And call you on the name of your gods, and I will call on the name of the LORD: and the God that answers by fire, let him be God… 1 Kings 18:24
The challenge of Carmel was a challenge of God's. The elect symbol of the God of Israel was fire, and Baal was the heathen God of fire. The prophets of Baal contended that Baal was God, and Elijah, the solitary prophet of the God of Israel, declared that Jehovah was the one and only true God. Such a question cannot be settled by words. The claim to Deity must be established in deeds that only God can do. It is not a matter of argument but demonstration. The fire was God's sign of acceptance. Perhaps it was by this sign the two first brothers knew that Abel's offering was accepted and Cain's rejected. When Abraham prepared a sacrifice by which the covenant was to be sealed, he watched until the evening, and then the fire of God passed through the divided portions. At the dedication of the Tabernacle "there came fire from before the Lord, and consumed upon the altar the burnt offering and the fat." When the Temple was consecrated we read, "When Solomon had made an end of praying, the fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices." The altar fire was the sign of the Divine Presence. No human hand kindled it. No material fuel replenished it, and yet it burned continually, a visible assurance of Jehovah's presence with His people. In Elijah's day the fire had gone out. The glory of Israel had departed. No man could rekindle it. Neither could any other fire take its place. The carriers of strange fire in the holy place were consumed on the spot. None but God could relight the altar fire. Elijah inaugurated a new order, and this is the reason of his appearance with Moses in the Mount of Transfiguration. By him God relit the sacred fire. Then! When was that? what had made possible that momentous moment? Is it possible to discover the conditions which bring the fire of the Lord? Nothing is lawless. The " then" is indicative of more than time. It marks the moment when the conditions of Divine demonstration were fulfilled.
1. The fire of the Lord came when the cause of Jehovah had reached its lowest point. "Ahab had provoked the Lord God of Israel more than all that were before him." He was the kind of man still much applauded. He established great cities, gathered great wealth, and built a great palace.
2. The fire of the Lord came after the altar had been restored. The fire follows the altar. In itself the altar is nothing. It was built of unhewn stones, unchiselled and unshaped, but it was the place of sacrifice, the centre of fellowship, and the sign of the covenant. When the altar is neglected the fire goes out. Man's work is to repair the altar and provide the offering; God lights the fire.
3. The fire of the Lord came in response to faith and prayer. The faith of Elijah was sublimely heroic. What confidence he had! He could mock their frenzy because he was sure of his triumph. Faith never screams. In quietness and assurance it knows how to wait. How he laughed at difficulties! They might flood the altar and the sacrifice with their cold water till it seemed as if nothing could burn; he knew in whom he had believed. He had faith in God.—Samuel Chadwick