The renowned prophet of Israel lived in an age where the rulers of the Israel were so corrupt, the priests of God served idols rather than God Most High, and the prophets were seemingly exterminated by the rulers and priests. Baal, the god that was en vogue at the time, had hundreds of priests to serve in his temple and had the government’s seal of approval. The King Ahab and his Queen Jezebel–some of the wickedest characters in scripture–have literally wiped out anyone that claimed allegiance to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and Elijah is the only one left on their list (or so they think, we’re told in scripture that God had reserved 7000 who had not given in to the fashion of the day by worshipping Baal). Elijah has prayed that the land would receive no rain, and this man of righteous prayer has effectually caused a three year drought. Obviously to a culture based on livestock and agriculture, this is bad news. In those days, such a drought would cause such a weakness to the economy that the threat of invasion and being conquered was ever dreaded. Thus, when Elijah appears to Ahab and proposes a showdown of gods on Mt. Carmel, Ahab diplomatically agrees, probably thinking he could either bribe Elijah, kill him or someway or another get him to pray to God and open up the heavens. God, however, it seems, was not interested in playing Ahab’s little self-serving game. God wanted to show, prove and achieve something that day.
So, let’s picture this: top of a dusty mountain in Israel. The temperatures are searing, and the wind is bitingly dry. A multitude has ascended for this showdown: there are hundreds of Baal’s priests, some of their buddies who who were the priests for another trendy god Ashtoreth, the king and his entourage, a bunch of common everyday Israelites, Elijah’s servant-boy, and, oh yes, this peculiar, eccentric, prophet of God, Elijah. Elijah sets down the rules: the priests of Baal prepare and offering, and he prepares an offering, but neither one gets to set fire to the sacrifice. In Elijah’s famous words, “and the God that answereth by fire, let him be God. (1 Ki. 18:24)” Further, being the honor-filled man of God that he was, he deferred to the priests of Baal, and put them in the hot seat first. They shouted, cried, wept, cut themselves, screamed themselves hoarse, not just for an hour or two, but from morning until the time of the evening sacrifice (roughly 3 o’clock in the afternoon). All the while Elijah is taunting, mocking and defying the foolishness of these priest and is boldly and openly holding them in contempt!
When their raucous noise subsided, the man of God stepped forward, knowing that God had led Elijah hung His (God’s) whole reputation on the line to prove whether or not He was the living God! This moment must have been tense, nervous, and every soul upon that hill waited with baited breath. Elijah proceeds to construct a traditional 12 stone altar, prepare the bull in the correct levitical way, and then does a few things that must have made those watching scratch their heads in disbelief. He begins digging. Ok, weird. But he keeps digging, a little trench sort of thing that encompassed the whole altar. Surely the multitude was thinking, this guy is whacked! Then, he does something even more astounding. He asks for 4 barrels of water to be poured upon the sacrifice. The people were thinking, “Ok, we’re in a drought, and he wants to waste it by pouring it on this altar!” This is bizarre, in order to light something on fire, you want it dry as tinder! So, they comply and bring him his four barrels of water. Then he says, “Bring me 4 more barrels of water.” Begrudgingly, they do his bidding again, and they, with certain shock and incredulity, hear Elijah make another request, “Do it again.”
After they pour this final dousing upon the altar and back away, Elijah simply and reverently,
“Hear me, O LORD, hear me, that this people may know that thou [art] the LORD God, and [that] thou hast turned their heart back again (1 Ki. 18:37).”
His whole goal in this was what? To prove that God was indeed God Almighty, and to turn the heart of God’s people back again to Him. I see in Muller echoes of this prayer when I read, “I operate this ministry for the benefit of the church at large.” Muller, like Elijah, allowed God, time and again, to put him in circumstances where the whole natural realm seemed dead-set against God answering by fire. But, to conclude Elijah’s story, the scripture says that:
“Then the fire of the LORD fell, and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water that [was] in the trench (1Ki 18:38).”
God answered by fire and the people exclaimed: the Lord He is the God. The people of God, benefitted by one man riskily taking God at His word and hanging God’s reputation on the line in order to prove that He is who He says He is! And Muller, in the tradition of Elijah, showcased God answering by fire time and time again. Muller’s epitaph could simply be that beautiful declaration: “The Lord He is the God!” Further, his desire was that all believers, the whole church, as one body, would grab hold of God and see the King get His glory in and through the lives of His people!