Under this backdrop (pt.1) Elijah, called the entire nation of Israel together, and stood alone against all the people of the land – an entire nation of pagan murderers, who were all slowly starving to death because of HIS ministry. Standing alone in front of the king who had been hunting his life for above three years, and all the people – he defied them to their faces, pointing out that their gods were feeble, and unable to help them. Their gods were unable to spare them of the famine that they accredited to Elijah, and his ‘vengeful’ Judaen God.
In the face of this he called them to repent and turn to the one true God. He knew that these would not repent at his word so he challenged them to a test that would show whether their gods were real, and had any power to save or no; and to prove whether Jehovah, his God were alive, and able to work in a man’s behalf, or no.
The elite of Baal’s priests and prophets, literally hundreds of them – all of them Israelites – started praying to their god early in the morning. Elijah and the entire nation stood by for hours as they went from one demonic ritual to the next, chanting, dancing, gyrating, channeling spirits, performing self-mutilation, and God only knows what unspeakable perversions to get Baal’s attention.
After several hours of this horrific display – the atmosphere charged with demonic darkness, and mob mentality – the man of God showed the whole nation that he was not bound by the fear of Baal, or his demonized prophets. In the midst of all this Elijah began to taunt them.
The terror in the atmosphere surely had caused most to forget what the POINT of the chaos was – so, cutting right through the darkness of the whole situation he pointed out how futile their exercises were. Baal wasn’t impressed with their display, for he did not answer them – they may well have held control over the people through fear of their demonisms, but their god was still an helpless idol. Elijah humanized Baal mockingly, and said that perhaps Baal was sleeping, and they needed to shout even louder in order to wake him (though, doubtless their calls were already shaking the countryside), or that, maybe, he was on the toilet, and couldn’t be bothered to answer them, or perhaps he was out on a trip.
Finally as the sun was setting, and the priests and prophets of Baal had worn themselves out with a full day of dark rituals.
Now, I’ve been going through the story in a general narrative, because there is just so much there to really break down piece by piece, but there are some very pertinent things in this passage as things took place on Carmel.
1 Kings 18:30
30 And Elijah said unto all the people, Come near unto me. And all the people came near unto him. And he repaired the altar of the Lord that was broken down.
After the futility of the workings of the prophets of Baal, Elijah called the people to himself. Little as it seems, this is significant. Elijah is the lone prophet remaining in the land, and he is calling the wicked unto himself. Just as Christ called all men to Himself: ‘Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.’ (Matt 11:28)
John the Baptist is declared to have carried the spiritual ministry of Elijah. John’s ministry, was a ministry of repentance. To ‘repent’ means simply to ‘turn,’ or to ‘turn away.’ The first step of this essential turning, is that men everywhere turn to the righteous saints, and prophets of God. As the Angel Gabriel declared (he was quoting the book of Malachi) of John the Baptist:
And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.
The key here is that the unrighteous must first turn themselves to hear the wisdom of the just, or they never can receive the Truth of the Gospel.
The first thing Elijah did once they were all gathered together, and watching him was to repair the alter of Jehovah, the True God. Now, this worded interestingly, as there is no record of an altar having been built upon Mount Carmel prior to this event. In fact, once the alter in Jerusalem was built there was no other altar authorized in the land according to the law of Moses, so the likelihood of an alter to Jehovah existing on Carmel physically prior to this event is negligible. So what does it mean that he ‘repaired the alter of the Lord that was broken down.’?
The altar is the place where man meets, and interacts with God. Elijah began to give honor to God where God was not revered. He began to repair the image of the one True God where for generations He had been despised. In the face of pagan haters Elijah gave honor to God, and re-established True spiritual reverence. If there had, physically been an altar (which even by the following verses seems improbable), it was only circumstantial – Elijah was rebuilding faith in the One True God.
1 Kings 18:31 & 32a
31 And Elijah took twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, unto whom the word of the Lord came, saying, Israel shall be thy name:
32 And with the stones he built an altar in the name of the Lord:
Taking 12 stones he built it. (The stones are the Truth of God, they have greater meaning than we can discuss here.) One for each tribe of Israel – one for each apostle of the Lamb – one for each foundation of the new Jerusalem – one for each door of the same.
He then dug a trench around the altar, and laid the wood on it. Finally, he slaughtered the bull.
The bull was used because it was the sin offering (REPENTANCE!) that Moses required for the entire nation, when all the people of the nation fell into sin (Lev. 4:13 &14). Elijah cut the bull into pieces, so that its blood ran down through the wood, through the stones of the altar, and down to the very dust the altar was built on.
He then ordered 4 pots to be filled with water, and baptized the sin offering with water; three times he baptized it with 4 pots of water – that’s 12 times total he baptized the altar and the sin offering with water. One for each tribe of Israel – one for each apostle of the Lamb – one for each foundation of the new Jerusalem – one for each gate to the same.
[ETERNAL INTERLUDE: I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance. but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire: (Matt 3:11)]
The water drenched the sacrifice, the wood beneath it, the stones of the altar and the dust it was built on, just as the blood of the bull had done. The water and the blood were in agreement, saturating the offering and the altar. You are the altar – the place where God meets with man. You are a stone of the altar, the church (if so be that God’s Word is laid to your heart). This works on the small scale of individuals, and the large scale of the body as a whole. Jesus provides the blood (and the fire), we must provide the water. That is: we cannot atone for our own sins, but if we do not repent, and consecrate ourselves to God, we will not be eligible for salvation when the fire falls. The Spirit, the water, AND the blood all must agree in one (1 John 5:7&8).
After baptizing the offering and the altar with water, Elijah then waited the span of time remaining to the evening sacrifice – again, as prescribed by Moses. The water, and the blood were in agreement, and Elijah did according to the command of God by waiting until the time of the evening sacrifice (sanctification); only one thing remained.
Once the time of the evening sacrifice had arrived, he drew near to the alter, and he simply prayed – he did not shout, or dance or shake or make a show of any kind, he simply prayed – and he prayed a very brief prayer: “LORD God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, 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. Hear me, O LORD, hear me, that this people may know that thou art the LORD God, and that thou hast turned their heart back again [REPENTANCE!].” (1 Kings 18:36-37)
And when he prayed the fire of heaven fell – for all things were set in place so that the Lord had respect unto Elijah’s sacrifice. The stones of the altar were in place, the wood laid upon it, the appropriate sacrifice for sin laid out; on top of it all the water and the blood were in agreement. The fire of God that fell was so hot that it not only evaporated the water, but also the blood, the sacrifice, the wood, the twelve stones of the altar, the fire even consumed the dust that the alter was built on (v. 38).
Why then did God have respect to meet Elijah’s prayer with fire? It would be simple enough for us to say that it was for proof, for Elijah called on the name of God in the face of the nation which had turned to idols. Yet why then, does not God answer the prayer of every Christian with fire?
There was a reason that God had respect unto Elijah’s sacrifice (or, rather, there were reasons). What if you were in his position? Would God answer you with fire? Would He answer me? We may easily say ‘Yes’ only because of our perception of God’s sovereignty, but in reality there are reasons that prayers are answered, or not answered.
Do not think that he is too far beyond you, as a mystic magician? no: ‘Elijah was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain and the earth brought forth her fruit.‘ (James 5:17 & 18)
The working, or manifestations of the power of God are not magic (though they may well seem far beyond us), indeed it is just the opposite, it is how things are SUPPOSED to be. We are SUPPOSED to interact with God in True manifestation, we are SUPPOSED to be supernatural sons and daughters of God. It is only beyond us because we have not appropriately established the sacrifice, when we respond correctly to God, and lay the appropriate foundations within us, God will respond to our sacrifice – it begins with repentance.
I beseech YOU, therefore bretheren in view of God’s mercies, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice. Afterall, it is your spiritual worship, and reasonable service. (Rom 12:1)
When it was clearly revealed that God would respond in a man’s behalf if only he set himself to appropriately honor Him, the nation as one turned to God. They put to death all the prophets of Baal – this reveals their True repentance. They turned from what they had come to accept as right, and holy unto the living God.
Then did God respond again to the help of ALL the people by sending rain. Because they repented, and began to establish themselves aright – just as Elijah had built and established a right offering – God responded to their help by sending rain. It is an enacted prophecy of God’s New Covenant promise to us:
‘Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when TIMES OF REFRESHING SHALL COME FROM THE PRESENCE OF THE LORD.‘ Acts 3:19
Or even quite simply ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’