Jump Start # 2761
1 Kings 18:21 “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.”
Our verse today leads up to the mighty victory upon Mt. Carmel. Elijah and the prophets of Baal—two sacrifices—prayers going to two different gods– but one mighty outcome. Baal was shown to be worthless, powerless and useless. Baal could not stop a drought. Baal could not send fire to light a sacrifice. Baal could not do a thing. At the conclusion of this mighty contest, the people of God shouted that the Lord was God. The prophets of Baal ran and the people of God caught them and slaughtered them.
But our verse starts it all off. The people of God were hesitating or as the ESV states, “limping.” Two opinions and they would not pick which one. The people of God remained uncommitted and silent.
Our verse today reveals several thoughts for us:
First, even among God’s people, there are times when some do not want to stand out. To stand out is to be noticed. Some would rather have no opinion than to have to declare what God says. The pressure of the world and friends and the fear of being different and being noticed causes some to sit right on the fence. They don’t want to offend anyone and they want to be accepted and liked by all. This is nothing more than hesitating or limping. Years ago I hurt my knee playing soccer in high school. Every once in a while, it will act up and I limp. One can’t move fast when you are limping. But here, it’s about making a decision. It’s about the most important decision, in with God or not in with God. Israel limped.
Second, the context shows us that in some areas more than one opinion is not acceptable. Not all answers are right. Even more specifically, some things are just wrong. And, if I am on the side of wrong, I become wrong. Now, this is very, very hard for some to admit in our times. They don’t want to think that anyone is wrong. “They simply have a different opinion than you,” is what they would say. However, their opinion is wrong. There are times when God has drawn a line in the sand. Jesus said, unless you believe in Me, you will die in your sins. There are not any other options there. The Ephesians were told that there is one Lord, one Spirit, one faith, one body, one baptism. More than one, makes two. There is no way that Baal could have been a possibly right answer as to who the Lord is. No way. Jehovah is the Creator. Jehovah has revealed His law. Jehovah has proven Himself, through the plagues to the Egyptians. Here, to those who believed in idolatry and polytheistic ideas.
Third, finding the answer is a matter of looking at the evidence. For Elijah’s crowd, it was a fire that followed a prayer. For us, it’s what is written in the word of God. Proof isn’t in our feelings, our story or ourselves. Proof is in the Scriptures. In John 5, Jesus listed a series of witnesses or proofs to His divine nature. Those included, His testimony, the word of God, the miracles, the Holy Spirit and the voice of God. The trouble is, some will look at the evidence and they still won’t change their opinions. They are sticking with Baal no matter what you say or do. Their eyes and their minds are closed. They are not interested in discussion or reason.
Fourth, a person can believe a lie, but that doesn’t make it true. Some would try to find some good value in Baal worship. They’d have us to believe that he is not completely bad. But that wasn’t the position of Elijah. The idol prophets were pawning false hopes and dreams to the people of God. They were confusing and diluting the proper worship of God. Truth and error oppose each other. When they are allowed to exist side by side, nothing good will be accomplished.
Finally, Elijah took charge here and forced God’s people to get off the fence. Sometimes that’s just what we need. We need a leader to take charge, put forth the evidence and make us come to a conclusion. Riding the fence is uncomfortable and dangerous. More than a hundred years ago, preachers and churches were having to decide whether they would ride the tide with progressive ideas or stay true to what God’s book said. In the North, the majority went with the progressives. In the South, the majority stayed with the ancient ways. Folks have been trying to figure out why it fell that way. More of the South, at that time, was rural, poor and made up of blue collar families. The North had money, universities, and an ideology of appealing to urban folks. Riding that fence became popular for many. Some knew that if they stayed with the Biblical pattern, they’d lose their jobs of preaching and positions in the universities. Some allowed money to sway them. Others, got caught up in where the majority fell. And, a few, really looked into the Scriptures to see what the Bible taught.
I ran across a song that was written during that time period. It’s called, “Preacher on the fence.” And, the chorus pleads with that preacher to come off the fence and to stand with the people of God.
There comes a time when you and I must get off that fence. We must make a decision about moral issues. We must decide if we are going to stick with plain Bible teaching, or reason our way into believing things that are not there.
How long, is what Elijah asked the people. How long will you limp along? How long will you hesitate?