a generation of people who had been lied to, deceived for the ends of their evil leaders, and a people who saw that maybe there was still a hope for them. Maybe this Elijah guy knows what he’s talking about, and maybe the stories of our ancestors are actually true. Elijah touches on their heart-shifts in his prayer before the fires even come down from heaven by saying “Answer me, O Lord, answer me, that this people may know that you, O Lord, are God, and that you have turned their hearts back.” You know the rest of the story from there.
Awakening is the theme of REVEAL’s most recent sermon series, and awakening can look like a lot of different things for a lot of different people. A desire for truth was awakened in the hearts of the Israelites, and God delivered on that truth with a mighty hand, doing what the false god Baal could never do. In your search for awakening this week, may the same desire arise in your heart to cut away the things in your life that deceive, lie, and rob you of that truth, and to seek the truth and freedom that Jesus offers.