Monday, September 2, 2019

Baal vs. Yahweh

"Elijah went before the people and said, “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow Him; but if Baal is God, follow him.” But the people said nothing" (1 Kings 18:21).

When God set up the kingdom in Israel, He made a condition for the kings: They were always to hearken to the words of the prophets, the emissaries of the true High King of Israel. In a more general way, the prophets were also the ambassadors of God to the people. God always gave the people the kind of king they deserved, so that if there was to be reformation in the land, the people, as well as the king, had to repent. When the kings of Israel and Judah were unfaithful, it was a reflection on the moral condition of the people.

The kingdom of northern Israel was separated from the south (Judah) and established by God in response to the sins of Solomon. The first king of northern Israel, Jeroboam I, immediately fell into sin and created a new “syncretistic” religion. The word syncretism refers to a religion composed of a mixture of two or more other religions. Jeroboam’s new religion was a combination of Yahwism, the true faith, and Baalism. In essence, Jeroboam and his priests claimed to be worshiping the LORD, but they were using the rituals of Baal.

When Ahab came to the throne, things got worse. Ahab’s wife, Jezebel, was a devotee of pure, unadulterated Baalism. She established a pure Baal cult in the land and convinced Ahab to suppress all forms of Yahwism. God raised up Elijah to confront this outbreak of hardened paganism. God brought a three-year drought on Israel, which bankrupted the nation. Then Elijah initiated a contest on Mount Carmel. Both he and the Baal priests set up sacrifices, and the god who sent fire down from heaven to burn up the sacrifices would be shown to be the true God.

Elijah challenged the people before performing the sacrifice. “How long will you waver between two opinions?” he asked, but the people remained silent. Only when they saw the fire fall from God did they say, “Yahweh, the LORD, He is God!” At Elijah’s orders, they killed all the prophets of Baal, and purged the land of this gross form of idolatry. It seemed as if revival had come, but in no time the people forgot the miracle and lapsed into their former syncretistic ways.

Too much of the church today is “wavering between two opinions.” Jesus had some hard things to say about this in Revelation 3:15–16. Read these verses and their surrounding context. What areas in your own life need to be purified, and what areas in the life of the church need to be cleansed?