Many say that they would believe in God if only he would reveal himself to us in a more dramatic fashion. But would they really?
Then the fire of the Lord fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench.1 Kings 18:38-39 NIV
When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, “The Lord—he is God! The Lord—he is God!”
I Kings 38:20-46 is one of my favorite stories in the Old Testament. Leading up to this story, it had not rained in Israel for three years because the people had turned away from God to worship Baal, Asherah and other local deities. In this passage the prophet Elijah challenges the 450 prophets of Baal, as well as the people, to a contest to demonstrate who is really God; either Yahweh or Baal. And the challenge is accepted.
The test is simple, but dramatic. Prophets from both sides will offer a sacrifice on an altar, but not light it on fire. The God who sends down fire from above to burn up the sacrifice will be considered as the God of Israel. The prophets of Baal went first. And nothing happens. For hours they entreat Baal. But no fire. Then Elijah sets up, douses the sacrifice and wood with water, and prays to God. And fire falls from heaven, burning up the sacrifice, the wood, the altar stones, the dirt and the water. The people call out that Yahweh is God. And the prophets of Baal are killed. Revival breaks out.
But it seems to be a pretty short lived revival. The next day Elijah is running for his life and no noticeable change takes place in Israel’s spiritual life.
I think of this story when I hear people say that they would believe in God if he were only more visible. If he would show himself to us in a more dramatic fashion. But I wonder how many of them would respond any different than Israel did here. Maybe a momentary sense of awe, and then back to business as usual. Maybe that is why God has generally chosen not to reveal himself to us in such a dramatic fashion. Instead he reveals himself in the quiet of our hearts and rewards those who respond to him.