Surely you already know the story of Elijah and the prophets of Baal, but today we will do a magnificent study that will undoubtedly surprise and edify you!
“And Elijah came unto all the people, and said, How long halt ye between two opinions? if the Lord be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him. And the people answered him not a word.” (1 Kings 18:21).
The Story of Elijah and the Prophets of Baal
In this study, we will see one of the most spectacular clashes that the Holy Scriptures record: the confrontation between the god Baal and the God of Israel, that is, between the lie and the truth, between the false and the true.
The God of Israel would expose Baal and the false prophets, to leave them exactly as they were: less than nothing.
And this would happen in a contest between Elijah and the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel ( 1 Kings 18 ).
Just as Elijah was called to show that the God of Israel is the true God, all of us who belong to the new covenant are called to defend the gospel of Christ against distortion, compromise with evil and doctrinal deviation.
We must maintain that Jesus Christ alone is the “ Way, the Truth, and the Life, that no one comes to the Father except through Him ”, and that “ there is one God, and one Mediator between God and men, Jesus Christ, man ”.
Confronting the False god of Baal
The difference between the Creator God of all things, the God of the Bible, and the Baal god is tremendously striking.
First, because the God of the Bible is the living and eternal God, creator of all things – Second, Baal was just man’s imagination without God, therefore it was inaccessible because it did not exist.
One of the fundamental characteristics of the God of the Bible, which differs from Baal, is the fact that He always seeks to communicate with His creatures.
The God of the Bible, in his transcendence, always wanted and wants to communicate with human beings, immanently, to demonstrate his love and care, aiming at their salvation.
Baal, created by the human imagination, always proves to be inaccessible in his relationship with his worshippers, because he simply does not exist.
Elijah and the Prophets of Baal
See the case of the prophet Elijah on Mount Carmel, when he clashed with the prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18:19).
The followers of the false god Baal
“ And taking the bullock that was given them, they prepared it, and called on the name of Baal from morning until noon, saying, Ah Baal, answer us! But there was no voice; no one answered.
And they leapt around the altar they had made. It came to pass at midday that Elijah mocked them, saying, Cry aloud, for he is a god; it may be that he is talking, or that he has something to do, or that he intends to travel; perhaps he is sleeping, and needs to be awakened.
And they cried with a loud voice, and, as was their custom, they slashed themselves with knives and lancets, until blood ran over them. It also came to pass, that when midday was past, they prophesied until the time of offering the evening sacrifice. But there was no voice; no one answered, nor answered ” ( 1 Kings 18:26-29 ).
Elijah, the follower of the living God
“ And it came to pass when it was time to offer the evening sacrifice, that Elijah the prophet came near and said, Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel, and that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your word. Answer me, O Lord, answer me, that these people may know that you, O Lord, are God and that you have turned their hearts. Then fire fell from the Lord, and consumed the burnt offering, the wood, the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench ” ( 1 Kings 18:36-38 ).
Did you notice the difference? The false god Baal was just human imagination, they don’t exist. The God of the Bible is living and true and he hears our prayers and communicates with his people.
Today, through Jesus Christ, the only mediator between God and men, human beings have access to the Sovereign Lord of the universe and all things.
Who was the false god Baal
He was the supreme god of the Canaanites. In Hebrew, Baal means lord.
Its worshipers believed that the idol was responsible for the abundance of the earth and the fertility of the womb.
As the god of fertility, his cult was marked by cruelty and a debauchery that would put even Sodom and Gomorrah to shame.
In their ceremonies there were sacrifices of human victims, orgies, and the most unimaginable excesses; and, of course, praises to Baal.
The Modern Baal Cult
The old Baal remains the same; he does everything to induce the saints to impurity. His prophets and worshipers have not changed either.
Let’s see, below, some examples of how their cults are manifested in our days:
a) Pornography. There are not a few children of God who are spiritually ruined as a result of magazines, movies, pornographic videos, the internet, and most soap operas.
The Lord does not put up with such things; are abominable in his eyes. He is Holy! And from his children he demands a holy and blameless life – “ But as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all your conduct ” (1 Peter 1:15 ).
b) Carnal amusements. Unfortunately, we are obliged to mention the concerts promoted from our pulpits.
Singers and artists, claiming to be evangelicals, but flagrantly divorced from the grace of God, in addition to robbing us of all our time for the Word, drag our young people into a frivolous and uncompromising life with God.
The Lord’s Church does not need artists and animators in its services, but men and women who are proven to be holy.
Filled with the Holy Spirit, they will worship the Father in spirit and in truth ( John 4:23,24 ).
c) Marital infidelity. In a permissive and eroticized society like ours, adultery is no longer seen as something reprehensible.
It is tolerably accepted; socially encouraged; is legally ignored. The Bible has not changed! Adultery is adultery. Sin is sin.
Even if we seek theological justifications for such behavior, the biblical truth will not be changed ( Mathew 5:28 ).
Confronting false prophets
In an impressive display of courage and faith, Elijah challenged 850 false prophets, who were supported by the king’s wife, to face him on Mount Carmel.
They accepted the challenge, and the people of Israel went to witness the great dispute. These were the same people that Elijah sought to convert.
He wanted to show him the great difference between the true God and the false god Baal that their king worshiped – “ Then Elijah came near to all the people and said, How long will you falter between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; if he is Baal, follow him ” ( 1 Kings 18:21 ).
The Israelites, so accustomed to blindly following their religious leaders, did not respond.
Their feelings were so blunted by generations of sinful traditions that they were practically unable to tell right from wrong. God showed the people the difference.
Elijah’s Challenge to the Prophets of Baal
Elijah and the prophets of Baal prepared two sacrifices. They built altars, put wood on them, and prepared their bull sacrifices.
Elijah invited the prophets of Baal to be the first to offer their sacrifices, except that they would not light the fire.
They were to pray to their god to send fire to consume the sacrifice.
Elijah knew that God could do this because he had already consumed other sacrifices in previous generations.
But what about Baal? Could it produce fire? His prophets prayed, danced, and even injured themselves to get his attention, but Baal did not respond.
Elijah taunted them, suggesting they should shout louder to wake up their god. They screamed louder, but helpless Baal did nothing.
Elijah prepared his sacrifice. To make sure that no one could complain that he had used some trickery, he asked that water be brought to thoroughly wet the sacrifice, the wood, and the altar.
They brought so much water that the trench he had dug around the altar filled up. Only God’s action could ignite this sacrifice!
And that’s exactly what happened. Elijah prayed, “ Answer me, O Lord, answer me, that these people may know that You, O Lord, are God and that You have turned their hearts back ” ( 1 Kings 18:37 ).
God left no doubt. “ Then fire fell from the Lord, and consumed the burnt offering, and the wood, and the stones, and the earth, and licked up the water that was in the trench. Seeing all the people, he fell on his face and said: The Lord is God! The Lord is God !” ( 1 Kings 18:38-39 ).
The false prophets of Baal who had deceived the people were killed.
Confronting false worship
Elijah asked the people, the prophets of Baal, to present themselves in a place determined by him.
The people assembled and Elijah fearlessly presented himself to the people, demanding a resolute resolution from them – “How long will you falter between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him, and if Baal, follow him ” ( 1 Kings 18:21 ).
Despite the great demonstration of God’s power, in a drought that had lasted three years and six months, in clear proof that Baal was no god, he had no control over nature.
The people were still limping between two thoughts, preferring the benefits of power offered by Jezebel in the cult of Baal, as well as the seductions of this cult, which was a sensual cult, depraved and full of everything that pleased the sinful nature of man.
Money, pleasure, and social position were offered by the Baals and, thus, many, despite all the evidence of the Lord’s power, continued to falter and, in this doubt, ended up being dragged into idolatry.
Elijah challenged the people to make a definite choice between following God or Baal.
The Israelites thought they could worship the true God and also Baal. Their sin was that of having a divided heart, and wanting to serve two masters.
Christ himself warned against this fatal attitude ( Mathew 6:24; combine with Deut 30:19 ).
Elijah unmasks the prophets of Baal
Elijah’s challenge was presented: the true God should respond with fire to accept the sacrifice given to him.
The prophets of Baal, numbering eight hundred and fifty ( 1 Kings 18:19 ), tried, all morning long, to answer their gods for the sacrifice, without result.
Elijah then, after he had allowed enough time for Baal to respond to the sacrifice, offers his sacrifice before God.
As God is not a God of confusion ( 1 Corinthians 14: 33 ), he repaired the altar, which was broken, as well as poured abundant water so that there would be no doubt that it was God who would work.
This care of the prophet is an example for us to follow today: the operation of God is something we must be sure and convinced of.
Therefore, nothing should be done without proper spiritual preparation, and due sanctification ( the repair of the altar ), as well as everything, must be done openly before the people, with transparency, decency, and order ( 1 Cor 14: 40 ).
How many dismantled altars today have sought the “ divine fire ”! and, as God does not work in such places, they resort to subterfuge, and cunning stratagems, to impress the people. However, make no mistake, God is not a God of confusion.
But in addition to repairing the altar and leaving no room for doubt, Elijah said a prayer.
A request to God, acknowledging His sovereignty, His lordship – “ and that I am your servant ” ( 1 Kings 18:36 ).
As soon as the prayer ended, the Lord consumed everything with fire and the people no longer had any doubt: only the Lord is God! ( 1 Kings 18:36-39 ).
It is good to emphasize that God is not only looking for worship, He is looking for true worshipers ( John 4: 24 ).
Confronting state religious syncretism
Syncretism is the fusion of doctrines from different origins, whether in the sphere of religious or philosophical beliefs.
In the history of religions, syncretism is a fusion of different religious conceptions or the influence exerted by one religion on the practices of another.
The syncretism that we present here as a condemnable element, refers to the one that in a very direct way disobeyed and affronted the moral standards established for the people of Israel, and the Lord God himself;
Speaking specifically of the sensual cult – where religious sexual immorality was included, having cultic prostitutes for that -, and the worship of false gods, knowing the existential truth of the true God who revealed himself to the nations through Israel.
This practice no doubt appealed to many Israelites. God, in turn, required moral standards for his people, lives of consecration, and worship with reverence.
In Israel, at the time of Ahab and Jezebel, the true worship of the true God had mixed with the false worship of the god Baal, and the result could not have been more disastrous.
There is no precision of the time when syncretism began among the Israelites. Biblical records relate to the period of the departure of the people of Israel from Egypt and entry into the land of Canaan.
Israel lived for 430 years under Egyptian rule and under the influence of their religions.
The danger of religious syncretism
The Egyptian people have always been polytheistic, and worshiped the gods Ra (god of the sun), Thoth (wisdom, knowledge, representative of the Moon), Horus (sky), Osiris (afterlife), Isis (love, magic), Ged ( earth), among others.
The children of Israel certainly got involved with these deities and their worship, as Joshua proves: “ Now fear the Lord and serve him with integrity and faithfulness. Throw away the gods your ancestors worshiped across the Euphrates and in Egypt, and serve the Lord” ( Josh 24: 23 ).
Based on this, it is possible to state that Israel began to practice syncretism in Egypt, as they were also knowledgeable of the God of the patriarchs of Israel.
The first case that the Bible presents of the practice of syncretism by the Israelites, after leaving Egypt, was when Moses went up to the mountain to speak with God at the beginning of the journey through the Sinai desert.
When the people saw that he was taking so long to come down, they asked Aaron to make a god for them. This demonstrates that the worship of gods other than the creator God was not something new among the children of Israel.
But this syncretism always had drastic consequences for the Israelites, as they were recurrently judged by God because of it.
Israel should be a model of obedience to God for other nations, but it disobeyed and was unfaithful to the Covenant.
The many defeats in battles, the destruction of the Northern Kingdom, and even the Babylonian captivity are seen as consequences of syncretism.
Mainly in the northern kingdom, state religious syncretism was insistent and threatening.
Despite the prophets, day and night, having warned about the danger of syncretism, the kings did not absorb the messages transmitted by the prophets of the Lord.
The divine answer to syncretism
To follow false gods is to abandon the living God and this constitutes a terrible sin, punishable.
The sacred text says that shortly after the Lord answered Elijah’s prayer with fire ( 1 Kings 18: 38 ), the prophet gave the following instruction to the people:
“ Seize the prophets of Baal, let not one of them escape. They took hold of them, and Elijah brought them down to the brook Kishon, and there he killed them ” ( 1 Kings 18:40 ).
Elijah’s decision was not made on his own, but followed the divine guidance given by the Lord to Moses: ” You shall have no other gods before me” ( Ex 20:3 ); “Anyone who sacrifices to gods and not only to the LORD shall be put to death” ( Ex 22:20 ).
Worship is biblical or anathema. God does not want sacrifice, He requires obedience ( 1 Sam 15: 22,23 ).
We cannot sacrifice the truth to draw people to church, nor can we add anything to God’s precepts.
Pragmatism is interested in what works, not what is right. He seeks what works, not what is true. He aims to please man, not God.
Today we see religious syncretism flourish in the so-called evangelical churches, mainly promoted by the so-called neo-Pentecostalism segment.
Pagan practices are assimilated into churches to attract people. Ceremonies and rites totally foreign to the Word of God are introduced into worship to please the worshipers’ taste.
Syncretism is in fashion. But he still continues to provoke the wrath of God!
Elijah and the Prophets of Baal in 1 Kings 18, Final Words
The worship of God is composed of the proclamation of the word, explanation of the same, praises to the Lord, prayers and intercessions, and fellowship – “ What will you do then, brothers? When you come together, each one of you has a psalm, has a doctrine, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let everything be done for edification” ( 1 Cor 14: 26 ).
Therefore, there is no place for clowning and witchcraft in the church. Acts like these are nothing more than sensuality and debauchery, indulgence in the flesh and opportunity for sin, spiritual childishness and loopholes for Satan to act and steal attention, and spread bad testimony and confusion.
God said to Israel something that fully applies to the Church: “ But it shall come to pass, if thou shalt forget the Lord thy God, and go after other gods, and serve them, and bow down thyself to them, I testify against them this day. you who will surely perish. Like the nations that the Lord is destroying before you, so shall you perish, because you refuse to listen to the voice of the Lord your God” ( Deuteronomy 8: 19-20 ). Think about it!
In the same way that Israel was punished for the worship and mixture of religious practices of other deities, any people will also be treated like this from the moment they turn to a religious practice to other gods, after having known the true God.