When you’re building a team, it is important to place people in their proper roles. If you are placed on a team, you need to understand your role.
Our community used to have a church softball league, and I played a pretty mean first base. I also batted second in the lineup because, though I wasn’t a great hitter, I was a consistent one. In other words, I never hit home runs. Ever. But I did have a knack for popping the ball over the head of the infield without getting it in the play of the outfield. All three of our first batters were just preparation for the man in the fourth slot. He was a beast, and he regularly hit home runs. Our role was to get ourselves on base before he did so we could run up the score. Two roles were clearly defined, one for offense and the other for defense. Each one of them required different skills at different times.
Later on I became an umpire. Of course, that still required a clear understanding of both offense and defense, as well as how to apply the rules of the game. But I wasn’t playing the game any longer, now I was running the game. Calling balls and strikes as they were pitched and deciding when players were safe or out as they tried to score runs. (I realize that some of you will be more familiar with cricket or football, so I’m deliberately not getting into detailed illustrations here. But each sport has its officials who manage play, so I’m pretty sure I’m on safe ground here.)
The point is this – when you show up at a softball field, you’d better know what role you’re there to play. The umpire cannot get involved in catching balls or running bases. Players who argue with the decisions of the umpire can find themselves tossed out of the game and sitting on the bench for the rest of the day. You have to know your role.
You also have to know the proper roles of others if you’re going to be effective. When a ball is hit to an infielder in softball, his top priority at that point is to throw the ball to the first baseman BEFORE the runner tags the base. So he’d better know which base is “first base” or he’s not going to be able to perform.
That brings us to today’s verse:
YOU, LORD, ARE GOD.
These words are a prayer being spoken by the Prophet Elijah. The full verse actually says, “Answer me, Lord, answer me, so these people will know that you, Lord, are God; and that you are turning their hearts back again.” He had just challenged Ahab, the wicked king of Israel, and 850 so-called prophets from the “opposing team” to a game you might call “Fire Ball.”
Ahab let his heart go astray and worship several false gods, and the people of Israel got sucked into his stupidity. So first God sent a drought that lasted three years, so that He had the attention of the people. Then He sent Elijah. The king was confident, because as he looked at the two “teams” he figured that 850-to-1 tipped the odds strongly in his favor. But he didn’t understand that Elijah wasn’t there alone. One man standing with God is a majority, though he face a nation that opposes him.
Elijah knew that he was a prophet, and that his role was to present the people with the message God gave him to speak. Elijah knew He wasn’t God. He clearly understood the role he was there to play, and he understood the role God Himself was there to play.
YOU, LORD, ARE GOD.
So Elijah sets up the challenge as the king, the false prophets and a large number of people from all over the nation are standing on the top of Mount Carmel. First he challenges the confused Israelites who have been deluded into following false gods. Elijah went before the people and said, “How long will you swing back and forth between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal is God, follow him.” Yeah, when you’re deciding which God you’re going to serve, you want to be careful and pick the right one.
Then Elijah turns his attention to the 850 prophets and issues the fireball challenge. Each “team” in turn will build an altar to their deity. Place the stone, cut the wood, kill the sacrifice and lay it upon the altar … and then PRAY. The god who answers by sending fire from heaven – he is God. Then I love what he does next. Elijah says, “You go first.”
So 850 prophets stacked the stuff and then danced, pranced, shouted and prayed from morning until noon. But there was no response. Their god didn’t answer.
Just to drive his point home more clearly, at noon Elijah actually begins to taunt the other team. He tells them to shout louder!! He says, “Maybe your god is on the toilet and can’t hear you!” (If you look in your bible at this verse, you’ll see that many of them will translate the phrase as “deep in thought,” but that was used as an idiomatic expression for what I wrote.) After a while, when they’ve still had no answer, Elijah suggests their god may be sleeping; he tells them to shout loud enough to wake him up! Meanwhile, Israel watches.
Then at about mid-afternoon, the time to prepare the evening sacrifice, Elijah tells everyone that it’s his turn. He stacks the stone and the wood for his offering, slaughters the sacrifice and lays it on the altar. But he’s not done. Elijah calls for four large jars of water to be brought and poured over offering and the wood. Then he has them do it a second time. And then a third. (I could spend a great deal of time expounding on the twelve jars, the twelve tribes and baptism; but we can’t do it here.)
If you’ve ever tried to light a fire after a soaking rain, you know that wet wood is tough to light. But Elijah knew his God, and he knew his role. Elijah’s job was to present Israel with a clear choice, God’s job was to demonstrate that He was the one true God.
YOU, LORD, ARE GOD.
So when the time came to offer the evening sacrifice, Elijah steps forward and prays. He says, “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.” He knows that it is God’s job to let it be known that He is God. Then he finishes his prayer by saying, “Answer me, Lord, answer me, so these people will know that you, Lord, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.”
Then a massive, flaming ball of fire fell. Not only did it consume the sacrifice, but it burned so hot that it also consumed the wood, decomposed the very stones of the altar, scorched the earth and vaporized the water! Game, set, match. Or, if you’re more into video games than actual sports, GAME OVER!
When all the people saw this, they fell on their faces and shouted out, “The LORD—he is God! The LORD—he is God!” And now THEY KNEW their proper place, as well; and the true God they should serve.
Until you know the true God, you’ll never know your true place. You’ll have no way to understand what He has called you to do and who He has called you to be. Like the people on the mountain, you need to shout, “The LORD—he is God!”
The point is this – when you show up to play the game of life, you’d better know what role you’re there to play.
When you’re deciding which God you’re going to serve, you want to pick the right one.
Know Him. Let Him define who you are and who He has called you to be.
Because one person standing with God is a majority.
All together now …
YOU, LORD, ARE GOD.