1 Kings 18:20-24: 20 So Ahab sent for all the children of Israel, and gathered the prophets together on Mount Carmel. 21 And Elijah came to all the people, and said, “How long will you falter between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.” But the people answered him not a word. 22 Then Elijah said to the people, “I alone am left a prophet of the Lord; but Baal’s prophets arefour hundred and fifty men. 23 Therefore let them give us two bulls; and let them choose one bull for themselves, cut it in pieces, and lay it on the wood, but put no fire under it; and I will prepare the other bull, and lay it on the wood, but put no fire under it. 24 Then you call on the name of your gods, and I will call on the name of the Lord; and the God who answers by fire, He is God.”
Most people who know me well would say that I have a tendency to “shoot from the hip”. I’ve never been one to revel in embellishment or excess. Tell me like it is. Be a truth-teller. Get to the point. While I enjoy a well-told story, am drawn in by well-designed living spaces, and appreciate layers of details, I am most at peace with simplicity.
It is from this place that I approach things in the Spirit, as well. Over the past few years particularly, I have found myself in a variety of venues falling beneath the title of ‘church’ or ‘ministry’. However, often I was confused on the ultimate purpose of these gatherings. Everyone about me was engaging in the experience and I stood there, asking myself and surveying my own spirit: “why aren’t I moved? Am I immune to what is moving this entire crowd of people?” It wasn’t a style issue, the volume level, the aesthetics, or even the person leading from the platform. What was it?
What I came to in many instances was the lack of authenticity. This came full circle for me recently when I read chapter 18 in 1 Kings again. I’ve heard multiple messages preached from this text but it drew me in once again on so many levels. For Elijah to have presented himself to Ahab was totally an obedience issue as Ahab’s beloved Jezebel had issued a death warrant for all who claimed to be prophets of God. There was significant risk for Elijah here. (This story could’ve centered around Elijah being burned at the stake just as easily as his role in directing the “Baal vs God” saga that evolved into being!) The statement that Elijah made in verse 22 gripped my heart: “I alone am left a prophet of the Lord; but Baal’s prophets are four hundred and fifty men”.
I don’t know about you but my mind wanders in that moment, asking myself “which side would I have found myself on? On the side of one or in the mix of hundreds?” It is rather easy to follow the crowd these days, especially when the crowd is waving the banner of multiplied millions headed in the direction of a worship service. Hey, it’s even got the label of GOD overhead. They’re singing songs about Jesus…but are they leading TO Him? And when they get there, will they have time to linger in His presence and hear what He’s saying?
Authenticity. It all comes floating to the surface eventually. Chapter 18 goes on to recount how the prophets of Baal began to dance, cut themselves, and cry with loud intensity, hoping to hear something from Baal. Surely even a darker power could have manifested at that moment, right? But even the dark spirits knew better than to show up when ‘the one true God’ was being petitioned.
The prophets of Baal exhausted themselves in an effort to conjure up a divine presence that was only to be answered through fire by God Himself. Elijah set God up to leave no doubt. His authentic presence and power would be unquestionably acknowledged by all in attendance that day.
Do you find yourself dancing around a decoy of God’s authentic presence? Perhaps you’re moved by the music or swayed by the crowd’s energy but never actually encounter the life-changing authentic power of the Holy Spirit? Let me tell you: there is simply no exchange for the real thing. And when you find that authentic presence, the decoy will never suffice. It will fill your life like the first drink of water after a long desperate walk through the desert. You’ll join the people present that day with Elijah, saying, “The Lord, He is God! The Lord, He is God!” You can’t buy it, you can’t duplicate it. But you will find it when you seek it.
In pursuit of His presence,