Elijah set the rules of the contest high: The priests of Baal would call on their god; he would call on the name of the Lord, and the one who answered by fire would be acknowledged as God. The people agreed. The priests of Baal must have looked nervous.
These ministers of Baal worship prepared their sacrifice and called out all morning long for Baal to hear their prayers. There was no answer. They cried out all afternoon, even cutting themselves to get his attention, but there was no response.
Elijah watched the priests of Baal with interest, and so did the people. The priests stood before an impressive altar that was well maintained. The worship of Baal had pomp, excitement, grandeur, and popular support...but no living God. The people took note.
Elijah looked at the desolate altar of God, broken down, its stones scattered. Broken-down altars appear to speak of defeat and the death of a god. Broken-down altars seem to tell of weak gods of the past, not the living God of now.
“Then Elijah said to all the people, ‘Come near to me.’ So all the people came near to him. And he repaired the altar of the Lord which had been torn down” (1 Kings 18:30). He built the altar with twelve stones, one for each tribe in Israel, “in the name of the Lord” (1 Kings 18:31).
The altar Elijah built was simple, a stark contrast to the impressive stone structures common in Baal worship. He did not build to impress the crowd pressing around him. He built simply to worship God.
We have “broken altars” today. Many of our homes are places to eat, sleep, shower, and entertain ourselves, but not to worship God. Sometimes our technology has become our altar, our place to be in awe. At times, our homes have “scattered stones” when it comes to worshiping the living God.
Thousands of miles away from our home, where desert sands blow across the roads instead of snow, a couple waited to talk with me after I spoke on God’s call to our homes. They were a well-dressed, professional couple that looked like success in every way.
Yet as I walked up to them, there was a sadness in their eyes that spoke of deep trouble. They had the trappings of success, the admiration of their community, but their marriage was falling apart. They had become too busy for each other, their children, and God. They wanted to know if God could repair years of damage.
We knelt and prayed. They humbled themselves before God and rededicated their lives to Him. They asked God to give them love and forgiveness for each other, pleading with Him to make their home a place to worship God together.
God heard their prayers and blessed what had been broken. God poured out His Spirit on them to give them love for each other. They determined that their home should be a place to worship God every day.
As they began the practice of gathering their family to worship God in their home, their children resisted. “Do we have to come?” they whined. Family time had been full of verbal fighting in the past. The children could not imagine that being together for anything could be enjoyable, much less fun!
The couple patiently called their children day after day to come and read a short story from the Scriptures and to pray together as a family. They asked God to help them make their worship time as a family something special. God heard their prayers!
Awkward family worship moments slowly transformed by God’s grace into tolerably interesting moments...and over the months, became times of precious love and strength together, as God poured out His peace on them. The altar to the true God, though not made with stones, was repaired in their home! Today, their home is a place of peace, rest and love.
Far to the south, a busy couple in love with each other and with God wrestled with how to worship God as a family. Their university-age children’s schedule made it impossible to be together at the same time. As the couple prayed together, God impressed them with an idea to rebuild their “family altar”: Every day, through a group text, this family shares what they have discovered about God in His Word.
Repairing broken altars will look different in every home. No matter how scattered the stones may be, no matter how fragmented the family, God holds the key to call each family to worship Him.
Call to Action
Make your home a place to worship God.
Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995, 2020 by The Lockman \ Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved. www.lockman.org