A terrible judgement awaits the enemies of God

A terrible judgement awaits the enemies of God

The confrontation between Elijah and the prophets of Baal atop Mt Carmel ended with drama: the fire of the LORD fell and consumed the wet sacrifice. It was clear who the true God was. Elijah was a true prophet, and the prophets of Baal were false prophets. So what should be done with the false prophets? We read what happened in v40:

And Elijah said to them, “Seize the prophets of Baal; let not one of them escape.” And they seized them. And Elijah brought them down to the brook Kishon and slaughtered them there. (1 Ki. 18:40 ESV)

How does reading that make you feel? I imagine, like me, you recoil in horror at this. How terrible! It is as if Elijah is not satisfied with making these prophets look foolish, so he wants to kill them all as well. Isn’t this overkill? Where is the grace?

Yes, this is horrible, and it is meant to be. But I think our natural reaction to this reveals more about our hearts than we like to admit.

In context, think about who these prophets of Baal were. They were responsible for propagating the worship of a god other than the true God. They were highly honoured by the king and queen. It seems that they genuinely believed in Baal, based on their actions in the prayer earlier that day. And the judgement of Elijah on them was death.

This was due to two reasons, I think. The first is that if the worship of the true God was to be reinstated in Israel, the infrastructure surrounding the worship of Baal needed to be removed. But the second, and more important, is this: they are false prophets. Those in leadership positions are judged more harshly. And the clear penalty for false prophets is death (Deut 18:20).

Isn’t God a God of love? Of course! Yet God is also a God of justice. These are people who openly and persistently not only rejected the true God but also encouraged the worship of a rival god. If God pretended that didn’t happen, that might sound loving, but it would be unjust.

Most Christians know verses like Romans 6:23 that the wages of sin is death. Yet when we see that illustrated in 1 Kings 18, we don’t like it. It is an uncomfortable truth we’d rather not think about, let alone see acted out in vivid colour.

The slaughter of the prophets of Baal in 1 Kings 18 is a microcosm of the judgement of God on all who defy Him. One day, all who are opposed to God will end up in eternal judgement, in hell. We don’t like to think about that either, but we must. Trusting in Jesus in not some philosophy that leads to a nice life but it is a life or death issue.

We should recoil in horror at the judgement of God. Not because it is unfair; it is exactly what sinners like us deserve. It is a wonder that we don’t meet that punishment if we trust in Jesus. And it should motivate us to warn others of the judgement to come.