Our family loves to walk and climb in Girraween National Park, a park full of wildflowers and granite outcrops between Stanthorpe and Wallangarra, on the border of Queensland and New South Wales.
Years ago, the Psalmist wrote
I look to the mountains; where will my help come from?
My help will come from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.
For the Jews those words had an implication that we easily miss. When they arrived in the Promised Land, they found that the locals worshipped many gods. The name “baal” meant “master” or “lord” and was applied to many of these deities.
Of course, that shouldn’t have been any particular problem for the Lord’s people. After all, they knew that there is only one God, the Lord, the Creator of heaven and earth. They were strictly instructed not to worship any other gods.
The rub came when they were learning how to farm the land. Whenever they asked the locals what to do, the answers included the need to give a little sacrifice to this baal or that one it's the only way to ensure good crops! So every hill had its little shrine. And even when those shrines were broken down, the temptation was there - keep on believing in the Lord, but keep in good with these local gods as well!
This continued to be a problem over many years. Elijah was one of the prophets who confronted it under the rule of Ahab whose wife Jezebel was actively promoting Baal-worship. We hear the prophet calling the people to accept the truth and live by it – “How much longer will it take you to make up your minds? If the Lord is God, then worship him; but if Baal is God, worship him!” (1 Kings 18.21).
For the Psalmist it was important to look to the mountains, not for the purpose of visiting some old baal shrine, but in order to see them as the creation of the Lord, and to worship him and look to him for help.
For us the mountains of Girraween are a special reminder of the creative glory of God – and we worship the Creator!
I wonder what baals our society urges us to combine with our faith in and worship of the one and only Lord of all.
These studies in the life of Elijah were written for small group study. Elijah was a vigorous and fiery Old Testament character. Brought up on the New Testament, we can sometimes find it difficult to relate some of his actions to the way of life expected of us in Christ. This has led some people to allegorise the story – they bypass completely questions raised by the fact that these things did happen and look for “spiritual” lessons for us today.
But these things did happen. Grasping that is an important part of learning what the Lord is saying to us through Elijah’s life.
In most instances, the text of Scripture is quoted from the Good News Bible (© American Bible Society, 1976), except for one reference to the New International Version (N.I.V., © Zondervan, 1984).