Doing the Ignoble Thing


Elijah had invited the prophets of Baal to join him in building two altars. They were to see which altar would be set afire by the ones they each worshipped—Baal, or the Holy God of Israel. Baal was not responding, an indication of his falsehood. Note how Elijah prepared for God’s anticipated response.

Elijah took twelve stones (18:31). With these he built an altar in the name of the LORD (18:32). Then he made a trench (18:32). And he put the wood in order and cut the bull in pieces and laid it on the wood (18:33). Upon doing this, he ordered that water be poured all over the altar. Then he prayed, O LORD . . . let it be known this day that you are God in Israel, and that I am your servant. . . (18:36).

The thing that happened next is powerfully but simply stated: the fire of the LORD fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench (18:38). Wow!

Did you see the deliberate way Elijah prepared? He methodically set the materials in place and prayed. Elijah knew that it was God who was to finish the work, God who was to bring Himself glory, God who was to vindicate His own name. Elijah was to gather stones, cut wood, slaughter a bull and set them in place. God would tend to the rest.

There is a great temptation for you and me to want to do the vindicating, the glorifying, and the powerful. Today’s Christian culture wants to make happen the exciting, the captivating, and the enormous. We have this drive to complete the work and go out with a bang. But God does not call us to this. That is His job. What God calls us to do is the more mundane and ignoble task of gathering stones and cutting wood. Our job is to do whatever is necessary to use His resources to put the structure in place for Him to work. Then we are to prayerfully get out of the way so He can unfold His purposes.

Let’s follow Elijah’s example, focusing on preparing the best structure possible—laying out the Word of God, gathering people together in love, arranging an environment for vibrant relationships and learning and outreach, etc. With every God-given resource at our disposal, let’s have the attitude of preparation and servanthood and expectation.

Then, let’s get out of His way so He can ignite the fire that brings Him glory and honor. When all is said and done, it is His job to complete the work anyway.


  1. LauraLee Shaw says:

    Amen. I only make things a mess when I try to do a good thing on my own. My life verse is 1 Thessalonians 5:24: “The One who calls you is faithful, and HE will do it.” (emphasis mine). He has begun the good work in us, and He will be faithful to complete it as we are faithful in our response and willingness. Thank you for the encouragement in an area I struggle with every single day.

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