Then the fire of the Lord fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, AND ALSO LICKED UP THE WATER IN THE TRENCH. When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, “The Lord—He is God! The Lord—He is God!”1 Kings 18:38-39
It was like a scene from a movie shoot, depicting a typical Mexican standoff. Both sides engaged, with neither having any apparent advantage over the other. They came together, instead of showing off who is faster with his hands, they came to show off whose God is alive, kicking and is the One in-charge.
Although the term standoff and Mexican standoff is often used interchangeably, but there are key differences between these two types of standoffs. In a typical standoff, it boils down to skill; whoever is faster and has better aim, will most likely walk away the winner. But in a Mexican standoff, no participants have any particular advantage over the other, and everyone is equally in mortal danger. The only two possible outcomes in any Mexican standoffs, is for all to mutually agree to walk away, or to start shooting and no one will possibly survive.
Instead of guns and bullets, they agreed with using sacrificed bulls, and firepower from the heavens to burn up the offerings. The historic event also has all the vital and peculiar characteristics of a standoff; having tense conversations, there’s no trust between parties, and while there are many ways to hold the standoff, both parties agreed to having just one.
This is the story of Elijah, one of the Bible’s major prophet, in his standoff with Ahab and Jezebel’s false prophets, as described in 1 Kings 18. This is the scene of a standoff between the God of the Bible, versus the false Baal gods.
Elijah Presented Himself To Ahab
It is a time of great division, happening inside the house of Ahab, the reigning ruler of Israel. Ahab’s wife, Queen Jezebel were ordering the Lord’s prophets to be killed, while Obadiah, a palace administrator and a humble servant of the Lord, took away hundred of prophets, to be hidden and kept in a safe place, preventing them from being executed by Jezebel’s order.
So Elijah agreed, with Obadiah (1 Kings 18:15), to return and to meet Ahab in person. But Elijah wasn’t a welcoming sight to Ahab, who sees him as a troublemaker. Eventually, Elijah told Ahab to gather the Israelites at Mount Carmel and Ahab was also told to bring his four hundred and fifty Baal prophets and four hundred prophets of Asherah with him (1 Kings 18:19).
Elijah drew them to an impasse, giving the people of Israel instructions to bring two bulls, cut them up into pieces, set them up on top of firewood, but without litting fire to it. And subsequently, Elijah challenged the prophets of Baal and Asherah, “Then you call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the Lord. The god who answers by fire – He is God.” (1 Kings 18:24). The people of Israel agreed that what Elijah suggested was a good idea, and so the standoff begins.
Elijah Taunted The False Prophets
The prophets of Baal and Asherah, then took the bull that was given to them, they prepared it and began calling on the name of their god, Baal. From morning till noon, they said, “O Baal, hear us!” But no one answered them. Then they leaped about the altar which they had made.
By noonday, an impatient Elijah began to taunt these false prophets to shout louder, mocking them further by suggesting their god might be in deep thought, or he is busy, or he must be traveling somewhere else, or he could be sleeping, and they must go to awaken him (1 Kings 18:27).
The false prophets remained recalcitrant, and they actually went ahead and did as they were told. So they shouted louder and slashed themselves with swords and spears. Midday passed, and they continued their frantic prophesying until the time for the evening sacrifice. But there was no response, no one answered, no one paid attention.
Elijah Prayed & Summoned Fire From Heaven
In the evening, it came for Elijah’s turn, and he told the people of Israel to come near to him. He took twelve stones to reconstruct the altar of the Lord at Mount Carmel, and the twelve stones represented the twelve tribes of Israel.
Then Elijah dug two trenches around the altar and told the people to fill up four large jars with water and to pour it over the offering on the wood. Well, for one intending to lit fire to burn up the offering, doing this, what Elijah told the people to do, would have been no different from negating the entire process and rendering it even more difficult to initiate any burning. But Elijah did not just do this once. He told the people to repeat and pour water on the offering, three times in total.
The Prayer Of A Righteous Man Is Powerful & Effective
And he prayed to the Lord, “Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. Answer me, Lord, answer me, so these people will know that you, Lord, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.”
Then the fire of the Lord fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, AND ALSO LICKED UP THE WATER IN THE TRENCH. When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, “The Lord—He is God! The Lord—He is God!” (1 Kings 18:38-39)
The commotion of the people of Israel testing the Lord, the standoff, ended with Elijah commanding all prophets of Baal to be seized and executed. To Elijah, the standoff with the false prophets was never really “Mexican” in any way and he knew what he was doing all along.