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At Carmel (1 Kings 18)

"How long halt ye between two opinions?" was the question with which Elijah challenged the people of Israel when he gathered them on mount Carmel. They were all there, the king and his people, 450 prophets of Baal and 400 prophets of Asherah, all gathered at the word of Elijah. The angel Gabriel spoke to Zacharias about the spirit ai~d power of Elijah, and it was remarkably demonstrated at Carmel, for they obeyed his word without dispute.

Maybe the people expected he would give them rain, but before the rain could come sin had to be judged. For years they had yielded lip service to God but in their hearts they were idol-worshippers and the long years of drought had not changed them. So the call rang out "How long halt ye between two opinions?" The word could be translated "to totter" like a drunken man whose feet go first one way and then another. That is how His people had been behaving, like the double-minded man whom James speaks about, unstable in all his ways. But God cannot be satisfied with that. He is a jealous God and He claims, and deserves, the undivided loyalty of our hearts. The people had no answer to Elijah's challenge, so he proposed they build two altars and offer two bullocki, and let them call on their

gods, and he would call on the living God, and the God who answered by fire, let him be God.

Elijah knew his God. He knew what Hebrews 12 tells us that our God is a consuming fne. He appeared to Moses in a flame of fire when the bush burned and was not consumed. When He met Israel at Sinai He descended to the mountain in fire and when He led them through the wilderness it was by a pillar of fire by night. Elijah was confident that in response to his prayer, God would answer by fire. The prophets of Baal went first for they were many, and although they called on the name of Baal from morning to noon there was no answer. Elijah mocked them, but it made no difference when they slashed themselves with knives until the blood flowed. Of course not! for the gods they served had ears which could not hear.

Then it was Elijah's turn. The people watched intently as he took twelve stones, one for each tribe, and with them he built an altar in the Name of the Lord. Around it he dug a trench which was filled with water and the bullock cut in pieces on the altar was drenched with water also. It was the time of evening sacrifice as Elijah stepped forward to pray, the time when the burnt offering was being

consumed on the altar at God's house in Jerusalem. And Elijah began to pray, "0 LORD, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Israel" reminding them of God's promises to their forefathers and to them as a nation. God was a covenant-keeping God. He never failed to keep His promises and on that ground Elijah now called upon Him. His Name had been greatly dishonoured in Israel, a fact which he deeply lamented, and he now called on God to clear His Name of all dishonour. "Let it be known this day that Thou art God in Israel, and that I am Thy servant, and that I have done all these things at Thy word". That was the great burden of his heart, that God's Name would be glorified. "Father, glorify Thy Name" the Lord Jesus prayed, and that must ever be the burden of our hearts as we pray forward the work of God. "Not for us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto Thy Name give glory".

And there was a second burden on Elijah's heart as he made his impassioned plea to God. "Hear me, 0 LORD, hear me, that this people may know that Thou, LORD, art God, and that Thou hast turned their heart back again". It was all so completely in tune with God's deepest desires, and God in

heaven answered by fire. The fire of the Lord fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the dust, and even licked up the water in the trench. And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces and cried, "The LORD, He is God: the LORD, He is God".

Sin was judged that day, the false prophets were slain in the Kishon valley, and then they were ready to receive the rain. "Get thee up, eat and drink" said Elijah to the king, "for there is the sound of abundance of rain". Ahab could not hear it, but Elijah could, for he was in touch with God. He knew so well that God was going to be true to His promise and that the rain was already on its way.

The apostle Peter spoke about seasons of refreshing from the presence of the Lord. How our hearts long for them. Then let us learn the lesson of Carmel's mount and be quick to judge sin in our lives. The next step will be to claim the promise of Malachi chapter 3 and bring the whole tithe into God's storehouse, to give Him the first place in our lives that belongs to Him, and then He will fulfil His Word and open the windows of heaven and pour us out a blessing such as we have not room enough to contain it.