Who can forget the awesome test between the impotent Baal and the omnipotent
Yahweh, God of Israel, described in 1 Kings 18? Or the frenzic ranting and raving
of the prophets of Baal as they entreat their god to fire up the sacrifice on
Mt. Carmel? Or the humorous mocking of those prophets by Elijah, God’s
true prophet? Or the way that God sent fire from above to completely engulf
a water-saturated sacrifice, along with the wet wood and stones with fire so
hot it even licked at the water in the trench surrounding the altar?
It’s a wonderful story indeed, but it all came about because of the divided mindset of the people of Israel. They were on a seesaw ride as far as their relationship with God was concerned and had been since they left Egypt. Though Yahweh had set Himself apart from all other gods by means of exceedingly marvelous miracles, still the fickle people sought out false gods and false religion whenever and where ever the whim hit them. Yet they seemed to think they could always “fall back” on the true God of heaven whenever they were distressed and oppressed. It is to this attitude that Elijah asks, “How long will you hesitate between two opinions? If Yahweh is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.” (1 Kings 18:21) The word “hesitate” in the Hebrew means to hop or skip hesitatingly, or to limp. It carries the idea of going back and forth from one thing to another unsure of where one should really be. Of course, this is exactly what the Israelites were doing. The people couldn’t help but see the persuasive logic of Elijah’s argument but they were apprehensive to act immediately upon it. Perhaps for this reason, the record tells us that the people answered Elijah “not a word.”
The question echos back to how Joshua challenged the Israelites a few centuries before:”If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the river, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15) The people had a decision to make as they occupied a land infested with false gods, false religion, and immorality of every type.
Let’s fast forward some 2,800 years. The question asked by Elijah is as valid today as it ever was. God’s people today occupy a land, wherever on the globe that land may be, filled with false religion, exceeding immorality, and ultimately false gods. Christians must make the decision daily as to who we will serve: the gods of the ungodly people around us, or the God of heaven. And we must make the decision now, not assuming we will have time in the future to make it then. Elijah’s question indicates some urgency that must be acted upon and it is so for God’s people today.
As Matthew Henry states, “It is a dangerous thing to halt between the service of God and the service of sin, between the dominion of Christ and the dominion of our own lusts.” We must make the decision as to who deserves our attention and loyalty and give it all. If it is this world and its attendant desires, then serve materialism and greed; but if Christ and His will, then serve Him completely and without hesitation. If Jesus is truly the only Savior and has complete authority, then let us cleave to Him for everything; if the Bible is truly the word of God, then let us receive it and submit ourselves to its teaching wholly and without wavering. The Almighty demands, and rightly deserves, a firm decision. The Lord tells us that “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other.” (Matt 6:24) Too many try to juggle allegiance between this world’s system of selfishness and the Lord’s requirement of selflessness and just as He said, one suffers. Unfortunately, it’s usually the One to whom we must submit that gets put on the back burner. And while we postpone making a real decision for Him, in reality the decision has been made. “He who is not with Me is against Me...” Jesus says. (Matt 12:30)
How long will you hesitate between two opinions? If the world or any part of it can guarantee you salvation and real joy, then abandon the facade of discipleship to Christ and serve your lusts with gusto. But, if Jesus has a true right to us by virtue of His sacrifice and purchase of us by His blood, and if you are convinced that He alone can be your best Master, then throw off the yoke of lukewarmness and serve Him completely, whole-heartedly, and unhesitatingly.
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