I have some encouragement to give in light of last week’s news about the death penalty being pursued for Jahar.
My message comes out of 1 Kings 18:20-39. Rather than quote the entire thing here, I’ll tell the story myself.
The prophet Elijah, the prophets of the god Baal, and the people of Israel were gathered upon Mount Carmel. The people of Israel, God’s chosen people, had been trying to serve both God and Baal, and Elijah tells them how they cannot go on serving both. So he devises a test in which he and the prophets of Baal would build altars to sacrifice a bull. He and the prophets would call upon the name of God and Baal, respectively, and the God that answers by fire would be the true God.
Elijah appears to have the odds stacked against him. Baal’s prophets are 450 men, while Elijah is the only one of the prophets of the Lord willing to make a public stand against the prophets of Baal. Elijah also gives the prophets of Baal a head start, allowing them the first opportunity to try to get their god to answer.
After the prophets of Baal cry out to no avail from morning to midday, Elijah rebuilds the altar of the Lord and prepares the bull for sacrifice.
Then he does the unthinkable. The odds already appearing to be against him, he douses the altar with water three times, so that the entire altar and the area around it is saturated with water.
Imagine the reaction of any person there who was actually serving God instead of Baal: “Elijah, what are you doing? Are you out of your mind? The sacrifice will never be consumed by fire now.” As an act of great faith, Elijah effectively renders it impossible for combustion to occur. If the sacrifice were to be consumed by fire, it would have to be entirely the Lord’s miraculous doing.
The altar now built and doused, Elijah calls upon the name of the Lord. And God answers with fire! Not only is the offering consumed but so is the wood, the stones, the dust, and all of the water that was in the trench by the altar.
So it’s possible you’re wondering at this point how this connects to Jahar and the death penalty. It all has to do with trusting God when bad news comes.
Think of each bit of bad news about Jahar as a dousing of water. When the special administrative measures were put in place and we could no longer share Christ with Jahar through letters, that was a dousing of water. When Eric Holder announced that the death penalty is being pursued for Jahar, that was a dousing of water. An already bad situation has gotten worse with each of those pieces of news. In other words, it appears to be getting far more impossible that God’s answer to our prayers will come.
But let’s take pieces of bad news with the faith of Elijah. Elijah saw dousings of water not as a reason to doubt God’s provision but as a way for God to be glorified all the greater when His answer does come.
It seemed impossible that the sacrifice on the altar would start on fire. It seems impossible that Jahar will leave Islam and come to Christ. But as Matthew 19:26b says, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” God provided with fire when the dousing of the altar made that seem impossible, and God can provide with salvation when Jahar’s circumstances make that seem impossible.
With last week’s news, water has been poured on the altar, so to speak, but let’s pray unmoved by that for God to send His fire.