He stands alone, but doesn’t hesitate to turn to the people and challenge them with this: “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) Did he hope they would make the choice without the test that was to follow?
The telling statement follows: “But the people said nothing.” Silence. I suppose the good thing was that they didn’t cheer for Baal either.
They were waiting for proof and when God delivered they would fall on their faces and declare, “The Lord—he is God! The Lord—he is God!” (vs. 39)
One of the criticisms often leveled at believers is that they practice “blind” faith. In other words, they believe without seeing evidence. In the past we have protested by citing examples from our experience that we offer as proof that God exits—He has acted in response to our faith. But each new challenge in life becomes a fresh test. Elijah had so much faith that God was going to respond that he soaked the altar, the wood on the altar, and the sacrifice to be offered on the altar, before he called down fire from heaven.
His faith was blind, in the sense that in this particular instance he had no crystal ball to tell him that God was going to respond with the fire that lapped up the sacrifice, the wood, the altar and the water!
That’s the essence of faith, according to Hebrews. “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.” (Hebrews 11:1, 2) Then follows a multitude of examples of people who exercised faith BEFORE the evidence was presented that God was at work.
When Elijah challenged the people who stood on the mountain, their silence spoke volumes. They had no faith—perhaps not even faith in Baal, let alone in the Lord God. They responded to the proof, but that wasn’t necessarily evidence of faith.
Elijah’s question provokes another: Do I respond to the proof, or do I have faith that God is at work BEFORE the proof is offered or, more importantly, when He waits, for reasons sometimes only known to Him, and offers no proof at all? With each new challenge to faith, can I follow without the proof, believing that God is faithful and good even when His voice is silence and His footprints cannot be seen?