Topical and Doctrinal Notes
Leading Thought: Baal and Jehovah
In our last chapter, we learned that Ahab and Jezebel represented the two leading evils in the world and in hell. What are they? We shall need to pay very good attention to understand what comes next.
Remember what we learned in our last lesson about husband and wife. We learned that the husband represents wisdom or truth, and the wife love or good. Let us apply this to Ahab and Jezebel.
"Oh!" you exclaim, "we cannot, for they were not good and true, they were evil and false!"
That is so! Know, then, that evil is good changed into the opposite, and falsity is truth twisted into the opposite. Did you ever stop to think that when you like a thing, you say, "That's good"? Wicked people like evil and therefore they call evil good. Evil gives them pleasure. If it did not give them pleasure they would not do it. But the day comes when this pleasure is turned into suffering. Just as the pleasure of eating too much is turned into pain; as the pleasure of drinking too much strong drink is turned into headache and worse. As a woman represents good, therefore a wicked woman represents evil pleasure or delight. Jezebel in particular stands for the pleasure one feels in loving self above all others, and more than use. Ahab stands for the evil and false thoughts which a person indulges to favor evil pleasures.
And Baal: what of him?
Baal was the name of a man who once lived and who had such power that people began to worship him and the statues that were made of him. After his death, people continued to worship his statues, which were called "Baalim," which is the Hebrew plural of "Baal."
The idol Baal whom Jezebel had worshiped in her native country of Zidon, and whom she persuaded Ahab to worship and to whom they built a temple, also represents something connected with the loves of self and the world, namely, worship. You see, what people love above all else, they imagine to be the greatest thing there is, and they worship it. But in any church, or in any person, in which love of self or the world - or, let us put it a little differently, where reputation, selfish ambition, the pleasures of the world, the love of money - are worshiped; where people admire people who gain much money, even if it be by unfair and unlawful means – in that place there is no worship of the love that prevails in heaven, there is no worship of the Lord, no unselfish love of the neighbor. And so we read the story that the altar of Jehovah was broken down, but that there were many altars to Baal in Israel.
The Lord lets people do wrong if they want to, but He warns them over and over again how wrong it is, and that they must give it up. But if they continue, at last comes a day of reckoning. If this day does not come before death it is absolutely certain to come after death, when they enter the other world; for then they are judged. Entire churches have been judged when the Lord came into the world. The Jewish church was judged when the Lord was on earth; the Christian church was judged in the year 1757 when the Lord made His Second Coming. The Lord let the famine in Samaria go on for three years and six months, for these numbers mean from beginning to end. Then the Lord through the prophet Elijah called the land to judgment by destroying the prophets of Baal, as you read in the chapter.
An altar was the principal representative of worship in ancient times, that is, the altar itself was not worship, but it represented worship; it represented that good and holy state in people when, from their great love of the Lord, they pray to Him, thanking Him for all that He has done and constantly does, and singing to Him from a full heart, and opening their hearts and minds wide to let in all the beautiful sunshine of Divine love and truth that the Lord wants to give them. But we can get into this holy state of goodness represented by the altar, only when we know and live according to the truths which the Lord teaches in His Word. And now mark how beautifully this was represented in the restoration of the altar of Jehovah by Elijah.
He built the altar of stone. We know that stone means truth. But he took twelve stones - one for each of the tribes of Israel. The twelve tribes represented all the truths of the Church. So that the altar so built represented that in our worship of the Lord we must conform with all the truths that we have learned from the Lord. It is not enough when one does not steal, and yet tells lies. It is not enough to be pure and honest in deed, and yet to covet what belongs to the neighbor. It is not enough to keep all the commandments in the second table of the Decalogue, and yet never go to church and never read the Word from one end of the year to the other. We must keep all the commandments: there were twelve stones that made up the altar of Jehovah built by Elijah.
And what of the "burnt-sacrifice" on this altar of twelve stones?
There were different kinds of sacrifices. In some, parts of the animal were eaten by the worshipers and parts burnt, but in burnt-offerings the whole animal was burnt. Now fire means love, as you all know, and so the burnt-offering was burnt to indicate that the affection represented by the animal (innocence by a lamb, etc.) was offered up from the heart. In this case the fire came down from heaven, to show that such a worship is accepted by the Lord, and to show still further that the fire of a truly Christian worshiper's heart comes from the Lord. No such heavenly or Divine fire reaches the heart of those who love themselves and the world, for evil loves do not and cannot come from the Lord or from heaven, and so no fire fell on the sacrifice prepared by the prophets of Baal. All these prophets were then slain to represent the judgment upon such people, in the other life, that they pass to hell, where there is no lovely life, no real life, as in heaven, but only misery which is like being dead - dead to all the beautiful and happy things of heaven.