Elijah and the 400
One of the most dramatic and exciting stories in the Scriptures is the account of the great contest between the 400 prophets of Baal and Elijah, the lone prophet of Jehovah on Mt. Carmel. The story is found in 1 Kings 18. For many hours the 400 prophets of Baal called to their god, danced about, cut themselves and generally, made a spectacle of themselves trying to evoke a response from their god. How they have been humiliated by Elijah. Their god, Baal, is the “storm” or weather god. Many representations of him depict him with a thunderbolt in his hand. Certainly, he can spare just one little flash of lightening to ignite their sacrifice and prove that he truly is a god. There is just one problem. He is NOT a god. He is the device and figment of human imagination embellished with graven images. He is a false god and would give no answer by fire or any other means.
Of course, we know this and chuckle to ourselves at the foolishness of these and any who would believe in Baal and behave so foolishly. I wonder, however, if we do not need to learn the lesson in this story. The lesson of the futility of praying to a false god. Certainly not! You reply. I attend worship regularly. I attend Bible class regularly. I certainly am no idolater. Perhaps all you say is true, but are you still praying to a false god by praying to a god of your own invention or imagination? I fear many are. Perhaps if one is wondering why God is not answering his prayers, he may need to ask the question, “Am I praying to the God of the Bible or a god of my own invention and imagination?”
If I asked you to close your Bible and tell me all that you know about God without your Bible, what could you tell me? Certainly, we know some about God from nature and His creation (Psa. 1:1-3, Rom. 1:20). Do we, however, learn enough from creation to pray to our God as our Father and our Savior? We do not. Do we know anything of His will so that we may pray accordingly? Again, the answer is no. Most of what we know of our gracious and loving Father in heaven, we know from Scripture.
Many hold false ideas of God in their hearts, ideas and imaginations that are not based upon scripture and contrary to Scripture. Consequently, when they pray, they are doing very close to what an idolater does, praying to a false god. Certainly, God is just and can mete out wrath and vengeance, but if I see God as always angry and never loving and gracious, I am not seeing Him rightly. Conversely, If I see God only as loving and gracious and never willing to exact punishment, once again, I am not seeing Him rightly. Do I perceive God as a glorified “Santa Clause” whose sole purpose in existence is to grant my every whim, wish or desire? If that is the case, I do not perceive God rightly. Some understand God to be aloof and disinterested in human affairs? This also is a wrong understanding of God.
To pray to the one true and living God, I must know Him accurately. I only know Him accurately from learning about Him through His Word. He is a loving God “who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:4). Yet He is a just God who will condemn those who reject Christ. He desires to bless us and provide our needs, but we must not see him only as a benevolent gift giver. He is supremely interested in the affairs of men to the extent that he became man in the form of Christ.
Know the true God. Pray to the true God.