We know that Baal is not the true God. No other god but the Triune is worthy to be called “God”.
The Israelites may have sometimes thought that Baal was the same as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The name “Baal” means husband or lord, names that the true God sometimes claimed for Himself. So these confused Israelites may have believed that they were simply worshiping the true God in another aspect of His being, or something like that. Similarly, some people today believe that Allah is another name for the true God. This is false, of course. In the same way, not everyone who says that they believe in God truly does, nor even Jesus. For a name alone does not make the true God, and many false gods go under pious-sounding names.
False as their gods are, we do not have a vocation from God to take the life of false prophets, as Elijah did. He struck with a physical sword, with the Lord’s instruction to put to death false prophets. We do not have such a command. Our weapon is not the physical sword, but the Sword of the Spirit, the Word, by which men’s hearts may be turned away from their false gods.
Other gods are worthy of contempt and mocking, as Elijah shows us. “Cry louder,” he says, as if Baal was hard of hearing. “Perhaps he is relieving himself,” he says, as if Baal was in the outhouse. “Perhaps he is sleeping,” he says, as if Baal is tired and weary, unlike the true God who neither slumbers nor sleeps.
We know that our God is not this weakling, deaf god who does not answer prayer.
Yet we sometimes feel as if we Christians are the ones who are ignored by God. He seems to be on vacation to us sometimes, when the world turns to chaos and wickedness and destruction. He seems to be distracted when He does not seem to hear our prayers.
Of course He does, always. No whispered petition or yearning in the heart escapes His notice. He pays attention to His saints, because they are dear to His heart.
We do not need to harm ourselves to catch His notice. We need not stab ourselves with spears as the prophets of Baal did. Nor should we make ourselves suffer in other ways as if that will gain our Redeemer’s notice.
Yet sometimes Christians pray, “Oh, I’ve suffered so much, Lord. Surely now you will answer my prayer.”
But suffering does not earn His attention. At least, OUR suffering does not earn His attention.
We do not need to utilize many voices to get His attention. We do not need a certain quorum before God says, “Ah, the 450th person has prayed the same thing. I suppose I must act now.” No, many prophets or many prayers do not get results. The prayer of one righteous man avails much. Elijah, one man, prayed, and the Lord shut up the heavens from rain for three and a half years. Although we do not have His prophetic office, that is not really the point. Our Lord hears every prayer of His believers, even the prayers of just you alone. He will surely answer.
Why should God listen? It is never because of your worthiness. We are spiritual limpers. We totter back and forth between different gods, like a cripple on crutches. We lean first this way, then that, towards money or the approval of friends or family or our emotions. Each little god makes us wobble uncertainly, because we are trying to balance between the true God and all the other little gods. But you cannot balance that way.
No, not for our worthiness does He listen, but because the great sacrifice was baptized by fire for us. Christ the Lord was offered up as a burnt offering, to be roasted by the fire of the Lord’s judgment and wrath against all sin. Such a flame did not consume His physical substance on the Cross, but instead ate up all the guilt of all the transgressions of men. The agony Christ suffered was very great, much more than we can imagine. But we can rest assured that this flame of judgment has devoured every last bit of your sins in the sight of God. As the flame on Mount Carmel ate up the sacrifice and the wood and the stones and the dust and the water, till not a bit was left, so also your sins are obliterated from God’s eyes.
Now you have seen by faith the great sacrifice, so that you know who the true God is. “Yahweh, He is the God,” we say, because we have seen Christ on the Cross. No other god is like Him, no matter how many prophets or followers they boast, or no matter how much public opinion favors this religion or condemns that religion. Yahweh, He is the God.
Now you are thrice-washed sacrifices, in the image of the great sacrifice, Jesus Christ. You were baptized, as He was baptized. You are laid upon the foundation of twelve stones, the patriarchs and apostles of old.
Now you must suffer in this life. Although you are living sacrifices, yet you are constantly dying little deaths every day. Perhaps you may even have to lay down your life as a martyr for Christ. We have taken solemn vows that we will do that rather than fall away from this faith.
But what better way to die than with His confession on our lips? What better way than to suffer a little in this life for Him who suffered much for us?
May we then be faithful, not double-minded. May we continue to confess the truth, especially in these wicked times. This we shall do, the Spirit willing, to the glory of God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. In His Name alone, Amen.
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