It is intriguing how much joy and frustration building a fire can bring. Over my years in camping ministry I’ve taught many campers and staff the necessary tools to build a campfire. Once a frustrated fire builder exclaimed, “How are there so many house fires when I can’t even get one fire to light when I’m trying so hard!?”
There are some basics to fire building: fuel, heat, and oxygen. And then there are the complexities of airflow, kindling, fire composition, structure and the like.
There is one fire fact that has caused many a campfire builder intense frustration:
Wet wood really puts a damper on trying to start a fire, literally.
Many challenges can be overcome but lighting a fire with soaking wet wood has to be one of the most difficult.
Yet, Elijah purposely had his wood soaked, soaked again, and soaked a third time… the wood was so wet that the water overflowed the altar! It was wet beyond wet and that was the point. Because when that fire was engulfed in flames, there was no mistaking the power of the one who lit the fire!
Since the introduction of sin in the garden, all humanity struggled with the pervasive problem of sin and the brokenness that followed… brokenness between God and humanity, brokenness between people, brokenness in all of creation. Even in brokenness, God drew people to Himself and entered covenant with them. But the people broke every covenant… God’s people were unable to faithfully uphold their promises to God.
and people are prone to wander
In the covenant at Mount Sinai, the first commandment was, “You shall have no other gods before me.”
Unfortunately Israel often gave into the temptation to follow other gods. And (as a prophet of the one true God) the Lord sent Elijah to make it abundantly clear who was truly God!
20 So Ahab sent word throughout all Israel and assembled the prophets on Mount Carmel. 21 Elijah went before the people and said, “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.”
But the people said nothing.
22 Then Elijah said to them, “I am the only one of the Lord’s prophets left, but Baal has four hundred and fifty prophets. 23 Get two bulls for us. Let Baal’s prophets choose one for themselves, and let them cut it into pieces and put it on the wood but not set fire to it. I will prepare the other bull and put it on the wood but not set fire to it.24 Then you call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the Lord. The god who answers by fire—he is God.”1 Kings 16:20-24
No matter what the prophets of Baal and Asherah tried, their gods did not answer. Then Elijah stepped up, built an altar with 12 stones, placed the wood, arranged the offering, and instructed for the altar to be soaked with water… soaked 3 times over! So much water that the trench around the altar overflowed.
In the dumping on of all that water it was abundantly clear, without-a-doubt-obvious as those flames consumed the altar that God was indeed the one true God. It was clear to all those prophets of Baal, clear to King Ahab, clear to all the people, and still clear to us today.
The Lord is all-powerful, all-knowing, ever-present, good, true, righteous, just, faithful, merciful, and loving. And when we’re prone to wander, when doubt creeps in… God makes it unmistakably clear that He is who He says He is… we can count on that!
I’m in awe of God whose immense power is unfathomable to me. I’m amazed by God who chooses the unmistakable act of sending fire so strong that it even leapt up all the wet wood, the offering, the stones, and every ounce of the water at the altar. And even more so I’m captivated in wonder of God who chooses to use His power and might to seek me… to save me… to love me… to give His life for me!