Sermon – Mountains (1 Kings 18:16 – 18:40) – Cornerstone Church Kingston
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Josh Wynn, 1 Kings 18:16 - 18:40, 27 August 2023

In this special, our guest speaker Josh preaches from 1 Kings 18:16-40. In this passage we see the encounter between the people of Israel and Elijah on the top of Mount Carmel - we look at the meaning of what happened and what it means for us today.

1 Kings 18:16 - 18:40

16 So Obadiah went to meet Ahab, and told him. And Ahab went to meet Elijah.

17 When Ahab saw Elijah, Ahab said to him, “Is it you, you troubler of Israel?” 18 And he answered, “I have not troubled Israel, but you have, and your father’s house, because you have abandoned the commandments of the LORD and followed the Baals. 19 Now therefore send and gather all Israel to me at Mount Carmel, and the 450 prophets of Baal and the 400 prophets of Asherah, who eat at Jezebel’s table.”

20 So Ahab sent to all the people of Israel and gathered the prophets together at Mount Carmel. 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. 22 Then Elijah said to the people, “I, even I only, am left a prophet of the LORD, but Baal’s prophets are 450 men. 23 Let two bulls be given to us, and let them choose one bull for themselves and cut it in pieces and lay it on the wood, but put no fire to it. And I will prepare the other bull and lay it on the wood and put no fire to it. 24 And you call upon the name of your god, and I will call upon the name of the LORD, and the God who answers by fire, he is God.” And all the people answered, “It is well spoken.” 25 Then Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, “Choose for yourselves one bull and prepare it first, for you are many, and call upon the name of your god, but put no fire to it.” 26 And they took the bull that was given them, and they prepared it and called upon the name of Baal from morning until noon, saying, “O Baal, answer us!” But there was no voice, and no one answered. And they limped around the altar that they had made. 27 And at noon Elijah mocked them, saying, “Cry aloud, for he is a god. Either he is musing, or he is relieving himself, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened.” 28 And they cried aloud and cut themselves after their custom with swords and lances, until the blood gushed out upon them. 29 And as midday passed, they raved on until the time of the offering of the oblation, but there was no voice. No one answered; no one paid attention.

30 Then Elijah said to all the people, “Come near to me.” And all the people came near to him. And he repaired the altar of the LORD that had been thrown down. 31 Elijah took twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, to whom the word of the LORD came, saying, “Israel shall be your name,” 32 and with the stones he built an altar in the name of the LORD. And he made a trench about the altar, as great as would contain two seahs of seed. 33 And he put the wood in order and cut the bull in pieces and laid it on the wood. And he said, “Fill four jars with water and pour it on the burnt offering and on the wood.” 34 And he said, “Do it a second time.” And they did it a second time. And he said, “Do it a third time.” And they did it a third time. 35 And the water ran around the altar and filled the trench also with water.

36 And at the time of the offering of the oblation, Elijah the prophet came near and said, “O LORD, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel, and that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your word. 37 Answer me, O LORD, answer me, that this people may know that you, O LORD, are God, and that you have turned their hearts back.” 38 Then the fire of the LORD fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. 39 And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, “The LORD, he is God; the LORD, he is God.” 40 And Elijah said to them, “Seize the prophets of Baal; let not one of them escape.” And they seized them. And Elijah brought them down to the brook Kishon and slaughtered them there.


Transcript (Auto-generated)

This transcript has been automatically generated, and therefore may not be 100% accurate.

You a bit. There is an e contact card, a welcome card that you can fill in on our website, and we'd love to hear from you. 1 Kings chapter 18. Verse 16. So, Ober Dyer went to meet Ahab and told him and Ahab went to meet Elijah.

When he saw Elijah, he said to him, is that you, you troubleer of Israel? I have not made trouble for Israel, Elijah replied, but you and your father's family have. You have abandoned the lord's commands and have followed the bales. Now summon the people from all over Israel to meet me on Mount Carmel. And bring the 450 prophets of bail and the 400 prophets of Asherah who eat at Jezebel's table.

So Ahab sent word throughout all Israel and assembled the prophets of Mount Carmel. Elijah went before the people and said, How long will you waver between 2 opinions? If the lord is god, follow him. But if baal is god, follow him. But the people said nothing.

Then Elijah said to them, I am the only 1 of the lord's prophets left. But Bail has 4 50 prophets. Get 2 balls for us. Let Bail's profits choose 1 for themselves. And let them cut it into pieces and put it on the wood, but not set fire to it.

I will prepare the other bowl and put it on the wood, but not set fire to it. Then you call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the lord. The god who answers by fire. He is god. Then all the people said, what you say is good.

Elijah said to the prophets of fail, choose 1 of the bulls and prepare it first. Since there are so many of you, call them the name of your god, but do not like the fire. So they took the ball that was given to them and prepared it. Then they called on the name of Bail from morning till noon. Bail answer us.

They shouted, but there was no response. No 1 answered. And they danced around the altar they had made. At noon, Elijah began to taunt them. Shout louder, he said.

Surely he is a god. Perhaps he is in deep in thought or or busy or traveling. Maybe he is sleeping and must be awakened. So they shouted louder and slashed themselves with swords and spears as was their custom until their blood flowed. Midday passed and they continued their frantic prophesying until the time for the evening sacrifice.

But there was no response. No 1 answered. No 1 paid attention. Then Elijah said to all the people, come here to me. They came to him and he repaired the altar of the lord, which had been torn down.

Elijah took 12 stones, 1 for each of the tribes descended from Jacob to whom the word of the lord had come, saying your name shall be Israel. With the stones, he built an altar in the name of the lord, and he dug a trench around it, large enough to hold 2 seers of seed. He arranged the wood, cut the bowl into pieces, and laid it on the wood. Then he said to them, fill 4 large jars with water, and pour it on the offering and on the wood. Do it again, he said, and they did it again.

Do it a third time he ordered, and they did it the third time. The water ran down around the altar and even filled the trench. At the time of sacrifice, the prophet Elijah stepped forward and prayed. Lord. The god of Abraham isaac and Israel.

Let it be known today that you are god in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. Answer me lord, answer me. So those people will know that you lord are god, and that you are turning their hearts back again. Then the fire of the lord fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones, and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench. When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried.

The Lord, he is god. The lord, he is god. Then Elijah commanded them, seize the prophets of bail, don't let anyone get away. They seized them, and Elijah had them brought down to the Kishon Valley and slaughtered there. Great.

Thank you. Thank you for that reading. And, so glad to be here. Thank you for having me. It's great to to know that you guys are praying.

We we need that. We really appreciate that. This evening, 1 Kings 18. The reason we're doing this is simply just because I I did it recently. Okay?

We were away. The week before last on a camp up in Lester, and, our theme for the week was mountains. We're looking at mountains in the bible. Because actually some of the most important moments in history happen at the top of mountains. And you can tell the gospel story by climbing different mountains and just seeing, seeing what happens on the top of these mountains.

Now we're not gonna go through them all tonight, but I'm just gonna tell you about 2. 2 really important mountains. We're just gonna climb them, and we're just we're gonna see what happens. At the top of these mountains. Okay?

The first mountain. Mountain number 1. This is we're not gonna spend much time here. I just want you to have a pick of this mountain in your minds this evening. If you wanna turn to it, you you can see it appears in the Bible in Exodus 19.

But I am just gonna just describe it for you as well. You can turn that if you like. This is Mount Sinai. And the thing you have to get about Mount Sinai is this is god's mountain. This is the mountain of the lord, mountain number 1.

God is at the top Okay? The mountain of the lord, and it's an amazing place because at the top of this mountain is where god dwells. That's where god is. The top of this mountain. And if you get to the top of this mountain, if you're able to climb this mountain, you would get everything that comes from being with god because that's where god is.

And so if you're with god, you get all these amazing things. You have to understand This is literally what you were made for. You were made to be with god. So all the best stuff in the world is up there. Belonging.

You know, the you you wanna belong a place to belong, well, that's that's with God. Somewhere you can call home. That That's what you would get with god. You'd get life. You'd get light, identity, meaning purpose.

Our purpose is to be with god. So everything you have dreamed of, your your heart's desires, everything you're made for, that's at the top of this mountain. Life with god. The way the world should be. Okay?

Do you see that? That's at the top of mountain number 1. But if you you scan your eyes down excess 19, you'll see there's a problem. You'll see that no 1 can climb this mountain. Nobody can reach the top.

Yes. That's what we're made for, but we've messed up we've rejected god. We've we've failed. And the issue is, it's it's god is so holy. God is so perfect.

That you have to be perfect to be with him, and we're we're just not good enough. That's what the Bible says. In fact, you read in that section that that nobody can even touch the mountain. If you touch the mountain, you die. Because we're sinners, and death is the punishment for sin.

We've rejected him. We've lived our own way. We're not holy. And god is at the top this wonderful life with him, meaning purpose, belonging all of that, but we can't get there. We can't make it up.

We're sinful. We're separate. And so you read that the mountain is, you know, it's dark and it's it's wreathed in smoke and there's lightning and it and it shakes. It's terrifying because we can't touch it. We can't go near it.

God is so holy. We don't measure up. That's That's mountain number 1. Great stuff at the top life with god. We can't get there.

But amazingly, God doesn't leave people like that. God says that 1 day, 1 day someone will climb the mountain. Someone's gonna come and they're gonna defeat death. They're gonna defeat sin, and you can be with me. It's an amazing promise.

And God promises that. You can be with me 1 day. Now years pass and the people they move on from the mountain but god's promise remains. And so the people are waiting. They're waiting for the 1 that's gonna come.

Make it possible for them to climb this mountain, possible for them to be with god, and, the people get some kings and they get 1 king called David, and he's waiting. In fact, he writes a Psalm in which he says this. He says, who will ascend the mountain of the lord? Who's it gonna be? Who's gonna be the 1 that can get to the top?

We're waiting. And the kings, they keep pointing people to the mountain keep pointing people to god, waiting, look at the mountain. That's our goal. That's where we wanna be, top of the mountain. Can't wait.

More years pass, more kings, they come, they go, and and here's the thing. Waiting is hard. Waiting is hard work. And we live in a culture that despise his waiting. We do everything we can to avoid waiting.

And then 1 king, he comes along and he decides, I don't wanna wait any longer. And he does something terrible. He doesn't care about the mountain of the lord anymore. He doesn't care about a life with god. So what he does is he goes to a different mountain.

And he sets up on top of this mountain an idol to the god bale. In fact, he doesn't just do it to 1 mountain. He does it to loads of mountains. He sets up all these high places and these asherah poles and these these altars and these temples. And what he says to the people is stop looking at the mountain of the lord.

Look at my mountains. Look at them. All these mountains, they've got you can you can go up these ones. They've got gods on the top that you can go and you can visit, you can be with. And here's the thing, he says, look, they're so easy to climb.

Look at the mountain of the lord with the with the smoke and the thunder. Following god his heart involves all this waiting. It involves you to be holy to to try and live to a certain standard involves trying to keep these laws and these rituals, but but my mountains, you can get up them right now. You know, they're a country stroll. They're instant.

You can just walk up to the top. You can wander, and you can you can see Bail. He's right there. Climb my mountains. It's so easy.

And do you know what? Everyone else is doing it? Everyone else is worshiping these guys All the nations, they thought god's people were weird and strange. Well, we can be like them now. We can worship their gods.

We can fit in with them. We can be popular. People will like us. We'll have power. We'll have position.

Stop looking to god, forget God's mountain, forget the mountain of lord, climb my mountains. It's so easy. And so what did the people do? Well, they started turning away from god. They started looking at these other mountains.

They started worshiping bale, looking at these other gods. They start turning their heads. Turn back to to 1 kings 18. The the Bible has a phrase for this. You can see it in verse 21.

Wavering. They are wavering between god and baal. They don't know what to choose that they're caught in 2 minds. But god doesn't leave them to waver. God sends a guy called Elijah and Elijah says to the people right.

That's enough. Stop wavering. Pick aside. Pick 1. Let me read verse 21.

How long will you waver between 2 opinions? If the lord is god, follow him. But if baal is god, follow him. And do you know what he suggests? It basically suggests a fight.

It means a legend, doesn't he? He says, look, let's get the gods to fight it out and, and let's do it on top of 1 of these new mountains, 1 of these bale mountains. So this is mountain number 2. Mount number 2 is called Mount Carmel, and it's a mountain of bale, it's bale mountain. We've got a mountain of lord, and now we've got a mountain of bale.

And this evening, what we're gonna do is we're gonna climb Mount Carmel, this bail mountain, and we're gonna watch the fight. We're gonna see what happens at the top. And so you're in Israelite, and you've you've heard there's gonna be this battle at the top, this god fight, and you you climb, and you arrive at the summit. And what you see are are 2 sides lined up for battle. On 1 side, you've got 1 man, Elijah.

On his own on the side of the god of Israel. And then the other, it says you've got 450 prophets of Baal and 400 prophets of Astra. So So 850 on the other side, 1 against 8 50. And this is the challenge to sacrifice a bull. And then normally this would involve things like cutting its throat and cutting it into bits and and splashing the blood and and burning it.

But here's the thing, they can't touch it. None of them can touch it. All they can do is pray and their god has to be the 1 to burn it. First 1 to do it wins, basically. It's amazing.

It's amazing, really. And Elijah. I love Elijah. He's so confident. He just he lets the other team go first.

So the other team gets started. The prophets of bail, and I imagine it would have been quite an amazing sight. I don't know how many people are here this evening, but you make a great sound. 850 of them. So start doing their thing.

I don't know if they're chanting or if they're singing. They begin calling on the name of bail in unison, and, you know, they're professional. I think they would've been pretty good at this. I think it would've been pretty amazing sight. There's this this impressive religious ceremony.

But after a few hours, things start to ramp up a bit. You know, things start to get a bit louder. They're their movements start to become a bit more energetic. A few more hours passed and they're not slowing down, they're getting faster. They start ramping up some more and they start dancing and and waving their arms around.

They start going crazily until noon. They are doing wild dances round and round. This imagine this mosh pit of 850, sweaty bodies, just just fighting it out in dance, you're spinning and turning and pouring their hearts out into this performance And I think what would have started off as an impressive show has now turned into a joke because Elijah is watching this and he can't resist himself. He starts heckling. You know, shout louder.

It's not all we've got. Dan's hard. He's a god, right? But maybe he's away. Maybe he can't hear you.

Maybe he's asleep, come on, try harder, keep going, wake him up, and they did. They did. They kept going, and they they tried harder, and they danced harder, and you can imagine the sweat is is pouring off them until the point where things, they they get really dark actually. It gets quite twisted because such was their need to be heard. Such was their desire for success.

They begin to cut themselves with swords and with spears And so I don't think they're singing anymore. I think now they're screaming in pain, and they're slicing their body. And now the blood is flowing. 850 bodies, tired slash and bleeding, and the floor is trampled with sweat and mud and blood for hours. They just continue this disgusting frenzy until the evening comes, and we hear this.

Silence. Verse 21, 29, sorry. There was no response, no 1 answered, no 1 paid attention. All that effort and exhaustion and and pouring their lives out And all they got in return is is they're in pain and they're suffering and they're silence. No 1 heard, no 1 answered, no 1 paid attention.

So now it's Elijah's turn. And just just look what he does in comparison. 1 man, he builds an altar. He he drenches the boiling water to prove this isn't a coincidence, and he just very briefly, praise a prayer. That's it.

That's all. Read it with me. Verse 36. Lord, the god of Abraham, Isaac in Israel, let it be known today that you are god in Israel and that I am your servant. I've done all these things at your command, answer me, lord, answer me, so that these people know that you lord our god, and you're turning their hearts back again.

And what happens? Whoosh. The ball burst into flame. God answers. God answers, and in then it begins to reign wonderfully in the story, and guess who's supposed to be the god of reign.

Bail. Guess what hasn't happened for years? Brain. They've been in a drought. And god is showing the people, look, you prayed for bail for rain and he couldn't answer.

And now you've prayed for him for fire and he couldn't answer. You haven't come to me for either, but I'm gonna give you both. Really? I'm gonna give you both. Bale is completely exposed and and amazingly the people.

They do. They turn their their hearts back again. They turn back towards God. It's incredible. They They stop being double minded.

They they stop wavering. They pick god. That's the the happy ending, but here's the sad ending. Alijah dies and, and guess what? The people start turning their heads away again.

Now, not to bail this time, but just to the to the next thing that comes along people start wavering. And, you know, we do exactly the same. We do exactly the same. We waiver. We're we're double minded.

We we we we're caught in 2 minds. You know, sometimes sometimes we do think God is amazing. Right? Sometimes we love god. We wanna serve him, and we're excited about being a Christian.

I mean, some of you just been on camp right contagious. And you probably feel that high after camp. You know, I love god. I mean, serving god's incredible. It's a spiritual high I wanna serve him.

But we get home or we leave church, we go back to work and sooner or later what happens. We start looking round. We start looking round at what other people have got. And we start to think, you know, maybe Maybe that's what I want instead. And instead of wanting to climb the mountain of the lord, we start climbing these other mountains that are round us.

Why? Because they're easy. Could we not have to wait? We don't have to work hard for it. We can have what's on them now.

It's just as easy stroll to the top and and everyone else is doing it. People will like us more. We'll fit in more and following god his heart. We look around to these These mountains of bail. And there's loads of these mountains.

1 mountain would be, I don't know, relationship mountain. Relationship mountain, because maybe what's on top of that mountain is is sex and relationships. And god's way says that we should treat sex in a certain way. That marriage looks a certain way. That gender looks a certain way that men and women have certain roles within that.

But actually, We don't wanna have relationships godway because it's hard. And because other people are doing it differently, and there's a mountain over there that looks really good. And and that's easy. And everyone else is climbing it, and it looks amazing because on top of that mountain, I can have sex with with whoever I want to, whenever I want to. On that mountain, I can just pull out my phone, and I can have pornography and click away on that mountain.

It's easy. And it's instant. Or maybe there's another mountain with this this perfect social media page at the top that the perfect lifestyle, the perfect clothes, this world where you can create this online fantasy, where you look perfect, and everybody's happy, and everyone can see how amazing your life is, or maybe it's a mountain where there's there's people, influencers talking to you all the time and you you wanna listen to the influences and you wanna wear what they wear and you wanna look how they look because it's the best way to fit in because everyone else is doing it And everyone else is climbing that mountain. And it's not that you don't want god, but you just you just don't have time. Because there's other lifestyleists of taking so much of your time away, and you've got so much to keep up with.

Or maybe there's freedom mountain. You know, god's mountain so full of rules. Things you need to do, you need to go church. You need to read your bible. Try not to lie.

Don't be jealous. Be kind. And there's this other mountain, and your friends are on that mountain. And they just look like they're having the best time. They're having an amazing time because they can live how they want up there.

They're free. It's freedom mountain, no rules, no restrictions, no 1 telling them how to live, But here's the thing, these mountains, relationship mountain, freedom mountain, influence a mountain. They're just bales mountain. They're just another mountain to bale. It looks easy.

You can get it now, but what do you get back from it? What do they give you? No 1 heard No 1 answered. No 1 paid attention. That's what you get at the top of these mountains.

You get nothing. You know, but remember, they they poured their lives out. They poured their lives out for this lifestyle. They they pour so much into it, that it hurt them, they they cut themselves, they gave their own blood for this cause, for this lifestyle. It hurt them.

It made them bleed. And you might be thinking okay, but look, I I'm not that bad. Okay. Yeah. I I waiver.

Yeah. I turn my head away every now and then. I'm not obsessive. Look, this is the scary bit. And you gotta listen to this bit, wavering is the same as bail worship.

Wavering isn't neutral. If you waiver, you've picked your side. Look at verse 26. It says, then they called on the name of Bail from morning till noon. Bail answered us.

They shouted. But there was no response, no 1 answered, and they danced around the altar they've made, but it wasn't a dance. The word there is waiver. They wavered round the altar That's what the the the bail worshippers are doing. They themselves are wavering just like everyone else, just like us, just like people watching.

We we're wavering. And when we wave it, that's when we turn our heads away from god. We end up just like those bale worshipers pouring ourselves out in the wrong mountain. And they're all the same, these mountains. You you give and you give and you give and you you exhaust yourself and you pour yourself out and it doesn't matter how much you try, you'll never be satisfied.

They look so good from a distance. But when you get up there, you'll find that you get hurt and they can't comfort you and they don't love you back. They're empty, and it is exhausting. You know, keeping up with the perfect social media page is exhausting it. It sucks the life out of you because you can't achieve it.

You'll never make it. You you can't ever reach the perfection it demands. And more people than ever are feeling the effects of anxiety and depression because they're not enough. That's what you get at the top of the the picture perfect mountain. Panography is a trade of slavery and pain.

Where men and women are hurt, but people watch it until it it destroys their mind. It ruins their relationships because it just sucks them in and they give and they give and it takes from them. It takes and takes, and they become addictive, and it it never satisfies. Freedom mountain to lie. Because you get up there and you realize you're not truly free.

The only reason you went there in the first place is because you're trying to please people. You're trying to follow other people and be like them. And honestly, if you do that, you'll never stop trying to do that. You'll always be trying to please people, and what will you get back? Nothing.

Silence. But let me just ask you this. What did god demand of you? What does god demand of you? What did Elijah have to give?

Nothing. And yet he got back everything. He he got god. Just 1 little prayer, and god answered. God was listening.

He didn't just answer his prayer. He gave more. He he gave rain. He gave blessing, abundance. The prophets of bail, they caught themselves and bled, and they got nothing.

But who cut and bled in Elijah's story? Just the bull, just a sacrifice. And today for us, do you know who bleeds? You're not called to bleed. You're not called to give anything.

God himself does the bleeding. God himself gives everything. God made him the 1 who bleeds. Jesus made himself the sacrifice. And so what does he ask back?

Nothing. Absolutely nothing, but you get everything. You know, Jesus is the 1 that we were waiting for right at the beginning, and he's he's the 1 that can climb the mountain, he's the 1 that can beat death. And if you look at his story, you'll see that all he does is give. He just gives and gives and gives for you, including his life.

He gave his life. So that you can be with god. So you can be in that place with all that stuff, all that amazing things, belonging home, identity, life, everything you've ever wanted, Jesus gave it. So don't turn your heads. Don't look at things that will suck the life out of you.

Look at Jesus. Look at what he gives. On 1 side, you you end up suffering and getting hurt and getting nothing in return. On the other side, god hurts himself. And suffers so you can get everything.

And all you need to do is pick a side. That's what Elijah says. Stop wavering. Don't be double minded. Don't trust in anything else.

Look to Jesus. I'm gonna pray, and I think we're gonna respond by singing. Father, it's so easy in this world to turn our heads and and see what everyone else has, see what everyone else is doing. Before the help us to fix our eyes on Jesus. Thank you for this church family that, call us to point to you that we can sing together and sing songs about you that we can open your word and fix your eyes on you before they help us to continue to do that as we leave this as we go back to our work as we start looking around at this stuff around us for though I pray that we don't waiver.

I pray that we stay rooted in you that you are our number 1 choice, that we can look forward to this this wonderful life with you 1 day. But thank you that it is worth the wait and that you are turning your people's hearts back again. Turn our hearts to you this evening. Oh, man.

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