God’s Power Over Idols
KLMX Ministerial Alliance
1st Baptist Church, Des Moines, NM
This past week we’ve been looking at idolatory and how it affects our relationship with God Almighty. We’ve been using the 1st Commandment as the starting point for this study:
Exodus 20:1-6 And God spoke all these words, saying: (2) "I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. (3) "You shall have no other gods before Me. (4) "You shall not make for yourself a carved image any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; (5) you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, (6) but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.
Yesterday, I looked at some of the idols mentioned in the Bible, specifically the Baals and Asherah and Ashteroth. We took a good close look at the enemy and identified some of their characteristics. Today, we’ll show God’s power over these idols. Before we start, though, I’m going to ask God to bless this message and pray that it may glorify Him through the sacrifice of His only begotten son, Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ, who died for our sins in our place that we might live and be reconciled to God in spite of our trespasses, which included but are certainly not limited to idol worship. Amen.
One of the most dramatic events in the Bible that shows God’s power over idols is in 1 Kings.
1 Kings 18:17-20 And it came to pass, when Ahab saw Elijah, that Ahab said unto him, [Art] thou he that troubleth Israel? (18) And he answered, I have not troubled Israel; but thou, and thy father's house, in that ye have forsaken the commandments of the LORD, and thou hast followed Baalim. (19) Now therefore send, [and] gather to me all Israel unto mount Carmel, and the prophets of Baal four hundred and fifty, and the prophets of the groves four hundred, which eat at Jezebel's table. (20) So Ahab sent unto all the children of Israel, and gathered the prophets together unto mount Carmel.
Here’s the scenario- Ahab is causing all kinds of trouble among the Israelites. His wife, Jezebel, has killed all the prophets of God except Elijah. And yet, upon meeting Elijah, Ahab tries to shift the blame to him! Elijah sets down a challenge- meet me on Mount Carmel with your prophets- 450 prophets of Baal and 400 of “the groves”, which is used in the KJV to indicate prophets of Asherah, the mother earth goddess that we discussed yesterday. So, basically, what we have here is 450 male prophets of Baal and 400 female prophets meeting together to challenge one man- Elijah. We also have a group of people- “the children of Israel”- observing the event.
1 Kings 18:21-25 And Elijah came unto all the people, and said, How long halt ye between two opinions? if the LORD [be] God, follow him: but if Baal, [then] follow him. And the people answered him not a word. (22) Then said Elijah unto the people, I, [even] I only, remain a prophet of the LORD; but Baal's prophets [are] four hundred and fifty men. (23) Let them therefore give us two bullocks; and let them choose one bullock for themselves, and cut it in pieces, and lay [it] on wood, and put no fire [under]: and I will dress the other bullock, and lay [it] on wood, and put no fire [under]: (24) And call ye on the name of your gods, and I will call on the name of the LORD: and the God that answereth by fire, let him be God. And all the people answered and said, It is well spoken. (25) And Elijah said unto the prophets of Baal, Choose you one bullock for yourselves, and dress [it] first; for ye [are] many; and call on the name of your gods, but put no fire [under].
Elijah’s first words state the problem- “How long halt ye between two opinions?” In other words, how long will you waver, how long will you hesitate, how long will you serve two gods? He sets up the test- sacrifice two bulls, but don’t light the fire beneath them. You pray to your gods and I’ll pray to my God and the one that causes the bulls to burn, is the God we will worship. The people agreed that this was a good test and the prophets of Baal go first.
1 Kings 18:26-29 And they took the bullock which was given them, and they dressed [it], and called on the name of Baal from morning even until noon, saying, O Baal, hear us. But [there was] no voice, nor any that answered. And they leaped upon the altar which was made. (27) And it came to pass at noon, that Elijah mocked them, and said, 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. (28) And they cried aloud, and cut themselves after their manner with knives and lancets, till the blood gushed out upon them. (29) And it came to pass, when midday was past, and they prophesied until the [time] of the offering of the [evening] sacrifice, that [there was] neither voice, nor any to answer, nor any that regarded.
And so the prophets of Baal dress their bull and spend all day trying to summon their idol, but he answers not. Elijah even mocks them, saying “Cry aloud! Maybe he’s busy!” What’s interesting about this is that prophets of Baal do everything that Elijah tells them! Elijah says “Cry aloud” and in v. 28, that’s exactly what they do; “and they cried aloud, and cut themselves…” Notice here that they think they can get the attention of their idol through works. By cutting themselves and leaping around, they think they can get their idol’s attention. But, to God “…all our righteousnesses [are] as filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6) and He “desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings. (Hosea 6:6) God wants our heart, not our leaping around and punishing ourselves. Yet, this is what idol worshipers do. In spite of their efforts, the Bible says “ that [there was] neither voice, nor any to answer, nor any that regarded.” Their efforts are in vain and Baal has not listened.
1 Kings 18:30-35 And Elijah said unto all the people, Come near unto me. And all the people came near unto him. And he repaired the altar of the LORD [that was] broken down. (31) And Elijah took twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, unto whom the word of the LORD came, saying, Israel shall be thy name: (32) And with the stones he built an altar in the name of the LORD: and he made a trench about the altar, as great as would contain two measures of seed. (33) And he put the wood in order, and cut the bullock in pieces, and laid [him] on the wood, and said, Fill four barrels with water, and pour [it] on the burnt sacrifice, and on the wood. (34) And he said, Do [it] the second time. And they did [it] the second time. And he said, Do [it] the third time. And they did [it] the third time. (35) And the water ran round about the altar; and he filled the trench also with water.
Note how again Elijah spoke and the people did what he said. They know that he’s the authority, not the prophets of Baal. Elijah builds his altar to the Lord and does so with respect to God’s revelation by using 12 stones to represent the 12 tribes of Israel. He then drenches the sacrifice with water, making the issue as difficult as possible. What kind of fire will it take to burn this sacrifice!? Note carefully what Elijah does next:
1 Kings 18:36-37 And it came to pass at [the time of] the offering of the [evening] sacrifice, that Elijah the prophet came near, and said, LORD God of Abraham, Isaac, and 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. (37) 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.
Elijah gives God the glory. He doesn’t think that this sacrifice will in any way appease God or that God needs this sacrifice. He states very specifically that the sacrifice is given so that “this people may know that thou art the LORD God and that thou has turned their heart back again.” Did you catch the last part of that statement? Elijah doesn’t say “that the people have turned their heart back to you again”. Rather, he gives God the credit for turning the people’s heart back. This is what we must do when we are caught in idolatry- we cannot change our own heart by our own strength and will, but we must ask God to change it for us. We must confess the need, but then we also must confess our own inability to change.
1 Kings 18:38-39 Then the fire of the LORD fell, and consumed the burnt sacrifice, 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 they said, The LORD, he [is] the God; the LORD, he [is] the God.
And KABOOM!!! The fire of the LORD fell and burned up the whole thing- sacrifice, wood, stones, water, and dust. In startling contrast to the mute response of the false idol Baal, God speaks and speaks mightily. The people fell on their faces and replied with the confession “The LORD, he is the God!” And then the prophets of Baal get their due.
1 Kings 18:40 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.
All the teachers of idolatry are slain. You will see a similar event in the book of Revelation:
Revelation 19:20 And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone.
Revelation 20:10 And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet [are], and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.
This is what happens to false prophets, and it’s what happened to the false prophets of Baal who tried to deceive the people into worshipping something besides God Almighty, creator of all that is. God’s justice is righteous. He has created all things, given them life and breath and established the boundaries of their habituation. When we worship other idols- which we’ve created- He shows that He is a jealous God. He rightly wants our hearts to turn to Him and Him alone.
The example of Elijah dramatically shows God’s power over deaf and dumb idols. It and the two passages from Revelation show the punishment due to them who teach and encourage idolatry. These should not be taken lightly. Deuteronomy 9:3 and Hebrews 12:29 both state that “God is a consuming fire.” But fortunately for us:
Psalms 103:11-13 For as the heaven is high above the earth, [so] great is his mercy toward them that fear him. (12) As far as the east is from the west, [so] far hath he removed our transgressions from us. (13) Like as a father pitieth [his] children, [so] the LORD pitieth them that fear him.
Therefore, fear God. Ask Him to show you which idols you worship. Ask Him to turn your heart back to Him. Ask Him to make Him the delight of your heart, according to Psalm 37. Ask these things in Jesus’ name, as He as taken the punishment due you. To the glory of God the Father, amen.
False Idols- Identifying The Enemy
False Idols- Idols In Our Lives Today