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October 10 – The contest

I am the Lord; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols. – Isaiah 42:8

Scripture reading: 1 Kings 18:19-40

You might think that the contest is between Elijah and the 450 prophets of Baal. But it isn’t. It is between God and Baal. For too long the people have been giving their allegiance to Baal. Now God was challenging Baal to a duel to demonstrate who was really deserving of devotion.

He did this as a kindness to His people so that they would know Him and their hearts would be turned back to Him. Baal, the storm god, was a fertility god. For three years he had been impotent and before God was going to send rain, He wanted to display publicly Baal’s weakness and His own glory.

The contest was in Baal’s area of expertise. Baal had more backers, 450 prophets and they had the first choice of the bull. Elijah was alone, the altar of God was in ruins, and the rebuilt altar was soaked. Certainly, Baal would answer by fire and win. But Baal didn’t answer that day. God does because, unlike Baal, He exists. And the people declare devotion to Him.

This story highlights God’s judgement on the wicked. Notice the slaughter of the prophets of Baal. But you shouldn’t miss the mercy. The fire could have fallen on the people. They deserved it. But it fell on the altar instead. It had done that before in Israel’s history (Leviticus 9:24; 1 Chronicles 21:26-27) and it would do so again on the cross when the fire of the Lord falls on the Lord Jesus so that it would not fall on those who bow before Christ and say, “My Lord and my God!”

Suggestions for prayer

Pray that God would demonstrate His glory in His Church and our nation so that people might confess Christ as Lord to the glory of the Father. Thank the Lord for the mercy displayed in the cross of our Lord Jesus so that believers would be spared the wrath of God.

This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. John van Eyk is the Senior Pastor of Trinity Reformed Church (United Reformed) in Lethbridge, Alberta.

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