The nation was in a free fall heading for destruction. Not a single drop of rain had fallen for three and a half years. People were starving; animals were dying; crops had failed; and the economy had collapsed. Never before had the nation faced such a desperate hour. People were looking for leadership, but those in charge had forsaken and forgotten God. King Ahab was on the throne, but the Bible says, “There was none like unto Ahab, which did sell himself to work wickedness in the sight of the Lord, whom Jezebel his wife stirred up. And he did very abominably in following idols” (1 Kings 21:25–26a). Was this the end for God’s people? Who at this critical moment would stand up and take a position for truth?
No matter how dark the hour, God never leaves this world without a remnant. Into this dismal scene walks the man of God—Elijah the Tishbite. While his appearance and manner were not acceptable among the social elite, there was no question that this man walked with God. In 1 Kings 18, God tells this prophet to make a visit to the palace and knock on the door of King Ahab. No one had seen Elijah for over three years, and the king had declared that this nemesis to his kingdom was dead. But God was about to confront wickedness with truth, and Elijah was up for the challenge.
After a brief discussion, Ahab blames Elijah for the famine and Elijah blames Ahab. It was decided that they would settle the issue by having a contest on the top of Mount Carmel. An altar would be erected, and God and Baal would go head-to-head. The masses of people made their way up the mountain for all were invited to view this spectacle. Ahab gathered the 450 prophets of Baal along with the 400 prophets of the groves, and they strode together overshadowing the figure of a single prophet of God. The rules were clear—a sacrifice would be placed upon the altar, and the God that could bring down fire and consume the sacrifice would be declared to be the true God.
No doubt the atmosphere on the top of that mountain was electric as the people gathered. Hundreds of false prophets stood smugly with their wicked king on one side, while the lonely prophet knelt on the other side in total dependence upon God and His Word. Just before the contest commenced, Elijah stood to his feet and addressed the multitudes. “How long halt ye between two opinions? If the Lord be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him. And the people answered him not a word” (1 Kings 18:21). How sad! Not one person would step forward and declare himself as a follower of God or a follower of Baal. Every single person stood in the middle of two diametrically opposed positions—God and Baal. Perhaps they were fearful—intimidated by a wicked king. Perhaps they were fickle, wanting to see who would win before they chose a side. Or perhaps they were simply foolish, thinking they could tolerate both.
This lack of decision by the people at a crucial moment was the result of tolerance for sin among one of their leaders. When Elijah was instructed by God to go and speak with Ahab in the early part of the chapter, he ran into a man by the name of Obadiah. Obadiah was also a prophet, and the Bible tells us in 1 Kings 18:3 that he “…feared the Lord greatly.” In verse 12 of the same chapter it says, “…But I thy servant fear the Lord from my youth.” Obadiah had been raised to know and serve the God of Heaven. He knew who the true God was, but during this famine Obadiah had gone down to the palace and blended in with the wicked King Ahab to become the governor of his house.
While Elijah was living alone by the brook Cherith, trusting God to feed him and surviving on the barrel of meal and the cruse of oil in the house of a widow of Zarephath, Obadiah was eating steak and drinking wine in the palace of the most wicked king who ever lived. Oh, he justified his tolerance with a few good deeds here and there. When Jezebel got angry at the prophets for preaching truth, Obadiah hid them in a cave and fed them with bread and water. That all sounds noble, but why didn’t Jezebel want to kill Obadiah? Didn’t he fear the Lord greatly? Ahab and Jezebel didn’t fear the life of Obadiah because he was a Christian who tolerated error and wickedness. He was no threat to their godless regime. With Obadiah as the governor of his house, Ahab could make it appear that his beliefs were no different than those of God’s people.
With Obadiah safely tucked in his back pocket, Ahab had no fear that the people would turn against him. They had become tolerant of wickedness and had blended their views together so that they now could not answer between God or Baal. They no doubt believed that both views were right. The blending of beliefs through tolerance always leads to the position of no position. “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon” (Matthew 6:24). “Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils: ye cannot be partakers of the Lord’s table, and of the table of devils” (1 Corinthians 10:21).
Man wants a culture today without absolutes. We have decided that it is arrogant to believe that there is a right and a wrong; a true and a false; a winner and a loser. If nothing is absolute then there is no judgment, and thus man can be his own judge and live however he chooses. Man wants many gods, but God declares, “For there is one God” (1 Timothy 2:5a). Man wants many saviors, but the Bible declares, “I, even I, am the Lord; and beside me there is no saviour” (Isaiah 43:11). Man wants many ways to Heaven, but Jesus declared: “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6). Man wants to eliminate judgment, but God declares, “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). Man doesn’t want winners or losers, but God makes it clear, “He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life” (1 John 5:12).
On February 24, 2010 the world was saddened by the death of Dawn Brancheau, a trainer of killer whales at Sea World in Florida. Dawn first became interested in working with these giant sea creatures at age ten and was said by her family to be living out her dream. Tillikum, or Tilly was a giant killer whale that was taken out of his habitat and placed in captivity for the purpose of breeding and performance. While he had thrilled large crowds for years, he had twice before struck a fatal blow. This time, he grabbed Dawn by her hair and pulled her beneath the surface of the water thrashing her body relentlessly. Moments later onlookers wondered how such a horrific event could have taken place.
Most of us have a fear of certain things such as poisonous snakes, man-eating sharks, killer bees, or killer whales! We value our lives too much to tolerate such creatures as pets. Others like Dawn, have a curiosity and interest in these animals, and over time they attempt to establish relationships with them. These trainers soon become very comfortable feeding them, rubbing their noses, and even swimming with them in the water. I have sat and watched these trainers several times at Sea World and everything looks so natural between man and beast. The show proceeds without a hitch as the trainer and the whale work together to impress the crowd with jumps and splashes. But February 24 reminded us once again that Tilly was indeed a “killer” whale.
Today, many of God’s people are swimming like Obadiah in a tank with King Ahab. Everything seems fine, and it just feels good to get along with everybody. But Jesus declares plainly in John 10:10a, “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy.” It’s time for the Obadiahs to resign as governor of Ahab’s house. It’s time for the multitudes to choose a side. Get out of the pool of tolerance—there’s a killer of truth that is about to destroy you.