Reprint of an article from 'the Shepherd's Scrip'
In this passage we find the prophet Elijah sent by God to king Ahab and the people of Israel to declare their sin, which some would say was Baal worship. This is partially true, but Baal worship was the symptom, not the source of their sin problem. The root problem is shown in verse 21, when Elijah asks, "How long halt ye between two opinions? if the LORD be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him." Many miss the real issue here when they say Elijah sought to get the people to serve the correct God. Actually, he was wanting them to change their view of who God is, and who is God! This would automatically lead to correct worship! His question shows that they had a mixed concept of God. They were serving God and Baal at the same time.
The manifestation of a wrong concept of God did not have to demonstrate itself in Baal worship. It is the same problem the rich young man had when he came to Jesus in Matthew 19:16-26. His wrong view of God led him to worship riches as well as God. (Note that he did have religion too).
The wrong concept of God manifests itself today in the lives of many folks in this and yet other ways. Some worship God, but also the scriptures (as did the Pharisees), some. God and their religion. The list could go on and on, but the point is that there are many people with the wrong concept of the True and Living God and yet don't know it.
This wrong view of God also leads to practices today which are foreign to those prescribed and endorsed by Him. This is where we get "Repeat this prayer and you •will be saved," as if there was power in the prayer, or "Just believe the Bible and stand on the promise," as if the promise was salvation, or that mental assent to a verse of scripture was salvation. These are but a couple of the methods that lead folks to presume there is power in a process. This 'easy-believism' can be traced to a wrong view of God as its root.
We see in I Kings, that the people did not throw God out to get where they were, but brought something else in with it. They may have been very good people in their moral lives, and even very zealous in their religious practices. They still had Solomon's temple until n Kings 25! Where did the people get the idea that all idol worshippers kill their babies and practice evil?!
The great tragedy of the people's condition was that they were unaware of where they were until the man of God confronted them. This is shown in the pronouncement that they were of two opinions, or confused if you will. They were unable to answer the prophet, as they did not know what the truth was. It had become obscured by the priests (preachers) of their day. Then, as now, the preachers had introduced and promoted the false worship. This double mindedness is what James talks about in his epistle (James 1:8 & 4:8) and says it makes one unstable in all their ways.
The word 'halt' in verse 21, is the same word used to describe Mephibosheth in II Samuel 4:4, where it says, "...he became lame." It shows a crippled spiritual condition. Those who are in this condition are abundant in our churches today, and are unable to see it or change it until God sends a man to help them. This is true, even though the truth is in plain view.
The word halt is also the same word used in Exodus 12:13, 23 & 27, and translated 'pass over." In other words, the people missed the truth, or overlooked it. It is also the word used in verse 26 of the text, where it says the prophets of Baal 'leaped upon' the altar.
This truth is shown in Isaiah 45:15, where God is said to be a God that 'hidest' Himself, yet in verses 19 & 20, of the same chapter, God says, "I have not spoken in secret, in a dark place of the earth: I said not unto the seed of Jacob, Seek ye me in vain: I the LORD speak righteousness, I declare things that are right, ...they have no knowledge that set up the wood of their graven image, and pray unto a god that cannot save." The people miss the truth because they want to, due to their fallen nature, as Paul told Timothy in n Timothy 4:3 & 4. They also are unable to see it due to spiritual blindness, as Paul tells the Corinthians in n Corinthians 4:3, 4. The word 'hid' in verse 3, means 'covered up,' rather than 'placed out of sight.' The implication is that the truth is in their presence, but cannot be seen due to their blinded condition. Their blindness would not be a factor worth mentioning if the truth were put out of sight, for even a person with perfect vision would not be able to see it then. The people's plight was compounded by the fact that the priests encouraged them in their wrong opinions.
Now that we see what the root of the problem was, let us note how Elijah dealt with it. He did not merely tell the people that they needed to change their way of worship and service, as many do today when they quote Joshua 24:15, which says, "Choose ye this day whom ye will serve," as if it were simply a question of mental determination. The people Joshua was talking to had seen the mighty operations of God and had taken the land of promise. His charge was to a people to warn them against becoming ensnared in idol worship, not to come out of it! The people responded in verse 21, of that same chapter, "Nay, but we will serve the LORD." Even so, their descendants became the ones we see in our text who could not answer a word, due to their spiritual condition.
It is too late in our day to issue the warning of Joshua. We must face the pronouncement of Elijah and deal with it. Too many preachers spend too much time trying to get people to serve a God they don't even know, though they certainly know about Him. This is often because the preacher doesn't know Him either, but this is a topic that will have to wait for another newsletter.
Elijah says, in effect, "Let's test the two: your god and his ability, and the LORD and His ability." Let the two opinions be put to a practical test, if you will. He then spends his time doing two things. First, he allowed the people to test what they had. This showed the reality of their condition, which was dead. Then, he demonstrated what truth was, as shown in a genuine operation of God. When God was finished, the people fell on their faces and stated, without prompting, and without hesitation, "The LORD, he is the God; the LORD, he is the God." Note that the operation was effectual, in that it produced a result; the people were broken, they were humbled, and they worshipped. Also, their profession was exclusive, (they confessed Him as 'the God'), and emphatic, (they repeated it). The people were then able to destroy the prophets of Baal, or that which was causing confusion in their lives. Most importantly. God sent the rain that they had longed for for years, but which had been withheld by God due to their condition, and their land became productive and prosperous.
Those who preach old fashioned salvation, which is arrived at through a person seeking God with all their heart, repenting of their sin of unbelief, and believing on the Lord Jesus Christ, which is all the result of a divine operation of the Holy Spirit of God, are accused of preaching a 'new doctrine.' And this by those who offer prayers, plans, and programs, with no power to save. When the operations of both are compared and the resultant products are viewed in the light of scripture, which one stands the test and which one crumbles into ashes of vanity and impotency?
Certainly it can be argued that there is much sacrificing, crying out, cutting, and show, going on in the churches today, even as in Elijah's day. There are even great swelling numbers of supposed converts. But where is the fire? Where is the power of God? Where is the answer from heaven? Where is the new creature (creation) producing consistency, faithfulness, and correct attitudes? Where is the victory and liberty? Where is it in your life? Is your God real? Was God real in your conversion, or do you still have that nagging second opinion in the back of your mind, wondering if this is all there is to being a child of God? Is God real in your life beyond all doubt? He can be, if the proper view is presented and embraced.
Thank God for those who can say of a surety, "The LORD, He is the God. The LORD, He is the God." - J. M. G. (12/94)