Intro: Are you a jealous person? God is. God often describes Himself as a jealous God in the O.T. Ex 34:12-17 – Take heed to yourself, lest you make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land where you are going, lest it be a snare in your midst. 13 But you shall destroy their altars, break their sacred pillars, and cut down their wooden images 14 (for you shall worship no other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God), 15 lest you make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, and they play the harlot with their gods and make sacrifice to their gods, and one of them invites you and you eat of his sacrifice, 16 and you take of his daughters for your sons, and his daughters play the harlot with their gods and make your sons play the harlot with their gods. 17 “You shall make no molded gods for yourselves.
- He will not allow us to place Him in a list of other gods, even if He is considered the most powerful and desirable. Faith and worship demand that He holds the position alone.
- During the time of the divided kingdom, the northern tribes of Israel became enamored and addicted to the worship of a Canaanite deity referred to as Baal.
- 1 Kings 18:21 – And Elijah came to all the people, and said, “How long will you falter between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.” But the people answered him not a word. With these words Elijah challenged Israel to choose between two mutually exclusive options. In fact, that seems to be his salient point in the events that surrounded this challenge. The word, “if” does not suggest that Jehovah might not be the true God. But rather that Baal and Jehovah could not be honored by Israel at the same time.
I. Who was Baal? How many of you have ever thought much about Baal? The name is often used in the OT.
A. The name Baal literally means “master” or “owner” “possessor”. In this capacity the word was even used to refer to Jehovah as the Master. The Israelites even incorporated the word in their own names (Gideon was called Jerubaal- Judges 7:1; names found in genealogies of Jews (Eshbaal, MeribBaal – 1 Chron. 8:33, 34) to refer to Jehovah as the Lord.
B. Sometimes this name referenced local false gods in the names of places such as Baal Hermon (Judges 3:3), Baal Tyre, etc. The plural form (Baalim) of the word was used to reference a multiplicity of gods
C. Later the name came to refer almost exclusively to the prominent idol of the Canaanites, associated with the rain and fertility. Ungers Bible dictionary says.. Baal was the son of El, the father of the gods and the head of the Canaanite pantheon, according to the tablets from Ugarit. He is also designated as “the son of Dagon” (Heb. dagan, “grain”), an ancient Canaanite and Mesopotamian deity associated with agriculture. Baal was thus the farm god who gave increase to family and field, flocks and herds. He was likewise identified with the storm god Hadad, whose voice could be heard in the reverberating thunder that accompanied rain, so necessary for the success of the crops.
II. Baal and Israel: The inhabitants of Canaan were addicted to Baal worship, and their influence introduced this false God to Israel, especially during the time of King Ahab and Jezebel.
A. The worship of Baal was conducted by priests in temples and in good weather outdoors in fields and particularly on hilltops called “high places.” The cult included animal sacrifice, ritualistic meals, and licentious dances. Near the rock altar was a sacred pillar, or masseba, and close by was the symbol of the ashera, both of which apparently symbolized human fertility. High places had chambers for sacred prostitution by male prostitutes and sacred harlots. 1 Kings 14:23-24 – For they also built for themselves high places, sacred pillars, and wooden images on every high hill and under every green tree. 24 And there were also perverted persons in the land. They did according to all the abominations of the nations which the Lord had cast out before the children of Israel.
B. Why was Baal so appealing to Israel? Does it still have an appeal among us? Let me suggest 3 reasons why this became such a stumbling block for Israel:
1. They failed to eradicate it. Deuteronomy 7:1-6 – 7 “When the Lord your God brings you into the land which you go to possess, and has cast out many nations before you, the Hittites and the Girgashites and the Amorites and the Canaanites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and mightier than you, 2 and when the Lord your God delivers them over to you, you shall conquer them and utterly destroy them. You shall make no covenant with them nor show mercy to them. 3 Nor shall you make marriages with them. You shall not give your daughter to their son, nor take their daughter for your son. 4 For they will turn your sons away from following Me, to serve other gods; so the anger of the Lord will be aroused against you and destroy you suddenly. 5 But thus you shall deal with them: you shall destroy their altars, and break down their sacred pillars, and cut down their wooden images, and burn their carved images with fire.
a. God’s commands may seem severe to us. But, as became evident, He knew the danger involved. They may have reasoned ass we often do. It will be better if we do not rock the boat, and learn to all get along. (Let me be clear, I am not suggesting that God’s orders here apply to us in any physical or literal way. Physically we are called to non-resistance). But Israel was able to become comfortable living among idolaters. Not repulsed by it.
b. as it applies to us personally, we must see the necessity to deal with the influence of sin seriously. God has provided the power (as He did for Israel) to defeat the enemy. We must use it. Rom 8:13 – For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. Col 3:5-6 – Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. 6 Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience,
c. The result of this failure to eradicate the vestiges of Baal worship was a mixing of the true with the false. Compromise: – Intermarriage caused Israel to be mixed together with their neighbors both physically and spiritually. Many didn’t give themselves over to Baal worship, but allowed it to influence them in unhealthy ways. This was Elijah’s point in 1 Kgs. 18 – limp = be indecisive. They wanted to keep the elements of both that pleased them.
2. They desired a “local god”. Some Jews felt that Jehovah was God of the desert. He was at His best in the wilderness of their ancestors. But in a new land, they needed God of that land. That god was Baal, the god of their neighbors.
a. Hear same type of thing today. “Christ’s teaching not relevant today.”.. “Bible is not relevant in 21st Century.” (Book is 2000 years old). We cannot use a moral code that does not reflect how people actually live today. (the subjection of women, sexual abstinence until marriage)
3. They wanted a god that served them. The lure of the flesh. Fleshly seductions of Baal evidently attracted Jews with little self control. Stan has always been able to use the desires of the flesh to accomplish his purposes. (draw and away by our own lusts and enticed – (James 1:14-15) Fornication and illicit sex were a big part of worship to Canaanite idols.
a. Satan was able to incorporate the lust of the flesh (what I want) into the practice of worship (what I think God wants) and this makes it palatable and justifiable. God wants me to be happy. God wants to bless me and give me what I want.
III. Baal and Us: Some applications? What are the Baals of the 21st century?
A. Things: Paul said covetousness was idolatry. So materialism and making money (lottery , can’t win if you don’t play”; Playing may be the very thing that keeps me from winning.)
B. Pleasure: the flesh and carnal attractions are at the center of many lives in our world. If we are to live here successfully we must eradicate this influence as much as possible. questionable movies, TV programs that promote fornication, indecent dancing, revealing clothing, Obsession with pop culture. Are we allowing ourselves to be influenced? We tend to compromise.
C. Worship: a In religious world see all around us compromise with entertainment – shows on stage, Everything must entertain. Some are sincere but there is a danger in the compromise to be like those around us.
IV. How can we fight the influence of Baal? Look back to 1 Kings 18 and Elijah on Mt. Carmel. Gardner Hall suggests three ways Elijah fought the influence of Baal. (1) Competition (2) confession (3) expulsion
A. Competition – Elijah allowed the people to compare the power of Jehovah and Baal. Elijah was one true prophet of Jehovah, against the 450 prophets of Baal. Same numerical disadvantage today.
1. The challenge – 1 Kings 18:22-24 – Then Elijah said to the people, “I alone am left a prophet of the Lord; but Baal’s prophets are four hundred and fifty men. 23 Therefore let them give us two bulls; and let them choose one bull for themselves, cut it in pieces, and lay it on the wood, but put no fire under it; and I will prepare the other bull, and lay it on the wood, but put no fire under it. 24 Then you call on the name of your gods, and I will call on the name of the Lord; and the God who answers by fire, He is God.” So all the people answered and said, “It is well spoken.”
2. The prophets of Baal made a big scene, lot of noise – 1 Kings 18:28-29 – So they cried aloud, and cut themselves, as was their custom, with knives and lances, until the blood gushed out on them. 29 And when midday was past, they prophesied until the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice. But there was no voice; no one answered, no one paid attention. Today, worldly people make lots of noise. They are all about the outward appearance and the show.
3. Elijah –1 Kings 18:37-38 – Hear me, O Lord, hear me, that this people may know that You are the Lord God, and that You have turned their hearts back to You again.” 38 Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood and the stones and the dust, and it licked up the water that was in the trench.
4. We can have competition today. God won’t send literal fire, but he will change lives, give happiness, purpose, and hope. What kind of life does modern Baal provide?
- Galatians 5:19-21 – 19 Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, 21 envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
- But God provides Galatians 5:22-23 – 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control. On one hand, confusion, emptiness, hell, on the other, peace, acceptance, eternal life. God wins!
B. Confession and Praise– Verse 39 “ Now when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces; and they said, “The Lord, He is God! The Lord, He is God!” Imagine the emotion and fear – If you had been there… We need to see the great difference between serving modern Baals and God, and be courageous enough to confess what is obvious – Jehovah is God! We need to not be intimidated into compromise.
C. Expulsion -Verse 40 – And Elijah said to them, “Seize the prophets of Baal! Do not let one of them escape!” So they seized them; and Elijah brought them down to the Brook Kishon and executed them there. Sometimes we need to see the necessity of cutting off what causes us to sin. Jesus if your eye offends you (causes you to sin) pluck it out.
- Internet, cable TV – can’t control – cut if off… throw out the scanty clothes. Get rid of anything that leads you away from God.
Conclusion: Look at the image of Baal (powerpoint). How could something so insignificant cause so much trouble for God’s people? How shallow! 100 years from now, we’ll all be in the afterlife, with God or in punishment, and if we analyze our lives, what will be conclude? Will any of these things matter?
(From an Outline by Gardner Hall)