Verse of the Week:
Elijah challenged the people: “How long are you going to sit on the fence? If GOD is the real God, follow Him; if it’s Baal, follow him. Make up your minds!” Nobody said a word; nobody made a move.
1 Kings 18:21 MSG
Are you a decisive person who makes a decision quickly, then confidently forges ahead, never looking back? Or are you second-guesser, waffling back and forth? Do you check to see which way the prevailing wind of opinion is blowing before choosing sides?
We are faced with decisions every day, from small and insignificant to huge and life changing, and everything in between. Occasionally, a decision has consequences so huge we become paralyzed trying to decide. One minute the choice is obvious. The next it’s clear as mud. Analysis paralysis sets in and we get stuck in the middle. Riding the fence. Afraid to take a step in either direction.
Sometimes, fear of missing out keeps us on the fence. If we choose Door #1, we will always wonder if what was behind Door #2 was better.
Such were the choices that ancient Israel faced when the prophet Elijah confronted them. The northern kingdom of Israel had broken away from the southern kingdom of Judah and were no longer following God’s law (Torah), but an adulterated version. On top of that, Jezebel, King Ahab’s pagan wife, had brought in the pagan religion of Baal worship. And Israel was riding the fence. More accurately, they were playing on both sides of the fence. Trying to worship Yehovah and Baal at the same time.
Elijah called them all up to Mt. Carmel for a contest to determine the true God of Israel. He got things started by posing a question. The Message Bible version puts it well (see above). Here are a few other versions of this question:
“How long are you going to be paralyzed by indecision?” NET (The dreaded analysis paralysis!)
”How much longer will you try to have things both ways?” CEV (Playing both sides against the middle!)
”How long are you going to jump back and forth between two positions?” CJB (When politicians do this, it’s called a flip-flop!)
”How much longer will it take you to make up your minds?” GNB (Stop pussy-footin’ around!)
It was time for Israel to make up their minds. Time to quit dancing between the two options. Which god is real? You are free to choose—just make a decision already!!
Notice the reaction of the people. Crickets. No one said a word. Freeze frame. No one moved a muscle.
Elijah told the 450 prophets of Baal and 400 prophets of Ashera to choose a bull for sacrifice, prepare it, put wood under it, but don’t light it. And then call upon their god to answer by fire—igniting the sacrifice without human intervention. Elijah said he would do the same, but they could go first. They took all day, growing more frenzied with every passing hour, as Elijah taunted them for their lack of results.
Then, Elijah stepped up and the others stepped aside.
He repaired the altar of God, built it up with twelve stones, dug a moat around it, arranged the wood, killed the bull, placed it on the altar, and then…
He had the people pour four barrels of water on the altar, the wood and the sacrifice. During a severe drought. Not once. Not twice. Three times! Till the altar and everything on it was soaked and the moat filled with water! This was how confident Elijah was that his God, the True God—Yehovah—would answer by fire.
And then he prayed a simple prayer. Without beating his chest, or working up a frenzy, or cutting himself, or taking all day. He called on the God of Israel by name and asked Yehovah to show up and show off.
God did what only He can do. He answered. By fire. Not just lighting the wood to roast the sacrifice, but consuming everything—bull, wood, water, even the stones!
All Israel fell on their faces crying out, “Yehovah, He is The God! Yehovah, He is The God!”
In the face of irrefutable evidence and with the glory and majesty of Yehovah plainly displayed, the people finally made their choice.
Do you find yourself hopping back and forth between committing fully to the Father and still trying to play in the world’s backyard? It might look fun over there, or easier, or more PC, but when all is said and done, where does your help come from? Plant your feet firmly on the side where you can be sure that when push comes to shove, you are welcomed, loved, and protected. You might even pray as Elijah did that God will show Himself to be the true God by turning your heart back toward Him again.
Then stand back. He just might answer by fire.
Live it out this week
Take time this week to consider if you are allowing worldly things and worldly ways and your own desire to fit in with those around you to keep you from making a full commitment to following the Father. Staying on the fence can never bring peace or lead to the freedom found only in Christ.
Make the choice. There is no better time than right now.
Heavenly Father, forgive us for our fickle ways and our tendency to try to play on both sides of the fence. Give us grace to stay on Your side, fully recognizing that You are the only true God, Yehovah, Who answers by fire. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
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