And at the seventh time he said, “Behold, a little cloud like a man’s hand is rising from the sea.” And he said, “Go up, say to Ahab, ‘Prepare your chariot and go down, lest the rain stop you.’” (I Kings 18:44, ESV)
It had been a long day on Mount Carmel. Elijah, the lone prophet of the Lord, had faced off against 400 prophets of Baal and another 450 prophets of the grove. Not good odds, but if God is on your side, that’s enough. God’s prophet flung out a challenge. Each would build an altar and sacrifice an offering. “Then you call on the name of your gods, and I will call on the name of the LORD; and the God who answers by fire, He is God” (verse 24). The people agreed to this test.
For hours the false prophets called out to their god to bring down fire for their sacrifice. Although they cried loudly, leaped on the altar, and even cut themselves to get their god’s attention, nothing happened.
“And as midday passed, they raved on until the time of the offering of the oblation, but there was no voice. No one answered; no one paid attention.” (I Kings 18:29, ESV)
Once the prophets of Baal failed, Elijah rebuilt the altar of the Lord, placed the wood and the sacrifice on the altar, and then doused it completely with water. (Hint: that is not the way to encourage a fire.) Then the prophet prayed a fervent but simple prayer—very different from the gyrations of the false prophets—and God answered.
“Then the fire of the LORD fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench.” (Verse 38)
There was no question of who the True God was.
But that’s just part of the story! God had another miracle for those on Carmel that day.
Three years before, Elijah had prophesied all rain would cease because of King Ahab’s wickedness. The people suffered greatly because of the drought and resulting famine. Now God said He would send rain. Heavy rain. Abundant rain. With not a single cloud visible in the sky, Elijah warned Ahab, “Go up, eat and drink, for there is a sound of the rushing of rain.”
Again and again, the prophet sent his servant to look toward the sea, yet the sky remained clear. But the seventh time the servant looked, he reported back, “Behold, a little cloud like a man’s hand is rising from the sea.” That very tiny cloud was enough for Elijah. He sent a message to Ahab to head for home before the coming rain overtook him. “And in a little while the heavens grew black with clouds and wind, and there was a great rain” (verse 45).
When God is at work, fire can consume not just wood but stones and dust. And a tiny little cloud, no larger than a man’s hand, can bring a great rain that will replenish a very dry land.
Are you waiting for a miracle from the Lord? How many times have you prayed but couldn’t see the cloud forming? Did you pray again . . . and again? Did you go back five times, six times, or even more? Go look one more time. A cloud is forming on the horizon. God’s answer is on the way.
“But as for me, I will look to the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me.” (Micah 7:7, ESV)
Thank You, Lord, that You are a miracle-working God. Things that seem impossible to me are not beyond Your power and Your ability. Help me to be patient as well as persistent while waiting for my miracle. Somewhere a small cloud is forming, and Your answer is on the way.