1 Kings 18:30 (NIV) 30 Then Elijah said to all the people, “Come here to me.” They came to him, and he repaired the altar of the LORD, which was in ruins.
On verse 30: What does the writer of 1 Kings mean when writing that Elijah “repaired the altar of the Lord, which was in ruins”? It means that Elijah was re-establishing a culture of worshiping the Lord, a culture that had disappeared in the face of rampant and ongoing idolatry in Israel.
What can we learn from this? Before you can experience much of the Holy Spirit, you need to repair and re-establish a life of worshiping the Lord. That includes prioritizing weekly worship with your church community, spending regular daily time with God, and trying to live each day for God’s glory.
1 Kings 18:30-32 (NIV) 30 Then Elijah said to all the people, “Come here to me.” They came to him, and he repaired the altar of the LORD, which was in ruins. 31 Elijah took twelve stones, one for each of the tribes descended from Jacob, to whom the word of the LORD had come, saying, “Your name shall be Israel.” 32 With the stones he built an altar in the name of the LORD, and he dug a trench around it large enough to hold two seahs of seed.
On verses 31-32: Elijah took 12 stones, representing the 12 tribes of Israel. Putting them beside and on top of one another, Elijah used those stones to build a new and simple altar on which he would make a sacrifice to the Lord. Likewise, the Bible describes you and me as living stones which God is using to build a spiritual house of worship (1 Peter 2:4-5).
What can we learn from this? If you want to experience much of the Holy Spirit, you first need to be connected to others in Christian community. Like stones set beside and on top of one another, you and I were meant to be connected with other stones — i.e. other Christians in close Christian community. Christian community is essential if you want to experience the greatest miracles God wants to do in and through your life.
By the way, why did Elijah build a trench around the altar? I’ll get to that when we look at verse 34.
1 Kings 18:33 (NIV) 33 He arranged the wood, cut the bull into pieces and laid it on the wood…
On verse 33: Elijah slaughters a bull and lays it on the wood on top of the altar as a sacrifice to God. Similarly, before you can experience the fire of the Holy Spirit, you first need to recognize and accept the sacrifice of Jesus for your sins — how this perfect lamb of God was slaughtered and laid on a wooden cross for you and me.
1 Kings 18:33-35 (NIV) 33 …Then he said to them, “Fill four large jars with water and pour it on the offering and on the wood.” 34 “Do it again,” he said, and they did it again. “Do it a third time,” he ordered, and they did it the third time. 35 The water ran down around the altar and even filled the trench.
On verses 33-35: Elijah instructs three times that large amounts of water be poured on the sacrifice, so much so that the sacrifice is drenched in water and water even fills the trench that Elijah dug around it. (City Hall in Jerusalem must have been furious with how Elijah was “wasting” so much water in the midst of a drought!) Why would Elijah pour so much water on a sacrifice that was meant to be set on fire? Isn’t that making the sacrifice harder to be set on fire? Here are two thoughts for you:
1. Sometimes God will do things that seem like He’s digging a hole (or a trench!) for Himself and making it harder for Himself. Sometimes it might seem like God is extinguishing His own flame by dousing it with water. Yet the reason God seems to make it harder for Himself sometimes is so that He can accomplish an even greater miracle than we could imagine and leave no doubt that it was Him who accomplished it.
Is God seemingly making your life harder these days? If so, don’t despair. It’s not because God is cruel or wants to punish you. It’s because He wants to display His power in and through your life in greater ways than you yourself can imagine.
2. Elsewhere in Scripture, God’s Word is likened to water. See for example Ephesians 5:23 where Christ cleanses His church “by washing her with water through the word”. When Elijah drenches the sacrifice with so much water, it’s a reminder to me that if you want to experience the fire of the Holy Spirit, you first need to be cleansed, filled and drenched with the Word of God.
1 Kings 18:36-37 (NIV) 36 At the time of sacrifice, the prophet Elijah stepped forward and prayed: “O LORD, God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. 37 Answer me, O LORD, answer me, so these people will know that you, O LORD, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.”
On verses 36-37: At the time of the sacrifice Elijah opens his mouth and prays. Elijah is clearly not just a spectator to worship, but an active participant. Likewise, if you want to experience the fire of the Holy Spirit, you need to draw near to God in prayer. As Colossians 4:2 says, “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful”. Much prayer, much power; little prayer, little power; no prayer, no power.
1 Kings 18:38-40 (NIV) 38 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. 39 When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, “The LORD–he is God! The LORD–he is God!” 40 Then Elijah commanded them, “Seize the prophets of Baal. Don’t let anyone get away!” They seized them, and Elijah had them brought down to the Kishon Valley and slaughtered there.
On verses 38-40: After Elijah has:
– built the altar with 12 stones (representing our need to be in Christian community);
– slaughtered the bull and placed it on the wood (representing our need to recognize and receive what Christ did on the cross for us);
– drenched it with water (representing our need to be filled with God’s Word); and
– prayed (representing our need to devote ourselves to prayer)
that’s when Elijah and the Israelites (and we also) experience the fire of the Holy Spirit descending upon the offering. That’s when the people’s faith in the Lord is ignited. That’s when false prophets are silenced and revealed for the impostors that they are.
If you want to experience the fire of the Holy Spirit, then be connected in Christian community, recognize your need for Jesus to cover your sin, drench yourself in the Word of God, pray, and trust Him even when it doesn’t make sense.
1 Kings 18:41-46 (NIV) 41 And Elijah said to Ahab, “Go, eat and drink, for there is the sound of a heavy rain.” 42 So Ahab went off to eat and drink, but Elijah climbed to the top of Carmel, bent down to the ground and put his face between his knees. 43 “Go and look toward the sea,” he told his servant. And he went up and looked. “There is nothing there,” he said. Seven times Elijah said, “Go back.” 44 The seventh time the servant reported, “A cloud as small as a man’s hand is rising from the sea.” So Elijah said, “Go and tell Ahab, ‘Hitch up your chariot and go down before the rain stops you.'” 45 Meanwhile, the sky grew black with clouds, the wind rose, a heavy rain came on and Ahab rode off to Jezreel. 46 The power of the LORD came upon Elijah and, tucking his cloak into his belt, he ran ahead of Ahab all the way to Jezreel.
On verses 41-46: After experiencing one of the most amazing miracles in the Bible, Ahab eats while Elijah prays (v41-42). Then Elijah tells his servant to look toward the sea, and after a long time of seeing nothing, his servant finally reports that a cloud as small as a man’s hand is rising from the sea (v43-44). Elijah tells Ahab that a strong rain is coming. So Ahab hitches up his chariot to go home, while Elijah is supernaturally empowered and runs even faster than Ahab’s chariot.
Why can we learn from this? Here we see the power of prayer. Because Elijah prayed:
– Elijah perceived things that others could not perceive (Whereas others saw a rainless drought, Elijah heard the sound of heavy rain – v41. Before anyone else could perceive it, Elijah perceived that a powerful rain was coming – v44-45)
– Elijah persevered where others would give up (For example, he told his servant seven times to go back and look toward the sea even when each time the servant would say “there is nothing there” all the way until that servant was also able to see a small raincloud rising – v43-44)
– Elijah had power that others did not have (Elijah could outrun Ahab’s chariot even after giving Ahab a headstart – v46)
That is the power of prayer.
Heavenly Father, thank You for making it possible for us to experience the fire of the Holy Spirit in powerful, tangible ways. I want more of You Holy Spirit and to experience You more. Thank You for showing through Your Word that there is no magic to experiencing Your Holy Spirit. Rather help me to take the steps explained above so that I am well positioned to experience the Holy Spirit in my life. In Jesus’ name, AMEN!