1 Kings 18:19-21
Now therefore send, and gather to me all Israel to mount Carmel, and the prophets of Baal four hundred and fifty…
Here is a curious phenomenon. A monarch, who had searched all kingdoms for a prophet that he might reek anger upon his life, now sought out and confronted by that prophet, and submitting to his orders to call an assembly of the nation! How God can turn about the hearts of princes! Conspicuous in this vast concourse are the idolatrous priests with gnashing teeth. Elijah stands alone undaunted, a witness for Jehovah, and, appealing to the multitude, he accuses them of unworthy hesitation between irreconcilable services.
I. WHY HESITATE IN SEEKING HAPPINESS?
1. No joys can compare with the heavenly.
(1) There are, indeed, sad professors of the true religion.
(a) Some are constitutionally melancholy. This is a disease which certainly is not aggravated by the sense of the favour of God.
(b) Some have false views of religion. They caricature it into a sepulchral thing. They do it injustice.
(c) But the case most common is that sad professors do not experience what they profess. They halt between Jehovah and Baal - between Christ and Belial. In fashion. In friendships. In pursuits. So conscience stings them sore.
(2) When religion is true there is the best reason for joy.
(a) It brings emancipation from the slavery of sin.
(b) Deliverance from the tyranny of Satan.
(c) Adoption into the family of God.
(d) Heirship to everlasting life.
The true heir has the title-deeds of his inheritance in his heart (Ephesians 1:13, 14; 2 Corinthians 5:4, 5). Thus does he antedate the very bliss of heaven (Luke 17:21; Ephesians 1:3).
2. If sinners be not sad, the more shame.
(1) For sin degrades the man below the brute. As far below as the powers of a man are superior. The degradation of a devil would be impossible to a brute. If a man can be transformed into a compound of swine and devil and not be sad, this is the climax of depravity.
(2) Sin is perfidy to infinite love. Such ingratitude can only be reconciled with the absence of sadness upon the ground of the most shameful perversity.
(3) The sinner is befooled by Satan. In his reflective moods he must loathe himself; but Satan whirls him away from his reflections into some mad dance, and drowns the voice of his conscience in some boisterous laugh. So the fool still befooled exults in his folly. O shame!
II. WHY HESITATE IN SEEKING SALVATION?
1. Life is the determining period.
(1) It is the seed-time for the reaping in eternity. The yield then will be according to the sowing now. In quality: "After its kind." Also in quantity.
(2) Therefore the young have a splendid opportunity. They have time in their favour. "How long shall ye?"
2. Procrastination is precarious work.
(1) "How long (פסח) hop ye?" - this word denotes the passing over from one place to another - "between two opinions." It is used scornfully of the awkward leaping of the priests of Baal, in ver. 26. As the squirrel hopping from branch to branch may miss its footing and fall, so may the halting sinner hop into ruin.
(2) Consider the uncertainty of life. Read the gravestones. How enormous is the mortality amongst the young! Unroof heil!
(3) Consider the solemnities of eternity. The freshness and vividness of memory in the disembodied state. What a preparation for the day of judgment!
III. FOR INDECISION THERE IS NO DEFENCE. "The people answered him not a word." But there are motives to evil when there are no good reasons. Such are -
1. Conjugal influence.
(1) Ahab's heart was estranged from God by the influence of Jezebel His predecessors suffered from the same cause. Notably so Solomon.
(2) Beware of contracting ungodly matrimonial alliances. Remember the famine in Samaria. The same God still "ruleth in the kingdom of men."
2. The smile of favouor.
(1) Idolatry was favoured at court. The priests of Ashere feasted "at Jezebel's table." Mean-spirited Israelites sought court favour at the expense of the favour of God.
(3) True worshippers were persecuted. Elijah had to hide himself at Cherith and Zarephath. The sons of the prophets had to hide in the eaves of Obadiah. To keep a whole skin many hesitated. Will you encounter the frown of God to escape the sneer of an old companion?
3. The force of example.
(1) Elijah stood alone as the prophet of the Lord. He had with him a handful of laymen. Obadiah was conspicuous amongst them. If the prophets fed by Obadiah had issued from their caves, they did not stand forth on Carmel in their official character.
(2) The pronounced idolaters were a larger company. There were the prophets of Baal four hundred, and the prophets of Ashere four hundred and fifty, with a proportionate following.
(3) Still "the people" were vacillators. These were the majority. The power and influence of numbers were with the moderate people who would fain keep good terms with God and the devil. The halters are still the majority. How few amongst the multitude of the wicked have resolved in heart and soul that they will go to the devil! It is time you made up your mind one way or the other. How long halt ye? - J.A.M.
Parallel VersesKJV: Now therefore send, and gather to me all Israel unto mount Carmel, and the prophets of Baal four hundred and fifty, and the prophets of the groves four hundred, which eat at Jezebel's table.