‘Then the fire fell’
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’. (1 Kings 18:38 ESV)
On the twelfth day of these notes, we look today at what is the climax so far to the story of the life and ministry of Elijah. There are times where we recall exactly what we were doing and where we were when we heard some news, or witnessed a great historic event. Such is the event we are thinking about here in 1 Kings 18:38. The people had been summoned to witness the contest on Mount Carmel, and most who could would have been there. Whatever they expected , they would never forget the moment the fire of God fell’. Perhaps many decades later, elderly Israelites would tell their wide eyed grandchildren how they as little children themselves, had seen the fire of God fall from heaven? Perhaps they would remember how their shocked mothers had snatched them close when they saw the fire consume the offering in answer to Elijah’s prayer? What is sure is that this would be a day that would never be forgotten, as Elijah called a backslidden people back to their God. A day that was to vindicate the Lord and His prophet.
What we read is that Elijah prayed for God to answer him, and answer him God did. The people had their answer, they had seen the hand of Jehovah God of Israel, and the people fell on their knees to declare ‘ The Lord He is God, the Lord, he is God’ (verse 39).The whole offering had been made as we saw yesterday , but what is more Elijah’s sacrifice had been drenched with twelve jars of water ( verse 33-34). The altar was soaked through and the trench filled with water, so in theory it would be far harder for Elijah’s sacrifice to the Lord to ignite than the prophets of Baal before him. Then Elijah did something else, he waited . He waited until the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice (verse 36) . The time when three hours before sunset at approximately 3 PM, the evening sacrifice would be offered in the temple in Jerusalem. Elijah was again showing that he was in fellowship with the worshippers in Jerusalem, and following the commandment of the law. Surely this has something to say to us as well ? How many an exiled Hearach and Leodhasach has wistfully looked at the clock at the hour of worship or prayer meeting, to remember to pray for and to be in fellowship with those in the old country in their worship of God.
There is more though in what Elijah does and how he does it. The prophets of Baal had started to rant and rave about midday, and had carried on until almost the ninth hour of the day. At this exact moment Elijah took over ‘at the time of offering of the evening sacrifice’ ( verse 36 NKJV). Exodus 29:38 ff details the daily service that was required in the temple. a spotless lamb of the first year would be offered as a morning and as an evening sacrifice. This was a perpetual obligation on Israel, and had to be done each day. At just that moment, in connection with God’s people and in obedience to God’s law, the sacrifice is offered by Elijah. God heard his prayer, and accepted his offering. This offering though would be but a forerunner to the offering of a much greater evening sacrifice, when many years later Jesus the lamb of God was to take away the sin of the world. The gospels show us that at the ninth hour the sacrifice of all sacrifices was made when Jesus breathed his last ( see Luke 23:44-46) Elijah’s sacrifice points forward to the Cross, and to the atonement that Jesus was to make there on behalf of His people. When we think of Elijah on Mount Carmel, let us also think of the Cross, and say like the people of Elijah’s day ‘ The Lord He is God, the Lord He is God’.