A Voice in the
"And it came to pass, at the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that Elijah the prophet came near and said, Jehovah the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that You are God in Israel and I am Your servant, and that I have done all these things at Your Word." (1Ki18:36)
A couple years ago somebody sent me an old monaural (RtoR) tape of a concert he had performed in, of Mendelssohn's oratorio "Elijah", so I could burn it into a couple of CDs for him. I had never before heard the whole work. As the soloist got to this spot (quoted above), the melody line and dynamics of the music lends itself to noticing this phrase, "and I AM YOUR SERVANT", and at the moment, although I've heard that solo before, by itself, but in the context of everything leading up to it in the oratorio, that phrase gripped me in my soul.
Let us understand the scene. If you are not familiar with the account, please read that chapter: 1Kings 18. There has been famine in the land from Elijah's pronouncement in ch17. And now, after three years, Elijah shows up...the 450 prophets of Baal and 400 prophets of the groves are summoned to Mt. Carmel. (18:19-20) That's 850 satanist false prophets! Elijah calls out to them (with that many people around, he obviously has to shout at the top of his voice, to be heard): "How long will you be limping between two divided opinions? If Jehovah is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow after him." (vs21)
And notice the people's reaction: "But the people answered him not a word" Can you imagine the stares of hate! Anger is seething within them at this prophet of God. But they 'have' to be there, because the king has summoned them. And can you imagine Elijah's position: One -lone- prophet of God surrounded by all these demon-possessed satanists, not to mention all the 'laity' of the common people gathered, to whom Elijah is proclaiming: You call yourselves "Israel" (by definition: the Mighty God prevails), but you worship the Baals. As Jesus would proclaim years later, "you cannot serve two masters" (Mt6:24) Israel was doing like the 'church' does today: calling itself "christian", while engaging in all the occult shamanistic eastern religious 'worship' practices.
The 'contest' is to be a -proof- of the Real God. Just like today's church revels in their signs and wonders, Baal worship also included occult manifestations. So...let's find out, once for all, -who- is God. Let's put our respective gods to the test. Let's build altars, put the sacrifice on them, but put no fire to the wood; and the God who answers by fire, igniting the sacrifice, without the human touch of a fire source, he is God.
So, all day these 850 false prophets are jumping around on their altar. They are praying: I -COMMAND- that fire come down. We are all here, together, AGREEING TOGETHER that we are COMMANDING fire to come down. But nothing. Elijah, of course, has also taunted them along the way: Why hasn't your god answered yet? Maybe you need to shout a little louder? And as their heathen practice calls for, they start lancing themselves; and with 850 of them, can you imagine all the blood flowing all over the place! Quite a rawkous scene of total commotion...as they have been calling on their spirit-fillings to do their bidding.
What ever happened to their "power of prayer"? The idea that more "prayer partners" is effectual? I mean, look! They had -850- people praying "mightily"! Mmmmm??
Now, it comes time for Israel's "evening sacrifice". Israel, Ahab's northern kingdom, hasn't been following God's laws of sacrifice ever since Jeroboam instituted calf-worship when the kingdom split away from Solomon's son, Rehoboam. (1Ki12:26~) But according to the Law that God had given Israel, there were two daily sacrifices that were to be offered, daily, without fail; one in the morning, and the other in the evening. These are the two sacrifices that Israel will again re-institute during the coming 70th week. (Dan9:27, Ez3:3-6, Ex29:38-42)
If you read this Ezra passage, you will see that a 'temple' is not necessary for these offerings to commence, and notice that Dan9:27 does not mention a temple. This little observation, as a piece of information for understanding the "signs of the times" in which we currently live; to help us understand that a 'temple' is not necessary to be in place for Christ to return.
And you notice that Elijah prepares his altar, with no temple there, builds it with 12 stones according to the 12 tribes of Israel; just as it will be again during the 70th week. (vs31) And you can read how the trench is dug, and lots of water poured over the sacrifice.
So now, it's -time- for the "evening sacrifice", something the northern kingdom hasn't seen, probably in their lifetimes, since they have been separated from Judah. And surrounded by these 850 spitting, bleeding, angry prophets of satan, along with however-many people of Israeli spectators, and King Ahab and all his servants, and no doubt, many of his accompanying soldiers... quite a group of people!
First of all, let's identify -who- this God is we are praying to: As we observed last month, the "God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel" This is not the ecumenical god of all the nations, Baal, Moloch, Ishtar, Tammuz, etc. This is the God who called out Abraham, and from his seed formed a nation: Israel. This is -Israel's- God, the Almighty, Jehovah of Hosts. (18:15)
Let it be known that "You are God in Israel" The people haven't known God in years!
"And I am Your servant" Why is such a statement necessary? The passage doesn't say, directly; but let's make some observations. Why should it be necessary for them to know that Elijah is God's servant?
Once this event is finished, God has answered by fire that burns up also the water he had poured over the altar, and the people proclaim: "Jehovah, He is God! Jehovah, He is God!" (18:39), Elijah finds himself running for dear life from Jezebel's threat because he has had all the false prophets slaughtered, and he whines to God "I alone am left; and they seek my soul, to take it away" (19:10)
850 -to- 1 If an election takes place with such results, it is called a landslide. The "people have spoken". It doesn't really much matter that the "1" represents justice and good rule of an honest man. The "1" typically goes into exile, unless he gets killed first. The people might have been bowing and calling out "Jehovah, He is God" but that did not necessarily indicate changed hearts. If they had, they would have dethroned Ahab and killed Jezebel, too; the type of thing that happened in Judah under Hezekiah and Josiah when they repented and returned to the Lord. Remember, the mob one day was welcoming Jesus, "Hosanna to the Son of David, who comes in the name of the Lord" (Mt21:19) and four days later were yelling out, "Let Him be crucified" (Mt27:22-23)
This is pretty much the very scenario that many True Christian Believers today face, when confronted by false teachers, false prophets, false leaders. I never faced a 850 -to- 1 scenario; the exact numbers don't really matter; but the argument is the same nevertheless: So, you think that you (alone) are right, and ALL OF US ARE WRONG?!? Since the Lord put me in various ministry positions over the years, my dealings have typically been with leaders; I know what proud and angry church boards-of-elders can be like; I have seen the assembling of a small lynch mob when a pastor whose heart immorally goes after the flesh of children, and stays in a ministry position solely because he is afraid for his own financial welfare if he should retire but has readily admitted to you that he has "lost his call" (to the ministry), when he knows he is in the wrong but feels threatened because he knows the people in the church respect you and your Biblical teaching, conjures up false 'witnesses' that claim to have heard you speak of "ousting" him...when that was not the case...and assumes you are plotting against him, with the other church people. What is that Scripture? "The wicked flee when no one pursues..." (Pr28:1)
These are just two scenarios I have experienced; there have been others. Based on e-mails received, I know that many of you reading this (who know the Lord) have also experienced your own versions of these things.
Essentially the argument goes, that 'greater numbers' in agreement with each other indicates the "right". Notice how much today's apostasy is "agreeing together" (Mt18:19) as they -pray- and -command- God this and that? Pastors' "Prayer Summit" meetings gather the area's church leaders together, from all denominations, and they sit around in circles "praying" together, "agreeing" together. And so, if you, the 'lone' dissenter dares to speak up contrary to their ungodly ways, "How -DARE- you criticize us!" We are praying to God and "agreeing together". God hears us. You better repent of your rebellion, lest God rain down fire upon you!
Hmmm! Ever notice, also, how they don't believe in "repentance" -unless- it is for somebody who disagrees WITH -THEM-, to repent towards them? Then, such people need to repent. Just like that other pastor who told me not to ever show my face back in 'his' church, unless I first came and "bowed the knee" (literally) to -him- (this pastor) and repented. Otherwise, he preached "sola fide".
Well, guess what Jesus has to say about all these false prophets. Are you feeling all alone in your righteousness? "Behold, I will make those of the synagogue of Satan, who say they are Jews and are not, but lie; indeed I will make them come and bow the knee before your feet, and to know that I have loved you." (Rev3:9)
"..to know that I have loved you.." Jesus says. Was Elijah full of pride when he prayed that Israel would know, "that I am Your servant"? No. The people needed to distinguish between Jehovah and Baal, and between God's servant and the servants of Baal. If God's prophet proclaims about God: "before whom I stand", then it is a paired concept that the one who stands before God, also -is- "God's servant".
Yes, the multitude try to belittle God's faithful Believers. This is not a lesson in pride and spiritual "self-esteem". No! But when satan attacks with the onslaughts of those GREAT NUMBERS, and they give the arguments they do, "so you think -you're- right?!" it can be easy to after awhile become "worn down" and stop resisting. Paul exhorts us to "STAND FIRM THEREFORE" (Eph6:14) In order to be able to stand in such a fashion, one's heart must be firm in its faith, "I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep safe what I have committed to Him until that Day" (2Ti1:12)
They taunt: You think ALL OF US are wrong?? The Believer must stand firm, KNOWING God's Truth, "Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know, yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you; unless indeed you are ones failing the test?" (2Co13:5)
And when they surround you and interrogate, the soldier replies: My name is CHRISTIAN, my rank is CHILD OF GOD, God's servant, a sojourner in this world, my serial number is CITIZEN OF HEAVEN; the Most High is my Commander, and God's Word is Truth, which Truth I uphold and proclaim without wavering! You taunt me with your great numbers, "But I am coming to you in the name of Jehovah of Hosts, the God of the ranks of Israel, whom you have reproached." (1Sam17:45)
The "spirit of Elijah" continues, when Naaman comes to Israel to be healed, and the king tears his clothes in dismay because he assumes Syria is picking a fight, Elisha sends him a message: Send him over here, "and he shall know that there is a prophet in Israel" (2Ki5:8) the "man of God" (vs15)
"He who receives you receives Me, and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me. He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophetís reward. And he who receives a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous manís reward." (Mt10:40-41)