There Is Only One Way to God - Pastor John Roekle
May 21, 2017 [Easter 6] 1 Kings 18:16-45 J.D.Roekle
So Obadiah went to meet Ahab and told him, and Ahab went to meet Elijah. 17When he saw Elijah, he said to him, "Is that you, you troubler of Israel?"
18"I have not made trouble for Israel," Elijah replied. "But you and your father's family have. You have abandoned the Lord's commands and have followed the Baals. 19Now summon the people from all over Israel to meet me on Mount Carmel. And bring the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal and the four hundred prophets of Asherah, who eat at Jezebel's table."
20So Ahab sent word throughout all Israel and assembled the prophets on Mount Carmel. 21Elijah went before the people and said, "How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him."
But the people said nothing.
22Then Elijah said to them, "I am the only one of the Lord's prophets left, but Baal has four hundred and fifty prophets. 23Get two bulls for us. Let them choose one for themselves, and let them cut it into pieces and put it on the wood but not set fire to it. I will prepare the other bull and put it on the wood but not set fire to it. 24Then you call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the Lord. The god who answers by fire—he is God."
Then all the people said, "What you say is good."
25Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, "Choose one of the bulls and prepare it first, since there are so many of you. Call on the name of your god, but do not light the fire." 26So they took the bull given them and prepared it.
Then they called on the name of Baal from morning till noon. "O Baal, answer us!" they shouted. But there was no response; no one answered. And they danced around the altar they had made.
27At noon Elijah began to taunt them. "Shout louder!" he said. "Surely he is a god! Perhaps he is deep in thought, or busy, or traveling. Maybe he is sleeping and must be awakened." 28So they shouted louder and slashed themselves with swords and spears, as was their custom, until their blood flowed. 29Midday passed, and they continued their frantic prophesying until the time for the evening sacrifice. But there was no response, no one answered, no one paid attention.
30Then Elijah said to all the people, "Come here to me." They came to him, and he repaired the altar of the Lord, which was in ruins. 31Elijah took twelve stones, one for each of the tribes descended from Jacob, to whom the word of the Lord had come, saying, "Your name shall be Israel." 32With the stones he built an altar in the name of the Lord, and he dug a trench around it large enough to hold two seahs of seed. 33He arranged the wood, cut the bull into pieces and laid it on the wood. Then he said to them, "Fill four large jars with water and pour it on the offering and on the wood."
34"Do it again," he said, and they did it again.
"Do it a third time," he ordered, and they did it the third time. 35The water ran down around the altar and even filled the trench.
36At the time of sacrifice, the prophet Elijah stepped forward and prayed: "O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. 37Answer me, O Lord, answer me, so these people will know that you, O Lord, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again."
38Then the fire of the Lord fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench.
39When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, "The Lord—he is God! The Lord—he is God!"
40Then Elijah commanded them, "Seize the prophets of Baal. Don't let anyone get away!" They seized them, and Elijah had them brought down to the Kishon Valley and slaughtered there.
41And Elijah said to Ahab, "Go, eat and drink, for there is the sound of a heavy rain." 42So Ahab went off to eat and drink, but Elijah climbed to the top of Carmel, bent down to the ground and put his face between his knees.
43"Go and look toward the sea," he told his servant. And he went up and looked.
"There is nothing there," he said.
Seven times Elijah said, "Go back."
44The seventh time the servant reported, "A cloud as small as a man's hand is rising from the sea."
So Elijah said, "Go and tell Ahab, 'Hitch up your chariot and go down before the rain stops you.' "
45Meanwhile, the sky grew black with clouds, the wind rose, a heavy rain came on and Ahab rode off to Jezreel.
There Is Only One Way to God
Dear Friends in Christ,
Is God exclusive? Will God only accept certain people into his kingdom and into his heaven? A poll question posed by Ligonier Ministries and Lifeway Research to Evangelical Christians is quite revealing on how divided at least some Christians are on this. The question asked whether they agreed or disagreed with the statement: “God accepts the worship of all religions, including Christianity, Judaism and Islam.” 46 % - nearly half – of the participants answered that they agreed with that statement. Clearly, not all of Christianity agrees on this statement.
However, God is very clear on the matter. In fact, Jesus’ statement in the Gospel lesson sounds very exclusive: “I am the way and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” That’s a bold statement. There doesn’t seem to be much doubt about what Jesus says regarding the way to God. It must come through Jesus. There is only one way to God.
That truth is reinforced by the account in our text for today. King Ahab and his wife Jezebel had introduced Baal worship to Israel along with the worship of Asherah. They had developed it to such a large degree that there were 450 prophets overseeing the worship of Baal, and 400 prophets overseeing the worship of Asherah. Not only did they promote these false prophets, but they killed many of God’s prophets. Unfortunately, the people took to this false kind of worship. In fact, they wavered between worshipping these idols and worshipping God.
Because the people had largely turned their backs on him, God sent a drought among the people. A drought that had lasted 3 years. With no rain, there was a famine in the kingdom of Israel. No food would grow. This was a serious problem.
It was at this time that God’s prophet Elijah came to Ahab with a challenge. He told Ahab to tell the people of Israel to assemble on Mount Carmel, and to also summon the 450 prophets of Baal. The challenge was this: he, Elijah, would set up an altar to sacrifice a bull, and the 450 Baal prophets would also set up an altar to sacrifice a bull. Each side would supply everything that was needed except the fire. They were to pray to their own gods to send fire. Whichever god answered by sending fire for the sacrifice would be the real god. The challenge was accepted by all the parties involved.
So what was the result of the challenge? No matter how hard they tried, the Baal prophets failed to reach their god. There was no fire that came on their sacrifice. On the other hand, when Elijah called on God’s name, God sent an all-consuming fire that not only consumed the sacrifice but also all the water Elijah had poured on the altar, as well as the stone altar itself. 450 Baal prophets versus 1 of God’s prophets looked like a mismatch. And it was. Only not the way it looked outwardly. It was a mismatch because the Baal prophets were reaching a god with no power. A god that they had made up. Elijah, on the other hand, was reaching the one true God.
The way in which each side called on the name of their god also teaches us some important lessons. The Baal prophets prayed to their god from morning till noon. They danced around the altar. They shouted “O Baal, answer us!” And Elijah egged them on to shout even louder. They also began to slash themselves until their blood flowed.
Contrast that with Elijah. All he did was simply pray: “O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. 37Answer me, O Lord, answer me, so these people will know that you, O Lord, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.”
The approaches the two sides took should tell us something about each side. On one hand, the Baal prophets were doing everything they could to get their god’s attention. They thought by doing certain things, Baal would be pleased with them and would listen to them, and finally answer them by sending fire. They just needed to find favor in his eyes by what they did!
That sounds a little like people today who are trying to get God’s attention. “Look at me, god, I face Mecca and get down on my prayer mat 5 times a day.” “Pay attention to me, god, because I deprive myself of food or mistreat my body in other ways.” And maybe we fall into that trap too. “Look at me, God! I belong to this church.” Or “Look at me, God, and all the things I do for you.”
On the other hand, you have Elijah. He simply called out to the God of all grace, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel. The God of the fathers. The God of the promise. In his prayer, Elijah is simply asking God to glorify his name. To convince people that he is the true God. His prayer was really all about wanting the people of Israel to come to faith in God’s salvation and a knowledge of the truth.
The only way to God, after all, is through God himself and through his appointed plan. The plan that included his only Son Jesus coming into this world in order to rescue the world. Jesus came to live perfectly and die innocently in our place. He tells us that the wages of sin is death so that we will despair of trying to save ourselves, of trying to win God’s favor. He tells us instead that the gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Savior.
That’s why Jesus can rightfully say “I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Jesus is the exclusive way to the Father. And he isn’t the way in the sense that he points you on the right path and says God is that way. Jesus is more like a taxi that drives you directly to the Father. You don’t need to do anything to get there. This ride, unlike a taxi, is completely free of charge.
Is God exclusive? In a sense you can say he is. Not all people come into his kingdom. Many will not enter heaven. But it isn’t that God is exclusive in his desire. In fact, he is very inclusive in what he desires. Remember that “God so loved the world” and “God wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” God only becomes exclusive when people reject him. When people deny what Christ has done for them. Then God is simply acknowledging their rejection by not allowing them to enter into his presence either here on earth or in heaven.
There is only one way to God. You know that one way. Jesus is the way. It is now your privilege and responsibility to point others to the way. Does that mean it will be easy? Of course not. Just look at Elijah. When Ahab met up with him, he called him a “troubler of Israel.” The king and queen were dead set against him. There were hundreds of prophets against him. And yet, Elijah knew that the power was on his side. God performed a miracle that day by sending fire. But even more than sending physical fire, he sent the fire of the Holy Spirit. After the miracle, look at the reaction of the people of Israel: “They fell prostrate and cried, "The Lord—he is God! The Lord—he is God!"”
God has made a believer out of you too. A believer in his promises. A believer in his plan that he executed perfectly. A believer in the one and only way to God: Jesus Christ your Savior from sin. Amen.