The sign said "REVIVAL TODAY. Come one, come all; famous traveling preacher and miracle worker, guest revivalist Brother Elijah. Come see signs and wonders. Experience the power of God." So the people began gathering on Mt. Carmel, expecting a very exciting meeting. Although, it was not written on the sign, rumor had gotten out there would be more than one guest preacher. In fact, by special invitation of Brother Elijah himself, there were 450 visiting prophets from the congregation of Ba'al and 400 from the congregation of Ashtoreth. The 450 ministers of Ba'al spent a good portion of the day giving an altar-call. They called on Ba'al to come to their altar and accept the sacrifice they had placed there. Unable to get a response from their deity, their actions became more frantic. They yelled and they jumped and they cut themselves, just to let Ba'al know how serious they were. Brother Elijah sought to encourage them by calling out helpful instructions such as, "You need to shout louder. He might not be able to hear you. He could be taking a nap or even be in the bathroom. So make that extra effort and raise your voices."
However, it was to no avail. Ba'al and Ashtoreth are just vain idols without any life or power. So, it was time for Brother Elijah to step in and show them how to do it right. He prepared a sacrifice and called upon the name of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel who answered by fire instantaneously, consuming the sacrifice. When the fire fell, the people of Israel fell on their faces and cried out "The Lord he is God, the Lord he is God." Then the 850 false prophets of Ba'al and Ashtoreth were slain ... not in the spirit; but by the sword.
In one sense it seemed to be a great revival. On the other hand, its impact did not go any farther. There is no indication that the synagogues were packed the next morning with freshly revived Israelites. Though the people may no longer have had much confidence in Ba'al (having had a pretty poor showing in the showdown), they still did not seem all that inclined to follow the God of Elijah either. And of course, this did not increase Elijah's popularity with Queen Jezebel, who now had to find 850 new dinner guests.
So what does this have to do with Passover you may ask? It's a good question since the connection may not be immediately evident.
Courtesy of Miriam Hellman, Prophetic Ministries.
"Elijah at the Seder".
A Vision of Hope. www.miriamhellman.org
Elijah was also seen as a fiery preacher of judgment. The prayer that is recited when the door is held open for Elijah is one of judgment upon the nations that have persecuted God's people. In the New Covenant scriptures, John the baptizer also comes as the herald of the Messianic redemption, preparing the way as the forerunner of Messiah Yeshua. He was also a fiery preacher of judgment seeking to stir up the people of Israel to prepare their hearts to be revived. But it took the coming of Yeshua Himself for the true revival to begin. This is the other connection to the opening story: the issue of revival. While the above version of Elijah and the prophets of Ba'al is somewhat tongue-in-cheek, there are some parallels to what can happen in congregations today - a lot of thunder and lightning, fiery preaching and perhaps even some dramatic healings, and a fair share of frantic activity. But the important question to ask is whether or not lasting fruit was the outcome. As one old preacher told me years ago, "What matters is not how high you jump (when you're praising the Lord) but how straight you walk when you come down."
Everything ultimately rests on Yeshua. He is the Lamb of God that was slain on Passover. Scripture tells us, "Everyone who believes in Him will not be disappointed" (Romans 10:11, NAS). Elijah was disappointed, discouraged, disillusioned, and depressed in spite of the impressive display of God's power. The only thing that seemed to be different the next day was that 850 false prophets were dead and it was raining after the 3 year drought. Elijah fled south to Sinai where he was confronted by God. In this encounter he was again exposed to dramatic fireworks – a powerful wind breaking the mountain into pieces, an earthquake and fire. But I Kings 19:11,12 says that the Lord was not in those things. The inference is that God was present only in the still small voice that followed. Even then, Elijah had difficulty seeing what God had purposed.
Perhaps we also erroneously look to big names, frantic activity and flashy techniques and call it revival. Passover ultimately holds the key to revival because Passover is the beginning of all things including revival. It is the Exodus from Egypt. It is the first feast in the yearly cycle of holidays. It is the time, when after the wilderness journey, Israel crossed the Jordan River. The men of Israel were circumcised (having neglected this foundational commandment for 40 years) and reentered into covenant with God. That new generation celebrated Passover for the first time in the Promised Land.
In King Hezekiah's day, Israel celebrated a unique Passover in Jerusalem. The renewal of the feast brought together men from a number of the northern tribes that had been estranged from the southern kingdom of Judah since the split after the death of Solomon. That Passover was such a blessed occasion that they celebrated for two weeks (they gladly ate matzah 7 days longer than was necessary! II Chron. 30:23) King Josiah led a great revival. He removed the idolatrous abominations from the land and set the House of the Lord in order. The culmination of this revival was the entire nation celebrating the Passover. Scripture records that such a Passover had not been kept since the days of Samuel (II Chron. 35:18). When the exiles returned from Babylon under Ezra, they were careful to keep the Passover (Ezra 6:19).
And of course, Yeshua's sacrificial death took place on Passover - the redemption of which we are recipients and participants to this day. To revive is to bring back to life.
We needed to be brought back to life; we needed to be rescued from death. It's what Passover is about. Egypt was a place of living death. We were alive, yet, we were dead, cruelly consigned to bondage by our Egyptian task masters. God revived us by taking us out of that place and bringing us into a place of life.
Today we celebrate Passover, the commemoration of how God intervened on behalf of our forefathers and revived the nation. We also celebrate God sending His son Yeshua, the Passover lamb "who takes away the sin of the world!" (John1:29) Truly we have been revived. We have passed from death unto life.
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Also in this issue of the newsletter:
|Dan Juster: Role Models|
|Marty Shoub: An Offering of Thanks|
|Asher Intrater: Esther, Iran and the End Times|
|David Shishkoff: Polish Christian Leaders visit Israel|