1 Kings 18 is not only a demonstration that our God is the true God. It is a picture of atonement, of God providing a sacrifice instead of pouring his judgement out on our heads. We should always be astounded at the depth of God’s love for people like us.
The top of Mt Carmel in the Kingdom of Israel was a tense place to be in 1 Kings 18. A challenge had been set up between the 450 prophets of Baal on one hand and Elijah the prophet of the LORD on the other. The citizens of Israel gathered around to watch. We are not quite sure what they were thinking. We know from later in 1 Kings that thousands of people in Israel had never bowed the knee to Baal, but most of them seem to have been active participants in Baal worship. For sure, many might have been bullied into this new worship by their scary Queen Jezebel who murdered anyone who publicly supported the LORD.
When challenged, the people refused to choose one god or the other. They didn’t declare their hand. They wouldn’t admit to trusting the LORD. We know what God’s judgement on them will be. They are guilty. They have turned from the LORD. According to the covenant curses in Deuteronomy, all kinds of terrible things would come upon them for their rebellion.
In fact, when the fire did come down from heaven, the fair outcome would be if the fire fell on the people of Israel. There was precedent for this. In ancient times, the city of Sodom was destroyed by fire that fell from heaven because of its sin. The sin of these people was just as bad. What they should have had from God was fire.