It was brighter than the most powerful laser as it sliced down through the early evening sky, hitting the mound of stones dead-center. Today we would call it a surgical strike, but this was thousands of years ago.
First it consumed the sacrifice on the top of the altar, then the wood underneath, and after that, the twelve large stones that made up the altar, then the earth under the stones. Finally, it licked up the water that, in a time of drought, was in itself, a sacrifice. All that was left was a smoking hole in the ground.
The Jews that saw it, fell to the ground shouting, "The Lord, He is God, the Lord, He is God."
This event is described in detail in the 18th chapter of First Kings where King Ahab wanted to please his Phoenician wife Jezebel, so he built her a temple for her god Baal in Israel, and then gave Israel's high places over to the worship of the Canaanite god, Asherah. The true God of Israel sent the Prophet Elijah with a challenge to bring the prophets of Baal and Asherah to Mount Carmel. Both Baal's prophets and Elijah would erect an altar, calling for fire to consume the sacrifice.
No fire fell on Baal's altar throughout the day. As it neared the time for the evening sacrifice, Elijah rebuilt the altar that had been abandoned. Then they poured water on the sacrifice again and again, until it filled the trenches they had dug around the altar.
The God of Israel answered by fire.
I was convicted as I realized my god would never do that. A smoking hole in the ground? A famine? For the life of me, I couldn't imagine walking into my backyard and seeing fire fall from heaven.
It shocked me to admit that mine was a god with a small g. A god of my own making. An idol. My god was nice, but he wasn't very holy.
So I asked the One True God to forgive me for making Him into something that He is not.
And then I placed Him back on the throne of my heart as the "I AM" that He declared Himself to Moses.
I challenge you to do the same. Ask God to show you ways you've made Him safe instead of Holy. Then ask Him to forgive you. And put Him back on the throne of your heart as I AM.
Pastor Ron Moody is an Associate Pastor for King's Cathedral Maui.
He is passionate about seeing hearts turned to Christ and witnessing the transformative work of the Holy Spirit in every life.