The Prophets of Baal By Greg Bailey

The day of the big sacrifice is here. People come from all over to participate. The drums pound out a driving rhythm as the men dance around in a circle, facing each other as their arms and shoulders jerk back and forth in time with the beat of the drums. How long can this go on? After several hours of increasingly enthusiastic dancing, two of the dancers suddenly start to stumble around. Other in the group help them take off their clothes and put on a grass skirt. The two then begin to dance with even greater fervor. They separate themselves from the group. Their dancing is no longer in a circle, no longer the predicted movements of before. Instead, they move about in a much larger area, their movements controlled only by the spirits which possess them. One man runs across the area, rolling lengthwise on the ground before popping up to continue his dance. The other dances in place, using the same jerking shoulder and arm movements as before, only now, he carries them out with incredible rapidity. It is this man which suddenly takes a knife from the waist of his grass skirt and begins to slash his arms. Does he feel that? Why doesn't he stop? He continues to slash ruthlessly until blood flows freely from both arms. As he continues this self mutilation, the other man begins to do the same thing. In a matter of minutes both men are covered with bloody wounds on their arms and shoulders, chests, abdomens, and one even has a slash across his face. Is this pleasing to their god? Will he answer them?

The scene I have described here is not that from the spiritual battle between Elijah and the prophets of Baal in I Kings 18. The men are rather Kokushi, "wives" of the god Koku. The scene takes place on a regular basis, not on Mount Carmel, but rather among the Aja people of Benin and Togo. These men are modern day prophets of Baal.

I am currently involved in a effort to bring such a group of men back into relationship with God. Two weeks ago, Joseph Limakpo and I began to speak of Eternal God and what he has done for us, in the village of Églimé (ay-GLEE - may). When I first went to this village, I noticed right off the scars on the arms, shoulders, chests, abdomens, and even faces of the people of this village. Because I was familiar with Kokushi, I knew right away that many of the people that I met were devoted to serving this particular god.

The first week we recounted the story of Daniel in the lions den, and the second we talked about the confrontation on Mount Carmel between Elijah and the prophets of Baal. The people of Églimé were fascinated by both stories, but I was especially interested to see how they would react to the Biblical story of a people so similar to themselves. At what I would call the climax of our lesson, Joseph asked them whether they wanted to follow Eternal God like Elijah, or if they wanted to follow the gods like the prophets of Baal. We were thrilled that a large number said they want to follow Eternal God. I was a little surprised, however, when one guy said he wanted to follow the gods, like the prophets of Baal. This was, after all, a choice for the losing side in the story he had just heard. The man went on to say that if we were asking him to serve God and leave the gods, he would give us back the papers that we had given him (copies of our translation of the relevant scriptures into Ajagbe, along with songs to go with each lesson), and leave right then! Joseph went on to explain to him that he couldn't make a decision about whether or not he wanted to become a Christian yet, because he didn't yet know what that even meant. He told him that other lessons were coming that would help him get to know God better, and encouraged him to listen to them before making his decision.

I want to covet your prayers for this village. We believe that the battle in Églimé is spiritual, just as was the one on Mount Carmel. Pray that we will speak boldly, as did Elijah. This is actually Joseph's preaching point. I have been going as an encouragement to him, so pray specifically for his proclamation in this village. We also believe that Almighty God is more powerful than the gods that the people of this village worship. We ask that you pray that they will recognize that power and submit their lives to Him. In 1Kings, Elijah ended up killing the prophets of Baal. Pray that this battle will result rather in a change of allegiance and changed lives. Pray especially for the leader of this village. His natural leadership qualities are evident, and as he retold the story of Daniel as we reviewed the week after that lesson, I began to dream of how powerfully God could use him in the Kingdom.

Your prayers make a difference. May God be praised and may our faith grow as we see Him working in the village of Églimé.

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