Serve with Loyalty
1 Kings 18:20–26, 31–39
God requires total devotion. Jesus says we cannot serve two masters (Matt. 6:24). Yet the Israelites, under the leadership of Ahab, served both God and Baal. They were wavering in their loyalty to God, who uses Elijah in this powerful encounter to reveal that He is the one true God.
Don’t waver in loyalty to God (20–21).
Between God and Baal, Israel displayed no real conviction or dedication. Elijah challenges the Israelites to stop wavering or limping between two opinions, but the people were noncommittal. Perhaps they didn’t want to go against the king publicly; they were politically correct. After all, it is difficult to stand against the majority. However, the vast majority was silent because they did not know Yahweh. In their misguided opinions, God and Baal were both worthy of worship.
Today, professing Christians are tempted to compromise single devotion to the Lord. Some serve God and materialism, or God and humanism or God and athletics, etc. Far too many professing Christians have a limp in their gait as they halfheartedly follow Jesus and some other “god.” Elijah’s message to Israel is apropos for us today: We must not waiver in our loyalty to God.
Other gods will be proven false (22–26).
Although the people were wavering, the prophets of Baal and Elijah were not. Both were confident in the ability of their deity; there is no indication from Scripture that Baal’s prophets objected to Elijah’s contest. After all, Baal was believed to be the storm god — sending lightning would be right down his alley. In truth, the prophets of Baal had no chance. There is only one God, and they were not worshipping Him.
Think of Elijah’s confidence in the one true God. Elijah is the one who initiates the challenge. He is the one who calmly mocks them. The prophets of Baal? They are dancing around the altar in an attempt to get Baal’s attention. In verse 21, the same word for dance is translated waver or limp. These prophets, much like the people of Israel, are limping around a false altar and a false god in futility.
I believe there is a connection between these two verses. Anyone who trusts in a false god is going through life in futility. False gods cannot take away limps, problems or sin. What is needed? Stop limping between the world and Christ.
Repent and believe in the gospel. Your limp will be turned into a confident trust in the Lord our God.
Questions to ask as you study this passage: Am I trusting only in the Lord? Am I walking only with Him?
God proves He is the one true God (31–39).
Everyone turns their focus to Elijah as he builds an altar. The word used for “build” carries the connotation that an altar exists but needs to be rebuilt — much like the people of Israel exist but because they no longer know and serve God, they need to be “rebuilt” or renewed.
The altar is soaked with water, building anticipation for a miracle. Elijah prays and fire falls, consuming the sacrifice, the water and even the stones. Awestruck, the people confess, “The Lord is God!” God proves He is the one true God.
At the same time, both Baal and his prophets are proven false and the prophets are slaughtered (v. 40). The day of judgment came for them.
As we read this account, we must do so with glorious wonder. The Lord is God! Nothing is too difficult for our mighty God.
By Rob Jackson, Ph.D.
Jackson has served in a variety of ministry roles, including pastor and state missionary