Elijah and the courage to stand against the crowd
Unless you are a supremely confident and powerful person, standing against the crowd or going against the grain can be scary. It might be because you will upset someone in a position of authority—a professor or government leader—or because the unbridled wrath of a populace turned against you could cause some serious damage to your lifestyle, reputation, or health. From time immemorial, this is what God’s people—Israel in the Old Testament and the Church afterward— have had to go through, sometimes succeeding, and sometimes not so much. The prophet Elijah in the first book of Kings (1 Kings, 18) had a serious case of being outnumbered when God called on him to bring the people of Israel back to Him, and away from the worship of the false god, Baal.
At the time of this story, Israel was ruled by Ahab and Jezebel, a wicked royal pair who did everything they could to push God out and promote the pagan worship of Baal through persecution of God’s people and prophets. Elijah put himself in great danger by obeying God and confronting Ahab in his own throne room, even after being warned by a fellow prophet and friend that Ahab had been hunting Elijah. Filled with faith, Elijah boldly denounced Ahab for forsaking God and thus bringing upon himself, and the nation, the drought they were currently suffering. He challenged Ahab to a duel of gods to cause it to rain again. Ahab agreed to the duel.
The contest was simple: Elijah and the 450 prophets of Baal would each build an altar to their god, prepare a sacrifice, and pray for their god to send fire and consume it. Elijah gave a speech about how Israel couldn’t serve two gods, but instead had to only serve whichever one was real—like how you can’t be Catholic and another religion at the same time. As proof of his playing fair, Elijah even gave himself handicaps by letting the 450 prophets of Baal go first, and also by completely soaking his sacrifice with water so that it would be incredibly difficult to burn. In spite of their dancing, shouting, and cutting themselves, the prophets of Baal received no answer to their prayers. However, when Elijah offered prayer to God, “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. And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces; and they said, ‘The Lord, he is God'”. (1 Kings, 18:38-39) In other words, God and Elijah had an overwhelming victory.
Imagine if Elijah had been too scared to stand up to the authority of King Ahab and the huge number of people who had abandoned God. The people’s hearts wouldn’t have been turned to the truth, and many souls would have been lost. It’s up to us to be like Elijah, to stand up for the truth of God, even if we are the only ones calling people out or challenging popular ideas and actions. Be brave, stand strong, and know that God is with you when you stand up for His Church.