Jump directly to the Content
Jump directly to the Content


Home > Sermons

The God Who Answers By Fire

These are days when the spirit of Elijah must prevail so we can seek God’s holiness, truth, and justice.
This sermon is part of the sermon series "Global Preaching Voices ". See series.


Read 1 Kings 18:16-46

I want to praise God very much for Jesus who came into my heart when I was eighteen. I was [raised in the church]. My father had gone to mission school and he brought back the word of God and took us to church. We learned a lot. I knew the Bible and I read it from Genesis to Revelation so many times. I loved the stories, but I didn't know the God of the Scriptures. I sang his hymns, but I didn't see his face. I heard his word, but it didn't mean a lot to me, apart from enjoying what I could enjoy and leaving what I didn't like. But when Jesus came into my heart, he opened the door for me to know one thing: that I am related to God through Jesus, and I am a child of God. God knows me by name; God knows my beginning and my end, and God knows everything about me and I cannot hide. But I know God loves me and God has given me a portion with Jesus Christ, and since then (I am now 55), Jesus has meant so much to me. I come as a brother in the Lord Jesus Christ. I come to share with you the life in the Lord Jesus Christ.

I served as the Archbishop in the church of Uganda. There are about eight or nine million Anglican Christians in Uganda—out of a total population of 25 million people. The Anglican church in Uganda was born in 1877 and has seen so much, right from the beginning. Many of our people were killed because of their faith in Jesus Christ. We even killed an English bishop who was coming to us. We have been a people who have known what it is to pay a price for this faith that was given to us. And, we are also very grateful to the western church for bringing the gospel to us. Once upon a time, we were a dark continent. Beloved, today the light of the gospel is in all four corners of Africa. They are proclaiming the gospel. And, we want to say we love you and we thank you for bringing the gospel to us.

The God of Elijah

This morning we want to meet the God of Elijah who answers by fire. Elijah: the man from Tishbe, a man who God called at a time when he needed to be called. Elijah was quoted in the New Testament. When Jesus Christ asked his disciples, "Who do the crowds say I am"? They said, "Elijah, John the Baptist, one of the prophets." Elijah is also quoted in one of the readings that we had in Luke 9:28-36, when he appeared on the Mount of Transfiguration with Moses.

Elijah's ministry was not an easy ministry. Elijah was functioning in a very ungodly society. Elijah was functioning among a people who were called by God's name, but their hearts were far away from God. The king of the time, King Ahab, was an anointed king of God, anointed by God but his heart was not with God. He had married a wife from Sidon, a woman who brought her own gods with her into the palace of the king of Israel and influenced her husband to the point where the heart of the king had gone away from the King of Kings and the King of Israel. Elijah was a man of God who spoke God's Word. How we are desperate for God's Word today. How we long to hear somebody who can stand up and proclaim the Word of God. The whole world is so hungry for the Word of God. Elijah was a man of God, who spoke the Word of God and his word, because it came from the Lord God, was fulfilled. In 1 Kings 17:1 he said there will not be rain, there will not be dew, and there was no rain, there was no dew for a number of years because the Lord God spoke. The Word of God is active, is sharper than a double edged sword, says the writer of Hebrews. The Word of God affects, the Word of God transforms, the Word of God brings to pass, the Word of God brings to life. "No rain, no dew," and it was so. And, so Ahab and his kingdom got so desperate. "No rain" meant there was a drought. No rain meant that there was a scarcity of food, and therefore, life was not easy.

Ahab sent one of his servants to go and look for pasture for his animals. Obadiah was a faithful man of God. Obadiah was so faithful that he even protected some prophets of God when Jezebel ordered them to be killed. But this time Ahab met Obadiah. In 1 Kings 18:7-8: "As Obadiah was on the way, Elijah met him; Obadiah recognized him, fell on his face, and said, 'Is it you, my lord Elijah?' He answered him, 'It is I. Go, tell your lord that Elijah is here.'"

He knew he was a man of God; he knew this was a messenger of God. Elijah says, "Go tell your master I am here and I am waiting for him." Now Obadiah was so put out because Elijah was a very elusive guy, very slippery. I mean, you meet him now and you think he is going to be here, come back in thirty minutes and he's gone! Obadiah said, if they look for you here and you are not here, I am going to be killed because Ahab will not find you. Verse 15: "Elijah said, 'As the LORD of hosts lives, before whom I stand, I will surely show myself to him today.'" And so he did. Ahab came. Listen to Ahab in verse 17: "When Ahab saw Elijah, Ahab said to him, 'Is it you, you troubler of Israel?'"

Obadiah says to Elijah, "Is it really you my Lord, Elijah?" Ahab says to Elijah, "Is that you, you troubler of Israel?" Can you see from which fountain all these words are coming? Obadiah, man of God, recognized God in a man. Ahab, a man whose heart was divided to God, could not even recognize the godliness of a man called Elijah. Instead, he is a troubler, a trouble-causer, a guy who prayed and there was no rain, the man who was responsible for the scarcity of grass and food and water. "You are troubling Israel."

But, Elijah said, "No, but you and your father's family have abandoned the Lord's commands and have followed Baal's idols, the foreign gods. You have left the Lord God of the Covenant and have turned your back to him because you have preferred other gods."

The God who asks for everything

Our theology back home is very clear: you are either for God, or you are against God. It is very difficult to double deal. There is no gray area. I sometimes think of covenants in this way, too. You are either married, or you are not married. It's very simple to know it, isn't it? The problem here was Ahab had left God and he and his house were troubling the people of God because his heart was hardened. But, Elijah said, "'Today we want to know this God. Let us prove whether your god is the true god, or my God is the true God. Come and we will go.' And they all accepted his invitation to go up there." Elijah then came near to all the people, and said, "How long will you go limping with two different opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him." The people did not answer him a word.

It's either/or. If God is God, follow him. You cannot double deal. You cannot pretend to be one and do the other. No. Beloved friends, don't you think it is the same today for us? Today, it is so easy to play judge. Today it is so easy to walk through the same door that everybody else walks through, and speak the right language, sing the right hymns, and say the right prayers. I told you I had been in my Anglican church for eighteen years and I did not know the God of the Anglicans. Was I singing the hymns? Yes, I was, and I knew them so well. Actually, I preached my first sermon when I was eleven years old—even to this God whom I didn't know. It's not possible that we can be and not be. We can belong but not really be members there. It is not possible that we can be in the crowd and not relate to him who is calling us day by day. How long will you waver between two opinions? When will you make up your mind?

If God is your God, follow him. If Baal is your god, follow him. Do you know what they did? They kept quiet; they would not respond. I think people always want some kind of truth about the reality of God. I have served in my church as a priest since 1979. I had been a bishop for ten years before I moved to be the archbishop of Uganda. But, I have seen the God who is a God of action. When I preach about him and I see him work, then he confirms his Word by signs and wonders. He did it for the apostles; he is doing it today as well. I have such a sense of peace in your church. I have a feeling of the Spirit of God in this church. I am so honored to stand here in this pulpit where great messages are coming through. I sense the movement of God in this place because when the Lord is in a place, you will know he is there. And, I trust and I feel the Lord is here.

The God who answers

Then Elijah said, "I am alone. Ahab, you have 450 prophets of Baal. Let us make a sacrifice. Let us meet God. Let us worship. Let us come to him." Now, sacrifices in those days were points of contact with God, so they agreed.

So, they got the bulls, and Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, " … because you are many, you start," which they did. Everything was ready and they began calling upon their god. They called in the name of Baal from morning till noon. And they were calling him, "Oh, Baal!" they shouted. A chorus of 450 voices of prophets would sound like thunder.

Elijah mocked them and said, "Call louder. Maybe you are not doing it loud enough. Go on doing it." You know we are human beings. We must worship. If you don't worship God, you are going to worship something or somebody or even yourself. We are made to worship. We have a capacity within us for worship. It is either to the true God, or to somebody or something. But, worship we must. These people had all been swept away by Baal, and they were calling to him who is not.

I don't know about America, but my nation sees so much spiritual dynamics with the occult. We deal with dark spirits, and we see tangible powers that are so dark and invisible. But, it is a little difficult because the enemy is very subtle. You don't usually see him. To us he is very obvious. For us, we encounter him. But here, Baal is being called by more than four hundred prophets and he is not responding. They were tired and bleeding because they had cut themselves with swords. What kind of worship is that? It's too costly, trying to do it yourself. It is not a do it yourself system. This is totally serious. They were frantic, prophesying, nothing happened. Then Elijah said to the people, "Come here." And they came. Listen to what Elijah did. Let's look at this carefully because it is a necessity even for us to worship God.

Number one, he repaired the altar because the altar was in ruins which means people were no longer worshiping God. The altar of the Lord was neglected. There was no true coming to God, so he began to repair the altar. Then, he took twelve stones depicting the twelve tribes of Israel. Think about this as well. At this time, the kingdom was divided—the Northern Kingdom and Judah. But Elijah views it as a united kingdom—Israel coming together under the leadership of the true God.

Doesn't it remind you about the fragmented Christian churches we have in our world today? I thank God for the blow that has hit the Anglican Communion because one of the things it has done, at least to me, it has given us a kind of humility because we are a people who pride ourselves in tradition and liturgy. At times we have thought that we are better than the Baptists, we are better than the Pentecostals, and we are better than the Presbyterians, and this and that. And, now the Lord hits us hard and the boat is being rocked about and God is bidding us to our knees to accept the fate that we are not the "church." There are other churches around. There are people who worship the Lord. At least some humility has come in here. The fragmentation within our church is now a big problem that God is sorting out. The Lord is bringing us together in new ways.

Elijah brought the twelve stones to build the altar. Then he brought wood. Then he brought the sacrifice. Then he asked for something unusual: bring water and pour water there. Pour water where there is to be a fire. They poured so much water that it wet the sacrifice, the stones, the wood, and ran into the trench.

Beloved friends, amazingly the Christian church today is beginning to see the reality of God coming through, into our churches. I am praying for the [church in America], that there will be men and women with the faith of Elijah, with the spirit of Elijah—men and women who will stand against the onslaught of wickedness but will be firm, will be committed to the God who never changes and is faithful, a God who is relevant to our situation as he was in history, as he will be in the future—a God who is there and has ears to listen. All Elijah is saying is, "My God is relevant even now on Mount Carmel." He began to pray. Listen to his prayer in verse 36: "At the time of the offering of the oblation, the prophet Elijah came near and said, 'O LORD, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel, that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your bidding'" (v. 36).

Can you stand here in front of your congregation and say that? "I know the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and you know that I am his servant. I stand before you." That would need a lot of faith, wouldn't it? It's real. But, I believe you can say it because you have seen this God at work in this church for the years you have been here. "Answer me, O LORD, answer me, so that this people may know that you, O LORD, are God, and that you have turned their hearts back" (v. 37).

I have obeyed what you said. These are your people. These people need to know who you are. These people need to bring back their hearts to you and follow you and trust you and worship you. "Then the fire of the LORD fell and consumed the burnt offering, the wood, the stones, and the dust, and even licked up the water that was in the trench" (v. 38). I want to say, "Hallelujah! God, I thank you! I rejoice in you when I see prayers answered."

Here is a little testimony. In 1987, I went to a place where I found a power of wickedness so tangible you could feel it. The place was depressing. People had walked around looking so inferior. You could not see joy in anybody's face. The place was run down. There were wizards everywhere. I don't know if you know about wizards, but these are men who are so full of evil spirits they can do many evil things. In that area, about 8:00 or 8:30 in the evening, you could see lights where there is no electricity. Our house was opened twice at night—nothing was stolen. So many strange noises were in the house.

Let me tell you: I was frightened, even though I am six feet, five inches. I was so frightened because I had never known these things. They were so bad; they were so serious. But the Holy Spirit spoke to my wife, spoke to me, and spoke to five more of us: "Pray."

Let me tell you, we were praying out of desperation. I was frightened. But if fear takes you to prayer, you are going in the right direction. So we covenanted to pray from 9:00 to 6:00 in the morning every Friday. And we would cry to God, "Lord, save us! God, you are more powerful than this bondage among the people. You can release these people." As we prayed and as we preached and as we testified, let me tell you something: the dark cloud of oppression began to run away from us. Sunshine began to break into the place. Salvation fire began to be lit in every area and the people began to come to Jesus Christ. I tell you, if you go today to that place, God has transformed the place! People are so joyful; people are so confident; people love Jesus Christ; people love one another because the true God lit a fire in that place.

The God who comes with fire

The fire of the Lord appears in the Scriptures in many different ways. Moses saw it in the burning bush and he was fascinated because the bush was burning and not being destroyed. God was telling Moses, "Moses, I am a self-sufficient God. I actually don't need you, but I need you anyway. You are not going in your power. You are going to go in my power. I am self-sufficient." The bush was not consumed because the power of God is the self-sufficiency of God. The same fire that we hear about with Elijah is the same fire that would come back in a chariot to take Elijah back home. It's amazing to even read that when Israel was being led up from Egypt to the Promised Land, there was a pillar of fire during the night, a pillar of cloud during the day. It's amazing to think that in the New Testament when the Holy Spirit came upon the apostles in the upper room, it was like tongues of fire coming.

This is a God of fire we are dealing with. The Hebrew writer would say, "Our God is a consuming fire." Lord, I ask that you consume in me those things which must be burnt, those things which would block my relationship with you and with my brothers and sisters. Consume them! And here, we are aware, when they saw the presence of God by the consuming fire, they fell prostrate and cried—they are not shouting this time, they are not even laughing this time—they cried! They cried in a loud voice, "The Lord, he is God! The Lord, he is God!"

Shouldn't God's people know their God? Mustn't they recognize him? I believe they should! I believe that when they come here, they should come in the presence of a holy God who calls us to be holy just as he is holy. When we come here, we are coming into the presence of a terrifying God whom Isaiah saw. When he saw him sitting way up and exalted, his screams filled the temple. Isaiah heard the angelic choir calling to one another, "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God almighty. Heaven and earth is full of his presence and his glory." Isaiah said, "Woe is me. I am finished." He saw the power, the wonder, the glory, and the presence of a mighty God. That is the God we are dealing with and that's the God who sent his only begotten Son to die for us—the God who reduced himself. But worship him we must.

The Lord God is God. This God is God. And Elijah stood vindicated before Ahab, before 450 prophets of Baal—one single man whose prayer was answered. What a joy to know that in this church, there is more than just one person. There are people here who love God. There are people with hearts knit together with the heart of Jesus. There are people here who worship God day and night. May I call on you, beloved, to stand in the spirit of Elijah and pray for the church of Jesus Christ? Stand in the spirit of Elijah and pray for the church. These are days when the spirit of Elijah must prevail where we can seek after holiness, truth, and justice.

Finally, what do we see? Elijah prayed that there would be rain, and there was rain. It hadn't rained for three and a half years, but rain came in torrents. May that Spirit of God, the God who used Elijah, may that same Spirit fall upon us today in our churches. The Lord prepares his church for his Second Coming. May the church of God come together and be perfected as a bride preparing to meet the bridegroom. The time is now upon us. Beloved, be happy that our church is being rocked. Be happy there is turbulence today because the Lord must have to shake up everything in such a way that anything that doesn't belong to him must go.

But, we must also make a sacrifice. Can you join Paul in Romans 12:1-2, entreating the brethren to present their bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God? May we be a living sacrifice, not a dead sacrifice; a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, that we may know the will of God, know the presence of God in ourselves, and walk his way and worship God because we know whom we are worshiping. We have given ourselves to him—our hands, our eyes, our feet, our minds, our bodies—because, as Paul would say to the Romans, "Don't you know that you are the temple of the Holy Spirit?"

The revelation of Jesus Christ in the transfiguration brought in Elijah and Moses. But do you know what was happening to the three men—Peter, John, and James? The Lord spoke to them and said, "This is the Son I have chosen. Listen to him. You have listened to Moses; you have heard Elijah, but the time has come to listen to the Son of God, Jesus Christ. He, the Priest, the King, and the Prophet. He who gave himself so that we can get to God. He who held my hand and your hand and gave it to the hand of the Father; he who stood there and said, 'It is finished.' And, he who said to them, 'Come, follow me.'" May his name alone be glorified. May you receive the Spirit of God and stand for Jesus Christ.

Henry Luke Orombi is the former Archbishop of the (Anglican) Church of Uganda and the former Bishop of Kampala.

Related sermons

Matt Woodley

It's About the People

True worship results in justice.

The Blazing Fastball That Gives Us Confidence

How to know God is at work in your life and congregation
Sermon Outline:


I. The God of Elijah

II. The God who asks for everything

III. The God who answers

IV. The God who comes with fire