“Mountain God” is a series of reflections I shared on a youth adventure trip climbing in the Rocky Mountains in 2009.
“It’s not I who has caused trouble in Israel,” said Elijah, “but you and your government—you’ve dumped God’s ways and commands and run off after the local gods, the Baals. Here’s what I want you to do: Assemble everyone in Israel at Mount Carmel. And make sure that the special pets of Jezebel, the four hundred and fifty prophets of the local gods, the Baals, and the four hundred prophets of the whore goddess Asherah, are there.” So Ahab summoned everyone in Israel, particularly the prophets, to Mount Carmel. 21 Elijah challenged the people: “How long are you going to sit on the fence? If God is the real God, follow him; if it’s Baal, follow him. Make up your minds!” Nobody said a word; nobody made a move” (1 Kings 18 The Message).
Idols. False gods. We all have them. We live in a world worshiping at the altars of many self-created gods and goddesses we turn to for life, meaning, fulfillment, cheap thrills and pleasure. Money. Sex. Power. Popularity. Body Image. Eternal Youth. Most of us simply keep our own Ego on the throne of our lives and serve our own desires and longings.
Today we marched up to another high peak and found a nice spot to sit and dig into this famous “Show down on Mount Carmel” between Elijah, the prophet of God and our hundred and fifty prophets of the local gods, the Baals, and the four hundred prophets of the whore goddess Asherah. With our cell phones, televisions, iPods, Facebook and other daily distractions and entertainment far away, this was a good time to do some serious soul-searching and perhaps decision-making.
This passage cuts to the chase with a blunt question as relevant today as 3,000 years ago when Elijah first challenged his audience on the mountain:
“How long are you going to sit on the fence? If God is the real God, follow him; if it’s Baal, follow him. Make up your minds!”
My hopes in preparing this trip was that we might be able to have our own little showdown on the mountain top, as we honestly confess our own tendency to chase after other idols in place of God. Perhaps we could make our own makeshift altar out of loose stones on the cliffside, build a fire, write down our idols on a slip of paper and burn them on the altar of God’s divine grace and forgiveness.
Finally, we all need to answer Elijah’s question. Many still sit on the fence in secret, giving lip service to God at church in the presence of others but in secret doubting His existence. There is no greater place to “Make up your mind” than on the mountain of God in the company of good friends. If God is the real God, then let’s follow Him, and sacrifice our idols once and for all on the mountaintop!