Isn’t God a God of love? Of course! Yet God is also a God of justice. These are people who openly and persistently not only rejected the true God but also encouraged the worship of a rival god. If God pretended that didn’t happen, that might sound loving, but it would be unjust.
The confrontation between Elijah and the prophets of Baal atop Mt Carmel ended with drama: the fire of the LORD fell and consumed the wet sacrifice. It was clear who the true God was. Elijah was a true prophet, and the prophets of Baal were false prophets. So what should be done with the false prophets? We read what happened in v40:
And Elijah said to them, “Seize the prophets of Baal; let not one of them escape.” And they seized them. And Elijah brought them down to the brook Kishon and slaughtered them there. (1 Ki. 18:40 ESV)
How does reading that make you feel? I imagine, like me, you recoil in horror at this. How terrible! It is as if Elijah is not satisfied with making these prophets look foolish, so he wants to kill them all as well. Isn’t this overkill? Where is the grace?
Yes, this is horrible, and it is meant to be. But I think our natural reaction to this reveals more about our hearts than we like to admit.
In context, think about who these prophets of Baal were. They were responsible for propagating the worship of a god other than the true God. They were highly honoured by the king and queen. It seems that they genuinely believed in Baal, based on their actions in the prayer earlier that day. And the judgement of Elijah on them was death.