January 1, 2014

Unanswered Questions I: Baal, Yahweh or Indifference?

I will begin a short series on specific questions raised in the Bible that are not given specific answers. They are not answered...because they are rhetorical questions or they were not really intended to be answered. In and of themselves they seem as if the answers should be obvious but the fact that they would need to be asked of someone says volumes about the people being asked of. The first comes to us from Elijah and he is asking the Prophets of Baal under King Ahab.

1 Kings 18:21 ~ And Elijah came near to all the people and said, “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.” And the people did not answer him a word.

Ahab was real deadbeat and severely damaged the spiritual state of Israel as 1 Kings 16:30 said of him...

1 Kings 16:30 ~ "Ahab son of Omri did more evil in the eyes of the Lord than any of those before him. 

This is a pretty sad statement considering there were many bad kings that came before him including Jeroboam who was pretty horrendous.

As for the scenario being laid out for us here in Scripture, in the minds of most present, Baal had the advantage in the coming contest as he was the god in control of weather. The name "Carmel" means "the garden land," and it was famous for its fertility.  Elijah ordered Ahab present (v. 19) as was appropriate since the prophet was the representative of the true King of Israel. Surprisingly Ahab obeyed. So we see a true prophet of God pitted against 450 false prophets of Baal. It is clear a supernatural intervention would be required to win the day. As we will later see, that is exactly what happens.

Here we see the infamous and definitive standoff between the One True God (Yahweh) and the false god Baal. Actually it is the meeting of the prophets of Baal (Satan) and God since Baal is a figment of people’s imagination and in reality satanic. Elijah challenges the 450 prophets of Baal to a contest to determine who/what is truly God, Baal or the God of Israel. An offering on alter is to be made so that the true God would consume it by fire. The prophets of Baal clearly had a numerical advantage. They are offered the chance first. It must have been an amusing sight for anyone watching the prophets. Hooting and hollering and carrying on like a bunch of freed monkeys (not unlike what I see on TV on TBN).

Elijah maintains and air of dignity and views their antics with distain eventually mocking them. Elijah sarcastically quips that Baal must be busy. At the time of the evening sacrifice Elijah takes charge. He handicaps himself before offering sacrifice to the Lord. He digs a trench around the altar and fills it with water. The altar and the wood are also soaked. Fire falls from heaven consuming not only the sacrifice…but also the wood, the stones of the altar, the dust around the altar and the water in the trench. (((BOOM))) When I read this passage I get a mental visualization here of a burnt smoking cinder left over after a Wild E. Coyote explosion and it is slightly amusing. The prophets of Baal’s jaws must have clanked like iron bars on the stony ground at Mt. Carmal. The prophets of Baal had been exposed as fakes and idolators (Wiersbe 473). Guilty as charged they are summarily executed by the sword (1 Kings 19:1)

The real source of Israel's troubles were mostly Ahab and Omri's disregard of the Mosaic Covenant and a proclivity for idolatry.  This idolatry rubbed off on the people and they apostatized and practiced what amounted to Baal/Yahweh worship in a syncretistic blending of religions…hence Elijah’s sarcastic question to the false prophets of Baal. The idolatrous Baal worship has been put under the most favorable circumstances to win the day but it fails horrendously because it is backed by a non-god. Because it had been accepted by it’s “all-knowing” leaders (like today), it validated it that much more. Yahweh would end all that in one fell swoop. We see a double-mindedness and that is why Elijah presents the question. 

The complete failure for anyone in Israel to even bother to answer Elijah’s question shows their complete apathy and the fact they had given over to idolatry. Elijah does not ask this question so much expecting an answer to force them to be resolute. He does it to show their indecisiveness. There is nothing more evil and obnoxious to God than complete indifference and neutrality in spiritual things. This neutrality amounts to nothing more than sin and evil anyway. As it has been said so many time, all that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing. Problem is, if they do nothing spiritually…they really are not good men, are they? We see this no better than in Revelation 3:14-22 in the lukewarm Laodician church when we see the Spirit say, “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” Because of the Laodician indifference, Jesus spits them from His mouth.

In an effort to try and play it safe, we lose everything. When we try to balance in the middle between God and the world so we can have both, we get the world and lose God. Thereby we are damned. So it was in Elijah’s time, so it is now, so it will be in the future based on the readings of Revelation 3. Human nature is always the same and there will be people damning themselves all the way to the end of time…the Bible tells us as much!

Indifference and neutrality on issues of the culture may work when it comes to some things but caving in and accepting some of the unrighteous cultural norms of today makes us compromise our Christianity or in a worst case scenario…our faith. We must make a firm decision for Christ and if we do we should expect that we will be put at odds with the world. Jesus told as much.

Matthew 10:34 ~ Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.

We cannot allow the world to pressure us so greatly that we begin to accept things into our lives that compete with God. You are to have no other gods before God.

Wiersbe, Warren. "David’s Unruly Sons." Bible Exposition Commentary: Old Testament Wisdom and Poetry (Bible Knowledge). Acambaro: Victor, 2003. 473. Print

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