The Fire of Elijah
April 5th, 1971 @ 12:00 PM
1 Kings 17-18
THE FIRE OF ELIJAH
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Kings 17 and 18
4-05-71 12:00 p.m.
Now the theme for this year is “God’s Witnesses to the World”: tomorrow, The Baptism of John; the next day, The Preaching of Simon Peter; the following day, The Tears of Paul; and the next day, Friday’s day, The Blood of Christ. Today it is The Fire of Elijah.
In the seventeenth and eighteenth chapters of the Book of 1 Kings is written a story of the appearance of this strange and stern prophet. He bursts into history with the force of a hammer. There is no introduction, he is just announced, and Elijah the Tishbite, he was as rugged, as wild as the country from whence he came: the mountains of Gilead on the eastern side of the Jordan River. And he stands before the people suddenly, like an embodied conscience. As he appears before King Ahab, he says, “As the Lord God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word” [1 Kings 17:1]. Then suddenly, and as suddenly as he appeared, he as suddenly disappears. “And the word of the Lord came unto him saying, Hide thyself” [1 Kings 17:2-3]. And for three and a half years there was no rain that fell from the clouds of heaven, nor was there any dew that distilled in the cool of the night [1 Kings 17:1; James 5:17-18].
Now in chapter 18 the Lord God came to Elijah saying, “Show thyself” [1 Kings 18:1]. And Elijah, after the passing of three and a half years, once again walks through the land if Israel [1 Kings 18:2]. Everywhere are tragic, pathetic scenes of desolation. The long and torrid drought has taken its toll. The pastures on the hillsides and the meadows in the valleys are burned. The groves and the vineyards are dead, and the roads are strewn with the corpses of the flocks and the herds that have perished for lack of water. Here, and there, and yonder, “x” marks the spots where the prophets of God were slain by Ahab and his cruel wife Jezebel and by their prophets of Baal [1 Kings 18:4, 13].
As Elijah looks over the parched and fiercely burned land, he sees also the destroyed altars of Jehovah God, and he sees the raised altars of the false sun god, Baal [1 Kings 16:31-32]. And as he accosts and confronts Ahab, he calls upon Ahab to invite the whole nation to the top of Mt. Carmel [1 Kings 18:19]. And Ahab—baited by the promise of rain—assembles the prophets of the false gods, his lords, his people, and there they stand with the king on the top of that mountain that shoulders out into the Mediterranean Sea [1 Kings 18:20]. No tiger more fiercely ever watched his prey than did Ahab look upon Elijah, one man against the nation. And as Elijah speaks, he calls the people close by [1 Kings 18:21-23]. Then he turns to the prophets of Baal and says:
Let it be a trial by fire.
You call on the name of your gods, I will call on the name of the Lord God;
and it shall be that the God that answers by fire, let Him be God!
[1 Kings 18:24]
And all of the throng of the people answered and said, “It is well spoken” [1 Kings 18:24]. Isn’t that an astonishing thing? Would you not have thought that the Lord God would have looked upon that and said, “It is presumption! It is tempting the Almighty!” We have a mistaken idea of God: He invites trial and experimentation, “Prove Me,” He says in the Word, “Try Me and see” [Malachi 3:10]. The Lord is delighted with any kind of a godly experimentation.
Just as the Master said to Simon Peter when the wind and the waves were raging and the Lord came walking to the disciples on the water, the apostle said, “Lord, if it be Thou—really You—bid me come to Thee on the water” [Matthew 24:25-27]. And the Lord was delighted, such faith, such trial, “Come, He said, Come” [Matthew 14:28-29]. And Simon Peter went overboard, down to the sea, and walked to Jesus on the water; and as long as he looked to the Lord, he walked. It’s only when he took his head away, lowered his eyes to look at the sea raging around him, he began to sink [Matthew 14:29-30]. I’m saying that that’s the Lord God; He is delighted with a trial, with an experiment, with a “see for yourself.” Why don’t we do it?
Around us are the gods of expediency, and appetite, and carnal pleasure, and selfish ambition: all kinds of gods around us. And above the circle of the earth the great Lord God [Isaiah 40:22], and the Lord says, “Try Me and see, see for yourself” [Malachi 3:10]. Why don’t we do it? In youth, God says, “See if I am not the real God that can see you through,” in youth.
I had a father last week come to me, and he said, “Pastor, I just wanted you to pray and say to God words of thanksgiving for our son. He’s in college, he has found the Lord, and we don’t recognize him; he’s another boy, he’s a new boy, he’s a new son! He’s been saved, he’s changed; pastor, just wanted you to say words of thanksgiving to God.” In youth, in age, how He sees us through.
I had a dear old saint ready to cross on the other side say, “Pastor, would you sit down here by my side, and would you quote the twenty-third Psalm for me?”
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for Thou art with me; thy rod and Thy staff, to lean on, they comfort me.
In marriage and in home: last night a young couple came to the study at the church and said, “We’re to be married, just wanted you to ask God’s blessings upon our holy covenant and union.” Won’t you try it? God invites it. There is no God but God! In the world of religion; in how many pulpits and in how many churches is there nothing but sheer, unadulterated humanism, the exaltation and the deifying of man, what man can do? But, oh! what God can do: the miraculous working of God, where the fire falls!
You know, I am so convinced that the real thing is in God and in the faith until I cannot but confess it. When I am invited to do other things, I feel as though I’m in the sideshow, when the big three ring circus is there underneath the big tent; so central to me is the faith of the Lord God and the ministry of the church in His name. He invites trial experimentation in politics. If there is integrity and honesty in government, we have it when the man has given his heart to God. And all the laws of the legislature, and all the fences, and all of the hedges that can be built around politicians never make them straight, and honest, and responsible; it comes from the heart, it comes from God! and no less so in finance and in business, to make God your partner.
I remember one time, a young fellow who was a successful young businessman, a bachelor; he lived with his old mother. Upon a day he came to his mother, and he said, “Mother, I don’t quite know what to do, and my conscience troubles me in the decision.” He said, “Mother, I have opportunity to make lots of money, lots of money. But, Mother, it’s under the table, it’s not quite right. It’s off-color. And, Mother, I’m a Christian, and you’ve taught me to love God, and I don’t know whether to do it or not.” And the mother said, “Son, you know in the morning when I get up and prepare your breakfast, I go to the head of the step, and I call upstairs, ‘John, John, your breakfast is ready! John?’ and there’s no answer.” She says, “I go up to the head of the step, and I call again, ‘John? John?’ and there’s no answer.” She says, “I open the door of your room, and I say, ‘John, wake up! Your breakfast is ready!’” She paused, and then she said, “Son, son, I’d hate to get up in the morning and prepare your breakfast and stand at the bottom of the step and say, ‘John?’ and find you wide awake.” Try it and see! The Lord God is God, and all other gods—avarice, greed, appetite, expediency—they are false gods! And the Lord invites us to try.
“Call ye on the name of your gods, and I will call on the name of the Lord: and the God who answers by fire, let Him be God” [1 Kings 18:24]; and if we had other hours, we’d watch that fire fall from heaven as God answers the prayer of this prophet Elijah [1 Kings 18:36-39], and He will answer your prayers just the same.
When you’re discouraged, distraught, and dismayed,
sinking almost in despair,
Remember there’s One who will come to your aid,
if you’ll make it a matter of prayer.
And when you’re lost in the world’s tangled maze,
and life seems a hopeless affair,
Direction will come for all of your ways,
if you’ll make it a matter of prayer.
He is the God of fire, He is the God of water, He is the God of the land, He is the God of the sea, He is the God of the blazing desert, He is the God of the clouds and the rain, and after the fire, the sound of an abundance of rain [1 Kings 18:41]. He is God. Try Him and see.
Our Master, as Elijah bowed in Thy presence and called on Thy name, Lord, to humble ourselves before Thee, and to ask God’s help and presence in all of the fortunes of life, O Lord, what an encouragement and a precious blessing to us who have tried Thee and know that God is able to see us through. In Thy dear name, amen.
THE FIRE OF ELIJAH
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Kings 18:1-46
I. Hide thyself/Show thyself
1. Elijah enters Israel after 3 ½ years of hiding
2. Elijah entered Samaria during terrible famine
3. Elijah appears before Ahab boldly
II. Elijah speaks seven times
1. Rebukes Baal worship
2. Challenges- God or Baal?
3. Mocked and ridiculed Baal and prophets of Baal
4. Invitation to come to God’s altar
5. Command to douse the altar with water
7. Order for execution of prophets of Baal
III. Prayer of Elijah
1. Based on God’s promise; show thyself to Ahab, rain will be sent
4. Full of expectant faith
5. Abundant answer