At the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, Elijah the prophet came near and said, “O Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, today let it be known that You are God in Israel and that I am Your servant and I have done all these things at Your word. Answer me, O Lord, answer me, that this people may know that You, O Lord, are God, and that You have turned their heart back again.” Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. When all the people saw it, they fell on their faces; and they said, “The Lord, He is God; the Lord, He is God.” -1 Kings 18:36-39, NASB
I have always been fascinated by Elijah’s life and the incident related in 1 Kings chapter 18 is a favorite. Trying to imagine what it must have been like to see Elijah rebuilding the altar, having the people pour so much water over it that it was completely soaked, then hearing Elijah pray to God and witness that fire that came down from heaven and consumed even the stones and the dust…just wow!
The people who were witness to this had come out to see which God was the true God-Baal or the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel. They were a people who had turned away from following God to worship idols. They were a people in rebellion from God. But God showered them with grace when He met them there in the fire that day. My attention was caught by one of the lines in Elijah’s prayer as I read this morning: “Answer me, O Lord, answer me, that this people may know that You, O Lord, are God, and that You have turned their heart back again.” Did you catch that? God has turned the heart of this people back again. This was a people in rebellion and called in His great mercy and grace turned their hearts back to Him. They deserved death and He gave them life. Sound familiar?
It sounds to me like the same thing happened to the people in Thessalonica-oh they did not have God’s power come down in the form of fire that consumed, but they experienced His power nevertheless,
We give thanks to God always for all of you, making mention of you in our prayers; constantly bearing in mind your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the presence of our God and Father, knowing, brethren beloved by God, His choice of you; for our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake. You also became imitators of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much tribulation with the joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. For the word of the Lord has sounded forth from you, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith toward God has gone forth, so that we have no need to say anything. For they themselves report about us what kind of a reception we had with you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve a living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath to come. -1 Thessalonians 1:2-10, (emphasis mine.)
I see some similarities-these were a people God chose to turn from idolatry to the One, true, living God. God’s grace was at work in the time of Ahab. God’s grace was at work in the time of Paul, and God’s grace is at work today. It is so clear that there was absolutely nothing the people of Israel did to deserve such grace-God chose them, and did all the work needed and when they witnessed God’s power they fell on their faces and repented…and obeyed. That is a true and proper response when the power of God is revealed to you.