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Thursday, July 4, 2013

Elijah on Mount Carmel -- Part 4

       The altar and sacrifice have been prepared for the burnt offering for atonement of sin. First Elijah repaired God's altar that was just a heap of stones in ruin. He took twelve stones representing God's people in unity and laid them side by side as one altar of God. Then Elijah slaughtered the bull and shed its blood and laid the flesh on the altar of God to be burned. The rest will be up to God. Having done all that God required, Elijah prayed to God that He would answer and let the people know that He is indeed God and that He is turning His peoples' hearts back to Him. (1 Kings 18:36-37)
        According to the Law, the burnt offering for atonement must be consumed completely by fire. Here on Mount Carmel, the fire of God consumed the sacrifice completely. Then the fire of the Lord fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench. V38   Elijah made it more difficult for the fire of God to consume the sacrifice when he poured the water over it.  Elijah was following God's instruction.  God knew that water would draw lightning which would ignite the sacrifice and consume it and all around it completely.  
   e  Elijah prayed and expected the power and fire of God to come. Fire is double-edged.  The Bible says that “wickedness burns like a fire.” (see Isaiah 8:18)  It will take the fire of God – the Holy Spirit – to put the fire of wickedness out!  When the people saw the fire of God consume the sacrifice and all around it, “they fell prostrate and cried, “The Lord—He is God! The Lord—He is God!” The Jews say this seven times at the end of the Day of Atonement. Atonement is complete. The people were awed and humbled by God's power and mercy.
       God answered by fire. The fire of God didn't fall on the people in judgment for their sin against God. Instead it fell on the sacrifice. God consuming the sacrifice meant that it was acceptable to Him. This is also a foreshadowing of what God would do through His precious and chosen Son Jesus. Jesus is the Perfect Atoning Sacrifice for sin. His sacrifice never has to be repeated because it is Eternal.  No sacrifice or person in the Older Testament was eternal until Jesus.  
        Elijah knew both sides of God's character – His power in consuming the substitute sacrifice for atonement, and His mercy upon His sinful people when they turn back to Him. The people humbled themselves before God and declared that the God of Israel is the true God. Therefore, I urge you brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Romans 12:1 To allow the fire of the Holy Spirit to burn our sinful nature out of us by burning His Truth and ways into us is the greatest act of worship you can give the Lord. Jesus in the flesh became a Living Sacrifice for us; He wants us to become a living sacrifice for Him. Worship is a life not just a song! In the Law, the fire of the burnt offering was to continually burn and not go out. (Leviticus 6:13)  The priests had to keep the fire burning continually.  It was to never go out!  Every day the priest must add firewood and put the flesh of the sacrificial animal on the fire. V12    Jesus said that we are to take up our cross daily and follow Him and His ways, just as the priests had to put the wood on the altar daily to keep the fire burning continually. The fire of the Holy Spirit burns continually in those who love and follow Christ. The priests in the Older Testament tabernacle and temple had to remove the ashes and anything that would prevent the fire from burning. Because of Jesus' eternal, living sacrifice of His flesh on the cross, God sent the fire of the Holy Spirit to burn within eternally to remove all that is not of Him in us. Believers are to keep the fire of the Holy Spirit burning by taking up our cross daily and allowing the Holy Spirit and the Word to burn out of us anything that would put the fire out-- i.e. our sinful nature that is controlled by the devil, false truth, false prophecy, etc.
        According to the Law given to Moses, the false prophets must be exposed and put to death. (see Deuteronomy 13:1-6) The sin of the false prophets of Baal was not atoned for because they did not declare that God is God and turn from their wicked ways. They still worship the false god. Not one of these false prophets were to escape. The Land must be cleansed of their curse. The victory must be complete! Notice that Elijah had God's people put these false prophets to death by taking them down into the Kishon Valley and slaughtering them. Their blood turned the water of the stream of Kishon into blood indicating God's judgment.  Jesus, God and the Holy Spirit always take us higher.  It is the devil who brings us down.
        Elijah obeyed the Law by having these false prophets killed. In the New Testament under Christ's law of love, we don't kill unbelievers, sinners and the wicked. Instead, we have the freedom to choose to love them into the arms of Jesus who is the Perfect Burnt Offering for the atonement of sin. The New Testament is based upon our heart attitude not a set of rules. The Lord let us see in the Older Testament how impossible it is to meet demands. Love cannot be demanded. It must be given freely and willingly by choice. Love leaves the choice to love up to us. However, self-preservation in our Godly walk sometimes requires separating from influences that may draw us into sin.  If the ways of a person are tempting us, then we must separate from that person not in anger or hatefully, but for self-preservation of our own walk with God.
        As Elijah and God's people cast the idolaters down to the Kidron Valley and slaughtered them completely, the devil and his followers will be cast into the lake of fire in the belly of the earth to their eternal death. Until this time, there is still hope for all sinners. Right to the end, God will have His faithful remnant calling people into the arms of the Savior Jesus. This is the depth and height of God's love for humanity. He wants that none should perish into eternal death and darkness.
        How do we recognize a false prophet? They do not speak according to God's Word. (Isaiah 8:20)   Jesus tells us to “watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. BY THEIR FRUIT YOU WILL RECOGNIZE THEM.” Matthew 7:15-16 In other words, their lives will be lived according to God's ways and the fruit of the Holy Spirit. False prophets also speak and teach lies. (see Jeremiah 28:15-16) They teach corruption. (see 2 Peter 2:1-3: 10-12) Jesus warned that in the last days “many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.” Matthew 24:11-13
        The antidote to all of this is to know the Living Word Jesus and His written Word. This is not a casual knowing but a close, committed and intimate relationship with the Lord, and an unquenchable desire for the water and bread of His Word and His Holy Spirit. Without the wisdom, knowledge and understanding of the Word of God, we can be easily deceived into embracing false doctrine. And our ears can be tickled into receiving false prophesies. Watch, my brothers and sisters, because the devil is cunning and clever. He can use the very Word of God to deceive by twisting it, removing words and making it say something that it doesn't. God holds those who teach and speak His Word to a very high standard and accountability. We must be sure that we are rightly-dividing His Word. Scripture interprets scripture because it was Divinely written by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, therefore must be Divinely interpreted by the Holy Spirit. This is why we must compare scripture with scripture.  God's ways never change!

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