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What are the odds in a contest with 850 men + Baal versus 1 man and God?

This Week’s Story relives American history and the Bible through brief inspiring stories presented on mp3 audio recordings and text for reading.

Who starts the fire? part four

God, I don’t mean to disrespect you. You know I believe in you, but I’m standing here by Mt. Carmel with thousands of people. We’re looking at an altar with wood and a dead bull on it. Either you, or the god Baal, is supposed to start the wood burning.

How can a dead bull on a pile of wood start burning with no fire starter? I know you do things humans cannot do, but I am trying to make sense of this. Elijah, your priest to the Israelites, arranged this contest. Our king and queen are leading the people to ignore you. I am a witness. Almighty God, are Elijah’s instructions from you?

Elijah ordered the king and Israelites to come to Mt. Carmel with 850 priests of Baal and Asherah. They’ve finished setting up their altar. Elijah is waiting. He’s given the challenge: Will you send fire to burn the offering to you?

I hear the prophets of Baal calling, “O great god, Baal, send fire to burn this bull. It is our gift to you.”

No flames are appearing, but these prophets won’t give up. They’re shouting and dancing wildly. Elijah has begun mocking them.

“Shout louder. Even though Baal must be a god, maybe he is hard of hearing. Did he go on a trip? He might be sleeping. Go wake him up? Maybe Baal is somewhere thinking deeply.”

Baal’s prophets are cutting themselves with knives and swords to get Baal’s attention. How dreadful to think that a god would answer your prayer if you hurt yourself. I can’t picture myself trying to get your attention, God, by mutilating myself.

Where is Baal’s answer? Nowhere! This religion the king and queen are forcing on my people is powerless.

Elijah calls,Come here.” He’s rebuilding his altar. I watch him dig a trench around the altar, and then put wood and the butchered bull on top. Three times he has people pour large containers of water on the bull. No man can start a fire here. Water is overflowing the trench.

Elijah steps to the altar and prays, “God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, prove today that you are God in Israel and I am your servant. I have done this because you commanded me to do so. May these people know that you are God and have brought these people back to you.”

Instantly God sends fire. It flashes down and burns Elijah’s altar completely. The bull, wood, dust, and even stones burn. The water in the trench vanishes. All the people fall on their faces and cry loudly, “Our master is God.”

Elijah orders the prophets of Baal to be seized and killed. He tells Ahab, “Enjoy a meal now. A rainstorm is coming.” Elijah climbs to the top of Mt. Carmel and prays. He tells his servant. “Go look towards the sea.”

The servant does and sees nothing unusual; but the seventh time he looks, he exclaims, “I see a little cloud. It’s as big as a hand and it’s rising from the sea.”

Elijah shouts, “Hurry to Ahab. Tell him to climb into his chariot and go home or the rain will stop him.”

Black clouds are filling the sky and wind is whipping through the air. A powerful rainstorm is on its way. Ahab is leaving and so am I. Elijah begins running. I’m not worried about him. God can take care of him.

This is Barbara Steiner with another account in the life of Elijah found in I Kings 18 of the Bible. Please check out the website

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