One God, One Way – 1 Kings 18

The Bible is clear that there is one God and one way to him.

Some would say that all religions are basically different ways to the same God. That we might differ on how we get there, but we’ll all get there in the end. It’s a nice idea. It’s a comforting thought.

But it’s not what Jesus taught. Not even close. We’re going to see just how clearly the Bible makes the point here in 1 Kings 18. 

But you’ll also see how important it is that you really grasp the point – and then act on it. This stuff really, really matters.

These notes accompany a sermon on YouTube. You can find more in the series in our Sermon Index.

Many gods, one God (v1-2, 16-29)

Remember we’re in the days of the divided kingdom – 10 tribes known as “Israel” in the north, and 2 in the south – “Judah”. Ahab was king in Israel. Last time we saw that God had stopped the rain as he said he would under his covenant with his people. It’s not meanness – it’s grace. He’s reminding them of the loss of blessing because they’d abandoned him.

Elijah had gone to Ahab to say that God would stop the rain. Ahab was following the worship of Baal, the god of his wife, Jezebel, and her father, king of Sidon. So, 3½ years later, with the land on its knees because of the drought, God sends Elijah back to king Ahab.

Read 1 Kings 18:1-2.

God could have just sent rain. Why didn’t he? Withholding the rain was a call to repentance – a call for people to come back to him. Baal, the god they worshipped, was supposed to be a god of rain, fertility, and crops. If it just started to rain, people might think Baal had got it going again.

God will send the rain, but in a way that Baal is discredited and people will be forced with an obvious choice: The impotent Baal, or the true and living covenant God, the LORD.

Baal on home turf

So everything gets set up on Mt Carmel in v16-19. (Mt Carmel was the Mt Sinai of Baal worship. Baal has “home advantage”!) When everything is ready, Elijah turns to the people watching with the critical question:

  • Read 1 Kings 18:20-21.
  • Having doubts about God isn’t new. If you have questions, that’s not wrong. Asking the right questions with an open heart is a good thing.
  • But there comes a point where everything is laid out in front of you and you need to respond.

Notice Elijah said “follow” Baal or God. Whatever you believe in your heart and mind, it will affect your feet and your hands – you will follow what you believe.

In 1 Kings 18:22-29, the prophets of Baal do their passionate song-and-dance routine, begging their god to send fire on the prepared sacrifice. They cry out, cut themselves, and rave. But, v29, “still there was no sound, no reply, no response.” Of course. How could there be? There was no-one to reply. A completely misplaced hope.

You probably don’t know anyone who worships Baal. And yet, the word “baal” means “master, owner, husband”. One who has lordship and mastery over your life. In that sense, you certainly do know people with baals over their lives. You likely have them yourself:

  • A need for security in your life has mastered you: You’re careful about your home, your pension, your money.
  • That need for comfort in your life has mastered you: You spend time and money on your home, your car, health.
  • A need for recognition in your life has mastered you: You’re desperate for people to like you, or at least not mock you. You so want to fit in.

False gods

See how you follow the things that master you? You have more baals (masters, owners) than you realise. And time, age and death will rob you of them all. These baals, these false gods, cannot fail to fail you.

As you look to created things to serve these gods, you bypass the Creator God who gives you all these things and more. God gives security, comfort, recognition and meaning to you in a way that can’t ever be taken away – it will only get better, richer. The more you chase after false gods, the further from truth and life you really are – separate from the one God.

But, you ask, aren’t there still many ways to this one God?

Many roads, one Way (30-40)

The prophets of Baal have been embarrassing in failure. But what happens next is full of significance.

It’s much, much more than “Look, Israel’s God is the real one!” Read 1 Kings 18:30-33.

  • He gathered the people. The high points in Leviticus were marked by “holy assembly” – all God’s people being brought together, not scattered (or exiled)
  • He rebuilds an altar with 12 stones, one for each of the 12 tribes of Israel. No matter that they were in Northern Israel, with Ahab king over 10 tribes.
    • When God restores, he restores completely
  • And all this was done in the name of the LORD – this is God’s own gathering, God’s people, summoned to him.

And then the drenching with water makes the whole thing absolutely obvious that it could only be burnt up by a supernatural intervention. Elijah prays in v36-37, and then we see something stunning.

Read 1 Kings 18:38-39.

A startling Bible pattern

This was not the first time God consumed an offering up by fire:

  1. Remember Leviticus. How God dwelt among his people but they couldn’t approach him to begin with?
    • He gave a system of offerings and sacrifices. God set up a priesthood, with Aaron has high priest.
    • Amazingly, in Leviticus 9, Aaron offered a burnt offering, blessed the people, and went into the Tabernacle. It was a stunning moment.
    • When he came out, “Fire came from the LORD and consumed the burnt offering and the fat portions on the altar. And when all the people saw it, they shouted and fell facedown.” (Leviticus 9:24)
  2. In 1 Chronicles 21:26, King David offered a burnt sacrifice on the spot where the Temple would be built. “And when David prayed, the Lord answered him by sending fire from heaven to burn up the offering on the altar.”
  3. In 2 Chronicles 7:1, when Solomon had prayed at the dedication of that temple, “fire flashed down from heaven and burned up the burnt offerings and sacrifices.”

Notice the timing and places: The fire from God wasn’t only a proof of who he is. It’s a demonstration that this is how you approach him – and only this way. He gathers his people together to approach himself by the only way he has given.

This is a powerful statement to the people watching Elijah.

God is calling you; he calls you to come by the means he has given. Abandon worship of false gods; and abandon false worship of the true God. Come by the means he has given.

And today we can step further forward than even Elijah could. Because we’ve moved past the Tabernacle, and the Temple, or any place on earth. All those things were only the shadow of what was to come.

Jesus is the only way to God

Today, you are given Jesus. He is the one means by which you may come to God. No-one comes to God except through him. He was the sacrifice – his death instead of yours. He is the high priest – entered the presence of God, leading, representing, advocating his people at the judgment seat, the throne of mercy.

Jesus is today risen and living, ready to forgive you – and ready to return to the earth to make all things new again. All other religions are false. They lead you away from truth, away from God. There is no other god and no other way to come to eternal life with the one God than through Jesus.

But he is the one calling you (everyone) to come! Read 1 Kings 18:36-37.

  • Elijah wasn’t trying to persuade anyone. Nor am I.
  • I pass on the invitation of Jesus Christ himself to you.

Look at what you can see. Maybe not burnt-up sacrifices. But:

  • You can see Christians with changed lives and hopes.
  • You can see a world of despair and confusion, and that God offers you restoration and hope.
  • Your own sin separates you from God, but there is a way for you to come to him. One way only, and it’s the way God has given you. Jesus. 
  • “I am the way and the truth and the life” he said. Go to him

I must warn you of the consequences of not going to him. Read 1 Kings 18:40.

Hundred of prophets died. That’s just a shadow too. The living God knows you and will condemn you for your sin, if you refuse to come to him in repentance and faith. You enjoy his gifts and spurn his love. He will reject you too.

Trust Jesus, without the song and dance

We have a few final comments to make.

It’s uncomfortable to think it, but even if you’re a Christian you can be more like the prophets of Baal than you realise.

  • They somehow thought that Baal needed persuading, and they had a whole load of song-and-dance to try to persuade!
    • They yelled, and cut, and raved – all day long.
  • You might not do that(!), but you can try to earn favour or put God in your debt by working really really hard for him
    • Christians can sometimes revel in busyness.
    • Doing lots for church, lots for charity, lots for school, helping out here and there.
    • Motivated by a desire to do good, but somehow trying to put God in debt, to action.
    • You can sometimes measure your holiness by your busyness, or by your knowledge, or by how long your prayers are.
    • You can end up worshipping religion itself.
    • When you hear yourself say, “My faith is very important to me” rather than “My God / Jesus is very important to me” – watch out!
  • Compare those prophets with Elijah.
    • He prayed. He was equally earnest, but in prayer.
    • James 5 holds Elijah up as a model for us:
    • Read James 5:17-18.
    • By all means be busy (we’re all called to work!) but let that flow out of a dynamic relationship with the Lord. Be a praying person.

So as a church, we need to be like that together too. That’s why we have a simplicity of worship: You’ll not see me in robes; we have no symbolic candles or cloths; I’m not your priest.

But even more, this is why our corporate prayer is so important. If we do anything that we haven’t prayed over, we have no right to expect anything to come of it.

Led astray? Drifting?

But, in all this, as you look at 1 Kings 18, you might be more like the people who were watching on.

  • They’d been led into Baal worship by Ahab and all the rest and were now being challenged to think again.
  • Perhaps you’ve gone astray from God into something else? Maybe you’ve been led astray, or are just slowly drifting?
  • 1 Kings 18 was much more than “Look! God is real”.
  • It’s a reminder that he has given a way for you to come to him through his son, Jesus.
  • It’s a call from false masters over your life to turn to the living God, to enjoy him, know him, be thrilled by him, and live.

If you’ve found yourself going astray or drifting away, he calls you back to himself. Go to Jesus, your only hope, always. Go in repentance and faith, over and over. He calls you to gather with his people, to be built up and encouraged, to flourish in himself.