The Mount of Contest, or the Mount of Victory for God’s folks, and the Mount of Defeat for the devil’s crowd. Well, dear reader, we have now to come to Mount Carmel, the battle ground of Elijah, where he met eight hundred and fifty false prophets of Baal in the grove. Here one man met not only a king and queen, eight hundred and fifty backslidden preachers, but a whole nation of God-forgetters, and defeated the whole crowd.
There was a hostile king and queen backed up by eight hundred ad fifty preachers who seemed to hate the very ground Elijah walked on. They had scoured the woods and hills and mountains and the caves; the holes of the earth had been searched for this man, and they had sworn eternal vengeance against him if they could find him, for “he was the troubler of Israel.” But bless God, right in the midst of their hostility the old hero appeared on the scene and challenged King Ahab to gather all Israel together on Mount Carmel, and with all Israel together, the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal and also four hundred prophets of the grove, and they would have a special meeting and prove their gods and see who was right and who was wrong.
Of course they had to accept the challenge, and now it is up to them to meet the hairy old man, as they called him, and prove the great god, that they called Baal. The king had accepted the challenge. The false prophets all claimed that Baal was a god, and the people did not know but what he was. The old prophet Elijah said that Baal was no god and no good, and that all Israel was under a delusion of the devil, and when he talked in that way the servants of Baal all boiled over and sorry to say, they are still boiling.
And now, right in the face of the greatest annual conference that ever met in Palestine, this old holiness man came to the conference and put all the preachers to one of the straightest tests that was ever put to a set of men, and it was put in such a way that they had to accept it. It was this: “The God that answers by fire, let him be God; if it is Baal or if it is the God of Israel, the one that answers by fire, he is to be God. And all the people said, It is well spoken.” Of course they were deceived by the prophets of Baal, and without doubt they thought that Baal’s preachers would be able to get the fire and defeat the hairy old man who had given them so much trouble. He preached holiness and the other crowd preached worldliness, and the folks did not want holiness and they did not want worldliness, but they had something else before sundown.
“Now,” said Elijah, “you are many and I will give you the first test. Now go to work and build you an altar and put your wood on it and then slay your bullock and lay him on the wood and put no fire on it or under it, and you call on your god and if he sends fire and consumes the bullock, Baal is to be the god. I will build an altar and put the wood on it and I will slay the bullock and put him on the wood and put no fire under it and I will call on the God of Israel, and the God that answers by fire he is to be the God.” Now the test is on, and the king is to watch the proceedings; and not only the king, but the whole nation was watching with bated breath to see how the thing would come out.
It is to be the God of Israel, or it is to be Baal, one or the other. Never did a man-made god have any better chance than Baal had that day. And if Baal could not do something on that great occasion he was a flat failure, for they were there from all over the country, and eight hundred and fifty of Baal’s strongest men were there. They were there from Vanderbilt and from Harvard and from Yale and from Columbia and from Stanford. All of their own nation, and several from abroad representing Oxford and Berlin and Edinburgh. The pomp and glory of Baal never shone so bright as on that great occasion.
One little, old man covered with a camelskin cloak sat down to see the display of Baal and to see the religious worship. Of course Baal never did anything on a small scale. The king and queen and their eight hundred and fifty Doctors of Divinity with a nation at their command made one of the most interesting crowds that a holiness man ever faced. The only thing that saved him was the fact that he had the blessing, and no make believe about it. If he had been the least bit shaky they would have backed him out. But oh my beloved! he never even looked down his nose one time. He sat by in a humble attitude, but it was not because he feared Baal, for he knew that he fought a winning battle. He watched them as the religious performance went on. They had no idea on earth that one man was more than a match for eight hundred and fifty. The eight hundred and fifty had everything on their side, but One, and that saved Elijah, for that One was God. They had the world and the flesh and the devil in as great pomp as you ever put your two eyes on, but the thing that they did not have was the very thing that Elijah did have, and that was the God of Israel. Amen.
The thing is beginning to get interesting about this time of day, and the prayers are long and loud and many, and they are coming thick and fast. They are up against an awful proposition, and it is, “O Baal, hear us! O Baal, it will never do for you to go back on us at this trying time. Just look yonder at that old hairy man with a smile all over his face. He is now making fun of us and what will he do, Baal, if you don’t send fire? O Baal, you must send the fire. The time will soon be over for our test and the fire has not come yet, and we don’t feel right about it some how. We are a little bit uneasy, and this old man is watching us, and he seems to be perfectly contented. And now Baal, if ever you did send fire you must send it now.” And if Baal could have said a word, he would have whispered to them and said, “I never did send fire, and never will, for when you made me you left out the qualities that produce fire, that is life. No fire without life.” And as Baal was man-made he did not propose to send fire.
The thing got so ridiculous that at noon Elijah mocked them and said, “Baal is surely a god; he must be asleep or he may be perusing, or peradventure he is in a conversation and you must do something to attract him.” And then they went for Baal in a most marvelous way. They drew their knives and leaped up and down on their altars and cried, “O Baal, hear us!” But the Bible says that there was none to regard or to hear what was going on on the holy mount called Carmel.
But the time came for the evening sacrifice, and the man of God called all the people near to him, and we read that he repaired the altar of the Lord that had been thrown down. And he took twelve stones to represent the twelve tribes of Israel, and he built the altar to the Lord. He hewed his wood and put it on the altar and then he slew his bullock and laid him in order, and then he went to work and had them dig a trench around the altar that would hold twelve barrels of water, and he had them pour twelve barrels of water over the sacrifice, and soak it with water. Now these false prophets knew that water would put out fire, and the old prophet was not going to leave them one excuse to hide behind. If he had not put on the water they would have said that he had the fire hid under the wood somewhere, but they all saw the sacrifice soaked in water, and now while they look on, the old servant of the Lord drops down on his knees and offers up a short prayer to the God of Israel, and to their surprise the fire fell, and all the people shouted, “The Lord, he is God! the Lord, he is God!”
Now the test is over, and Eijah’s God won out in the contest, and the old prophet had these eight hundred and fifty false prophets put to death, for they were impostors and deceivers.