“How long will you go limping between two different opinions?” is the way Elijah begins his short message on Mount Carmel. (1 Kings 18.21) The statement is a call to action. We would like to say we would answer like Joshua, “as for me and for my house, we will serve the LORD”. Yet, the two cases are very different. Joshua was the leader of the people- the head of the government, having the Levites at his command, and giving direction for the nation. Elijah was not the civic leader, Ahab was. Ahab’s wife was definitely against God His people.
The people respond in a way that would be lock-step with their governance: Joshua is righteous, and so their reply is righteous. However, King Ahab is unrighteous. So, when Elijah calls for action, the people have a problem. They can discern what they should do, but their response is tainted by their government: “And the people did not answer him a word”. Nothing. Zip. Nada.
The response itself is evidence of what Elijah is saying. They are stuck between the opinion of following righteousness or appeasing the government. After all, they are in the presence of at least 451 governmental officials (450 prophets of the queen, and the king himself) who could make their lives very difficult if they do not answer appropriately. So, they offer a lame excuse of an answer (pun intended)- no answer.
In truth, the answer is a full one- they aren’t serving Jehovah. Elijah’s next statement appears evidence of that, as he says “I, even I only, am left a prophet of the LORD…”. Driven to suicidal ideation, Elijah makes a similar statement within days of this sermon: “I, even I only, am left”. The non-answer is a non-stated refusal to serve Jehovah.
I consider that the people probably considered themselves to be righteous, or somewhat righteous. After all, they did attend a show-down between Jehovah and Baal. And once God reveals His fire from Heaven they seem to quickly enough slaughter the prophets of Baal. Yet, recorded for us is the accusation that rings out loud and true- “How long will you go on limping?” Do not wait for fire from Heaven to make your stand for Jehovah. Also, consider that limping around is detrimental to those who do stand up for God. Limping is not edifying. Let us strive to edify.