1 Kings 18:16-40
I realize that today’s reading is the same as yesterday’s but I thought that this subject of magic was worth two day’s worth of attention. We already looked at two differences between magic and biblical worship. Today we’ll look at the other two.
The first is one that we touched upon a few days ago. Pagans (and those influenced by pagan thought) tend to think of God (or the gods, or spiritual forces), as severely limited. In fact, their view of the gods is that they’re really just enhanced human beings. They constantly fall prey to the common failings of human beings, and are sometimes even less moral than most people are. If you’re familiar with Greek Mythology, then you know exactly what I’m referring to: Zeus, the supposed leader of the gods, had a string of affairs which produced several illegitimate offspring. If they don’t believe in gods, then people sometimes (especially in Eastern thought) think in terms of spiritual forces which aren't really persons at all. As I mentioned early on, you can see this in the “Force” of the Star Wars movies. It’s not sentient like a person; instead, it’s an “energy field,” which can be manipulated and which has no intrinsic morality (because there's a “dark side” of the Force).
Do you see this played out in the “prayers” of the Baal prophets? It’s actually pretty funny reading this. You ever seen someone who's trying to communicate with someone in a completely different language? What do they often do? They speak louder and slower, since that's supposedly going to help the other person understand them. Yeah, right. Well, when Baal failed to appear, his prophets shouted louder. Why would that make a difference? Because they actually believed that their god could be distracted or hard of hearing! And of course Elijah poked some fun at this misguided attempt, even suggesting that they needed to shout even louder because Baal might be “busy.” The word “busy” is a euphemism supplied by the translators, since the Hebrew word usually referred to using the restroom, specifically the sitting-down portion. Yes, they believed that this god could be occupied by this.
In stark contrast to this, the God who watches over us neither slumbers nor sleeps. This might seem a little discomforting, having him watch you 24-7, but it also means that when you call out to him for help, he always hears you. You don’t have to shout: He hears every whisper, even before it comes out your lips.
The final difference is so obvious, it really is humorous as well. The Summons, which I referenced yesterday, is actually a novel. The characters are studying Elijah’s confrontation on Mt. Carmel, and finally the teacher asks them a very simple question. She describes the actions of the Baal prophets, and quotes from vs. 26: “But there was no response; no one answered.” She asks, “Why not? Why was there no response from Baal?” She pauses for a few seconds, everyone is silent, and then she answers her own question: “Come on guys, because there’s no such person as Baal!” and the whole crowd erupts in laughter. As distinct from the God of the Bible, Baal is a god that man made up.
That’s what’s so tragic about the Baal prophets. They worked themselves into a frenzy, wore themselves out in dancing, shouted themselves horse, and cut themselves, all to get the attention of a false god who didn’t exist. But are we any better?
Remember the last lesson we learned from Joshua? If you don’t worship the God of the Bible, it doesn’t matter what you worship. Baal worship looks very strange to modern people today, but the modern gods of money, power, sex, fame, family, TV, or anything else are no better in the long run.
But let’s turn away from the foolish worship of non-gods to focusing on the true One. He's not limited by time or space, and he pays just as much attention to you as to his ultimate plan for the nations. He's real, he's here, and he’s speaking to you. Are you listening?
Lord God, there's no one like you. You alone are worthy of my worship, my praise, my allegiance, my trust, everything I am and everything I have. It’s yours.
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