1 Kings 18:30-35
And Elijah said to all the people, Come near to me. And all the people came near to him…
As the time of the evening sacrifice approached, Elijah left the priests of Baal prophesying in despair. Satan, if permitted, could have brought fire down (see Job 1:12, 16; Revelation 13:13, 14); but God restrained him. The people were now convinced that Baal was not able to hear his priests; so they drew round Elijah, and observed the order in which he proceeded with his preparation.
I. HE REPAIRED THE ALTAR OF THE LORD.
1. Then there had been an altar of the Lord on Carmel.
(1) Some great man, as Abraham or Samuel, had built an altar there. Its relies remained a memorial of the piety of earlier times. Influence for good or evil is posthumous.
(2) This mount was, in consequence, reputed as holy. Perhaps this determined Elijah in his choice. Holy places were formerly more important than they are under this spiritual dispensation (see Malachi 1:11; John 4:20-24; 1 Timothy 2:8).
2. But this altar had been "broken down."
(1) Not only had it fallen into decay, but it had suffered from the hand of violence. Probably this was one of the sad evidences of the wicked zeal of Jezebel It was significant of the apostasy of the times (see 1 Kings 19:14; Romans 11:2, 8). Idolatry was in favour at court; courtiers therefore favoured it; so did the multitude who followed the fashions.
(2) Such influences still are potent. Idolatrous fashions in dress. In furniture. Even in religion.
3. Elijah would not use the altar used by the priests of Baal.
(1) The service of Jehovah must be pure. It must not be contaminated by the remotest connection with idolatrous abominations. Let us search our hearts (see 2 Corinthians 6:15-18).
(2) In repairing the disused altar of Jehovah, Elijah showed that his was no new religion, but that of the fathers of the nation. So he significantly rebuked the apostasy.
4. Twelve stones were employed in the repairs.
(1) This was "according to the number of the sons of Jacob, unto whom the word of the Lord came, saying, Israel shall be thy name." This was done to show that, though ten of the tribes had separated from the house of David, still, in worship there should be no division (see Genesis 32:28; Exodus 24:4; Joshua 4:5, 20).
(2) "The twelve stones being for the twelve tribes were the mystical body of Him who was their sacrifice and altar both, or who offered His own body, and suffered in it, and who was promised to be accepted in the name (ישראל) Israel, i.e. (ישר) pleasing to, right with, or upright before (אל) the Lord (see Matthew 3:17). But
(3) It was also prophetic of the healing of all schisms in the mystical body of Christ in the happy time to come (see Ezekiel 37:21, 22).
(4) All this the prophet did "in the name of the Lord" (ver. 32). By His direction; therefore with notable significance. For His glory. And since God so expressly authorized such a deviation from the Levitical law, does it not indicate that that law had its principal value in its typical teaching, and that when the antitypes came it should pass away? (See Colossians 2:22; Hebrews 8:18.)
II. HE PREPARED THE SACRIFICE.
1. "He put the wood in order."
(1) Why did he not dispense with the wood? The celestial fire certainly did not need it, for it fell upon the sacrifice before it touched the wood, and was so fervent that nothing could stand before it. Stones and dust could no more resist it than wood. Had the wood been intended for fuel, would the prophet have overflowed it with water?
(2) The order was usual in sacrifices. It was observed for typical purposes. The holocaust was a type of Christ, our Sacrifice, who, when consumed in the holy fires of the Godhead on the altar of Calvary, was laid on the wood of the Cross.
2. He poured writer upon the sacrifice.
(1) He poured it in great quantity and with much deliberation, for in preparing the altar he dug a trench to receive the overflow (vers. 32-35). The water probably came from a deep well-spring in the mountain side rather than from the Kishon. The Mediterranean seems out of the question. Josephus states the well to have been the source (Ant. 8:13).
(2) It was conveyed in four barrels, and these were filled and emptied three times, thus making twelve. Here again we meet with the number of the tribes of Israel. The order, viz., in sets of four three times repeated, was that of the stones in the high priest's breastplate, upon which were engraven the names of the tribes.
(3) Could this sign be intended to show that a plentiful rain would shortly come upon all Israel? And further, that it should come through the repentance of the people for whose sin it had been withholden? That it should come through the return of the people from the altar of Baal to that of Jehovah? If so, then in this sign the gospel also is preached to us. We too must be saved from spiritual drought and death through repentance towards God and faith in Christ. - J.A.M.
Parallel VersesKJV: And Elijah said unto all the people, Come near unto me. And all the people came near unto him. And he repaired the altar of the LORD that was broken down.