Mt. Carmel: The God Who is Trustworthy

Finding God on the Mountains: (Part III)

MOUNT CARMEL: THE GOD WHO IS TRUSTWORTHY

1 Kings 18:16-24 (ESV)
16  So Obadiah went to meet Ahab, and told him. And Ahab went to meet Elijah.
17  When Ahab saw Elijah, Ahab said to him, “Is it you, you troubler of Israel?”
18  And he answered, “I have not troubled Israel, but you have, and your father’s house, because you have abandoned the commandments of the LORD and followed the Baals.
19  Now therefore send and gather all Israel to me at Mount Carmel, and the 450 prophets of Baal and the 400 prophets of Asherah, who eat at Jezebel’s table.”
20  So Ahab sent to all the people of Israel and gathered the prophets together at Mount Carmel.
21  And Elijah came near to all the people and said, “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.” And the people did not answer him a word.
22  Then Elijah said to the people, “I, even I only, am left a prophet of the LORD, but Baal’s prophets are 450 men.
23  Let two bulls be given to us, and let them choose one bull for themselves and cut it in pieces and lay it on the wood, but put no fire to it. And I will prepare the other bull and lay it on the wood and put no fire to it.
24  And you call upon the name of your god, and I will call upon the name of the LORD, and the God who answers by fire, he is God.” And all the people answered, “It is well spoken.” 

One of the interesting stories in the life of Jesus Christ is recorded in John 9: 1-7, where Jesus and His disciples met a beggar who had been born blind. When the disciples saw him, they turned to Jesus Christ with a critical question that, I believe, has a major application to our lives today. They asked, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” They asked this question because, during those times, the common idea was that life’s tragedies were brought always about by sin. Of course, there are some Biblical passages that could also support this theology. However, Jesus was quick to deny what they were thinking by saying, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him” (v.3).

How many times have we been guilty of assuming the same thing, that we are having problems or troubles because we are being punished for our sins? However, based on the words of Jesus Christ, there are also times when God uses our troubles as opportunities to display His power to us and through us.

This truth is also demonstrated in the life of the prophet Elijah. When God brought him to Israel, there was a great need for God’s people to see the glory and greatness of God. Unfortunately, during those times, Israel was being led by King Ahab and Queen Jezebel who convinced them that worshipping false gods was more advantageous for them than worshipping Jehovah God. So, God decided to use Elijah and brought them to Mount Carmel in order that He can show to them who He really is. This location would be our third mountain in our sermon series.

  • Mount Moriah – The God Who is Provider

  • Mount Sinai – The God Who is Holy

  • Mount Carmel – The God Who is Trustworthy 

The Bible does not give us a lot of background for the prophet Elijah. The only information we received is found in 1 Kings 17:1 saying, “...Now Elijah the Tishbite, of Tishbe in Gilead.” Where was Tishbe? Many Bible scholars agree that Tishbe might be a small village that is so insignificant that they are not really sure where it was located. But despite his unimportant past, God has great plans for his life. To see how God would reveal His character to Israel, let’s explore the three ways that God worked through Elijah:

I THE VALLEYS BEFORE MT. CARMEL

Mountaintop experiences are great, but we need to realize that before they happen, God sometimes allows us to go through the valleys. This truth was evident in the life of Elijah. God brought him first through two major valleys before he got invited to the mountain.

  1. The Valley of Cherith:

1 Kings 17:2-5 (ESV)
2  And the word of the LORD came to him: 3 “Depart from here and turn eastward and hide yourself by the brook Cherith, which is east of the Jordan. 4 You shall drink from the brook, and I have commanded the ravens to feed you there.”
5  So he went and did according to the word of the LORD. He went and lived by the brook Cherith that is east of the Jordan.

In the Hebrew language, Cherith literally means “to cut off or cut down.” The imagery is that of a tree being chopped down at its base. This is a perfect picture of what God was doing with Elijah – God was humbling him by slowly removing his pride and self-reliance. It is like cutting down a tall tree.

In Elijah’s Cherith season, he had to depend on ravens to feed him in the morning and in the evening. He learned to trust God and discover what dependence on God really looked like. In here, it was clear that God was all he had, and God was all he needed. In order to mold Elijah for something great, God had to isolate him, where He can get his undivided attention. 

How is God getting our attention, so He can mold us? Like Elijah, I don’t think we will enjoy being placed in moments like these. But they are necessary. In fact, we don’t know how long this season lasted. The only thing we know is that after Cherith came Zarephath.

  1. The Valley of Zarephath:

1 Kings 17:8-9 (ESV)
8  Then the word of the LORD came to him, 9 “Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and dwell there. Behold, I have commanded a widow there to feed you.” 

Another valley of significance is Zarephath. The name of the place literally means “to melt or to smelt.” So, Elijah came from being cut down to being melted. In this place, instead of ravens, Elijah was led by the Lord to rely on a poor widow to house and feed him.

What was really awkward with this command was the fact that God was telling Him to seek provisions from a poor widow. During those days, widows usually depend on others for their survival and not the other way around. The truth of the matter is that this was just another level of molding on the part of Elijah, so he can learn absolute dependence on God. This was a necessary part in order to prepare him for God’s greater plan for his life. Of course, at the same time, this was also God’s plan in providing the needs of the widow and her son. Notice what happened when Elijah went there:

1 Kings 17:10-13 (ESV)
10 So he arose and went to Zarephath. And when he came to the gate of the city, behold, a widow was there gathering sticks. And he called to her and said, “Bring me a little water in a vessel, that I may drink.”
11 And as she was going to bring it, he called to her and said, “Bring me a morsel of bread in your hand.”
12 And she said, “As the LORD your God lives, I have nothing baked, only a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a jug. And now I am gathering a couple of sticks that I may go in and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it and die.”
13 And Elijah said to her, “Do not fear; go and do as you have said. But first make me a little cake of it and bring it to me, and afterward make something for yourself and your son.

Reading verse 13, many of us would probably be offended that Elijah had asked to be served first before the widow and her son can eat. But all of these were designed to challenge greater trust in God. Would she also trust God for their needs? To make the long story short, after she obeyed, her jar of flour and oil never ran out of supply until the end of the famine in their land.

Likewise, we do not appreciate our valleys, but they are necessary for us, so God can prepare us for His bigger plans in our lives. 

II THE VENTURE TO MT. CARMEL

After a long time of humbling and melting, God once again came to Elijah with a message to King Ahab. God was fed up with the idolatry and the wickedness of Israel, so he sent him to King Ahab - 1 Kings 18:1 (ESV)
1 After many days the word of the LORD came to Elijah, in the third year, saying, “Go, show yourself to Ahab, and I will send rain upon the earth.”
 

Now, it was time to ascend the mountain, and he needed to deliver God’s message straight to the most notorious king: King Ahab. Here is how this happened.

1 Kings 18:17-24 (ESV)
17 When Ahab saw Elijah, Ahab said to him, “Is it you, you troubler of Israel?”
18 And he answered, “I have not troubled Israel, but you have, and your father’s house, because you have abandoned the commandments of the LORD and followed the Baals. 19 Now therefore send and gather all Israel to me at Mount Carmel, and the 450 prophets of Baal and the 400 prophets of Asherah, who eat at Jezebel’s table.”
20 So Ahab sent to all the people of Israel and gathered the prophets together at Mount Carmel.
21 And Elijah came near to all the people and said, “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.” And the people did not answer him a word.
22 Then Elijah said to the people, “I, even I only, am left a prophet of the LORD, but Baal’s prophets are 450 men. 23 Let two bulls be given to us, and let them choose one bull for themselves and cut it in pieces and lay it on the wood, but put no fire to it. And I will prepare the other bull and lay it on the wood and put no fire to it. 24 And you call upon the name of your god, and I will call upon the name of the LORD, and the God who answers by fire, he is God.” And all the people answered, “It is well spoken.” 

I’m sure many of you are familiar with this passage, where God intended to prove His trustworthiness to the nation of Israel through the contest between Elijah and the prophets of Baal. I want emphasize God’s direct challenge to the nation of Israel found in verse 21 - “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.” And the people did not answer him a word.

The word “limping” is the key word. It simply means to waver. King Ahab was misleading the people of Israel away from God. Elijah, serving as God’s spokesman, made them aware that God had tolerated this hesitation long enough. It was time for the people to make a decision. Either they follow God or follow Baal. There could be no “wavering between two loyalties.” 

This confrontation on Mount Carmel was so critical because it would provide a total demonstration of the trustworthiness of God. How will it be done? The God who answers by fire is the one who deserves their total loyalty, because He is certainly the more reliable one.

How many of us are going through the same struggle, where we are still trying to decide whether or not Jehovah God deserves our total loyalty? Are we also guilty of limping between two different opinions? If you are struggling, you need to really know the God of the Bible in the next point.

III THE VICTORY ON MT. CARMEL

As we read the next verses, we can find the actual confrontation on Mount Carmel. We are told that the false prophets prepared their sacrifice, and for hours, from morning until evening, they called on their god. They ranted. They raved. They cut themselves. But their god never responded. Not even a spark of fire came down (vv. 26-29). The sight was really embarrassing:

1 Kings 18:27-29 (ESV)
27 And at noon Elijah mocked them, saying, “Cry aloud, for he is a god. Either he is musing, or he is relieving himself, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened.”
28 And they cried aloud and cut themselves after their custom with swords and lances, until the blood gushed out upon them. 29 And as midday passed, they raved on until the time of the offering of the oblation, but there was no voice. No one answered; no one paid attention.

It’s really sad, but it reinforces what Psalm 115:5-8 declares:

Psalm 115:5-8 (ESV)
5 They have mouths, but do not speak; eyes, but do not see.
6 They have ears, but do not hear; noses, but do not smell.
7 They have hands, but do not feel; feet, but do not walk; and they do not make a sound in their throat.
8 Those who make them become like them; so do all who trust in them. 

Folks, the reason why false gods don’t deserve our time and energies—even our loyalty—is because they are powerless. They will only end up disappointing those who put their trust on them. 

  Then, it was Elijah’s turn to offer his sacrifice. He repaired the altar and poured twelve barrels of water on top of it, completely soaking the sacrifice and filling the trenches around the altar. The message he wanted to send was clear: Nothing could prevent the one true God from answering by fire, not even an altar saturated with water and a sacrifice that was soaking wet. Then, Elijah prayed a simple prayer and God answered.

1 Kings 18:37-39 (ESV)
37 “Answer me, O LORD, answer me, that this people may know that you, O LORD, are God, and that you have turned their hearts back.”
38  Then the fire of the LORD fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. 39 And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, “The LORD, he is God; the LORD, he is God.” 

Fire from heaven fell on Mount Carmel that day, and God showed the magnitude of His power. The impact of this miracle is quite evident in verse 39 – the people clearly saw that God is the only one who deserves their absolute trust. 

If there’s one thing we learn from the life of Elijah is that mountaintop experiences are often the result of allowing God to mold us in the valleys. Elijah went through his refining in Cherith and in Zarephath. God knows exactly the trials and tough times that can purify and solidify our faith. The apostle Peter put it this way:

1 Peter 1:6-7 (ESV)
6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

If you find yourself in the season of refining and molding, take heart. Remember Elijah and the lesson of Mount Carmel. God might be bringing you to the end of yourself because He wants to use you to accomplish greater things for Him. Keep trusting Him, because it is only a matter of time before His fire falls.  

Let me close with this great quote from Pastor Alan Redpath:

“There is nothing – no circumstance, no trouble, no testing - that can ever touch me until, first of all, it has gone past God and past Christ right through to me. If it has come that far, it has come with a great purpose, which I may not understand at the moment. But as I refuse to become panicky, as I lift up my eyes to Him and accept it as coming from the throne of God for some great purpose of blessing to my heart, no sorrow will ever disturb me, no circumstance will cause me to fret, for I shall rest in the joy of what my Lord is - that is the rest of victory.” 



Jeremiah Lepasana