God or Baal on Mount Carmel
20 So Ahab sent a message among all the sons of Israel and brought the prophets together at Mount Carmel. 21 Elijah came near to all the people and said, “How long will you [i]hesitate between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.” But the people did not answer him a word. 22 Then Elijah said to the people, “I alone am left a prophet of the Lord, but Baal’s prophets are 450 men. 23 Now let them give us two oxen; and let them choose one ox for themselves and cut it up, and place it on the wood, but put no fire under it; and I will prepare the other ox and lay it on the wood, and I will not put a fire under it. 24 Then you call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the Lord, and the God who answers by fire, He is God.” And all the people said, “[j]That is a good idea.”
25 So Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, “Choose one ox for yourselves and prepare it first for you are many, and call on the name of your god, but put no fire under it.” 26 Then they took the ox which [k]was given them and they prepared it and called on the name of Baal from morning until noon saying, “O Baal, answer us.” But there was no voice and no one answered. And they [l]leaped about the altar which [m]they made. 27 It came about at noon, that Elijah mocked them and said, “Call out with a loud voice, for he is a god; either he is occupied or gone aside, or is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and needs to be awakened.” 28 So they cried with a loud voice and cut themselves according to their custom with swords and lances until the blood gushed out on them. 29 When midday was past, they [n]raved until the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice; but there was no voice, no one answered, and no [o]one paid attention.
30 Then Elijah said to all the people, “Come near to me.” So all the people came near to him. And he repaired the altar of the Lord which had been torn down. 31 Elijah took twelve stones according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, to whom the word of the Lord had come, saying, “Israel shall be your name.” 32 So with the stones he built an altar in the name of the Lord, and he made a trench around the altar, large enough to hold two [p]measures of seed. 33 Then he arranged the wood and cut the ox in pieces and laid it on the wood. 34 And he said, “Fill four pitchers with water and pour it on the burnt offering and on the wood.” And he said, “Do it a second time,” and they did it a second time. And he said, “Do it a third time,” and they did it a third time. 35 The water flowed around the altar and he also filled the trench with water.
There’s an interesting contrast, and we see even here, that not all the people were convinced Baal was a real god. Indeed, when Elijah proposes the test, their response is “That is a good idea.” But it was, and anyone could see the sense in it. Even the prophets couldn’t argue with that.
The contrast though, is that apparently the prophets of Baal were committed to their case. They were so committed that they cut themselves and cried out all day long for Baal to answer. Even with Elijah taunting them, you’d think they would finally throw in the towel, but they kept up their antics for several more hours.
There are some people who have simply made up their mind about God, and it will not be changed, even if their logic were shown to be foolishness. There are others who don’t know, but they might be interested in finding out who God is. We often do not know the difference, though I’ve heard stories of the first camp where they made it quite plain. But God doesn’t ask us to figure out who is who. He asks us to show His love to everyone, regardless of whether they are willing to accept it.
That might not be much fun, it might even hurt, but God promises to be with us always, to the end of the age. And that’s something worth sharing, no matter the outcome.