It had not rained in Israel for three years. For a nation dependent on its agriculture and livestock for its survival, a three-year drought could be the end to life as they knew it. The cause for the lack of rain was well-known to everyone, including the king, a morally corrupt man named Ahab. Although most, including the king put the blame on a preacher named Elijah, God was behind it.
Three years earlier this prophet Elijah boldly proclaimed that the rain – the lifeblood of the nation - would cease until he said it would rain again. I don’t know of any meteorologist or scientist that would be so brash. But Elijah was because as a prophet he spoke for God. So, you must be thinking the obvious: these people must have done something pretty bad for God to turn off the rain.
And you would be right.
When God gave His Law for this nation in its infancy He forbade the worship of other gods or the erection of idols representing those gods. These people, the nation of Israel, belonged uniquely to God. Their history was one of God, often though the miraculous, protecting the and preserving them against enemies seeking their obliteration. He loved them. But He also demanded their loyalty.
Unfortunately, Israel’s leaders – many of its kings – led God’s people to abandon their relationship with the Lord and turn to idol worship. It got so bad under Ahab and his queen, an idolaters named Jezebel, that God took the extreme measure of drought to get their attention and to turn their hearts back to Him.
As He had used Elijah to produce His judgment, He would use him to prove to the people that He, the Lord was truly God and the false god Baal was no god at all.
In a dramatic “competition” between God and Baal involving altars and fire falling from heaven, utilizing 450 of Baal’s prophet calling out to Baal and Elijah praying to God, it was proven irrefutably to the crowd that Baal was, indeed no God at all.
The apostle John wrote to the first century believers these simple words: “Little children, guard yourselves from idols” in 1John 5::21. The New Living Translation renders his words, “Dear children, keep away from anything that might take God's place in your hearts.”
An idol is “anything that might take God's place in your hearts”. Could be other people. Could be ambition and career. Could be possessions. Could be lifestyle. Could be recreation. Anything. It doesn't have to be a statue. But no idol will do for you what Christ has done and will do.
I sometimes wonder if the current track of our nation, one of abandoning the Judeo-Christian principles upon which our nation was founded, is not largely due to the church abandoning God. We say, “The Lord is our God”, while embracing our own “Baals”.
If this generation of Christians is being pulled away by idols, what will be left for the next generation. If the Holy Spirit right now spoke into your heart and revealed an idol in your life and said, “Choose. You have to reject one and embrace the other. Which is God in your life?”
We may still have time to choose and bring and end to the drought.
(Read the entire story in 1 Kings 17-18.)