God is a miracle-working God! “Ah Lord God! behold, thou hast made the heaven and the earth by thy great power and stretched out arm, and there is nothing too hard for thee” (Jeremiah 32:17). Amazingly to me, however, is the fact that He allows us to have a part in the work He is doing. God could do things all by Himself as He did when He created the universe, but He desires to involve us in His miraculous works.
Such is the case in 1 Kings 18. Because of the wickedness of King Ahab and his wife Jezebel, it had not rained in the land of Israel for three and a half years! There hadn’t even been dew on the grass in the mornings, and everyone was suffering as a result. In the middle of this crisis, Elijah the prophet showed up and declared that Ahab is to blame: “…ye have forsaken the commandments of the Lord, and thou hast followed Baalim” (1 Kings 18:18). This accusation against the leadership raised the ire of King Ahab, and he and Elijah decided they would settle this matter once and for all.
A contest was agreed upon between the prophets of Baal and the prophet Elijah. They would make their way to Mount Carmel and prepare a sacrifice. Each side would build an altar, put wood upon it along with a bullock, but they would not put any fire under it. Instead they would each pray to their God and the one who answered by fire would be declared the true God. Four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal along with four hundred prophets of the groves made their way to Carmel. Ahab and Jezebel along with their entourage of servants also made the journey. As the word spread, many people gathered to watch this great display (or lack thereof) of supernatural power.
Elijah let the prophets of Baal go first since there were more of them. They built their altar, prepared their sacrifices and began to pray. Nothing happened. A god made of stone has eyes and ears but can’t see or hear. All day long the false prophets prayed and even cut themselves with knives and lancets until their blood was gushing out upon the altar (v. 28). As the hours passed, Elijah began to mock them and their false religion which only frustrated these Baal worshippers even more.
As evening approached, Elijah declared that enough time had been given to the false prophets and it was now his turn. He carefully built the altar, placed the wood in order, and laid the bullock upon the wood. It is here where the story takes a strange twist. Elijah then said, “Fill four barrels with water, and pour it on the burnt sacrifice, and on the wood. And he said, Do it the second time. And they did it the second time. And he said, Do it the third time. And they did it the third time. And the water ran round about the altar; and he filled the trench also with water” (vv. 33–35).
Have you ever wondered where they got the water? It hadn’t rained for three and a half years! Water was so scarce that the animals were all dying according to verse 5. So where did twelve barrels of water come from? Someone who knows a little Bible geography might answer: the Mediterranean Sea. But I have personally stood on the top of Mount Carmel and I can tell you—that’s a long hike! It’s already evening at the time of this command. There was not time to make that trip once, let alone three times. And the passage would indicate they obeyed Elijah’s orders immediately.
So where did they get this water to fill twelve barrels? The Bible doesn’t tell us, but it had to have come from the people’s personal water supply. You see, you wouldn’t have made that long journey to Mount Carmel without some water as the climate and energy needed to do so would have caused some level of dehydration. God was allowing these people to have a part by faith in one of the greatest miracles in the Bible. God would more than replace the water they would sacrifice. Verse 45 says, “And it came to pass in the meanwhile, that the heaven was black with clouds and wind, and there was a great rain.”
When these people arrived that day for this contest they were unsure about where they stood. In verse 21 Elijah said, “How long halt ye between two opinions? if the Lord be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him. And the people answered him not a word.” They were hesitant and unsure about what they should believe. But when they saw that Baal could not answer their prayers, they were ready by faith to trust the living God of Heaven. Thus, they took of that which was most precious to them (their water) and gave it by faith. God did answer by fire that day. Everyone knew who the true God was when He did. But more importantly, as those people travelled back to their homes and saw those storm clouds brewing and felt the raindrops on their heads, they knew that God had honored their faith to give.
God’s principles of stewardship have never changed. When we step out by faith even when it is most difficult to do so, God provides not only for His work, but for us! “Give and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again” (Luke 6:38). The Apostle Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 9:6–8, “But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully. Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work.”
God loves doing miracles. He loves seeing churches planted, buildings built where people can worship, missionaries supported, tracts printed, programs developed and paid for, etc. But more importantly He loves involving us! God wants our faith to grow, and one of the greatest ways that it does is through our giving. You may have only a few drops in your “canteen,” but if God asks for it, give it. I can assure you that you won’t go without. “I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread” (Psalm 37:25). So who wants in on a miracle? Fill the barrels!