A Study of 1st Kings 18:20-32
Elijah commanded King Ahab to gather all Israel to Mount Carmel. And King Ahab obeyed Elijah. That in itself is a miracle! But now, Elijah is addressing the people of Israel.
And what does he tell them?
1st Kings 18:20
So Ahab sent unto all the children of Israel, and gathered the prophets together unto mount Carmel.
1st Kings 18:21
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.
1st Kings 18:22
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.
1st Kings 18:23
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:
1st Kings 18:24
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.
1st Kings 18:25
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.
1st Kings 18:26
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.
1st Kings 18:27
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.
1st Kings 18:28
And they cried aloud, and cut themselves after their manner with knives and lancets, till the blood gushed out upon them.
1st Kings 18:29
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.
1st Kings 18:30
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.
1st Kings 18:31
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:
1st Kings 18:32
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.
1st Kings 18:33
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.
1st Kings 18:34
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.
1st Kings 18:35
And the water ran round about the altar; and he filled the trench also with water.
The fire of God is going to consume the altar and everything on it, including the bullock. This was a preparation for a sacrifice! And the focus is on the bullock that is going to be sacrificed. Let us now look at:
· Elijah as High Priest. (1st Kings 18:20, Hebrews 9:11-12, Colossians 2:17, Hebrews 10:1-18, Hebrews 10:29, Exodus 20:7)
Elijah is functioning as the High Priest who offers the sacrifice that is pleasing to God.
Who does the sacrifice represent?
Who does the bullock represent?
The New Testament says that every animal sacrifice made in the Old Testament was a shadow of the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ on the Cross. (This is found in Colossians 2:17 and in Hebrews 10:1-18) Therefore Elijah is preparing for a sacrifice that is a true picture of Christ nailed to the Cross.
But, there were two bullocks!
What about the bullock that was being used as a sacrifice by the 450 prophets of Baal?
Was that bullock also representing the Lord Jesus Christ?
Well, look at it this way: The prophets of Baal were imitating the true Gospel by performing this imitation sacrifice. Even though this was just an imitation, the prophets of Baal committed a gross blasphemy. The prophets of Baal were bearing the name of the LORD in vain. The Hebrew text of Exodus 20:7 does not say, “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord in vain,” but the Hebrew text says, “Thou shalt not bear the Name of the Lord in vain,” and that is a much greater requirement than just taking the Name of the Lord in vain. Let us paraphrase this: The prophets of Baal have dishonored the Name of the true God, for God did not send them. Instead they “have trodden under foot the Son of God, and have counted the blood of the Covenant an unholy thing” (from Hebrews 10:29). That is what they were doing, and it was great abomination in the sight of God. But Elijah, as High Priest, is preparing for a sacrifice that is a true picture of Christ on the Cross.
Did you remember what the name Elijah means?
My God Jehovah / My God Yahweh
Elijah is a picture of Christ!
Now, how is that possible that Elijah was a picture of Christ as the High Priest and the bullock was also a picture of Christ as the sacrifice?
What does the Bible say in Hebrews 9:11-12?
But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building;
Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by His own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.
God says here that at the time the Lord Jesus Christ was crucified, Christ was the High Priest who brought the sacrifice and Christ was at the same time the sacrificial Lamb.
How can this be?
With our human mind we cannot understand it, but do we believe what the Bible says?
Of course we believe it, because Christ is God and He can do what humanly seems impossible.
· The Abundance of Prophets of Baal (1st Kings 18:19, 2nd Thessalonians 2:3-4)
Elijah is totally outnumbered. Elijah, you are not a good teamplayer! Elijah, you must be wrong! It is not possible that all the prophets of Baal and all the population of Israel are on the wrong side and only you, Elijah, have it right. Elijah, you are stubborn, and arrogant. Elijah, we are Israel and the Lord is on our side. He never leaves us nor forsakes us!
Does not the name Baal mean Lord?
Yes indeed; that is what the name Baal means. But that was the great deception: the worship of Baal was so very close to the worship of Jehovah. The people thought that they were worshipping Jehovah when they actually were worshipping Baal. They were worshipping Satan. And that is the great deception today: many people are in Churches today where they think they are worshipping Christ, but in actuality they are worshipping Satan. They have become the equivalent of the worshippers of Baal. God gave us this story in 1st Kings 18 not just to show us the apostacy of the nation of Israel, but also to give us a picture of the two Great Apostasies in history. The Bible says, there are two periods in history when there is a Great Apostacy in the Church.
1. At the first coming of the Lord Jesus, when God the Son came to earth as the Savior, there was Great Apostacy in the Old Testament Church. So much so, that they did not recognize the signs of the Messiah, and they crucified the Son of God and put Him to an open shame.
2. At the second coming of the Lord Jesus, when God the Son is coming to earth as the Judge, there will again be a Great Apostacy in the New Testament Church. So much so, that they will not recognize the signs of the Final Tribulation, and they will be worshipping Satan thinking that they are worshipping Christ; they will have drifted into Baal worship. That is what the Bible prophesies in 2nd Thessalonians 2:3-4, where we read:
2nd Thessalonians 2:3
Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition;
2nd Thessalonians 2:4
Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God.
Paraphrased God says: Before Christ comes the second time the majority of the New Testament Churches will have drifted into Baal worship, and there will be a famine of the Word of God.
How does the Church drift into Baal worship?
Well, You can see it here in 1st Kings 18.
Baal worship is much more exciting than the plain spiritual worship of Jehovah. There are all kinds of ceremonies that the Bible does not call for. There is much noise of calling and crying and dancing. There are spectacular ceremonies and glittering garments. Compare that with the coat of Elijah of plain camel’s hair. Can you see, when people are ignorant about the Word of God, when there will be a famine of the Word of God, they will gravitate toward outward signs and miracles. When Elijah asks them a simple question, whether Jehovah or Baal is God, they remain silent. They do not know. But when Elijah suggests to show some miracles, they all agreed. O Yea! This is what they want to see. Something spectacular. Not that boring spiritual worship stuff. No way!
Can you see how this applies today?
Congregations that trust in outward signs and miracles, like the miracle of speaking in tongues, or the miracles of visions and dreams from God, and the miracles of angel visitations, these are all Churches who have drifted into Baal worship. God says: You should not have anything to do with those Churches and certainly don’t visit them.
· Elijah asks, “How long halt ye between two opinions?” (1st Kings 18:21, Ephesians 2:4, Acts 7:48-50, Isaiah 53:5-12)
”Which idol do you want?” The people answered him not a word. They could not tell the difference between good and bad. Just like many would respond today when you ask them: “what about this question in the Bible? And what about that statement in the Bible?” They are waiting for what their church says. They will agree with what the majority says. Such was the condition of the children of Israel when Elijah was addressing them.
Already by nature they were unable to choose for Jehovah. More than that, they were led astray by their own king and by their religious leaders. But let us be fair. Is this not what we also would have done if we would have been present at Mount Carmel?
The Bible says: This is the condition in which every person is born. And that includes you and me!
The Bible says: By nature we all were dead in trespasses and sins. Spiritually dead as a doornail!
The Bible says: The wages of Sin is Death; the Death that must be paid is eternal damnation in Hell.
The Righteousness of God, the Justice of God, demands that every man is accountable to God. Man was made after the image of God and is commanded to uphold that image.
Every sin is a slap in God’s face. Therefore every man is accountable to God and must pay for his sins. The Righteousness of God demands that every sin must be paid.
We all are under this predicament. The Law of God says that we all deserve to go to Hell because we are not doing what God has commanded us to do.
If it was not for the Grace of God, that is where everyone of us goes.
But God who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us, even when we were dead in sins.
This God performed a great work of love and mercy on US, by sending the Lord Jesus Christ to pay the righteous demand of the Law of God in our place. That is why Elijah came to do these wondrous things on Mount Carmel. God is foreshadowing His love and mercy in the great Atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ here on Mount Carmel. First we look at the preparations for the sacrifice. First apply this principle to our days: What really is the preparation for sacrifice that pleases Jehovah most of all? It is a preparation that glorifies Jehovah above all other actions with which we can glorify Him.
And what is that action?
The church in the past centuries has also thought about this matter, and they have come up with all kinds of ceremonies with which they can glorify Him, and they have built many edifices designed to glorify Him, such as cathedrals, and statues, and tapestries, and so on.
Is God pleased with all these things, or is this all ceremonial hoopla?
God says in seventh chapter of Acts:
Howbeit the most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands; as saith the prophet,
Heaven is my throne, and earth is my footstool: what house will ye build me? Saith the Lord: or what is the place of my rest?
Hath not my hand made all these things?
What do we read here?
We cannot offer any of these things to God for He has made these things for
Himself. Cathedrals, and magnificent tapestries, magnificent music like Handel’s Messiah, and so on, man has not made them. God has made them.
And so, what preparation for sacrifice is there that brings glory to God?
I can think of only one thing: A Bible Study where God is honored and elevated and worshipped as the most high and the most sovereign God of heaven and earth is the most appropriate preparation that we can make, even though it is God who by His Holy Spirit has prompted us to take this action. And the sacrifice that we can bring, if it is from this earth, is worth only a mere pittance. No, the sacrifice that we must bring must be the most expensive sacrifice there is, and it is the death of our best friend, the death of our nearest brother, our nearest Kinsman, the Lord Jesus Christ. You see, Christ is our Sin-Offering which God has given us to offer to Him. We killed Christ. Our sins have caused Him to suffer and die for us, for He was the only one who could make the payment for us in our place. Only if we accept this fact can we believe it. Only if we believe this fact can we bring this offering. Only if we believe this fact can we mourn for our sins which caused the death of Christ. And then, when we do our Bible Study to honor and glorify Him, we must honor Him as our sovereign and crucified Lord, and then we find in Isaiah 53:5-12 these words:
He was wounded, or He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities.
And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all (i.e. not all the world, but all of us, the elect)
He is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, … so He opened not His mouth (keeping silent who His murderers are.)
For the transgression of My people (the people of God) was He stricken.
Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him; Thou shalt make His soul an offering for sin (our sin).
He was numbered with the transgressors, and He bare the sin of many, and He made intercession for the transgressors (at the cross).
All these verses indicate that Christ was our sin offering and that His death was a vicarious death: He suffered and died in our place. We deserved to die for our sins, but Christ paid the penalty in our place. This was a surprise move from God which He disclosed after Satan enticed Adam and Eve into sin. Had Satan known this he would not have tempted Adam and Eve to sin, for he would not have deliberately made himself an enemy of God, knowing that the consequences of such a move would cast himself into Hell. No, Satan is not stupid.
Moreover, we find that the grace of God is the unmerited favor from God, which means that all the honor and the glory for our salvation rests in God, and thus it is God who must make the decision who will be saved and who will not be saved. All these are true facts from the Bible, and thus to study them and search out the sovereignty of God is altogether God glorifying and is honoring Christ. We will see this here in the following verses. Elijah’s actions are portraying the sovereignty of God.
· The Actual Preparations for Sacrifice. (1st Kings 18:31-32)
Now we come to the preparations Elijah is making for the sacrifice. Look at how careful Elijah is in making the preparations. The least we can do is to carefully observe what Elijah is doing. And there are a number of things that enter into the picture. First take a look at Verses 31 and 32:
1st Kings 18:31
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:
1st Kings 18:32
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.
Look at this: Twelve Stones according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, and with these stones he built a memorial to the sovereign Lord, and he built an altar where the death of Christ can be remembered by the death of something or someone who was laying on that altar.
· Twelve Stones! (1st Kings 18:31, Joshua 4:8-9, 1st Peter 2:5)
Where have we seen Twelve Stones before?
And where have we seen that a memorial was built from those twelve stones to honor the God who saved His people from certain death?
This was when the Children of Israel crossed the Jordan River, the waters of the Jordan River split apart, just like it came to pass 40 years earlier at the Red Sea, and the Children of Israel walked on dry ground across the dry Jordan River bed. Then God instructed Joshua to pick up twelve stones out of the Jordan River bed and lay them down at their first campsite in the Promised Land.
In fact, you may remember that there were two sets of twelve stones in Joshua 4.
And the children of Israel did so as Joshua commanded, and took up twelve stones out of the midst of Jordan, as the LORD spake unto Joshua, according to the number of the tribes of the children of Israel, and carried them over with them unto the place where they lodged, and laid them down there.
What are the twelve stones representing, which are according to the number of the tribes of the children of Israel?
These are almost the same words as we see in 1st Kings 18.
Is there an analogy between these two passages?
Yes there is an analogy, a similarity!
Of course, these are not the same twelve stones. One set is in Gilgal the other on Mount Carmel. But when you see the expression: “The twelve tribes of the children of Israel” you can be sure that you have to find a spiritual meaning for this passage. Why is that? It is because there were 13 tribes, not 12. Invariably when you see the 12 tribes listed, there is one tribe missing.
God uses the expression “The twelve tribes of the children of Israel” as a technical term representing “The elect of God” or “The Israel of God” or “The Body of True Believers”. Twelve, is representing the fulness, the fulness of the entire Body of Believers, of all the Saints who came out of Egypt. And do you remember what the Jordan River represented in Joshua 4? Hell!
God chose to save these stones, which represent us, out of the waters of Jordan, out of Hell, and placed these stones in the Promised Land, God translated US into the Kingdom of Christ. (Colossians 1:13)
God arranged this historical event to give US a picture of what Election is. Those stones represented US. They were stones, signifying the hardness of our hearts when Christ found us. But now, the Bible says, we have become living stones in the Temple of God. We read in 1st Peter 2:5, “Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.”
By the Grace of God, we have become living stones who have been qualified to form a spiritual house, and to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Christ Jesus.
Can you see how God in 1st Peter 2:5 uses words to describe the altar that Elijah built on Mount Carmel?
But what about the second set of twelve stones that were left standing in the Jordan?
And Joshua set up twelve stones in the midst of Jordan, in the place where the feet of the priests which bare the ark of the covenant stood: and they are there unto this day.
This second set of 12 stones represent the fulness of all those who remain unsaved. They are left in their unsaved state. They are left in Hell.
What is the analogy between the 12 stones in Joshua 4 and those in 1st Kings 18?
The 12 stones taken out of the Jordan River in Josh 4 are a clear picture of God’s plan of election and reprobation. The 12 stones picked up by Elijah in 1st Kings 18 are also a clear picture of God’s plan of election and reprobation. In both cases the sovereignty of God is clearly displayed. Remember Elijah means My God Jehovah. Elijah chose certain stones for the altar, and he left other stones where they were: in the dust.
1 Kings 18:32
And with the stones he built an altar in the name of Jehovah: and he made a trench about the altar, as great as (would contain) two measures of seed.
The next thing we see is:
· An Altar in the Name of Jehovah (1st Kings 18:32, Exodus 20:24-25, Isaiah 49:3, Hebrews 13:10, Ephesians 6:16-17, Matthew 2:15, Hosea 11:1, Hebrews 13:10, 1st Peter 2:5, Luke 4:24-29, Galatians 1:10)
When Elijah built the altar it had to be in conformity with the Law of Moses, as stated in Exodus 20:24-25,
An altar of earth thou shalt make unto me, and shalt sacrifice thereon thy burnt offerings, and thy peace offerings, thy sheep, and thine oxen: in all places where I record my name I will come unto thee, and I will bless thee.
And if thou wilt make me an altar of stone, thou shalt not build it of hewn stone: for if thou lift up thy tool upon it, thou hast polluted it.
What is the significance of the altar?
· Elijah built an altar from twelve stones that God placed there on Mount Carmel. The number Twelve represents Fulness. This altar represents the fullness of the number of saints chosen before the foundation of the World. We who have been chosen bear up the sacrifice of Christ on the cross unto God.
· These had to be stones that were not shaped by men, but by God. It was He who built the altar in the Name of Jehovah, and it was by the prompting of His Holy Spirit that He caused this altar to be built.
How did the altar receive the Name of Jehovah?
How did the altar receive the name of Christ?
First the twelve stones were named after Israel, the Israel of God.
Is the Lord Jesus Christ then also named Israel?
Indeed He is.
And said unto me, Thou art my servant, O Israel, in whom I will be glorified.
In this passage of Isaiah 49 the Lord Jesus Christ is in view as the Suffering Servant of Jehovah, and He is here called Israel.
Christ is called Israel in many more places in the Bible; did you know that?
For example, if you compare Matthew 2:15 with Hosea 11:1 you also come to the conclusion that the Lord Jesus Christ is called Israel.
But then, WHO does the altar represent?
In Hebrews 13:10 Christ is called An Altar!
We have an altar, whereof they have no right to eat which serve the (Old Testament) tabernacle.
Combine this with the law that no tool could be used on the stones of the altar, in other words: No additional work was allowed to improve the altar, and we come away with the impression that the Altar represents Christ. God is teaching us here a fundamental truth that we find throughout the Bible, and it is this: The Lord Jesus Christ is so united with the body of saints, that we find both Christ and the saints in the same object. Elijah prepared the Altar from 12 stones representing the body of saints. God declares in other places in the Bible that the Altar is also representing Christ. Both facts are true. And that is what God expressed in 1st Peter 2. Christ is called a living stone, and then He says:
1st Peter 2:5
Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.
What a wonderful Union we have in Christ. Christ loved us so much that He paid for all our sins, and He delivered us from the Law so that we can serve Him instead of serving the Law. Christ laid down His life for us, and we now can lay down our life on the altar of service to God, through Christ.
What are these spiritual sacrifices that are acceptable to God?
What can we do?
We can do battle with the prophets of Baal. That is what we can do! God says in the Bible, that in this world we are in a spiritual battle. We are in a battle to rob from Satan’s treasure chest the souls that he unlawfully holds.
1. First of all we are in a battle with sin in our bodies. Our bodies are still drawn to sin, but we do not want to go in that direction. Therefore we put on the whole armor of God.
Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.
Why does God say “Above all, take the shield of faith”?
Because, through the mouths of the prophets of Baal, the Devil is attacking our faith and our faithfulness, and he is sowing the seeds of doubt. The Devil is attacking us all the times at every opportunity. If he can cause us to doubt the Word of God he has won the battle. Look for example at his conquest of Eve.
2. Secondly, do not forget your offensive weapon.
And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
With this we fight our battles with those who want to turn our minds to a Freewill gospel, and who want to lead us in the direction that other “Churches” are going. We must learn how to use this weapon. It is not a light and easy weapon. The Bible is a book that is hard to understand. We must not be easily satisfied with the milk of the Word, but we must study our Bibles intensely to prepare us for the battle, for the sovereignty of God is at stake.
Like iron sharpeneth iron we need to be engaged in a Bible study. And so, when a Freewill gospel knocks at our door, remember that the Lord Jesus also had that experience, and what was the result?
He was persecuted and He was driven out of town, because the people did not want a salvation that is free apart from the Law. They wanted a salvation that is based on the Law. Let us look at this example. We read in Luke 4:24-29,
And He said, Verily, I say unto you, No prophet is accepted in his own country.
But I tell you of a truth, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elias, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, when great famine was throughout all the land;
But unto none of them was Elias sent, save unto Sarepta, a city of Sidon, unto a woman that was a widow.
And many lepers were in Israel in the time of Eliseus the prophet; and none of them was cleansed, saving Naaman the Syrian.
And all they in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath,
and rose up, and thrust Him out of the city, and led Him unto the brow of the hill whereon their city was built, that they might cast Him down headlong!
This kind of persecution shall await us when we dare to speak of the sovereignty of God being greater than the Law.
But do we seek to please God or men?
God says in Galatians 1:10, “But do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ!”
3. Thirdly, use your offensive weapon also outside the Church. Christ calls us to follow Him, wherever He leads us. And sometimes He brings us in the company of harlots and publicans. Have your Bible ready. We must learn from the Lord Jesus how we can be good witnesses in those circumstances. That is how we make preparations that please the Lord Jesus. That is how we lay down our life on the altar of service. That is the sacrifice we bring for which we make preparations like Elijah did.
By Alfred J. Chompff