1 Kings 18:21
And Elijah came to all the people, and said, How long halt you between two opinions? if the LORD be God, follow him: but if Baal…
Describe the gathering of the people upon Mount Carmel: the suffering they had endured from the long-continued drought; the eager expectancy of the secret worshippers of Jehovah, and the reappearance of Elijah the prophet; the general readiness to obey the summons to witness a decisive contest, etc. The descent into national idolatry had been gradual. One step had made the next easy, and sometimes inevitable, till now the chosen nation was in the deepest degradation. Of this many of them were scarcely conscious. They had followed the example set by the court without remonstrance and without reflection. The opportunity for consideration had come at last. Elijah abruptly threw himself into the current of national life - like a gigantic rock in the stream, which cannot itself be stirred, but whose presence must make itself felt, and may divert the stream into another channel. The test he proposed to the people was obviously fair; indeed, it appeared to give every advantage to the worshippers of Baal. It was not fire but rain that the thirsty land required; but had he said, "The God that answereth by rain, let him be God," Baal's priests might argue that it was not water but fire that their God could rule. Elijah would fight the idol on his own chosen ground. Show how often advantage seems to be given to God's adversaries, as if they were allowed to make out the best cause they could, yet all to no effect. The wisdom of the world was left to the Church's foes. The people were not asked to do what was irrational, but were to have evidence, and this evidence was to be adapted to their sensuous character. Religion appeals to a man as to a rational being. The sin with which Elijah charged the people on Carmel was religious indecision, which we now consider.
I. THE CONDITION OF INDECISION.
1. It implies some enlightenment on religious subjects. Many heathen exist even in a Christian land. Living under the shadow of our sanctuaries, they are profoundly ignorant of God, of His claims, and of His gospel. They are not halting "between two opinions," for they have no opinion about a religious life, but are decided in their godlessness. Such was not the condition of Israel, nor of their modern representatives. There is no want of intellectual knowledge of scriptural truth complained of here.
2. It implies contradiction between theory and practice. The Israelites would not have denied the Divine interpositions of the past, and many would have admitted that the temple at Jerusalem was originally the true place for worship, etc. Like some in Crete, in Paul's days, "they profess that they know God, but in works they deny him."
3. It implies dissatisfaction with present condition. They were like men longing for something which they have not yet resolved to seek. So at Athens, some who heard Paul felt that his words were so wise and weighty that they exclaimed, "We will hear thee again of this matter." They were moved by transient feeling, like Felix (Acts 24:25) and Agrippa (Acts 26:28). To all such comes this protest against vacillation.
II. THE CAUSES OF INDECISION.
1. Want of thoughtful consideration. Many speculate about religion who have never yet cried, "What must I do to be saved?" A busy life diverts them from earnest thought, their powers being absorbed in worldly affairs. Or a frivolous habit of mind may prove their bane.
2. Deficiency of personal courage. It would require courage under Jezebel's rule to become worshippers of Jehovah. Give instances of the difficulties which beset earnest men in modern life, the necessity sometimes arising for true heroism on the part of those who would follow Christ.
3. Tendency to procrastination. Today is devoted to that which is evident to the senses, tomorrow to that which concerns the soul. Examples:
III. THE CONSEQUENCES OF INDECISION.
1. Increase of difficulties. Evil habits grow in strength. The simple spray of ivy can be gathered by a child's hand, but after the growth of years, though it is killing the tree, you cannot tear it off. A worldly man who is now impervious to good never meant to be what he is, but he expected that when the stress of making his position was over he would have time and inclination to attend to affairs of the soul. Imperceptibly God seems to have "given him over to a reprobate mind, because he did not choose to retain God in his knowledge."
2. Loss of opportunity. Even if it were easier to decide for God next year, it would be madness to delay. "Boast not thyself of tomorrow," etc. Read the parable of the Rich Fool - Luke 12:3. Irreparable ruin. If God's opportunity is lost, it will not be re-created after death. See how Christ spoke of Capernaum, of Chorazin, and of Jerusalem. "But now they are hid from thine eyes." "He that is filthy, let him be filthy still." In face of such penalties press home the question on the undecided, "How long halt ye between two opinions?" - A.R.
Parallel VersesKJV: And Elijah came unto all the people, and said, How long halt ye between two opinions? if the LORD be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him. And the people answered him not a word.