Believing Is Up to You
Have you ever heard someone say that God couldn’t possibly exist? How would we prove His existence to someone who doesn’t believe? As the church, is it our job to convert someone to the faith? No, the church’s job is to deliver the unbeliever to a point where they can choose between believing or not. We are to plant the seed. It is God’s job to show the person who He is. Because we have free will, God will never force anyone to believe in Him; it is up to the person to believe or not.
The following story of Elijah is a great example. The quick background is as follows: King Ahab of Israel married Jezebel of Canaan. She persecuted the worshipers of Yahweh, the One True God, and was determined to replace Him with Baal. Baal was the Canaanite god of rain and fertility. Many Israelites refused to worship Baal, but there were many who probably just found it easier to worship an idol god they could see rather than the God whom they couldn’t. Worship of Baal satisfied the sinful desires of their flesh. After all, it is far easier to mold a god to your values than it is to mold yourself to meet God’s.
God sent a message to King Ahab and Queen Jezebel through His prophet Elijah that there would be a long and hard drought (1 Kings 17:1) – a fitting punishment for the Israelites who chose to worship a false god that supposedly controlled the rain. The Israelites would have to choose whether a god or the God was real and in control. With Elijah as His voice, God showed them. Elijah was not there to convert the Canaanites or to try to rescue the fallen Israelites by bringing them back to Judaism. He was there to help deliver them to the point where they would have to decide for themselves who was the One True God.
“So Ahab sent word throughout all Israel and assembled the prophets on Mount Carmel. … Then Elijah said to [the people], ‘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 on 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 god, and I will call on the name of the Lord. The god who answers by fire – He is God.’ … 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. Then they called on the name of Baal from morning till noon. … But there was no response; no one answered. At noon Elijah began to taunt them. ‘Shout louder!’ he said. ‘Surely he is a god! Perhaps he is deep in thought, or busy, or traveling. Maybe he is sleeping and must be awakened.’ So they shouted louder and slashed themselves with swords and spears, as was their custom, until their blood flowed. … But there was no response, no one answered, no one paid attention.” (1 Kings 18:20, 22–24, 25–29).
Then Elijah rebuilt the altar to the Lord with twelve stones, dug a trench around the altar, arranged the wood, cut the bull offering into pieces, and put it on the wood. Then he had the people dump twelve large jars of water over the entire offering, wood, and altar, which was enough water to drench everything and fill the trench. Then “the prophet Elijah stepped forward and prayed: ‘Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. Answer me, Lord, answer me, so these people will know that you, Lord, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.’ Then the fire of the Lord fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench. When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, ‘The Lord – He is God! The Lord – He is God!’” (1 Kings 18:30–39).
There were no tricks, no gimmicks, no sleight-of-hand. Elijah set the conditions for this simple test, yet he gave the prophets of Baal every possible advantage. But Baal was a no-show. He couldn’t even consume the sacrificial offering prepared for him, so he surely wouldn’t be able to end the drought or famine either. Elijah even ridiculed Baal and his prophets but remained unscathed. But, as soon as Elijah finished his prayer, petitioning the One True God to show the people of Israel who He is, a Holy Fire consumed everything, even the stones and water! Now that is an almighty display of power. The Israelites who bore witness to that miraculous sign from God believed once again.
“Then Elijah commanded [the people], ‘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 … Meanwhile, the sky grew black with clouds, the wind rose, a heavy rain started falling.” (1 Kings 18:40–42, 45).
Through Elijah, God showed King Ahab that He was the One still in control of both droughts and rain, not their false god, Baal. It’s hard to imagine that anyone would be able to witness such a wondrous sign from God Himself and not believe that He exists. Sadly, there are many today who refuse to believe in Him, no matter the signs in front of them. Elijah confidently and fully trusted in the Lord God, which allowed him to fearlessly proclaim God’s greatness to the people of Israel (and us). His faith in God and fearlessness helped bring the lost sheep of Israel back into the fold and reaffirmed the faith of those who never turned away from Him.
Let this story be a reminder to us to bear a fearless witness of God’s love for us to others. That unconditional love is manifested in Jesus Christ’s sacrifice for all our sins on the cross. He rose from the grave to conquer sin, death, and the devil, and ascended into Heaven to sit on His throne until He will come again to judge the earth. Spread His good news to all who will hear it, for the time of Christ’s return draws near.