The Failure
1 Kings 18:25-29
And Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, Choose you one bullock for yourselves, and dress it first; for you are many…

When the appeal of Elijah to the people had gained their applause, he had the prophets of Baal at his command. The test he had proposed was so fair that they could not reasonably object to it, and the voice of the people rendered it impossible for them to evade the trial. The prophet of the Lord accordingly pressed the matter home upon his adversaries in the words of the text. They were obliged to proceed to the trial which ended in their discomfiture.


1. They began early.

(1) Everything seems to have been in readiness soon after daybreak; so that almost as soon as their Apollo looked out of the eyelids of the morning the cry arose, "O Baal, hear us!"

(2) Worshippers of Jehovah should not be less zealous. The early morning was chosen by His devoted servants (see Genesis 19:27; Genesis 22:8; Exodus 24:4; Job 1:5; Psalm 5:3; Psalm 59:16; Psalm 88:13; Mark 1:35). Such exercises will be a noble preparation for the day.

2. They persisted.

(1) They continued their supplications until noon. As the sun rolled upwards in the heavens their hopes rose. As it neared the zenith they felt it was now or never and 850 voices in full chorus cried, "O Baal, hear us!"

(2) Even when the noon point was turned and their god was sinking in the west, still they urged their suit, adding to their entreaties frantic gestures and mingling their own blood with their sacrifice.

(3) Idolatry is essentially cruel, and in this contrasts strongly with the service of Jehovah (see Leviticus 19:28; Deuteronomy 14:1). The cruel penances of Rome are kindred to those of Baal's servants. "The devil is a murderer." Of bodies. Of souls.

(4) Persistency should mark the servants of God. Jacob wrestled all night with the angel at Penuel, and at daybreak prevailed. The parable of the importunate widow was given to impress this lesson. We should ask until we receive.

(5) How blessedly has persistency been rewarded! Ministers have seen this; parents; Sunday school teachers; tract distributors.


1. Their god was contemptible.

(1) He was destitute of the attributes they ascribed to him. The sun, though a glorious body, is but matter. It has no more intelligence than a flint. How the intellects as well as the eyes of men are dazzled with splendour!

(2) How different is the true God! He is a Spirit - invisible - omniscient - omnipresent - omnipotent - holy - just - good. He claims, and should receive, the homage of all our faculties.

2. Their worship, therefore, was ridiculous.

(1) So Elijah thought when he stung them with mockery. "He is a god!" (כי אלהים הוא) he is a supreme god l Here is a fine stroke of irony. This weapon of rhetoric was used by our Lord" Art thou a master in Israel and knowest not these things?"

(2) "He is talking." He is so stunned with the thunder of his own voice and with the voices of his associates in the pantheon that he cannot hear the ordinary voices of mortals. Therefore "cry aloud." Or "he is (שיח) meditating (margin) - in a brown study, in a reverie - and must be roused.

(3) Or he is pursuing," or "hath a pursuit." He is so engaged with some other matter that he cannot hear your feeble voice. What sort of god is yours?

(4) "Or he is in a journey" - so far away that your prayer will be useless unless you can cry aloud.

(5) "Or peradventure he sleepeth and must be awaked." You must first raise a clamour about his ears to arouse him, or you pray in vain. How doubtful must be the success of any worship paid to such a god!

3. Ridicule was righteously applied.

(1) It should never be substituted for reason, as too often it is. It is a favourite weapon with sceptics who are at a loss for an argument.

(2) But where reason is wasted upon stupidity then it is fitting. Elijah was silent from sunrise till noon, when the experiment had a fair trial and failed. Then he rallied the idolaters with a ridicule that was full of argument.

(3) When evening set in they gave up the contest in despair. There is an evening coming in which all contests with Jehovah shall so terminate. - J.A.M.

Parallel Verses
KJV: And Elijah said unto the prophets of Baal, Choose you one bullock for yourselves, and dress it first; for ye are many; and call on the name of your gods, but put no fire under.

WEB: Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, "Choose one bull for yourselves, and dress it first; for you are many; and call on the name of your god, but put no fire under it."

The God that Answers by Fire
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