1 Kings 18:1-40 (Part 1) – The Silence of The Good People

Posted: February 25, 2019 in 11-1 Kings

1 Kings 18:1-40 (Part 1 of 3)

The Contest on Mount Carmel

It was Martin Luther King, Jr. that once said, “The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people.” He also said, “He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.” These words ring no less true today than they did during Dr. King’s ministry during the 50’s-60’s.

During the civil rights movement in the South in the 50’s and 60’s, there may be a perception that every white person in the South was a bigot. However, the lasting of the separate societies of blacks and whites well into the 20th century did not really change until white men and women of the South who had been silent for centuries began to speak out against the institutions of the South. Sure, assistance from the federal government was critical and well-meaning northern volunteers who can down to help was helpful, but it was not until the reasonable men and women, the honorable men and women, of the South en masse decided to question their society’s institutions. A society can have change forced upon it but it will not last. However, when change comes from the inside, fundamental change from the core, that’s when change lasts. It was the end of the silence of the good people, of which Dr. King spoke, that changed the South. We still have a long way to go in the South in race relations not to mention elsewhere in the United States (just look at the large cities of our nation and the race relations in each one). It is the silence of good men that allow evil to flourish. For example, we will never free North Korea by force. It will only come when the people of North Korea themselves become so fed up with the dictatorship of their country that they overthrow their oppressors. The end of the silence of good people will produce change from within.

Currently, we as Christians in the United States often bemoan the state of our culture. We reminisce about the culture of our country once being wrapped around the church. We cry among ourselves about what is happening in our culture. Yet, we do not engage the culture often enough. We drift along with the culture as it drifts away from God. We quietly drift with the river’s flow. The silence of good people. We must decide en masse to engage the culture. We must engage the culture in loving ways and reasonable ways. Spewing hate and moral superiority messages to the culture will only serve to push the society further away from God. We must engage the culture in love. We must engage the culture in reasonable discourse. We must engage the culture realizing that the society is now entering 3rd generations of people who have never been to a church and see the church as “they” and see the church as out of touch with the “me” that they worship. We must engage the culture one person at a time. We must make friends outside our Christian circles. We must get to know people who live around us. We must get to know people that we work with. We most of all must be willing to speak of what Jesus Christ has done in our own lives. It is only through engaging the culture directly one on one, person by person, that we change the drift, that we stop the drift away from God.

That’s what I thought of this morning when I read 1 Kings 18:1-40 about how the people were unsure who to follow because for generations, the good people had been silent. Let’s read about it now:

Chapter 18

1 Later on, in the third year of the drought, the Lord said to Elijah, “Go and present yourself to King Ahab. Tell him that I will soon send rain!” 2 So Elijah went to appear before Ahab.

Meanwhile, the famine had become very severe in Samaria. 3 So Ahab summoned Obadiah, who was in charge of the palace. (Obadiah was a devoted follower of the Lord. 4 Once when Jezebel had tried to kill all the Lord’s prophets, Obadiah had hidden 100 of them in two caves. He put fifty prophets in each cave and supplied them with food and water.) 5 Ahab said to Obadiah, “We must check every spring and valley in the land to see if we can find enough grass to save at least some of my horses and mules.” 6 So they divided the land between them. Ahab went one way by himself, and Obadiah went another way by himself.

7 As Obadiah was walking along, he suddenly saw Elijah coming toward him. Obadiah recognized him at once and bowed low to the ground before him. “Is it really you, my lord Elijah?” he asked.

8 “Yes, it is,” Elijah replied. “Now go and tell your master, ‘Elijah is here.’”

9 “Oh, sir,” Obadiah protested, “what harm have I done to you that you are sending me to my death at the hands of Ahab? 10 For I swear by the Lord your God that the king has searched every nation and kingdom on earth from end to end to find you. And each time he was told, ‘Elijah isn’t here,’ King Ahab forced the king of that nation to swear to the truth of his claim. 11 And now you say, ‘Go and tell your master, “Elijah is here.”’ 12 But as soon as I leave you, the Spirit of the Lord will carry you away to who knows where. When Ahab comes and cannot find you, he will kill me. Yet I have been a true servant of the Lord all my life. 13 Has no one told you, my lord, about the time when Jezebel was trying to kill the Lord’s prophets? I hid 100 of them in two caves and supplied them with food and water. 14 And now you say, ‘Go and tell your master, “Elijah is here.”’ Sir, if I do that, Ahab will certainly kill me.”

15 But Elijah said, “I swear by the Lord Almighty, in whose presence I stand, that I will present myself to Ahab this very day.”

16 So Obadiah went to tell Ahab that Elijah had come, and Ahab went out to meet Elijah. 17 When Ahab saw him, he exclaimed, “So, is it really you, you troublemaker of Israel?”

18 “I have made no trouble for Israel,” Elijah replied. “You and your family are the troublemakers, for you have refused to obey the commands of the Lord and have worshiped the images of Baal instead. 19 Now summon all Israel to join me at Mount Carmel, along with the 450 prophets of Baal and the 400 prophets of Asherah who are supported by Jezebel.[a]”

20 So Ahab summoned all the people of Israel and the prophets to Mount Carmel. 21 Then Elijah stood in front of them and said, “How much longer will you waver, hobbling between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him! But if Baal is God, then follow him!” But the people were completely silent.

22 Then Elijah said to them, “I am the only prophet of the Lord who is left, but Baal has 450 prophets. 23 Now bring two bulls. The prophets of Baal may choose whichever one they wish and cut it into pieces and lay it on the wood of their altar, but without setting fire to it. I will prepare the other bull and lay it on the wood on the altar, but not set fire to it. 24 Then call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the Lord. The god who answers by setting fire to the wood is the true God!” And all the people agreed.

25 Then Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, “You go first, for there are many of you. Choose one of the bulls, and prepare it and call on the name of your god. But do not set fire to the wood.”

26 So they prepared one of the bulls and placed it on the altar. Then they called on the name of Baal from morning until noontime, shouting, “O Baal, answer us!” But there was no reply of any kind. Then they danced, hobbling around the altar they had made.

27 About noontime Elijah began mocking them. “You’ll have to shout louder,” he scoffed, “for surely he is a god! Perhaps he is daydreaming, or is relieving himself.[b] Or maybe he is away on a trip, or is asleep and needs to be wakened!”

28 So they shouted louder, and following their normal custom, they cut themselves with knives and swords until the blood gushed out. 29 They raved all afternoon until the time of the evening sacrifice, but still there was no sound, no reply, no response.

30 Then Elijah called to the people, “Come over here!” They all crowded around him as he repaired the altar of the Lord that had been torn down. 31 He took twelve stones, one to represent each of the tribes of Israel,[c] 32 and he used the stones to rebuild the altar in the name of the Lord. Then he dug a trench around the altar large enough to hold about three gallons.[d] 33 He piled wood on the altar, cut the bull into pieces, and laid the pieces on the wood.[e]

Then he said, “Fill four large jars with water, and pour the water over the offering and the wood.”

34 After they had done this, he said, “Do the same thing again!” And when they were finished, he said, “Now do it a third time!” So they did as he said, 35 and the water ran around the altar and even filled the trench.

36 At the usual time for offering the evening sacrifice, Elijah the prophet walked up to the altar and prayed, “O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob,[f] prove today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant. Prove that I have done all this at your command. 37 O Lord, answer me! Answer me so these people will know that you, O Lord, are God and that you have brought them back to yourself.”

38 Immediately the fire of the Lord flashed down from heaven and burned up the young bull, the wood, the stones, and the dust. It even licked up all the water in the trench! 39 And when all the people saw it, they fell face down on the ground and cried out, “The Lord—he is God! Yes, the Lord is God!”

40 Then Elijah commanded, “Seize all the prophets of Baal. Don’t let a single one escape!” So the people seized them all, and Elijah took them down to the Kishon Valley and killed them there.

In this passage, we see that Elijah challenged the people to take a stand – to follow whoever was the true God. Why did so many people waver between the two choices? Perhaps, some were not sure. We are talking several generations past the split between the northern and southern kingdom. The northern kingdom had strayed from God from almost the very moment of the split. Thus, it may be possible that many of the people gathered there just did not know the one true God because of the idolatry that was so now prevalent in the northern kingdom. Equally, maybe many of the crowd knew that the Lord was God but they enjoyed the sinful pleasures and other benefits that came with following Ahab in his idolatrous worship. As Christ followers in the “post-Christian” world in which we live, we must be willing to stand up and stand out against the commonly accepted beliefs of the culture and take a stand for the Lord. If we just drift along with whatever is pleasant and easy, we will someday discover that we have been, in fact, worshiping idols – ourselves.

Let us resolve as Christians, each one of us, over the next year,  to get to know someone on a deeper level than an acquaintance a person that is outside of the church. Let us resolve to change the world from the inside out. Let us resolve to speak of Jesus Christ on a one-on-one personal level so that we can change the society from the inside out. Let us resolve to make that our action rather than have some Christian historian centuries from now bemoan “the silence of the good people”.

Amen and Amen.

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