In the world we live in, it is very easy to show up to Church on Sunday, check the box then go back to our “real” lives. Many people are choosing to live one way on Sunday and another way the rest of the week. But can we fully maintain God’s peace and joy if we are trying to get the best of both worlds? Let’s see how this played out during the reign of King Ahab.
Withholding the rain
During the reign of King Ahab of the northern kingdom of Israel, he and his wife, Jezebel, were attempting to make the pagan gods of Baal and Asherah the state religion.
The wicked reign of these two had led Israel in a horrendous downward spiral of idolatry. They were worshipping Baal who demanded child sacrifice and was the god of agriculture and weather. They also worshipped Asherah, the fertility goddess who demanded abhorrent sexual rites. God sent the prophet Elijah to give the king an ominous warning that there would be no rain or dew for several years. The New Bible Commentary states that “The withholding of rain was not merely a divine chastisement, it was the first move in a contest which would reveal Yahweh’s power and Baal’s impotence.”
During the time of the drought the king’s wife, Jezebel, was killing off the Lord’s prophets, and Elijah was in hiding. After three years, Elijah was sent by God to challenge the pagan prophets to a showdown to prove to all who the true God was.
Many Israelites had assembled from all over Israel and Elijah asked them, “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal is God, follow him.” I Kings 18:21. Elijah is asking them to choose. They were mute. Interestingly, the verb used for the people’s wavering can also mean ‘to limp’ which would indicate being crippled. Keep this in mind for an interesting connection later.
The importance of choosing
The important of choosing brings to mind Joshua 25:15, “15 But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”
The contest began with preparations for a sacrifice (a bull) to be burned on the altar, without actually lighting the fire, the true god would answer supernaturally with fire. First came the 850 prophets of Baal. They spent all day pleading with their god to consume the sacrifice by dancing around the altar, cutting themselves and shouting frantically. Of course, Baal, only being a man-made idol, could not burn the sacrifice.
A form of the word ‘danced’ is the same verb as used in v 21 for ‘waver’. In other words, it was as though they were limping, or hobbling, around the altar, a play on words. The people’s ‘wavering’ and ‘dancing’ (limping) “double meaning was Elijah’s way of telling the people that their attempt to have the best of both worlds had actually crippled them”. (from the New Bible Commentary).
Then it was Elijah’s turn. He rebuilt the altar using 12 stones representing the 12 tribes. Then put on the wood and the sacrifice, and soaked all with water. He had a moat filled with water around it. Yahweh sent his fire and all was consumed, the sacrifice, the wood, the stones, the soil and even the water in the moat! The people of Israel fell prostrate, proclaiming Yahweh as their God. Not long after that, God sent rain, further proof of His power.
Back to the Israelites
The Israelites wanted the best of both worlds: The god, Baal, who they believed was in control of the weather and therefore their crops and animals, and also Asherah, for the worldly pleasures of the flesh. Elijah asked them to choose. God wants all of their (and our) faith and trust, not divided hearts. In Deut. 6:5 God states that they (and we) are to “ Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.”
Let go of the desire to have the best of both worlds
So, what about you? Are you, crippled in your Christian walk by attempting to have the best of both worlds? Are you walking around with a divided heart? Could we ever fully have God’s joy, if we hold on tightly to those things that are not of God? Probably not. But, think on it and PRAY. May you find your way to surrender completely to Him, the one and only true God.