|Elijah: ancient scientist?|
I'm currently reading through 1 Kings and came across incident where God provides evidence of His existence. For those following my Reading the Bible in Purgatory series, you may remember how Gideon, God's leader who saved the Jewish people back in Judges, designed a few experiments to determine what the Almighty really wanted. Fast forward to 1 Kings and we have the prophet Elijah doing battle against the priests of the god Baal and the goddess Asherah. At the time Ahab was king of the Northern Kingdom and his wife Jezebel allowed the Canaanite priests to run amok in Yahweh's land.
Elijah meets with Ahab under a flag of truce. The man of God makes a suggestion.
“I have not made trouble for Israel,” Elijah replied. “But you and your father’s family have. You have abandoned the LORD’s commands and have followed the Baals. 19 Now summon the people from all over Israel to meet me on Mount Carmel. And bring the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal and the four hundred prophets of Asherah, who eat at Jezebel’s table.” 1 Kings 18: 18-20Ahab agrees and the priests are gathered along with Elijah and the people of Israel.
Elijah went before the people and said, “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.” But the people said nothing. 1 Kings 18:21And here is the twist, Elijah has an experiment planned to prove that Yahweh is the real god.
Then Elijah said to them, “I am the only one of the LORD’s prophets left, but Baal has four hundred and fifty prophets. 23 Get two bulls for us. Let Baal’s prophets choose one for themselves, and let them cut it into pieces and put it on the wood but not set fire to it. I will prepare the other bull and put it on the wood but not set fire to it. 24 Then you call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the LORD. The god who answers by fire—he is God.” 1 Kings 18: 22-24The people of ancient Israel are not like the fundamentalist Christians of today. Where the modern fundamentalist disdains empirical evidence, the Jews in 1 Kings think evidence is a nifty thing to have when making major decisions, and agree to the plan.
The experiment begins!
So they took the bull given them and prepared it.
Then they called on the name of Baal from morning till noon. “Baal, answer us!” they shouted. But there was no response; no one answered. And they danced around the altar they had made. 27 At noon Elijah began to taunt them. “Shout louder!” he said. “Surely he is a god! Perhaps he is deep in thought, or busy, or traveling. Maybe he is sleeping and must be awakened.” 28 So they shouted louder and slashed themselves with swords and spears, as was their custom, until their blood flowed. 29 Midday passed, and they continued their frantic prophesying until the time for the evening sacrifice. But there was no response, no one answered, no one paid attention. 1 Kings 26 -29Fail.
Now it's Elijah's turn. As many of you remember, he has water poured on the sacrifice three times. (Yes, the design of the experiment is pretty crappy. But what do you expect?) And then the magic happens.
At the time of sacrifice, the prophet Elijah stepped forward and prayed: “LORD, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. 37 Answer me, LORD, answer me, so these people will know that you, LORD, are God, [emphasis mine] and that you are turning their hearts back again.”The sacrifice is consumed with fire and the hearts of the Israelites, now that they have proof that Yahweh is the real deal, are turned back to their merciful, loving God.
What would be the first order of business of the faith-based mob? Elijah has a plan for them, too.
Then Elijah commanded them, “Seize the prophets of Baal. Don’t let anyone get away!” They seized them, and Elijah had them brought down to the Kishon Valley and slaughtered there. 1 Kings 18:40See, everything turned out fine.
When the next time a Christian bugs you about Jesus, ask them proof. Real proof. Verifiable evidence. And if they say God isn't in the business of offering real evidence of His existence refer back to this story. If God offered proof for Elijah and Gideon, why doesn't He do it now?
The smart money is on the fact that Elijah, Gideon, and their God are made-up stories in the same category as the Loch Ness Monster and the Yeti.
This is Purgatory.