“But Elijah said, ‘I swear by the Lord Almighty, in whose presence I stand, that I will present myself to Ahab today’” (1 Kings 18:15).
Ahab was king of Israel when kings had a great deal of power. It was said of Ahab that he “did what was evil in the Lord’s sight, even more than any of the kings before him” (1 Kings 16:30). Now that took some doing because there were some incredibly evil and disobedient kings prior to Ahab.
Elijah, the prophet, was God’s messenger. Not surprisingly, there was much conflict between Ahab and Elijah because Elijah consistently pointed out Ahab’s shortcomings in the eyes of God. In fact, Ahab despised Elijah.
It had been three years since Elijah last met with Ahab. At that time, Elijah warned that God was sending a drought in punishment for Ahab’s and the nation’s sins. The drought devastated the land, the people, and the animals. As usual, Ahab ignored the clearly stated reason for the drought and blamed the devastation on Elijah, the messenger. The day that Elijah came to present himself to Ahab was the day God was going to end the drought; but first, there was going to be a confrontation.
Now an ordinary human being who knew that he was going head-to-head with an angry and powerful king might think twice before acting. But Elijah was not ordinary. Elijah knew he stood in God’s presence.
When Elijah and Ahab came face-to-face, Ahab set the tone. “So it’s you, is it—Israel’s troublemaker?” (1 Kings 18:17). Elijah simply replied that it was Ahab and his family who had made trouble for Israel by their disobedience to God and worship of Baal. Elijah’s courage to speak the truth was not foolishness. He had spiritual power because he knew “in whose presence” he stood.
But there was a more important issue to settle that day, and Elijah was there to settle it. He told Ahab, “‘Bring all the people of Israel to Mount Carmel, with all 450 prophets of Baal.’ Then Elijah stood in front of them and said, ‘How long are you going to waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him! But if Baal is God, then follow him!’” (1 Kings 18:19,21). Elijah was a spiritual witness because he knew “in whose presence” he stood.
And then the showdown began! The priests of Baal cut a bull “into pieces and lay it on the wood of their altar, but without setting fire to it…. Then they called on the name of Baal all morning, shouting, ‘O Baal, answer us!’ But there was no reply of any kind. Then they danced wildly around the altar. So they shouted louder, and following their normal custom, they cut themselves with knives and swords until the blood gushed out. They raved all afternoon until the time of the evening sacrifice, but still there was no reply, no voice, no answer” (1 Kings 18:23,26,28-29).
“Then Elijah called to the people, ‘Come over here!’” (1 Kings 18:30). The crowd drew near to the Lord's altar where Elijah stood. They watched as he repaired the altar, dug a trench around it, piled wood on top, and prepared a bull to be burned as a sacrifice. As Elijah stepped back from his work, he directed that four jars be filled with water and poured over the bull, wood, and altar. He gave the same instructions three times until “water ran around the altar and even overflowed the trench” (1 Kings 18:35). To the onlookers it must have seemed as if Elijah was setting himself up for spectacular failure. After all, they had spent the entire day waiting for the prophets of Baal to succeed under much easier conditions. Elijah had spiritual backbone that led to faithful obedience regardless of the situation because he knew “in whose presence” he stood.
Elijah walked up to the soaked altar and began to pray. He boldly asked God to prove that He truly was God, able to do what Baal could not. In the moments from Elijah’s prayer until God’s answer, we can almost sense the various responses of the crowd—hope, disbelief, indifference, and curiosity. But Elijah was sure and confident in God because he knew “in whose presence” he stood.
“Immediately the fire of the Lord flashed down from heaven and burned up the young bull, the wood, the stones, and the dust. It even licked up all the water in the ditch! And when the people saw it, they fell on their faces and cried out, ‘The Lord is God! The Lord is God!’” (1 Kings 18:38-39).
There were spiritual results and renewal for many because Elijah was fully aware “in whose presence” he stood. But there was a path to follow before this renewal could happen. As long as Elijah remembered in whose presence he stood, he was given encouragement and strength by God as needed. When Elijah did not remember in whose presence he stood, he faltered, but that is a story for another time.
We, too, stand in the presence of God, and because of that presence, spiritual power and results are available to us. The questions are: to what degree are we aware of God's presence, and how does that awareness affect our actions, thoughts, and outlook?
© 2010 Arlina Yates