What Was Paul Occupied With?

TODAY’S READING: ACTS 18-19

“When Silas and Timothy arrived from Macedonia, Paul was occupied with the word, testifying to the Jews that the Christ was Jesus.” – Acts 18:5

Paul was occupied with the word.

A simple statement.

But, it is a statement with a depth of meaning that belies the simple declaration of it.

What is the word Paul was occupied with?

In “Why Were the Bereans Examining the Scriptures Daily?“, I wrote that the word is that Christ had to suffer and rise from the dead. Acts 17:2-3 says, “And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, ‘This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ.'”

Jesus, the man who was crucified, is the Christ, the Messiah, the long awaited king. He had to suffer. It was absolutely necessary for Jesus to suffer. Jesus died, but he rose from the dead.

It cannot be stressed enough that the Christ had to suffer. God had to suffer.

God suffers.

He does not cause suffering.

It cannot be stressed enough that the Christ died. God had to die.

God dies.

He does not cause dying.

But, the Christ rose from the dead. “I am the resurrection and the life.” God is the living God.

God resurrects and gives life.

He does not condemn to death.

This is the word, the essential word, the only word, for Paul. This is the word that Paul testified to the Jews, “that the Christ was Jesus.” Paul was testifying to the Jews that their long awaited king was a king that suffered and died but was resurrected.

That’s quite a word for a people who were being oppressed and afflicted by the Roman empire, one of the greatest empires the world has ever known.

Yet, Paul was occupied with this word – it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead.

To say that Paul was “occupied” with the word almost sounds to soft for the Greek word used here. Occupied is the Greek word synecho. Synecho has a range of meanings all tied to the same idea. This is evidenced in that the synecho is used 12 times in the New Testament and the ESV translates it with 12 different English words.

Eleven of the uses are:

  • “oppressed” by demons
  • the greatness of Jesus’ “distress” until the baptism of the cross was complete
  • “hemmed” in on every side by enemies
  • Jesus being “held” in custody waiting to be crucified
  • Simon’s mother-in-law was “ill”
  • “seized” by fear
  • “surrounded” by crowds
  • “occupied” with the word
  • sick “with” fever and dysentery
  • ears that were “stopped”
  • “pressed” between two choices

Synecho literally means to hold together, to compress, to arrest. Figuratively, it means to compel, perplex, afflict, or preoccupy. These figuratively meanings lead to 12th use of synecho.

“For the love of Christ controls [synecho] us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.” – 2 Corinthians 5:14-15

Paul says that he is controlled, seized, compelled by the love of Christ. We could even say that Paul was preoccupied, afflicted, or oppressed by the love of Christ.

We could even say that Paul was perplexed by the love of Christ. To be perplexed is to be made unable to grasp something clearly or to think logically and decisively about something. Paul was perplexed, or occupied, with the word – that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead – that it was the only thing he could think about.

So, we have the word that Paul was occupied with linked with the love of Christ that controlled Paul.

The word – that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and rise from the dead – is the same thing as the love of Christ.

Because this word was how the love of Christ, the love of God, was manifested to us.

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” – 1 John 4:7-11

Love was made manifest in that Christ suffered, died, and rose from the dead.

For the forgiveness of sins.

So that we live through Jesus, through God.

That Paul was occupied with this word, which is the love of Christ, should give new meaning to 2 Corinthians 4:7-12.

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you.”

When we read Paul say he was afflicted, perplexed, persecuted, and struck down, our minds immediately turn to his enemies doing these things to him.

But, is Paul talking about his enemies?

Perhaps.

Or, is it possible that Paul is saying the word, the love of Christ, that occupied and controlled him was in some spiritual sense afflicting, perplexing, persecuting, and striking him down?

Was Paul perplexed by his enemies?

I doubt it. He was once that enemy. He understand the thinking of his enemy.

Or, was Paul perplexed by the word, the love of Christ?

The word – that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead – is the love of Christ.

The love of Christ “afflicts” us but does not crush us.

The love of Christ “perplexes” us but does not drive us to despair.

The love of Christ “persecutes” us but does not forsake us.

The love of Christ “strikes us down” but does not destroy us.

Therefore, Paul links afflicted, perplexed, persecuted, and struck down with “always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.” But, this is none other than the word – it was necessary for the Christ to suffer (the death of Jesus) and to rise from the dead (the life of Jesus) – that compelled Paul to testify, or be a channel of witness, that Jesus was the Christ.

What a word that Paul was occupied with. What a word that Paul testified to the Jews in Corinth.

But, the Jews opposed and reviled Paul because of this word. They rejected that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and rise from the dead. And, this helps to explain Paul’s answer to the Jews.

Paul said, “Your blood be on your own heads! I am innocent.”

To preach the word that the Christ suffered and died but rose from the dead is to say that the way to life is suffering and dying, picking up your cross. The way to life is not taking vengeance. The way to life is not violence.

“I am the way, and the truth, and the life.”

The Jews rejected this word. They wanted to reach life through a Messiah that was violent and took vengeance upon their enemies not one that suffered and died.

However, as Jesus said, “All who take the sword will perish by the sword.” (Matthew 26:52)

Paul is telling the Jews that by rejecting the suffering and dying Christ they are rejecting the non-violent way to life that God has revealed. Therefore, their own violence is going to come back on their own heads. As Psalm 7:14-16 says, “Behold, the wicked man conceives evil and is pregnant with mischief and gives birth to lies. He makes a pit, digging it out, and falls into the hole that he has made. His mischief returns upon his own head, and on his own skull his violence descends.”

While the Jews rejected the word, many of the Corinthians believed that Paul that Jesus was the Christ who had to suffer and rise from the dead so that their sins might be forgiven and that they might live through him.

“But when Gallio was proconsul of Achaia, the Jews made a united attack on Paul and brought him before the tribunal [the bema, the judgment seat – see “What is the Judgment Seat?“], saying, ‘This man is persuading people to worship God contrary to the law.'”

What did the Jews mean that Paul was persuading people to worship God contrary to the law?

The Jews’ view of God in the law was that God was good and evil. God did both. God would save the Jew but destroy their enemies. God took Israel into the promised land, saving them, but told them devote to destruction the men, women, and children of the nations already in the land. On the other hand God gave and protected life, but on the other hand God took and destroyed life. This was how the Jews read the Old Testament, the law.

But, Paul did not teach that God did these things. He taught that instead causing suffering, God suffered. Instead of causing death, God died. This was not how the Jews interpreted the law or the prophets, the Old Testament. And, this was why the Jews said that Paul was teaching contrary to the law.

However, Paul did teach the Old Testament, the law and the prophets, just as Jesus himself taught it.

“Then he said to them, ‘These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.’ Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.'” – Luke 24:44-47

This is the word that occupied Paul.

This is the word that should occupy us.

What Is the Fire Jesus Casts on the Earth?

TODAY’S READING: LUKE 11-12

“I came to cast fire on the earth, and would that it were already kindled! I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how great is my distress until it is accomplished! Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.” – Luke 12:49-51

“I came to cast fire on the earth.”

Many people immediately jump to conclusion that Jesus is going to burn up every person that hasn’t confessed his name and believed in him in a big ball of flaming fire. Therefore, Jesus’ statement of casting fire to the earth gets lumped in with an end times judgment that sends the evil and the wicked into the burning lake of fire forever and ever, an eternal conscious torment.

Is this what Jesus meant when he, “I came to cast fire on the earth?”

Hardly.

Luke 9:54-55 says, “And when his disciples James and John saw it, they said, ‘Lord, do you want us to tell fire to come down from heaven and consume them?’ But he turned and rebuked them.”

Jesus and the disciples were heading to a village of the Samaritans. The Samaritans were despised by the Jews. They were half-breeds. The Samaritans were part Jew, part Gentile. The Jews believed that they did not worship the true God the way they died.

Jesus sent some messengers ahead of them to make preparations for him in this village. But, the Samaritans, the hated and despised people, did not receive Jesus.

Because they did not receive Jesus, James and John asked if they call fire down from heaven to destroy them. Some Bibles say that James and John asked if they should do just like Elijah did (see 2 Kings 1:9-12). They wanted to destroy with fire from heaven the Samaritans that had rejected Jesus just as Elijah did to the captains that Ahaziah sent to him.

But, in some translations (based on later manuscripts), in addition to saying that Jesus turned and rebuked James and John, Jesus said, “You do not know what kind of Spirit you are of; for the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.”

The spirit of James and John that wanted to call down fire to destroy those that rejected Jesus was not the Spirit of God. Rather, it was the spirit of the devil for he is the one who destroys (Who Says “I Destroy” – God or Satan?). The son of man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them. So, the fire that the son of man brings saves. That is the Spirit of God.

Returning to Luke 12:49-51, Jesus says three basic things:

  1. I came to bring fire
  2. I have a baptism to be baptized with
  3. I came to bring division

The first and the third cause a lot of confusion for people. But, the second is very clear.

What is the baptism that Jesus was to be baptized with?

James and John asked sit on his right and left hand in Jesus’ glory. In Mark 10:38, Jesus said, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?”

The cup that Jesus was to drink is the same thing as the baptism he was going to be baptized with. And, both refer to Jesus’ crucifixion.

Indeed, in Mark 10:33-34, just before James and John asked Jesus if they could sit on his right and left hand, Jesus said, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles. And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him.” There is the cup that Jesus had to drink and the baptism he had to baptized with.

Why was the cross a baptism?

To be baptized means to be immersed. It was even used of dying a garment. So, it has the idea of infusing something into something else.

The cross was a baptism for Jesus because he was immersed in sin and death.

2 Corinthians 5:21 says, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin.”

1 Peter 2:24 says, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree.”

Jesus, in whom was the life of God (1 John 5:11), partook of death (Hebrews 2:14).

Jesus says this baptism is a great distress to him until it is accomplished. And, it was on the cross that Jesus said, “It is finished.” The word finished in John 19:30 is the same Greek word as accomplished in Luke 12:50.

Now, Jesus is speaking of the fire he came to cast down, the baptism he was to be baptized with, and the division he was to bring as the same. Therefore, we know that all three things refer to the cross.

The fire that Jesus came to bring was the cross. This is why Jesus said he wished that it was already kindled. He wished that the fire he was bringing would have already started burning and working.

So, how was the cross the fire that Jesus would bring?

The cross revealed that God did not kill. Rather, he was killed.

The cross revealed that God did not condemn. Rather, he was condemned.

The cross revealed that God did not do violence. Rather, violence was done to him.

The cross revealed that God did not take vengeance. Rather, forgiveness was given to all by him.

Therefore, Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

Despite all the evil, wickedness, and violence we could dish out toward Jesus, a perfectly innocent man and the son of God, Jesus forgave us. And, so did God.

When someone love you and forgives you undeservedly, it does something to your mind. It brings conviction to you. This is the burning coals, the fire, of God’s vengeance. Romans 12:19 says, “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’ To the contrary, ‘if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by doing so you will heap burning coals on his head.”

Yes, it may be written that God takes vengeance, but to the contrary give food and drink to your enemy. In other words, instead of taking vengeance on your enemy, love them. Just as God does. That casts down the fire that Jesus was bringing.

What does this fire do?

Fire consumes. It purifies.

What is the fire Jesus cast down consuming and purifying?

We expect God to be a conquering warrior. We want him to smash our enemies with a great army. We want him to destroy, condemn, and kill all those that hate us and persecute us.

But, the cross reveals that God doesn’t do any of these things. Therefore, 1 Corinthians 1:22-24 says, “For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.”

The cross seems weak and foolish to men because it is not how they act and not how they expect God to act. But, the cross reveals the true nature of God. Therefore, the cross, which produces the fire that Jesus came to cast down on the earth, consumes all of wrong ideas, thoughts, and notions about God. The cross, this fire, purifies us of every impure thought about God.

So, the fire that Jesus came to bring was not to destroy men but to save them.

The Cross – Returning Our Deeds on Our Own Head

TODAY’S READING: OBADIAH

“For the day of the Lord is near upon all the nations. As you have done, it shall be done to you; your deeds shall return on your own head.” – Obadiah 1:15

The day of the Lord is a day of light.

John 1:4-5 says, “In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

John 3:19 says, “And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.”

1 John 1:5 says, “This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.”

While he was in the world, Jesus was the light of the world. His light shined in the evil of men. The evil of men could not darken Jesus’ light.

God is light. He is goodness. God does not do evil to us.

The evil we experience is a result of our own darkness, our own evil, coming back upon us.

Yet, God is in the midst of that darkness, shining his light, his goodness upon us.

Verse 15 in Obadiah reminds me of Psalm 7:14-16, which says, “Behold, the wicked man conceives evil and is pregnant with mischief and gives birth to lies. He makes a pit, digging it out, and falls into the hole he has made. His mischief returns upon his own head, and on his own skull his violence descends.”

“On his own skull his violence descends” makes me think of the cross. For, Jesus was crucified at Golgotha, which means place of the skull. It was the violence of men that drove the cross into Golgotha in order for it to stand upright so that Jesus could be crucified on it. So, when I read this I picture my own violence, my own evil, my own wickedness, driving the cross into my own skull.

My evil returns upon my own head.

However, this on its own does not reveal the wonder of the cross.

What makes the evil that you and me did to Jesus on the cross so wonderful are the words he spoke from the cross. “Father, forgive them, for they know now what they do.”

So, as we are crucifying Jesus, doing violence to him, he cries out for our forgiveness, which causes our own violence and the cross to pierce our own skull.

I think we have all experienced a situation where we have been evil, mean, or wicked to someone, but they respond with kindness. At the very least, this causes our mind to stop in its tracks because kindness is not the response we expect to wickedness. It is so out of the norm of what expect that the returning of good for evil creates a cognitive dissonance in our minds. It is this dissonance in our minds that has the power to snap us out of evil stupor and cause us to change our thinking and our actions.

The cross is  one of those little experiences we have all had magnified to the nth degree. And, this is why God does not do evil to us. Evil will never cause us to change our thinking and the way we act because we expect evil to be done to us. But, what we don’t expect goodness, mercy, kindness to be done to us, especially when we know we have been evil and wicked to someone else.

Therefore, Romans 2:4 says, Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?”

God’s kindness, mercy, and forgiveness expressed through Jesus on the cross is meant to jar our thinking so that we repent, so that we change our minds. Therefore, God’s kindness causes our own evil to come back on our own heads.

This is what the wrath of God is. It’s not evil or death or destruction done to us. It’s a burning within us created by the cross that reveals our own wickedness to us.

Isn’t that painful?

This is what Paul means in Romans 12:19-20 when he says, “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’ To the contrary, ‘if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by doing so you will heap burning coals on his head.”

No vengeance we could ever attempt to take to repay someone can have the effect of the cross of Jesus Christ,the ultimate act of returning good for evil, on someone’s thinking.

What Is the King’s Highway, God’s Road to Victory?

Today’s Reading: Exodus 14-16

The Lord has brought Israel out of Egypt. He has been leading them to Canaan, but the path he was leading them on initially went away from Canaan. The more direct path would have been to take Israel on the way of Philistines, but this was a way of war (Exodus 3:17). Instead, God led Israel through the wilderness to the Red Sea (Exodus 3:18). Later, in Numbers 20, we learn that this way through the wilderness was called the king’s highway.

So, God could have led Israel to Canaan, the promised land, on a path of war. But, God had a different plan, a better plan. Instead of a path of war, God chose to lead Israel to Canaan on the king’s highway.

What is the king’s highway?

While God was leading the Israelites through the wilderness to the Red Sea, Pharaoh and the Egyptian army was chasing them. The people of Israel began to fear greatly and they cried out to the Lord. They complained to Moses that he had simply brought them out to the wilderness to die (that statement is dripping with irony by the way). The people said it would have been better to stay in Egypt and serve the Egyptians than die in the wilderness.

In Exodus 14:13-14, Moses said to the people, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.” The people have reached the edge of the sea. They’re trapped between the Red Sea and the Egyptians. And, Moses says, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord.”

To understand what is happening, we need to remember that Egypt is a type or picture of the world – it’s values, it’s culture, it’s systems, it’s way of being. In 1 John 2:16, the world, Egypt, is described for us, “For all that is in the world – the desires of the flesh, the desires of the eyes and the pride of life – is not from the Father but is from the world.” God has led Israel out of the world, but all of the desires of the world are bearing down on them. They are trapped by these desires with no where to go. Like Israel, God is calling us out of the world (not physically but spiritually). But, we are trapped by all that is in the world. We are to fear not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord. But, what is this salvation?

After Moses told Israel to look for the salvation of the Lord, in Exodus 14:15-16, God said to Moses, “Why do you cry to me? Tell the people of Israel to go forward. Lift up your staff, and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it, that the people of Israel may go through the sea on dry ground.”

The phrases “over the sea and divide it” and “on dry ground” should immediately send us back to day three of creation in Genesis 1, which I wrote about in Creation: A Witness to Jesus. On day three, the seas were gathered and the dry ground appeared. In that post, I wrote that this was a picture of Jesus’ baptism and that the dry ground appearing was the resurrected Jesus coming forth.

After God told this to Moses, “Then the angel of God who was going before the host of Israel moved and went behind them, and the pillar of cloud moved from before them and stood behind them, coming between the host of Egypt and the host of Israel.” (Exodus 14:19-20)

The angel of God is Jesus, and the pillar of cloud is the Holy Spirit. They had been leading Israel on the journey through the wilderness, on the king’s highway. But, when Israel was trapped by the world and told to go forward by God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit moved from leading Israel to standing between Israel and Egypt. Jesus and the Holy Spirit come between Israel and the lusts of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, all that is in the world, the host of Egypt.

Then Moses lifted up his staff, the sea was made dry land, and the waters were divided. Israel went through the midst of the sea on dry ground.

Instead of taking Israel to the promised land on the way of Philistines, the path of war, God took Israel on the path through the wilderness, the king’s highway. And, the king’s highway led right into the Red Sea where the waters were divided and Israel walked through on dry ground.

Are you seeing what the king’s highway is?Are you seeing the path to the promised land, the place of rest?

Paul tells us exactly what the crossing of the Red Sea was in 1 Corinthians 10:1-2, “For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea.” The crossing of the Red Sea was Israel’s baptism.

Baptism is the sign, the symbol, that we have died with Jesus. Romans 6:3 says, “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?” Israel’s crossing of the Red Sea is a picture of all believers being baptized into Christ and into his death. The crossing of the Red Sea is a picture of the believer picking up his own cross and dying to himself. As Paul says in Galatians 6:14, “But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.”

When Israel had safely cross through the Red Sea on dry ground, Exodus 14:30 says, “Thus the Lord saved Israel that day from the hand of the Egyptians.” In their baptism, Israel beheld the salvation of the Lord, as Moses had said. The same is true for us. Paul says in Romans 6:4, “We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in the newness of life.”

So, what is the king’s highway? What is God’s road to victory?

The Cross! Crucifixion! Death!

Not warring or killing but dying!

God could have led Israel and us out of Egypt, out of the ways of the world, through a path  of war, the way of the Philistines.

But God says no to that way. Instead, God led Israel on a path through the wilderness, the king’s highway. Who is the king? Jesus! Jesus’ path to life was through death, through the cross. Jesus defeated death through death.

1 Corinthians 15:54-57 says,  “‘Death is swallowed up in victory.’ ‘O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Jesus won the victory for us on the cross. God gives us the victory when we come to Jesus, pick our own cross, and die to our self and the world.

God’s road to victory is the king’s highway not the way of the Philistines. God’s road to rest is the cross, the way of Jesus, the king. God’s road life is death not war.

One final point. After Israel’s victory, Moses and Israel sang a song. Part of the song says, “The Lord is a man of war; the Lord is his name.” (Exodus 15:3)

Oh, how we love to take that verse out of context of the whole Bible. Oh, how we love to use that verse to justify our own violence and the lusts of our flesh, the lusts of our eyes, and the pride of our life. James 4:1-3 tells us that this is precisely where strife, fights, and war comes from.

Oh, how we love to take the statement “the Lord is a man of war” out of the context of Jesus. God speaks through Jesus now. Jesus is the exact image of God. Jesus, the crucified Christ, is the lens through which we must read the entire Bible.

How did Jesus wage “war”? On the cross. By dying. Through weakness.

The true path to Canaan, the promised land, eternal life, is not though war. The true path is through the cross and death to all that is in the world.

This is how we fear not, stand still, and behold the salvation of the Lord.

God says to go forward into the Red Sea, into your baptism, into your death to yourself and the world.

Be crucified with Christ!

Jesus is the way!

Elijah and the Prophets of Baal or Jesus on the Cross

In 1 Kings 17-18, I believe we can see Elijah as a picture of Christ.

In 1 Kings 17, Elijah tells Ahab, king of Israel, that “there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word.” Ahab was king over the tribes that were lost. The dew and rain were symbols or types of the Holy Spirit. So, Elijah was saying that the lost tribes would have nothing of the Spirit, nothing of the revelation of God, until Elijah again brought dew and rain by his word.

So, Elijah goes away for a lengthy period of time. But, in 1 Kings 18, in the third year from when he left, the word of the Lord tells Elijah to show himself to Ahab. Jesus starts his ministry with an announcement, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” But, the eyes and ears, and therefore the hearts, of many were unable to hear Jesus for the three years of his ministry. They didn’t have the Spirit in them. It was as if no dew or rain fell on the land.

Ahab gathers all the people of Israel and the prophets at Mt. Carmel. Elijah comes to them and says, “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.” That sounds like Jesus’ ministry. He was calling people to make a decision to follow him, and consequently the Father. In Matthew 6:24, Jesus says, “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”

So, Elijah tells the prophets of Baal to pick one bull and prepare it for an offering but put no fire on it. They did so calling on Baal to burn up the offering. These prophets “limped” around the altar. In other words, they were lame, without power.

In John 19, Jesus is before Pilate, being questioned before his crucifixion. Pilate says, “You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?” Jesus replied, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above.” Also, in John, Jesus said, “No one takes it [his life] from me, but I lay it down of my own accord.” No one could bring judgment (fire) upon Jesus to kill him. Rather, he laid his life down willingly.

But, the prophets continued to rave about trying to bring fire. “No one answered; no one paid attention.”

At the time of the evening sacrifice, Elijah said, “Come near to me.” All this happens on Mt. Carmel, the name of which means something like fertile ground. Then Elijah repaired the altar. And, he had a trench dug around the altar. Next, he put the sacrifice on the wood on the altar. Then, Elijah had water poured on the offering three times. He had so much water poured on the offering that it filled the trench with water. Something this wet shouldn’t burn with fire. Jesus was filled with the Spirit during his ministry and as he went to cross the place of his sacrifice.

Elijah calls on God. Fire comes down and burns up the offering and “licks up the water that was in the trench.” John 19:28 says, “After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), ‘I thirst.’” Why did Jesus thirst? He needed water. Symbolically, the Spirit had left him. In John 19:30, Jesus says, “It is finished.” He had done the work of his sacrifice. The passage goes on to say, “And he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.”

When the people saw how God burned the offering that Elijah had doused with water “they fell on their faces and said, ‘The Lord, he is God; the Lord, he is God.” Matthew 27:54 says, “When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe and said, ‘Truly this was the Son of God.’”

So, the story of Elijah and the prophets of Baal is a wonderful picture of Jesus on the cross. And, there are so many more details that could be brought out.