During the pre-dawn hours on the day of THE CONTEST, the morning air was crisp and dry.  Would-be attenders of THE CONTEST had been traveling for days and many were camped overnight at the venue.  The thousands arriving through the night found their way to the edges of the Field and began forming a dense and progressively deepening perimeter of humanity.

THE CONTEST was anticipated to be a singularly unusual one in that no one was entirely sure what the game was, and the specific rules of the contest were yet to be announced.  The Teams Themselves were the Draw.  The Teams were the best of the best, the most powerful of the powerful, and the whole nation turned its attention to what promised to be a spectacular and spiritual experience.

The Sun began to peek above the horizon and as it did, long shadows revealed the sheer scope of the Venue.

The Venue was a sweeping space on a scenic mountaintop – overlooking the sea to the west, and a great, wide valley to the east.  The increasing light of day revealed that, present already in their decorated Box at Center Field were the owners of the home team.  Flanking them and encircling the field were people from every town and every walk of life – all those who could readily afford the travel, and the many who could not afford it but had come anyway.

The Official Spells Out The Rules 

A single Official strode to Center Field and with a strong, authoritative voice, and without aid of any amplification began explaining the Rules of THE CONTEST:

1.  There shall be up to twelve hours of regulation play he said.

2.  An Instant Death Overtime shall be played when there is no clear victory at the end of regulation time.

3.  Each Team shall have at least one player and as many a thousand.  There shall be no limitation to the number of players on the Field at any given time.

4.  The Visiting Team shall supply The Referee.

5.  Each Team shall be supplied with One Game Bull inflated to their own liking.

6.  Only One Team shall be permitted to take the field at any given time.

7.  On-Field Prayers to Deities shall be permitted and considered essential to THE CONTEST.

8.  There shall be no time-outs, no on-field penalties, and no limitations on equipment deployed except for incendiary devices.

9.  The Home Team shall be granted First Possession and may maintain possession as long as they can field fresh players.  They must relinquish possession at the end of regulation time.

10.  At the conclusion of THE CONTEST, all Attenders of THE CONTEST must Pledge Their Affinities and Allegiance To The Winner!!

11.  The Object of THE CONTEST shall be for one of the teams to compel its Deity to Supernaturally Incinerate its chosen Slaughtered Bull without any human aid.

Wait.  What?

The people had heard accurately.  A pin drop would have been audible to this point, but now the Official asked the Crowd would accept the Rules including adherence to the Pledge of Loyalty at the Conclusion.  A Great Roar erupted from every mouth as the spectators voiced their affirmations!

What was THE CONTEST so described?  Of course – it was Elijah’s amazing encounter with the Prophets of Baal and Asherah on Mount Carmel found in the eighteenth chapter of I Kings.

[Read I Kings 18:16-24]

6:00 a.m.  Final Instructions / Ceremonial Selection of Game Bull / First Possession

[Read I Kings 18:25-26]

Half Time

Noon.  Elijah can’t help taunting the opposing team but is not penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct (perhaps because he is the Referee). This intensifies the Dark Prophets’ activities.

[Read I Kings 18:27-28]

Fourth Quarter

After twelve hours of grueling, continuous play and an all-day-long single possession (perhaps attributable to the Dark Prophets’ very deep bench),  those prophets of Baal and Asherah had nothing to show for all their prayers and dances, their demonstrations and self-mutilizations – except for one very ripe, fly-collecting bull lying motionless on an altar – with no pagan deity having been allowed to torch it.

[Read I Kings 18:29]

Instant Death Overtime

[Read I Kings 18:3035]

THE CONTEST has not yet concluded.  The Prophet of God, a Team of One, accompanied by just a few equipment managers, takes the Field.  The Altar of God is repaired with the large volcanic stones present on the mountain top.  Firewood is laid on it and arranged.  A deep trench is dug around the altar.  The Bull is slaughtered and prepared for sacrifice.  Altar, wood, bull, are all soaked to emphasize the improbable.  After all – what can One Prophet Do when all the King and Queen’s pagan prophets have failed compel their gods to incinerate their sacrifice?

There is Prayer and Prayer Posturing on the Field – only this time the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is implored to act on behalf of Israel and its faithful Prophet.

Fire Falls Immediately

[Read I Kings 18:36-39]

There is no delay from God in Answering Elijah’s prayer.  The Fire falls immediately, and dramatically consumes the altar and all its contents, licking up the water as well.  The Audience is spontaneously Conscripted to the Side of Elijah and his God.

The Full Meaning of ‘Instant Death’ Overtime is Revealed

[Read I Kings 18:40]

All 450 prophets of Baal and all 400 prophets of Asherah, pagan gods of King Ahab and Queen Jezebel were ordered arrested and slaughtered by Elijah, the Prophet of God.

Later today, over one half of the population of our Country (including myself) will watch sixty minutes of regulation football stretched into over three hours’ time by million-dollar commercials, penalties, timeouts, instant replays and insufferable halftime shows.  Billions of dollars will have been spent on travel, astounding ticket prices, and souvenirs.  Food services of all kinds will make bumper profits unlike any other day of the calendar year.  At the end of it all, the irritating  team from Foxboro will more than likely win the contest.  You may take exception to that opinion if you like.  I won’t bet with you.  You may harangue me if my view ultimately proves unsubstantiated.  Nothing wrong with enjoying a football game.

By contrast, we who are Christians are engaged in a much higher contest – one that takes the Field for nothing less than the eternal well-being of the human souls battled for.  Personally, in the Elijah Contest, I have no doubt that the Dark Prophets’ team bull would have burned brightly if God had not forbidden the present and unseen demons to torch it.  God is Sovereign.  He alone is Supreme in His universe.  He is the Super One.  He calls us each to engage in THE CONTEST – the important one whose stakes are the souls of human beings.  We live in a world that is desperately in need of a Demonstration of God’s Power and Sovereignty.  THAT ETERNAL  CONTEST makes every manmade event – and every human device that captures souls away from God – pale into nothing by comparison.  Enjoy the SuperBowl.  But remember to be the best player you can be in THE CONTEST that matters.