Drought plagued the land. Once fertile farmland was dusty, scorched by the sun. Riverbeds were dry. The rotting carcasses of oxen and sheep dotted the windswept landscape and the odor of death hung in the air. Markets and playgrounds were quieted by the choking grip of famine. There hadn’t been a drop of rain in three years and six months. “The word of the Lord came to Elijah in the third year: ‘Go and present yourself to Ahab. I will send rain on the surface of the land.’ So Elijah went to present himself to Ahab” (1 Kings 18:1–2).
Three and a half years earlier Elijah had stood in Ahab’s presence. Then he’d announced God’s painful judgment on Ahab’s kingdom. Now, the prophet challenged the king. He threw down the gauntlet. He drew a line in the sand. “Summon all Israel to meet me at Mount Carmel, along with the 450 prophets of Baal and the 400 prophets of Asherah who eat at Jezebel’s table” (1 Kings 18:19). Marshall Dillion and the bandit, twenty paces apart, were about to shoot it out at high noon.
On Mount Carmel, Elijah declared God’s redemptive message to the children of Abraham, God’s chosen people. “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him. But if Baal, follow him” (1 Kings 18:21). Elijah scanned the crowd, looking at the hopelessly gaunt faces. “You’re standing at the ‘Y’ in the road! Today is the day to choose! Are you going to follow a dead god, Baal, who can’t send the rain? Or, will you return to the God of Abraham, of Moses, of David?”
Moses reminded the Israelites that each day is the day of decision. “See, today I have set before you life and prosperity, death and adversity. For I am commanding you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commands, statutes, and ordinances, so that you may live and multiply, and the Lord your God may bless you in the land you are entering to possess. But if your heart turns away and you do not listen and you are led astray to bow in worship to other gods and serve them, I tell you today that you will certainly perish and will not prolong your days in the land you are entering to possess across the Jordan. I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live, love the Lord your God, obey him, and remain faithful to him. For he is your life, and he will prolong your days as you live in the land the Lord swore to give to your ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob”(Deuteronomy 30:15–20).
Joshua had proclaimed a similar message. “Therefore, fear the Lord and worship him in sincerity and truth. Get rid of the gods your ancestors worshiped beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt, and worship the Lord. But if it doesn’t please you to worship the Lord, choose for yourselves today: Which will you worship—the gods your ancestors worshiped beyond the Euphrates River or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living? As for me and my family, we will worship the Lord” (Joshua 24:14–15).
Generations later, Pilate put the people at the “Y” again. “The governor’s custom was to release to the crowd a prisoner they wanted. At that time they had a notorious prisoner called Barabbas. So when they had gathered together, Pilate said to them, ‘Who is it you want me to release for you—Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?’ ” (Matthew 27:15–17).
Today is the day of decision. Crucify Him, or crown Him! “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him. But if Baal, follow him!”