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He turned the idea of their false god's not answering them into ridicule, by mocking them, and saying, "cry aloud for he is a god : either he is talking, or he is pursuing, or he is in a journey, or peradventure he sleepeth and must be awaked.”
He let them practice all their follies and cruelties which they were accustomed to think were part of their religion. “They leaped on the altar, they cried aloud, they cut themselves after their manner with knives and lancets, till the blood gushed out upon them.” And all to no purpose, “ there was neither voice, nor any to answer, nor any that regarded.”
Then the people were invited to go to Elijah, and see the success of his way of seeking the true God. First he repairs the altar of God, neglected and broken down. Next he takes twelve stones for the twelve tribes of Israel. And with these he built an altar in the name of the Lord. A trench was then dug round it. And this he made them fill with water, first covering the whole sacrifice of the bullock which was laid on the altar, with water also. This would make it more surprising to see fire come down and burn all up thus drenched with water, and even lick up the water in the trench. It would make it more clearly the work of the Lord, and prevent the idea of any
deceit or trickery on the part of Elijah. Then, when all this had been done, he made his prayer to God, calling on Him as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, therefore the God who had made a covenant promise to hear His people, and he asked Him to now prove that He was the God of Israel. “Let it be known this day that thou art God in Israel, and that I am thy servant, and that I have done all these things at thy word. Hear me, O Lord, hear me: that this people may know that thou art the Lord God, and that thou hast turned their heart back again. Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burntsacrifice, and the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench."
The bystanders must all have been wonderfully struck at what they now saw. Clearly they must have felt convinced and fully persuaded, both of the absurdity of serving Baal, and of the God of Elijah being the only true God, and that God they had been neglecting. All which they showed, first by confession, and then by deeds, slaughtering all the prophets of Baal. “And
when all the people saw it they fell on their faces : and they said, the Lord he is God: the Lord he is God. And Elijah said unto them, take the prophets of Baal, let not one of them escape. And they took them : and Elijah brought them down to the brook Kishon and slew them there.” This was doing no more than the law commanded them to do to all who led them from the true God to false gods. (Deut. xiii.)
Thus, then, did Elijah lead the people to conviction. He made them choose that day and decide one way or another : and bade them not halt between two opinions : as he had said, “How long halt ye between two opinions ? if the Lord be God follow him : but if Baal then follow him.” Baal was disgraced. God was glorified. Baal was (for the time at least) rejected, and God was (for the time) taken to be their God.
Then it was after that that God sent rain on the earth. His anger was stayed, and His judgments withdrawn when the people's idolatry ceased.
We learn then, from all this history, first of all, the cruelty, the iniquity, the folly and the helplessness of idolatrous worship. We are led to make a comparison between the peace, and happiness, and great blessedness
of those who know how to worship God acceptably, in spirit and in truth; and on the other hand, the wretched, unhappy, and miserable condition of those who worship “ they know not what” under the name of a false god, or falsely in the name of the true God. See these poor creatures taught
. by their false teachers that by reason of loud cries, and sharp cuttings on their flesh, and jumping about, they would be accepted of their god. So it has been found, and still is the case in all heathen countries. The religion of the heathen is a cruel one. The Chinese slay their poor little children. The Indians put themselves to all kinds of torture, and think they do their gods service, and gain a place in the heaven they have imagined for themselves. They are taught these things by their ignorant priests.
We who have the blessed Gospel, and know the easy burden and light yoke it imposes on the followers of the meek and lowly Saviour; we who know the privilege of being able to offer up a simple prayer in the name of the one Mediator between God and man, and the certain success of such prayers; we who know the God Elijah served, ought indeed to have Elijah's zeal in behalf of those poor ignorant people who
serve false gods, who can neither hear nor answer, nor help them. Like Elijah, we ought to do what we can to convert them. We ought to pray for them as he did. We
. ought to help those who are gone forth from among ourselves to carry the good news of the way
peace, and pardon, and life to the heathen.
Surely, we shall be glad to do this according to our means, if we are really sensible of the advantages and blessings we have in the light we enjoy so fully, so freely shining around us. No cruel worship is ours, no vain expectations from a god that cannot hear or help us ; ours is the God that made the heavens and the earth, and that has so loved us as to give His Son for us, and to offer His Holy Spirit as the teacher, the sanctifier, and the quickener of the soul and body. Let us show forth our gratitude not with our lips only, but with our lives and our actions.
But again, are there not some even among those called Christians, who need Elijah's call to be more decided in their opinions about the service of God?
Are there not too many who seem to be really halting between two opinions, as much as did the worshippers of Baal? They