“Showdown at Sundown!”
Idolatry is on the top of God’s hit list!
Nothing steamed the Lord God as much as a false religion messing with his people’s minds.
Baal was the Canaanite god of fertility and fruitfulness. God warned the Israelites before the Conquest in 1450 BC not to get too close to the natives because of their bizarre and pagan worship practices. In addition to frequent animal sacrifices, these Baal worshipers dabbled in male and female prostitution and even practiced human sacrifices at times. “Baal” often refers to all the false would-be, pretender gods of people who live in darkness.
The truth is that Baal was nothing, and all the modern “baals” are also nothing. But, sure enough, the Israelites mingled their God-worship with Baal-worship!
This false god had “consorts” called Ashtoreths, female goddess versions of Baal. Moloch was the god to whom they sometimes sacrificed their infants (“The fruit of my body for the sin of my soul!”) Another popular goddess was Asherah. (I don’t know if Asherahs were exotic dancer types or not, but they were worshipped via a pole!) Both Baal and Asherah are involved in my sermon text for Sunday: I Kings 18:15-21.
Under God’s direction, the prophet Elijah had prayed that the rains stop failing. It hadn’t rained in three and a half years. A severe famine was strangling the people of Israel, the Northern Kingdom. Ahab was the king; Jezebel was his non-Jewish queen. They were furious with Elijah.
Elijah called on Ahab to have a “Showdown at Sundown!” “Be sure and bring all 850 prophets of Baal and Asherah,” he told Ahab. “Bring two bulls, some firewood, but don’t bring any fire!” Elijah advised. “We’ll find out who the real God is!” he said over his shoulder as he walked away.
It comprises one of the most dramatic stories in all of the Old Testament.
What does this have to do with Jesus? Plenty.
There’s a huge difference between a god who commands you to die for him and One who has sent his Son to die for you!
See you Sunday!