Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood, and the stone, and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. 1Kings 18:38 KJV
Then the fire of the LORD fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. 1Kings 18:38 NASB
The challenge by Elijah to the priests of Baal is both thrilling and almost humorous reading, as he taunts the idolaters that perhaps their god is sleeping. His vindication and the response of the people, “The Lord He is God,” is also a reminder to us, in our day, that God can intervene when He chooses, and manifest Himself in such an obvious manner that people have to own that “this is the finger of God” (Ex 8:19).
Elijah, in desiring to magnify the truth that God was acting supernaturally, drenched the sacrifice with water. It would be totally contrary to the natural order for the sodden sacrifice to be consumed by fire. And yet, the unnatural happened. Fire descended and consumed the sacrifice.
Calvary was “unnatural.” What happened should not normally have happened: the Son of God lifted on a tree; the source of all blessing enduring the curse of a broken law; the One Who loved righteousness suffering for the iniquity which He hated! Everything bears the imprint of a paradox and contradiction.
At the call of Elijah, God sent fire from above and it consumed the sacrifice. With a suddenness which must have startled onlookers who had viewed the protracted antics of the priests of Baal, the fire came at Elijah’s request. The fire fell with an intensity, which was so marked, that all were moved to own that it was the Lord. Nothing was spared. The victim was consumed, the wood was consumed, even the stones and water – the unnatural again – were all consumed.
At Calvary, there is a sense in which the fire consumed the victim, but also, thank God, the victim consumed the fire. The entirety of God’s wrath against sin was endured by Christ. He “put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself” (Heb 9:26). God dealt with Him as He would have dealt with sin (2 Cor 5:21).
The Unexpected Blessing
The fire not only dealt with the sacrifice, but also consumed the altar. There was no longer an altar. We sometimes sing, “No blood, no altar now; the sacrifice is o’er.” The work of Christ at Calvary has removed forever the need for any other altar or sacrifice to God.
But the consuming of the sacrifice in Elijah’s day, also meant that there was the outpouring, not of wrath on the nation, but of rain. The land was blessed based on the accepted sacrifice.
It does not take imagination to link all this with the work on Golgotha. At the very moment that judgment should have fallen from heaven for the murder of the Son of God, there was the out-poured blessing and the availability of salvation. In fact, in Luke 24:47 the Lord Jesus told His disciples to announce the offer of salvation, “beginning at Jerusalem.” What amazing grace!
The descending fire on Horeb revealed something of the greatness of God. Did the judgment of God at Golgotha reveal anything of God’s greatness?
Contrast the immediate confession of men on Horeb with the mentality of men at Calvary.