No Answer is still an Answer
Character at a time of Crisis ( Day 8)
1Ki 18:21 ” And the people did not answer him a word’
The Contest on Mount Carmel (1 Kings 18:16-39) was to be the ultimate test of Elijah’s faith in God. All that happened thus far in his life was preparation for the time when he as a lone voice would call an entire nation to faith in God. The testing of his faith at the brook Cherith and in the widow’s home in Zarephath were all leading up to this. Elijah has called on Israel to gather together as witnesses and see for themselves who is God in Israel. It is interesting as we saw yesterday that in response to Elijah’s command, Ahab gives a summons which the people will obey, and they all gather on Mount Carmel.
The terms were simple, the God who could make fire fall from heaven would be proved in the eyes of all to be God. In theory, this would favour the prophets of Baal who numbered four hundred and fifty, and what is more, Baal the Canaanite God they served as a deity, was said to control elements of nature such as fire and rain. The four hundred prophets of Asherah queen Jezebel’s personal priests hadn’t even bothered to turn up. Perhaps they were overconfident of victory, or maybe more they refused even the king’s summons, knowing that their powerful queen would support them. The people were to be the witness and judge as to which Deity would win.
The shocking thing about this whole incident is that it was necessary in the first place! The God of Israel had made his presence known to the children of Israel on many occasions in the past, and yet they again needed to be reminded of who God is. When Elijah challenges them with the words’ how long do you waver between two opinions ‘. The response is most telling. ‘But the people said nothing’ ( 1 Ki 18: 21)
Is that not also indicative of how the modern mind responds to God? So often our response is ambivalent silence? The challenge of Elijah is one though that will not go away.
‘but in your hearts honour Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defence to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,’ (1 Peter 3:15 ESV)
So often the response of the people is silence, they don’t know what to say. Hence Elijah’s words to Israel could be a word in season for Scotland today as well. So often there is not an open rejection of God in society, but there is frequently an awkward and ambivalent silence concerning who God is and our need of Him.
‘And Elijah came near to all the people and said, “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.” And the people did not answer him a word. (1 Kings 18:21 ESV)
The word halting or limping can actually be rendered as hesitating at a forked branch or crossroads, and not knowing which way to go. This image is as right for our 21st Century world as it was in Elijah’s day, a people hobbling or wavering along not sure whether to follow God or another. In our day as in Elijah’s, it is more important than ever that we know our God.
“… but the people who know their God shall be strong, and carry out great exploits.(Daniel 11:32 NKJV)