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A View from the Altar / Baal and the dry spell
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Baal and the dry spell

I have not troubled Israel, but you and your father’s house have, in that you have forsaken the commandments of the Lord and have followed the Baals.   1 Kings 18:18  NKJV

We’ve had a dry couple of years in central Florida because rainfall totals have been a few percent below normal.  Citrus County puts up flashing road signs telling us a burn ban is in effect.  It’s not really that bad, to be honest, and we don’t hear people complaining all that much.  I turn on the tap and clean water flows.  The power plant where I work still draws water from an abundant aquifer.

wheat-droughtIsrael’s drought lasted three and a half years.  For an agrarian economy, no greater calamity is possible.  You’ve seen the dreadful pictures of Africans starving because of the southward expansion of the Sahara.  Semi-arid regions slowly degrade into outright desert, and the people who were living there have no way to provide food at all.  Neighboring populations often violently resist those who try to escape the poverty.  The conditions in ancient Israel would have been similar, impoverishing the land and leaving the population weak, sick, and vulnerable.

Israel’s drought had occurred as a judgment from God.  By an uncommon circumstance, God had directed Elijah to pray for such a drought (1 Kings 18:36; James 5:17), and the drought had come.  That Elijah had done so was public knowledge brought to the attention of King Ahab who blamed Elijah for the misery.  His question, “Are you the one who has troubled Israel?” contained both a compliment and a condemnation.  Ahab was acknowledging that Elijah had enough influence that his prayers could shut off the rain for years.  Ahab was also complaining that Elijah had used his power to break down the nation and not build it up.

Elijah’s reply showed that Ahab had not thought about the problem long enough.  “The problem is not me, but you and your father’s house.”  Elijah was only the messenger.  God originated the message: You and Jezebel have brought Baal here and you call him “Lord.”  So ask Baal for rain and see what you get.  God then advertised Baal’s impotence in the form of clear blue skies that lasted 42 parched months.

If life seems to have dealt you a dry spell, maybe you could reflect on who provides your rain.

otherbrothersteve@gmail.com

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