Elijah arrived at Mount Carmel for the showdown with the prophets of Baal. This represents the climax of Elijah’s ministry.
God often allowed Israel to be up against overwhelming odds where his hero stands virtually alone so that God can break in and demonstrate that salvation comes ultimately from God.
Moses stood against mighty Pharaoh and his army. David stood against Goliath and the Philistine army. Each of them stood virtually alone. Gideon had to cut his army down to only 300 to stand against the tens of thousands of Midianites. Each time God wanted to demonstrate His own power to intervene with salvation.
God always needed a mediator who would represent Him through obedience and faith so that He could work through His agent to bring deliverance.
Elijah represented God on this occasion. He showed complete contempt for the false religion represented by Baal. The Bible never suggests that all religions ultimately lead to God. False religion is despised (Romans 1:21-23).
The exposure of false religion
The prophets of Baal begin their ritual leaping around the altar.
They move on to ‘cutting themselves’ and displaying the kind of self-harm sometimes associated with religions that try to rid themselves of guilt through asceticism, special washings, pilgrimage etc.
Thirdly, they raved, moving into a frenzy totally unrelated to life.
Some reject Christianity because of its outrageous claim to be uniquely right. Many would argue, ‘How can only one religion be the right one?’ but this is not a scientific reason to question but rather an emotional response of rejection. It is not logical.
Not all religions lead to the same conclusion.
Restoring the covenant relationship
Elijah invited the people to draw near and rebuild the altar with its reminder of the twelve tribes and God’s covenant relationship to them, as reflected in Exodus 28:17-21 by the twelve beautiful gems on the High Priest’s chest, each expressing God’s tender love towards His people.
Elijah, the obedient servant, prays according to the will of God and fire falls.
Jesus said, ‘If you abide in me and my words abide in you, ask whatever you will and it will be done for you’ (John 15:7).
Another greater showdown
Before we close, let’s remember another hill where another encounter took place, another crowd stood against a single mediator.
On this occasion, instead of the mediator taunting like Elijah did the prophets of Baal, he himself is being taunted.
‘He trusts in God let Him rescue him if he delights in Him.’
‘If you’re the Son of God, come down from the cross.’
‘He is the King of Israel, let him come down now from the cross and we will believe in him.’
No fire falls from heaven. No answer comes from the sky. They cry, ‘He saved others, he cannot save himself.’
If Jesus the great mediator of God is going to save us, he cannot save himself. There can be no answer from heaven. There can be no miraculous escape. He must endure the suffering that others might be saved.
Later, Paul explains, in Colossians 2:14, ‘He cancelled the writing that stood against us with its legal demands. He set it aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to an open shame by triumphing over them.’
He could not save himself because he was saving us.
This is the greatest showdown of all time. Salvation is from the Lord. He must save. He must deliver.
This is Jesus in his glory
King of heaven dying for me.
It is finished, he has done it.
Death is beaten
Heaven beckons me.