The view from Mount Carmel is panoramic. If you look down the east side of the mountain, the Plain of Jezreel, also called the Valley of Megiddo or Armageddon, lies just below. The Nazareth ridge lies to the northeast and from the top of the mountain, one can look out over the blue Mediterranean Sea and observe the northwestern sky, the direction from which most of Israel’s rain comes.
Elijah and The Prophets of Baal
Mount Carmel is loved by the Israelites for its symbolic nearness to God. Mount Carmel was allotted to the tribe of Asher when the Israelites entered the Promised Land and many Biblical passages center around Mount Carmel. For instance, after the ascension of Elijah, Elisha headed to Mount Carmel after he cursed a group of young men for mocking him by jeering, “Go on up, bald man!” After this, wild bears came out of the forest and killed 42 of the mocking young men, God again at work for His Children. But it is Elijah and his duel with the prophets of Baal, found in 1st Kings, chapter 18 that remains the most vivid story of Mount Carmel.
1st Kings, chapter 18 is the story of how Elijah challenged 450 prophets of Baal to a contest on Mount Carmel. The purpose of the challenge was to see whose deity was actually in control of not only Israel but the world. Israel was suffering from a terrible drought, and prior to challenging the Baal prophets, Elijah confronted King Ahab with God’s condemnation of him. Elijah told Ahab that he had caused the drought when he had led the people to abandon the Lord’s commands and worship idols. As thousands watched, the duel commenced, centered on whether Baal or God could send down fire and burn
a sacrifice waiting on each altar. When the prophets of Baal failed to convince their god to light their sacrifice on fire, Elijah went to work. He poured gallons of water over the altar filling a trench that surrounded it. The water, which was hard to come by at that time because of the drought and the distance to the Mediterranean Sea, added to the Israelite’s suspense. They watched as Elijah prostrated himself before his God, the God of Israel, and began to pray. To everyone’s amazement, God immediately sent fire down from heaven, consuming the sacrifice, altar, the water, and dust surrounding the altar. Shortly afterwards, a small cloud rose up from the northwest over the Mediterranean and the sky grew black with clouds, signaling the coming rain and end of the drought.
God Is Always Faithful
When you stand on the top of Mount Carmel and look towards the sea, you can imagine the Israelite’s awe and joy when they realized that Elijah’s persistence and courage had brought an end to the drought and the demise of the Baal prophets. It was no small feat defeating the prophets of Baal, and in addition, Elijah’s servant had to run to the top of Mount Carmel (we will ride!) seven times to look for rain. Finally, in 1st Kings 18: 43 we read the servant’s message: “Behold a cloud as small as a man’s hand is coming up from the sea.”
It is apparent to believers that God is continually faithful to those that are faithful to Him. Elijah, even though he had moments of doubt just as we do, was on top of his game in this duel with the prophets of Baal. We know one of his moments of doubt happens right after this spectacular success, as Elijah runs for his life when Jezebel tries to have him killed, but in this moment, he was God’s man and confronted all that was wrong with the Israelite nation at that time. As you stand on Mount Carmel, remember that God always goes before us, strengthens us, and loves us.