HILLS & VALLEYS: Main Event-Yahweh vs. Baal  1 Kings 18:20-40

I can remember this day because there was a lot of buildup.  The day was January 28, 1997.  It was the summer before my senior year of high school.  A bunch of my friends and I had gone in together to buy a Pay-per-view boxing match.  It was Evander Holyfield vs. ‘Iron’ Mike Tyson.  Most boxing matches you don’t remember; my guess is, you at least have a recollection of this one.  In the third round, Mike Tyson came out of the gate, tried to spit out his mouth guard, and promptly bit off a portion of Evander Holyfield’s ear!  I had just dipped my first chip in the queso and I’m putting it up to my mouth and it’s over….because a portion of Holyfield’s ear is on the floor.  I decided that day that I’m not a huge fan of boxing.  What I recognize is that there is this draw to see a fight.  Whenever there’s a fight, there’s a crowd that forms, right?  There’s something in us where we go……I at least want to look on and check it out.  I have a friend that invited me to go see Conor McGregor vs. .  It was billed as the best UFC fight in the history of UFC.  I said no because I had been watching the Kavanaugh hearings that week and I’d seen enough fighting.

Have you noticed that all around us there is fighting?  There’s a survey that’s done by the Institute for Economics and Peace.  They give the world a peace rating every single year.  Peace is steadily on the decline, but what they found out in their most recent survey of the 162 countries around the globe that they surveyed, only ELEVEN of them are without  military conflict of some sort.  162 countries surveyed and only 11 can say we’re not involved in some sort of war or some sort of conflict with our military.  That’s been the case for a long time.  It is the case now.  Here’s my question:  Are we just not listening to John Lennon; have we just not given peace a chance?  Is that what’s going on here?  Or is there more going on in the world than we can see with just our natural eyes?

Is there more going on than what we’ve probably been taught, if you, like me, grew up in sort of a Western, post-enlightenment education that was based on the scientific model—what you can see is what’s true; what’s observable, what’s measurable, what’s repeatable—that’s what’s really ultimately true.  There’s no such thing as what we would call the spiritual realm, because we can’t observe it, measure it, or repeat it, therefore, it doesn’t exist.  How many of you grew up with some sort of educational trajectory that felt a little bit like that?  I did!  I think it’s maybe said best by the great Keyser Soze (played by Kevin Spacey) at the end of The Usual Suspects: “The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he doesn’t exist.”

You may have noticed the Bible doesn’t spend a lot of time philosophizing about the problem of evil.  It simply assumes that it is.  It assumes that it’s a reality; that evil is a thing and it is an issue.  From a pastoral point of view, if we don’t have a good grasp of the problem of evil—that evil is a real thing and that people do have a free will and they can go against the will of God—we end up blaming everything on God.  Everything’s God’s fault then.  If you read through the Scriptures, that simply isn’t true.  There are two sides.  There is something such as good AND there is evil.  Evil is a reality.  We’re going to see it come to the forefront in 1 Kings 18 today.

Keep your finger in 1 Kings 18 and I want you to flip over to Exodus 20:3-4.  This might seem a little strange to you, but I’m going to invite you to go along with me and then come and ask me questions afterwards.  According to the Bible, there is God, a Supreme God who rules and reigns above it all.  He’s the creator, he’s the maker and he is the sustainer.  And there are ‘lower case g’ gods.  Also very real.  Also very powerful, and typically, not always, evil.  Look at the way it’s said in the Ten Commandments.  As followers of Jesus and people of the Scriptures, we love the Ten Commandments.  You shall have no other gods before me.  {In Hebrew, it’s the word elohim.  He doesn’t say, “There are no other gods.”  Have you ever thought about that?  He goes no, no, there are, but don’t worship any of them above me.  If you’re going well, Paulson, it’s really talking about idolatry, I say timeout, hold on, because they’re going to address idolatry and it’s in a different category.}  You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below.    Don’t make an image.  Don’t carve an idol.  So elohim is a category and idols is a different category.  Really interesting.  There’s a distinction that’s made.  In the Hebrew, this word Elohim certainly is translated God; it’s also translated as four other words.  {If you want to find out what those are, come to the seminar Tuesday night.}  It’s translated as God, certainly, but think of it more as a category…a powerful, spiritual being.  An elohim is an invisible, but very real, spiritual creature.

So we have the God of the Bible, or Yahweh, as he’s named.  Isn’t it interesting that He has a name?  He can’t just be God.  He’s like I’ve got a name and it’s Yahweh.  He’s hostile, or against, these other elohim, these rebellious gods.  Flip back a few chapters to Exodus 12:12.  Listen to what they say as the Israelites are leaving Egypt and the power that they’ve been under there.  On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn of both people and animals, and I will bring judgment on all the gods (elohim) of Egypt.  I am the Lord (Yahweh). So this whole Exodus narrative is ultimately about God judging the other gods.  In fact, all of the ten plagues that were given to Egypt were depictions of Egyptian gods.  The sun god, for example, was seen as the god that’s high and above all the other gods on the Egyptian pantheon, his name is Amun-Ra.  So, is it any coincidence that Yahweh blots out the sun for three days?  What’s He saying?  He’s saying, “I’m the Elohim that’s above all the other elohim.  They all bow down to me and you should too.”  But what He’s not saying is that those other elohim don’t have power.  Have you ever read through the Exodus narrative and when Moses throws staff down and it becomes a snake, and he puts his hand inside his jacket and pulls it out and it’s leprous, and you go what in the world is going on here?  Then he starts doing miracles and what do Pharaoh’s magicians do?  They do miracles also!  It’s categorically shifting and messing with me as I read through this again.

When the Israelites get out from under the thumb of the Egyptians, they cross through the Red Sea, they sing a song.  Here’s what they say:  Who among the gods (or el—a derivative of elohim) is like you, Yahweh?  Who is like you—majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders? (Ex. 15:11)   What he doesn’t say is you’re the only elohim, what he says is there’s no one like you.  In the Old Testament, other “elohim” were ‘lower case g’ gods (spiritual beings) with real authority and real power.  In the New Testament, we see them sort of named as the devil, as Satan, or…..Colossians 2:15 — And having disarmed the powers and authorities, {These are the elohim of the Old Testament repackaged—powers, authorities, principalities.}  he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.

So there’s a spiritual battle going on that has a physical manifestation.  The same is true today, but we’re going to see it come on in the front scenes of Scripture in 1 Kings 18.  Let me catch you up, if you’re new to us and you’re going that was all intro?  Yep, that was all intro to the intro.  That was cosmology.  This is the world we live in, and if we don’t grasp that, we’ll never understand what’s going on in this text. Remember, Elijah the prophet burst onto the scenes of the Scripture when he marched into Ahab’s palace and said, “It’s not going to rain for three years.”  God said, “That’s a bold thing to say.  You should probably go to the wilderness and hide.”  He did, fed by ravens.  Evidently, he’s not in the wilderness that whole time, but it extends for a while.  He leaves there and goes to Zarephath, where Elijah’s faith is growing.  He sees God do miraculous things and he’s becoming this prophet of God that God intends for him to be.  We turn to 1 Kings 18:1 and pick up the story there —  After a long time, in the third year, the word of the Lord came to Elijah: “Go and present yourself to Ahab, and I will send rain on the land.”  So Elijah went to present himself to Ahab.

On the way, he encounters Obadiah.  Obadiah is this faithful follower of Yahweh.  He’s been hiding prophets of Yahweh in caves, trying to save their lives, because Ahab’s crazy wife, Jezebel, is murdering the prophets of Yahweh.  Elijah sees him along the way and says, “Hey, Obadiah, will you deliver a message for me?  Will you go tell Ahab, it’s about to go down! Meet me at Mount Carmel.  We’re going to decide who the chief elohim really is.”  Verse 16 — So Obadiah went to meet Ahab and told him, and Ahab went to meet Elijah.  When he saw Elijah, he said to him, “Is that you, you troubler of Israel?”  “I have not made trouble for Israel,” Elijah replied.  “But you and your father’s family have.  You have abandoned Yahweh’s commands and have followed the Baals.  Now summon the people from all over Israel to meet me on Mount Carmel.  And bring the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal and the four hundred prophets of Asherah, who eat at Jezebel’s table.”  So Ahab sent word throughout all Israel and assembled the prophets on Mount Carmel.

You’ll remember when Elijah marched into Ahab’s chambers, he said, “It’s not going to rain until I say so.”  For these people who were in the Northern Kingdom, they had stopped worshipping Yahweh and they started worshipping Baal.  Baal happened to be the god of rain.  So, from the get-go, this is a spiritual battle that Elijah is engaging in for the health and prosperity and goodness of his nation.

A little history on Baal:  In Semitic languages, the name Baal means “lord.”  In 1928, they made this fascinating archeological discovery in a region just north of Israel, called Ugarit.  They discovered 1400 scrolls in this ancient library.  They started to learn all of these things about the god Baal.  One of these ‘lower case g’ elohims.  They learned that this god Baal was the god that was worshipped in this region and held up as the chief deity in this region.  In fact, he was called the “prince, or the lord, of the underworld.”  The title that he went by most often was “the rider on the clouds.”  File that away, it’ll be important in a few minutes.  Just so you know, the Scriptures weren’t written in a vacuum.  The authors of the Hebrew Scriptures start using this term also—the rider on the clouds.  There’s no one like the God of Jeshurun (Israel), who rides across the heavens to help you and on the clouds in his majesty. (Deuteronomy 33:26)   So the authors of Scriptures are going, you want to talk about the rider on the clouds….let’s talk about the rider on the clouds.  It’s not Baal, it’s Yahweh.

Interestingly enough, Baal (lord) has added to his name (in the New Testament) zebul, which means ‘exalted’ or ‘lifted high.’  You put them together and you have this prince, or lord, of the underworld exalted and lifted high under the name of Beelzebul.  You’ve read about this, right?  It’s Jesus casting out demons and people accuse him of doing it under the power of Beelzebul, the prince, or ruler, of demons. 

Yahweh and Elijah’s encounter with Baal is not insignificant.  There’s something going on here.  In the ancient world, Baal was often depicted with a helmet shown with horns of a bull as a symbol of strength and fertility.  In one hand he typically had a mallet or a club depicting thunder, in the other he had a spear with something growing out of the top of it, depicting he was the god over all vegetation.

So, if you’re sitting here thinking, Ryan, are you telling me you think Baal is a legitimate spiritual being with legitimate spiritual power?  That’s what I’m telling you.  He’s not a figment of imagination.  He’s a demonic, real spiritual being and Israel’s apostasy was bowing the knee to this ‘lower case g’ god.

Here’s what Elijah says (1 Kings 18:21):  Elijah went before the people and said, “How long will you waver between two opinions?  If the Lord is God (Yahweh is Elohim), follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.”  But the people said nothing.   They’re going, “We don’t know!”  You’re right, Elijah, we’ve been going back and forth.  Elijah just throws the gauntlet and here’s what he says:  The spiritual battle is a reality and there is no such thing as neutrality.  There’s no Switzerland in the spiritual battle.  We live in a world where we go well, worship is something we do at church or worship is something we do because we’re religious, and I just want to speak into that lie.  Worship is something we do because we’re human.  It’s wired into us.  You’ve never met somebody who is not a worshipper, of some thing or of some one.  What Elijah says is there’s no middle ground in the spiritual life.  Joshua will say the same thing as they’re conquesting and taking down the Promised Land.  Here’s what he says at the very end of Joshua (24:15) — But if serving Yahweh seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in who land you are living.  But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.  This is a huge issue for us today, friends, because reading a verse like Joshua, we’re going, oh man, Joshua, does that mean we can’t sort of have a little bit of this, a little bit of that?  We live in a day and time where we love to keep our options open.  What God/Yahweh would say is there is no middle ground.  You’re either with me or you’re against me, but there’s no in between.  Would you lean in for a moment?  There’s so much on the line here, you guys.  Our life.  Our vitality.  All the good gifts that the Creator God, Yahweh, would long for us to step into are on the line with our worship.  Who and what we worship determines the trajectory of our life and every one of us is worshipping some thing or some one.

Let me show you how this plays out at the battle of Mount Carmel.  Just know that this is the way it manifests there, but these same things play out all around us every single day.  Maybe without the literal fire, but you’ll see what I mean in just a second.  Verse 22 — Then Elijah said to them, “I am the only one of the Lord’s prophets left, but Baal has four hundred and fifty prophets.  Get two bulls for us.  Let Baal’s prophets choose one for themselves, and let them cut it into pieces and put it o the wood but not set fire to it.  I will prepare the other bull and put it on the wood but not set fire to it.  Then you call on the name of your elohim, and I will call on the name of Yahweh.  The elohim who answers by fire—he is Elohim.”   Then all the people said, “What you say is good.”  Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, “Choose one of the bulls and prepare it first, since there are so many of you.  Call on the name of your god, but do not light the fire.”  So they took the bull given them and prepared it.  {This is sort of like if you win the coin toss in overtime, you get to have the ball the first and if you score it’s over.  So Elijah’s saying, go for it!  If fire comes down, it’s over!}  Then they called on the name of Baal from morning till noon.  “Baal, answer us!” they shouted.  But there was no response; no one answered.  And they danced around the altar they had made.  

Some versions say they limped around.   But you get the picture.  They’re doing a  little jig.  They’re hoping what god sees is what god likes and if god likes what he sees then god will send the fire down that they’re all hoping for, that they’re all expecting.  If you PERFORM for god then he’ll come through for you.  How many of us had interacted with God and thought similar things?  God, if I perform for you is this the dance you like?  No, not that one?  This one?  God, if we perform for you, God, if we dance for you, if we do the things you like, God, then do you show up?  Is that how we do this?  The ‘lower case g’ gods demand performance.  Do your dance.  Perform.  But Yahweh God longs for our affection. {Slide reads: Performance vs. Affection} If you look to the very end of this interaction, you have a summary of why Yahweh has called all the people of Israel to this mountain, for this moment, for this time.  Why did he call them there?  …You, Lord, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again. (v37)   He’s going I want your heart.  I want your affection.  I want your devotion.  I don’t want your jig, I don’t want your dance, I want your heart.

You know what’s interesting?  I had a chance this week to read a book called The Destroyer of the Gods.  It went through the history of early Christianity.  There is no other religion on the face of the earth—until Judaism’s born, until Christianity’s born—that would have seen affection for God as something that was desirable.  The idea of ‘delight yourself in the Lord’ was a uniquely Judaistic thing.  No other religions were saying that.  The goal of religion in the ancient world, in Elijah’s world, was ‘keep the gods at bay.’  Placate them.  Keep them happy so that they don’t torment you and mess with you.  But there’s no such thing as affection for God.

Try this on for size in the way you interact with God:  If we start thinking sin is ultimately about lack of performance rather than an affection that’s broken, we actually fall into worship of these ‘lower case g’ gods.  That’s not Yahweh, that’s a different god altogether.  It’s not performance that He’s after, it’s devotion.  It’s affection.  As followers of Yahweh, as followers of Jesus, we work FROM acceptance not FOR acceptance.  Those are two very different things.  We all know the parent who says, “Perform and then you’ll be loved” is what we call a terrible parent.  They should put as much money in a counseling fund as they do in a college fund, because they’re going to need to work it through.  Do we think then, because we know it’s bad parenting, that God does the same thing with us?  Perform, then I’ll love you.

My wife and I were watching one of our favorite shows this week, This is Us.  One of the young men was going off to war.  His dad stood on the porch as his son was going off to fight in Vietnam.  He said, “Make me proud.”  I thought, “What a weight to put on the shoulders of a young kid.”  But a lot of us think God looks down on us and goes, “Make me proud.”  Or else!  As C.S. Lewis said, “The Christian does not think God will love us because we are good, but that God will make us good because He loves us.”

This text continues (verse 27) — At noon Elijah began to taunt them.  {I don’t know why I love this passage so much, but I do.  It warms my heart!}  “Shout louder!” he said. “Surely he is a god/elohim!  Perhaps he is deep in thought, or busy, or traveling.  Maybe he is sleeping and must be awakened.”   {Other translations say, “Maybe he is relieving himself!”  Who knows?  As they discovered those 1400 Ugarit texts that talked about Baal, these were all things Baal was depicted as doing in those texts. Just an interesting side note.}  So they shouted louder and slashed themselves with swords and spears, as was their custom, until their blood flowed.   Why was it their custom?  They had this conviction that what the gods really wanted was your blood.  They had this conviction that what the lesser elohim desired was the destruction of humanity. One of the things that weaves its way through most cultic practices is that the ‘lower case g’ gods longed for blood.  {Look up me, this is really important.}  One of the major distinctions between Yahweh and every other ‘lower case g’ god is that He does not long for your blood, but He sheds His own blood.  He’s not a God who wants your destruction, He actually wants your abundance and your life and your flourishing and your good.  He doesn’t want to take you down, He longs to build you up. {Slide reads: Destruction vs. Abundance}  That’s a distinctive of Yahweh.  ‘Lower case g’ gods long for destruction.  But Yahweh wants your abundance. Here’s the way Jesus said it.  He couldn’t be any more clear.  The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (John 10:10)   Maybe this week you memorize that verse.  Tuck it into your heart so when your mind starts to wonder, “God, is this what you want for me?” he wants your good.  That’s what he wants.

It’s really interesting, if you start looking at the trends in current mental health—which we’re going to talk about next week, because Elijah goes from the mountaintop to the valley real quick and starts struggling with suicidal ideation and depression—you’ll see somewhere between 13-24% of people struggle with some sort of self-destructive tendencies, self-harm.  The most common form of that is cutting and burning one’s self.  One, if that’s you in the room today, don’t miss next week, but also, there’s help available.  Reach out.  I would also say that given the fact that this is a spiritual battle, there’s no such thing as neutrality, I would say that there’s more going on there than just what meets the eye.  There’s also a spiritual issue that’s going on there.  This is not a coincidence.

So the gods of Baal say slash yourself.  It didn’t just stop there.  When the Israelites started to worship them, you start to see what the worship of Baal does.  They have built the high places of Baal to burn their children in the fire as offerings to Baal—something I did not command or mention, nor did it enter my mind. (Jeremiah 19:5)  He’s thinking, this is why I longed for you to be worshippers of me, the One True Yahweh.  Because the other gods demand your sacrifice, they demand your blood, they demand your children.  But He goes I’m fighting for your life.

Try this on for size.  There’s a number of different ways this plays out in our day, in our culture, in society.  Not a lot of people worshipping Baal, at least explicitly, but there are a number of people that bow down to other gods.  Every time we bow down to other gods, these other gods demand our destruction.  Think about this.  I was a huge baseball fan in the late ’90s/early 2000s.  There was a number of baseball players bowing down to the gods of success.  To the gods of fame, notoriety, and records.  So what did they do?  They pumped their veins full of steroids.  Every single one of them knew it would eventually kill them, that it was terrible for them, but they went, “Well, it’s what you’ve got to do to be competitive.”  It’s what you’ve got to do to make it.  We see the same thing with addiction.  We see the same thing with people that can’t stop working, because the gods of success and money demand destruction.  But Jesus is saying no, no, no, no, I’ve created you for abundance, not for your destruction.  Our most complete picture of God is as one who dies for his enemies, rather than kills them; who sheds his own blood rather than demanding ours.

I just want to press on you this week.  Would you do some work here?  Would you think about what you’re thinking about this week?  Wrestle through, what’s my perspective of God?  Does He want my abundance, like Jesus says, or does He want my destruction?  Maybe your practice this week is that you just play that song, “Who You Say I Am”…..who the Son sets free is free indeed….that I’m chosen, I’m redeemed, that I’m called by Your name, that I’m Yours.  The thoughts you think matter.  They matter.  Part of spiritual warfare is thinking truth.  In fact, the biggest part of spiritual warfare is thinking truth.  Maybe you put that on however you listen to music and just get it in your heart and your soul this week.

Here’s the way the section ends (verse 29) — Midday passed, and they continued their frantic prophesying until the time for the evening sacrifice.  {Do you get the picture?  The clock’s running down, the time’s running out.  Their elohim is silent and they’re starting to freak out a little bit.  Some translations say, “They raved…”  Yeah, they did!  They were cutting themselves, they were slashing themselves.  Their blood is flowing.  They’re yelling at god.}  But there was no response, no one answered, no one paid attention.

In the next few passages, Elijah does an interesting thing.  He’s like, are you guys done?  Wonderful, I’ll take it from here.  He rebuilds an altar that Jezebel had torn down; rebuilds the altar of Yahweh.  He starts to douse it in water.  Most people go it’s a drought, how did he get water?  Well, the Mediterranean Sea is right there.  That’s how he got water, probably.  But he’s dousing it with water.  He’s going, how’s this look?  It’s going to be really hard for God, right?  So they’re slashing themselves, they’re yelling, they’re shouting, they’re trying to wake god up.  And then you have Elijah.  Verse 36 — At the time of sacrifice, the prophet Elijah stepped forward and prayed: “Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God (Elohim) in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command.  Answer me, Lord (Yahweh), answer me, so these people will know that you, Yahweh, are Elohim, and that you are turning their hearts back again.”  No shouting.  No begging.  No beckoning.  A simple prayer of faith in the midst of the chaos of blood flowing and shouts to Baal.  See, the ‘lower case g’ gods love the frantic, crazy, inhumane pace.  They love that ‘time’s running out, you’ve got to get yours’ type of mentality.  I think the other elohim love it when people on Black Friday get trampled at Wal-Mart.  They’re like we love that, that’s our thing.  They do!  They love it when the blood pressure starts to rise because Christmas is coming and there’s so many things going on.  The ‘lower case g,’ other things that we bow down to and worship always cause a frantic pace.  Which is why it’s so important that in Philippians 4:6-7, Paul will write to the church at Philippi:  Be anxious for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and petition, present your request to God..  You just have to bring it before Him.  You don’t even need to use a lot of words, Jesus says in the book of Matthew (11:28-30).  You don’t need to wake Him up, He hears you.  You don’t need to dance for Him, He’s for you.  You don’t need to cut yourself, because He bled on your behalf.  You just come before Him, present your request to God, and the peace that transcends all understanding, will guard your heart and your mind in Christ Jesus.

So what are you frantic about right now?   What are you feeling like the dial is getting turned up?  It’s probably something very real that’s going on in your life, but can I invite you to come back to the God who says come to me and receive my peace….rather than dance…or cut yourself…or try your hardest and work yourself to the bone and then maybe…maybe…maybe, I’ll show up?  That’s NOT your God.

Verse 38 — Then the fire of Yahweh fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench.  {Can you imagine that?  We read over it and go, meh, that happened.  NO!  THAT. HAPPENED!  The prophets of Baal are cutting themselves and yelling, because they expect that Baal will do the same thing.  THIS. HAPPENS.}  When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, “Yahweh is Elohim!  Yahweh is Elohim!”   {Yeah! Yeah, they did!  That makes sense.}  Then Elijah commanded them, “Seize the prophets of Baal.  Don’t let anyone get away!”  They seized them, and Elijah had them brought down to the Kishon Valley and slaughtered there.  And Elijah said to Ahab, “Go, eat and drink, for there is the sound of a heavy rain.”  So Ahab went off to eat and drink, but Elijah climbed to the top of Carmel, bent down to the ground and put his face between his knees.   {Do you love the picture?  It’s about to rain, go get some food.  It seems random, but you’re going to see that there’s a journey ahead that he needs to get ready for.  God’s preparing him.}  “Go and look toward the sea,” he told his servant.  And he went up and looked.  “There is nothing there,” he said.  Seven times Elijah said, “Go back.”   The seventh time the servant reported, “A cloud as small as a man’s hand is rising fro the sea.”  {Just a quick timeout.  Baal was ‘the rider on the clouds.’  The Hebrew prophets were writing about Yahweh as ‘the rider on the clouds.’  I guess we’re going to find out who the true ‘rider on the clouds’ is.}  So Elijah said, “Go and tell Ahab, ‘Hitch up your chariot and go down before the rain stops you.'”  Meanwhile, the sky grew black with clouds, the wind rose, a heavy rain started falling and Ahab rode off to Jezreel.  The power of the Lord came on Elijah and, tucking his cloak into his belt, he ran ahead of Ahab all the way to Jezreel.

This account is all about who really rules and who really reigns and who has ultimate authority and who is worthy of all glory and all honor and all praise.  Not only is Yahweh worthy of all glory and honor and praise, when we bow down to that God, we receive His affection that He’s pouring out to us—but our hands are finally open to see it, we receive His abundance and we receive His peace because it was what we were originally designed and created for.  Yahweh is the true rider on the clouds and life is found in worship of Him.

As our band comes back up, we’re going to sing a few songs about our God beating up other gods.  I’m only sort of kidding.  These songs take on a new meaning now, don’t they?  Here’s what I want to say to you:  This is not the last time that Yahweh battles Baal on a mountain.  Jesus, the Messiah, is going to be marched up to a mountain just outside of Jerusalem, called Calvary.  He’s going to spread his arms out wide.  The fires of hell are on that mountain also, but the flames of Divine Love are also there.  The moment when Beelzebul, or Satan, or the devil, or the powers of darkness, or the lesser elohim, think that they have won, it’s at that moment that Yahweh, Jesus, the Messiah and Savior of the world, with his outstretched arms, declares his love, declares his goodness, showers down his grace, showers down his mercy, forgives us, brings us back into right relationship with Him, so that we receive his affection, so that we can accept his abundance, and so that we can live in his peace.  So, friends, here’s the thing:  If you’re here today and you’re sort of walking the fence, can I just tell you that’s a non-option—you’re on one side or the other.  I want to plead with you, as someone who wants your good, just like God does, I want to plead with you that the direction of your life will be determined by the posture of your worship.  The gods you bow down to will determine the kind of life you live.  Is it going to be a life of self-destruction?  Is it going to be a life of frantic pace?  Is it going to be a life of trying to please God?  You’ll never feel like you do, if that’s your posture.  Or, is it going to be a life where you receive His love and affection, where you walk in His abundance, and where you taste His peace?

Would you close your eyes for just a moment?  For some of you, maybe you’re here and you’re going, yeah, I associate more with those prophets of Baal…they describe my posture to God.  For you, maybe this morning is the thousandth time you’ve repented and turned back….great, wonderful!  Turn back to Yahweh, Jesus the One True God.  For some of you, maybe it’s the very first time.  I’ve never bowed the knee to Him.  Today’s your day.  Bow the knee.  Life abundant, life full is what He’s inviting you to.  It’s a turning from self, it’s a turning from other ‘lower case g’ gods and it’s a running to a God who says, “The flames of my love will never be put out.”  So Jesus, Yahweh, we bow in worship, we bow in adoration.  We give you our affection, our lives.  Lord, we live as people who long to taste your abundance, to live in your peace.  We pour out our affection to you, knowing that you’re pouring out yours to us.  Thank you.  Thank you. We bow at your throne and yours alone.  Amen.