1 KINGS 18 – Identifying the Counterfeit
It’s difficult to know how copies and counterfeits managed to slip into almost every area of modern life. If I want to avoid food modification in the supermarkets by growing my own vegetables, for example, it’s hard to find seeds these days that aren’t tampered with. Now, I’m not a scientist with evidence of a conclusive correlation between Dr Borlaug’s Nobel Peace Prize winning wheat and today’s gluten issues. I’m just wondering if – after developing successive generations of wheat varieties with broad and stable disease resistance, broad adaptation to growing conditions across many degrees of latitude, and with exceedingly high yield potential – whether any sdies were done at the time, or if there was even any data available, on how this manmade change to our natural wheat might affect our digestive systems over the next decades.
My only experience with counterfeits came when I worked with finance. Fake American dollars in South America, in particular, were incredibly difficult to spot. To the untrained eye, they were perfect in every way! The only way to spot a counterfeit is to study the real thing.
If we became “strongly familiar” (intimately acquainted) with the real thing, we could spot the fake more easily. So when I read today’s chapter, I can see that Elijah was experiencing something that is incredibly important for us today. Just as it is today, Elijah lived in a tumultuous religious climate that was awash with so many variants of belief, that solid ground and faith in the Creator God (whom the people had originally believed in) could hardly be found! But, true to His perfect Plan and Purposes, the Great Playwright kept HIStory going by using a handful of dedicated people who were “strongly familiar with, and intimately acquainted with, the real thing”.
Obadiah, for example, was “a man of God” (a prophet) who had saved 100 followers of the Creator God. He did this by risking his own life to hide them in caves. [v3-4] And today’s chapter picks up the story where the famine previously predicted[a], was now ravishing the country of Israel.
Almost at a place where there was no hope left, King Ahab sent Obadiah out looking for grass for his livestock. [v5] Instead of finding grass – which is here today and gone tomorrow[b] – Obadiah found Elijah whose name means: “My God is YHWH; God the LORD; the strong Lord”. [v7]
To understand the significance of what happened next and how it affects us in modern times, it’s worth remembering the meaning, or translation of, the Hebrew word “Elijah”. Upon meeting the man who personified “My God is YHWH; God the LORD; the strong Lord”, Obadiah had to return to King Ahab – a very strong unbeliever, and powerful opponent of anyone who believed [v4,9-13] – with this message: “Behold, My God is YHWH; God the LORD; the strong Lord is here”! [v8,11]
Now perhaps you may have a glimpse into why Obadiah’s life was on the line. [v9] But in addition to this, over the past three years since Elijah had first declared a famine, Father God had a habit of miraculously hiding him. [v12] If this happened again, Obadiah could be put to death. [v14] Elijah knew from the beginning, however, that he had to stand before King Ahab [v1-2], so he assured Obadiah of this. [v15] And now the greatest contest in HIStory begins…
Elijah had King Ahab bring together 850 prophets from the local religious belief systems, in order to establish the true identity of the King of kings and Lord of lords. [v19] Is Elijah a fake – even down to his very name – or is it true that our Maker is YHWH; God the LORD; the strong Lord? In order to identify the counterfeit, and in order to prove the core reason behind the nation’s trouble [v18], Elijah sets up a contest that defies the laws of physics. [v23-24]
After years of setting Faith within a Right/Wrong paradigm (since the days of Moses the Creator God wanted us to know the difference between right and wrong behaviour by giving us His Commandments), Elijah’s contest is set within a Power/Fear paradigm. The God who demonstrates the power of His unquenchable fire[c], and yet the God who can hear and respond to a simple prayer offered in faith, is the only One worth following.
In accordance with the proper process laid down by Father God in the days of Moses[d], Elijah made a simple altar of undressed stone and waited until “the time of the afternoon sacrifice”. However, Elijah was so convinced that his Maker could hear him, that he poured water all over the meat, the wood, and the stones so that the trough around the altar was also filled with water. [v30-35]
It’s clear from the story that not only is the Creator God (the one who created fire to begin with) real, but He’s near and intimately involved in human affairs. [v36-37] We don’t have to dance around, cut ourselves, chant and shout. [v27-29] Our Maker is not asleep, busy, disinterested or away on holiday.[e] At the end of the day this isn’t a contest of power between the gods. This is about the God who can hear and respond out of His grace and love for those He made in His own image.
The fact that this contest has been recorded and carefully preserve is no different to any other recorded experiment. Once it’s tested, proven and recorded, very few doubt the findings or bother to repeat a proven experiment. They simply take the results – what they now know to be true – and move out from there to focus more on the implications of the test, and how the results can be used in the future. That being so, Elijah’s question hangs in the air over our lives today…
“How long will you hesitate between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal (or anyone else today), follow him.” [v21]
We were created with a God-given free-choice; we’ve been given information in HIStory upon which to make right choices, and we’ve been called to choose.[f] But there’s something else about today’s chapter that relates to our future. Elijah was the only one recorded in HIStory with the ability to call down fire from heaven. If, however, we think that we’re to follow the guy with the greatest power, then we’re wrong. There’ll come a day – possibly in our own lifetime – when a world leader will arise in a power deception. He will be given power to call down fire from heaven.[g]
To identify the counterfeit, we’ll need to be intimately acquainted with the real thing. Elijah stood for more than just God’s Power. He knew God’s word and followed it. His words and behaviour matched up with what we know of God’s word. In the face of grave danger, Elijah had patience endurance and faithfulness[h], and his Father God honoured him before a nation. But the story doesn’t end here, however, it rarely does.
Although given supernatural power – to outrun a chariot, for example [v46] – Elijah had more storms to face ahead of him. This is the normal experience for every follower of the Creator God. What isn’t normal, and what doesn’t come naturally to us, is the ability to navigate through. With our Maker’s Guidebook in hand, our job is to study the real thing and use His currency for LIFE daily. In this way, we’ll be equipped not just for every good work[i], but also equipped to identify a counterfeit and to stand up against a deception when it comes.
CLICK to return to today’s “Daily Breadcrumbs”
[a] 1 Kings 17:1
[b] Isaiah 40:7-8
[c] Deuteronomy 4:24
[d] Deuteronomy 27:6; Joshua 8:31
[e] Psalm 121:1-8
[f] Joshua 24:15
[g] Revelation 13:11-17
[h] Revelation 13:10
[i] 2 Timothy 3:16-17