In 1 Kings 18, the confrontation between Elijah and the prophets of Baal, the main point comes from v.21, “How long will you hesitate between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.” Elijah is not condemning Israel for having questions about God, but rather for their hesitation and unbelief in the face of past revelation. In other words, there is no inherent virtue in riding the theological fence. Questions are meant to lead to answers and we are meant to follow the answers.
This is the purpose of the ensuing confrontation. Elijah is providing for Israel yet another clarifying event to show that the Lord is God. And this is exactly what occurs. After nothing happens to the altar of the prophets of Baal, after the fire descends and consumes the alter of Elijah, the people cry out, “the Lord, He is God; the Lord, He is God.” But this wasn’t Elijah’s complete challenge, was it? “If the Lord is God…follow Him.” The event clarified that the Lord was God, the people understood and declared that the Lord is God. But did they follow him? The sad answer is no; perhaps in the emotion of the moment they did briefly, but continuing to read through the history of Israel shows no real change in the people in terms of their following the Lord God.
Today, we are not meant to seek for more events like Mount Carmel and the fire from heaven. In Jesus, God has already provide the ultimate clarifying event. The Lord is indeed God and Jesus is the Lord God. The only question that remains is will we follow him? The short answer is “no, we will not.” But this only highlights the grace of the gospel. God gives us repentance, God gives us faith, and when we believe God gives us a new heart so that we can follow. In Jesus we are graciously allowed to complete Elijah’s challenge, “If the Lord is God, follow him.”