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When God Whispers: The Surprising Power of Everyday Obedience


With all of the talk of a potential revival sweeping the nation right now, I think it’s a good time to discuss the difference between “the fire of spiritual revival” and “the whisper of daily obedience.”

While we all want to see a spiritual awakening sweep the nation and the world, we must recognize that God’s normal work is in the steady obedience of his fully committed remnant.

There’s nobody who knew this better than Elijah. He learned the lesson toward the end of his prophetic ministry, and the process of it was painful.

The Showdown

When we catch his story in 1 Kings 19, it’s after he scored a major ministry victory in what I love to call “the showdown at Mt. Carmel corral.” What happened at the top of this mountain? He issued a challenge to the prophets of Baal, a duel of sorts—their god versus his God.

For years now, Baal worship had been normalized in Israel. King Ahab and his evil wife, Jezebel, had made it the norm. Across the Promised Land, the Israelites had broken the promises they’d made to God and Baal worship had replaced worship of the one true God.

Elijah was sick of it. It infuriated him. So the news was sent out that there would be a showdown between him and the prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel. It must have looked as though everyone in Israel showed up to Mt. Carmel that day. On one side was the camel-fur-wearing prophet, Elijah, and on the other side were the 450 prophets of Baal.

Surrounding them, thousands upon thousands of Israelites were waiting to watch who would win. That’s when the somewhat cranky prophet took center stage:

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.” (1 Kings 18:21)

Then Elijah issued the details of the showdown: Build an altar, make a sacrifice, and whosever god answers with fire and burns up the sacrifice with fire from Heaven would be crowned as the one true God.

The prophets of Baal went first. They prayed confidently, knowing that Baal, the god who rode clouds and loved storms, would soon bolt to a victory by sending down lightning to consume their sacrifice in a flash. But as they prayed and prayed and prayed, morning turned to noon and noon turned to afternoon. And still the sky was quiet.

Elijah taunted them, and soon their praying turned to shouting and then to feverish screaming. They even started cutting themselves, trying to get Baal to answer.

But he did not.

So, at the time of evening sacrifice, Elijah pushed the sweaty, bloody, exhausted prophets of Baal aside as he made his way toward the old, broken-down altar of the LORD that was on top of Mt. Carmel. Then he slowly and methodically rebuilt it, and dug a trench around the altar.

Next, he put wood on top of the altar, slaughtered the bull, cut it up in pieces, and arranged them all on top of the wood. Then he asked for four large jars filled with water and had them poured over the sacrifice and altar again and again and again, until the altar was drenched, the wood was wet, and the trenches around the altar were full.

Then he prayed a 60-second prayer. To put this in context, the prophets of Baal had prayed for six hours straight. Do the multiplication of 450 prophets of Baal praying for six hours—that’s 2,700 man-hours of prayer versus Elijah’s one minute.

But Elijah’s prayer was answered in a flash, literally. God sent the boom and the fire so powerfully that not only was the bull consumed, but so was the wood, the altar, the soil under the altar, and the water around the altar.

The Aftermath

Shocked and frightened, the people collapsed to the ground and started chanting, “The LORD—He is God! The LORD—He is God!” But Elijah wasn’t finished. He commanded the people to kill all the false prophets of Baal. and that’s exactly what they did.

Elijah scored his victory in an instant. Not only did he win the showdown, but he also wiped out the competition. In that moment, he must have been convinced that the fire of revival would strike in Israel, just as that lightning bolt from Heaven had struck the sacrifice.

Instead, it led to a death threat from the evil queen Jezebel, whose prophets he had humbled and slaughtered on Mt. Carmel that day.

Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, while he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness. He came to a broom bush, sat down under it, and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, LORD,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” (1 Kings 19:3-4)