Mt. Carmel: Mount of Decision
March 25th, 1997 @ 12:00 PM
1 Kings 17, 21
MT. CARMEL: THE MOUNT OF DECISION
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Kings 17, 21
3-25-97 12:00 p.m.
And remember, this is your service: you come when you can, you leave when you must; we all understand. This is your lunch hour, it is your brief repast in a busy day; so you feel free to leave any time you feel you ought.
These services are entitled “The Five Great Mountain Peaks of the Bible.” Yesterday it was Mt. Moriah; yesterday it was Mt. Moriah, a mount of tremendous sacrifice; and today it is Mount Carmel, Mount Carmel, today it is Mt. Carmel: the mount of tremendous decision. The message is an exposition of 1 Kings, chapter 16, chapter 17, chapter 18, and chapter 19; and we begin by introducing the two great characters who move across those pages.
First, Ahab, he was the son of the wicked king of Israel Omri, and he even was more wicked than his father [1 Kings16:28-30]. As though that were not enough, he went to Sidonia, and chose for his wife the [daughter of the] king of Sidon, and her name was Jezebel [1 Kings 16:31]. She was a devotee of the god Baal. And when she came to live in the capital city of Samaria, she brought her god, her image, her idol with her; and Ahab built in Samaria a temple for her god Baal [1 Kings 16:32].
And the other is Elijah, a man from Tishbe. He was called “Elijah the Tishbite” [1 Kings 17:1]; grew up, born across the Jordan River in Gilead, a rough and mountain region. And he reflected that terrible outline of the earth from which he was born and from which he came. His eyes were fire, his blood was iron, and his very bones condemned those who were an affront to God.
So it begins: Ahab had a winter palace in Jezreel, and beside all of the other of the riches of the things he possessed, by the side of his winter palace was a little corner, a vineyard; and he coveted that little corner, that little space. It belonged to Naboth, and was a part of his family’s inheritance. So Ahab sought to buy that little corner, that little vineyard, that little garden from Naboth. And Naboth did not answer in contempt, he did not refuse in unconcern, he merely explained to Ahab the king that it was the family inheritance, and according to the law of Moses in the Book of Numbers, they were not allowed to sell the family inheritance [1 Kings 21:1-3]. So Ahab sulked, and pouted, and stayed in bed, and would not eat. His wife Jezebel, said, “What? And why?” And he explained he wanted that little corner that belonged to Naboth [1 Kings 21:4-6].
And Jezebel took Macbeth’s dagger, and she called men there in Jezreel to stand before the council, and to swear that Naboth cursed God, and insulted the king. And she asked for the penalty of death; and the council acquiesced. Naboth was stoned to death [1 Kings 21:7-14]. And Jezebel sent word to Ahab the king, “Naboth is stoned and is dead. Rise and possess!” And [Ahab] arose to possess [1 Kings 21:15-16]. And when he went into the garden, there stood a silent figure: Elijah the prophet of God. He said nothing; he just stood there in silence. And Ahab cried, saying, “Thou, hast thou found me, O my enemy?” And Elijah replied, “In the place where the dogs have licked up the blood of Naboth, the dogs shall lick thy blood” [1 Kings 21:17-20]. That’s the way it begins.
So upon a day, Elijah appears in the court of Ahab and announces to him that, “By the power of God there will be neither dew nor rain for these year, except at my word” [1 Kings 17:1]; and he disappeared. For one year Ahab sought him; couldn’t find him. For two years Ahab sought him and couldn’t find him. For three years Ahab sought him and couldn’t find him. And the land was parched. No dew, no rain, nothing but the burning sky. Then after three years Elijah appeared before Ahab. And Elijah said, “Call together the prophets of Baal, four hundred fifty, call together the people of Israel, and on Mt. Carmel we will erect an altar to Baal and to Jehovah God [1 Kings 18:1, 19].
So Ahab, in behalf of the hope for rain, called the prophets of Baal to Mt. Carmel, and called all the people to Mt. Carmel [1 Kings 18:19-20]. And Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, “Here are two bullocks: you take one, I will take the other, and you offer upon the altar. And the God that answers by fire, He will be God” [1 Kings 18:23-24]. The prophets of Baal had no other alternative. They built their altar, they sacrifice their bullock, and they cried to Baal, “O Baal, send the fire, send the fire.” No fire fell. The hours passed. Finally they leaped upon the altar, they cut themselves until the blood poured, they cried, “O Baal, send the fire.” There was no answer [1 Kings 18:25-29]. And when the noon had passed, Elijah took the stones, twelve representing Israel, sacrificed the bullock, poured water upon it, dug a trench around the altar, filled the trench, then knelt down and prayed, “O God of our fathers, God of our hope and our life and our forever salvation, O God, let them know that Thou art the Lord! Send the fire. Send the fire.” And it poured out from heaven: it burned the sacrifice, it burned the stones of the altar, it burned the wood, it burned all of the trench around the wood, it burned the dust on which the altar lay. And the people had to shout, “Jehovah, He is God! He is the Lord!” [1 Kings 18:29-39]. So Elijah said, “Seize these four hundred and fifty prophets, and take them down to the River Kishon.” And the people seized those false prophets, those Baalites, took them down to the river, and there Elijah slew them [1 Kings 18: 40].
Then he went back up the mount—and if you’ve been there, as the pastor has so many times, you know it juts into the Mediterranean Sea—and he knelt down and said to his servant, “Now you go and watch.” And Elijah prayed, “O God, for the rain, the life-giving rain. O God, send the rain.” Seven times he prayed: six times that servant came back and said, “There is nothing but the burning sky.” But the seventh time when the servant came back, he said, “There is a little cloud the size of a man’s hand.” And Elijah turned to the king and to the people, and said, “Run, there is the sound of an abundance of rain.” And the king got in his chariot, and Elijah girded up his loins, and ran in front of the chariot to Jezreel, a full twenty miles. And God poured down the life-giving rain [1 Kings 18:41-46; James 5:17-18].
So when Ahab told Jezebel what had happened, and what Elijah has done, she sent word to the prophet, saying, “The Lord do so and more also unto me, if you do not die as they did this time tomorrow.” And Elijah fled for his life [1 Kings 19:1-3].
You know, preacher, that’s the strangest thing, and maybe it’d be good for us to remember it who are pastors of a church. What the deacons say doesn’t matter, not one way or another. What the brotherhood says doesn’t matter one way or another. What the men of the church say doesn’t matter, one way or another. But brother, you better watch out what the women say, what Jezebel says!
And at the threat of Jezebel, Elijah took off again; ran all the way down to Beersheba, got under a juniper tree, and said, “O God, it is enough, let me die” [1 Kings 19:4]. Well, the Lord came to him, and sent him down to Sinai, and called him again. And, of course, the rest of the story, God set him to anoint Hazael king of Syria, God sent him to anoint Jehu king of Israel, and God sent him to call and anoint Elisha to be His prophet [1 Kings 19:15-16]. And the rest of the story, you remember, they cross the Jordan [2 Kings 2:8]; and as Elisha and Elijah walk together, the heavens open, and Elijah went to heaven [2 Kings 2:9-11], and you don’t see him anymore until the Mount of Transfiguration, Mount Hermon—tomorrow—and there is Elijah [Matthew 17:1-3].
Well, let me take in this closing moment, just a leaf out of the story. Up there on Mt. Carmel, the people were told, “If Baal be God, serve Baal; if Jehovah be God, serve Jehovah. You make the decision this day” [1 Kings 18:21]. And may I take that little leaf out of the story? All of us face that ultimate decision: shall it be God or the world, the secular world? Which one shall it be as I face life and death? Which one shall it be?
America, you face that! In the beginning of your creation and birth, the Spaniards came seeking gold. And our forefathers came from England, seeking God. And the Pilgrims built their little churches, and their preachers preached the gospel, and their children were brought up in the love and nurture of the Lord. And the pioneer preachers carried through that blessed hope, finally coming far out there in the western part of the state, where I heard it and was saved. Make that decision America! O God, how desperately we need to make it.
Even since I was a boy, I never heard of a sports contest on Sunday until these present days. If you were to ask me, “When will that Superbowl be played?” I would answer, “Today, it will be played on Sunday.” When I was a boy it was unthinkable. When I was a boy, I never saw a door locked: nobody locked the door of their home or house. Today, I even have an alarm on that lock. The disillusion and the breaking up of the modern home is tragic beyond despair! More than half of the homes that are built in America break up in divorce, and that includes our beautiful city of Dallas.
When I came here to the city, I held services in every school in the city, chapel services. Now you cannot begin even to have a prayer in the schools. Hand out condoms: by law you cannot hand out a Bible. O Lord, how things have changed! And how we need to make that great decision that it will be God and Christ our Savior. “Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it: except the [Lord] care for the city, they wake up but in vain” [Psalm 127:1].
God of our fathers, known of old,
Lord of our far flung battle line,
Beneath whose awesome hand we hold
Dominion over palm and pine—
Lord God of hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget—lest we forget!
Far called, our armies melt away;
On dune and headland sinks the fire:
Lo, all our pomp of yesterday
Is one with Nineveh and Tyre!
O God of the ages, remember us yet,
Remember us yet!
[“God of Our Fathers, Known of Old,” Rudyard Kipling]
And that same appeal, as I close, is made to you, personally; “The nation cannot repent if I do not repent. The nation cannot turn if I do not turn. The nation cannot believe if I do not believe. The nation cannot be saved if I am not saved.” The destiny of our great and beloved country lies in our hands. O Lord, that God might see in us a great turning, a great revival, a great commitment. And the Lord bless us as we seek His face and walk in His pilgrim way.