Have you ever prayed for something and received something completely different?
In 1 Kings 17 we’re told that Elijah said, “As the Lord, the God of Israel, lives, whom I serve, there will be neither dew nor rain in the next few years except at my word.”
And no rain came. Elijah prayed, and the heavens shut and then rain did not fall for the next few years. In the third year of the drought, Elijah hears from God and Elijah returns. Seeing the people were trying to follow both God and Baal he declares “If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.” 1 Kings 18
After gathering the prophets of Baal Elijah makes a declaration, but the announcement is somewhat odd. It hadn’t rained in Israel for three years. I don’t mean it was just a dry season. The Word says neither dew nor rain. It was beyond a tough season. It had not rained, and now when Elijah shows up, he doesn’t say let’s pray, and the one who answers with rain is God. Instead, he says the one who answers with fire He is God.
You would think after three years of drought Elijah would have shown up and said the one who answers by bringing forth rain is God, but that’s not exactly how the story goes.
1 Kings 18:24 then 38-39 (NIV)
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.”
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!”
How many times have you prayed for rain and it not only got dryer but fire came and burned up all you had left? I’d say most of us have experienced it in our lives at one time or another. We were faced with dire circumstances, and as we sought a solution, things seemed to go from bad to worse.
The people of Israel had been praying for rain for three long years. Granted they had been praying to a false God. They had been praying for rain, and the fact is they needed it. The rain wasn’t, however, their greatest need, and it wasn’t rain that God immediately supplied in His response.
His response was instead of sending rain was to send an all-consuming fire!
You see God had first to show Himself to be sovereign! There was a need for the people of Israel to repent and return to the one true God. Repentance would not come as a result of rain, but instead, it would only come through his fire.
God’s fire will bring us to a place of repentance
So many times we believe we know what we need, but many times our prayers and our actions are more about what we want then what we need.
Israel’s real need was for repentance. They needed to fall before God and recognize him as Lord. If God had simply sent the rain, the people instead of recognizing Him for who He truly was would have just danced around in joy for getting their way,
Children will ask and beg for what they want, and they might even say thanks for what they get, but it’s often short-lived gratitude. They’re thankful for gifts for birthdays and Christmas but how long does that thankfulness last?
God answered with his rain, but only after He first answered with fire!
God sent the fire and consumed not only the sacrifice but even the altar that it was laid upon, the soil around it and the precious water that was poured in the trench around the altar. Think about this, God’s fire even consumed that which they had held onto as precious and dear. It hadn’t rained for three years, and God’s fire licked up the precious water in the trench. He would provide the water they needed but only after they recognized him as Lord.
Don’t you think it’s time we are sincere in our prayer when we say “God not my will but your will be done,” even if it means fire instead of rain?