CRIT Obadiah 19. Fire H by JaneBaker

This chapter has side comments in the original.

Meat sat where the Moloch men had stacked it. Cold. Raw.
Obadiah’s stomach knotted. Would the boy on the boulder do any better?

19. Fire

861 BC

Mount Carmel, Israel

Obadiah smoothed and re-smoothed the front of his tunic as the sun edged out over the Great Sea.

The Moloch agents had taken more than half the day to show the king was right. Trying to spark a fire without flint or pyrite was useless.

Yet the boy from Gilead had said he would ask for fire. Was the Lord listening? Did the Lord care?

Elijah addressed the crowd. “Who knows how to rebuild this altar?” He leaned over the far side of the boulder.

Obadiah hurried around the boulder.

By Elijah’s quiet companion several large stones about the same size protruded from the soil. An abandoned Hebrew sacrificial altar.

Obadiah tossed dead branches aside and waved Ahab over. “Have you seen this?”

“Rocks, Biah. Goatskin Boy wants to show me a pile of old rocks.”

“Please, my king.” Cupping Ahab’s ears, he whispered. “For once in your royal life, shut up and watch.”

Ahab tried to jerk away.

But Obadiah latched onto his shoulders and bored his eyes deep into Ahab’s.

The king’s face reddened. He slid his gaze left and right at Elijah’s friend and the bodyguards who had followed them around the boulder. His breaths came long.

“Forgive the indiscretion, my king. Please. No one overheard.” He held Ahab’s shoulders and his gaze as he spoke through clenched teeth. “I share your frustration. But we need rain. And this boy closed the sky. Maybe. Just maybe he can open it.”

Ahab’s nostrils flared.

Those nostrils had squirted blood when Obadiah flattened them at age eight. The old pain shot through Obadiah’s wrist from stiff-arming his friend.

He released Ahab’s shoulders.

The king jerked back a hand’s width. He rolled a shoulder. Then the other.

The pain faded.

Men were moving near them.

Obadiah relaxed his stare and nodded.

Ahab raised an eyebrow, bumped him on the arm with his fist, and turned toward the ancient formation of stones.

Three graybeards the age of Obadiah’s father were throwing branches aside. They tightened the three rows of four stones each—one natural, uncut stone for each son of Jacob.

Old Jamin, the elder from Shechem, stepped over with arms folded and announced, “Ready.”

The crew of graybeards dusted their hands, dragged in dead branches, and laid the wood on the stones. With Jamin nodding approval of each cut, they butchered the second bull and stacked the meat on the wood.

Obadiah turned to Ahab. “How about your troublemaker, my king?”

“I like how he puts men to work, Biah. I’ll set him in charge of a small troop.”

When the sun stood well past the apex of its arc toward the sea, Elijah called to the crowd. “Gather around. Nice and close. Let everyone see.” He beckoned them to the rebuilt Hebrew altar.

Obadiah raised an eyebrow. The boy seemed so confident and self-assured. Did he have no doubts as to the outcome?

The representatives of the ten tribes crowded in, peering over shoulders, standing on tiptoes, the younger making way for the older.

Elijah announced, “Our kind village friends have agreed to make a ditch.”

His quiet, ever-present friend ushered up villagers with shovels who opened a shallow trench around the altar wide enough to plant two full measures of seed.

“Thank you!” Elijah turned from the altar and yelled over to the Moloch officials. “Are your little gods still out of town? Don’t go looking for them, or you’ll miss what the Lord’s about to show you.”

The Moloch men sniveled and hissed, their chins glued to their chests.

He spoke to the graybeards. “Our generous village friends collected water from the tiny streams left by the drought. Please stand back, so everyone can watch them soak the meat and the wood.”

A gasp rose from the crowd as local men emptied four monster jars on the sacrifice.

“Again, please.”

They poured on four more.

He raised his voice. “Once more, please.”

Ahab grabbed Obadiah’s arm. “Mocking the idea of fire—the boy’s crazy.”

“Like a fox, my king. Nobody will try to say he smuggled fire into that wood pile.”

The water ran over the meat and through the wood.

As the trench filled with water, Elijah turned to old Jamin. “Your opinion, sir?”

Ahab snorted. “You’ve wasted the whole day, boy.”

Old Jamin chuckled. “Relax, my king. All is well.” He turned toward the sun hovering low over the sea then nodded to Elijah. “The priests in Jerusalem are preparing the evening sacrifice.”

“Thank you, sir.” Elijah bowed to the elder and took a step toward the meat stacked on the rebuilt, water-soaked altar. He lifted his hand and sent ringing tones out over the crowd.

“Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, show people today you are God in Israel. That I am your servant and do this at your command. Hear me, O Lord. Hear, so this people will know you are the Lord God and you have turned their heart.”

The hair raised on Obadiah’s arms.

The echo settled, and the boy’s words hung in the silence.

Then the air sizzled.

A giant roar split the sky.

An orange burning ball bigger than Ahab’s chariot arced from the east and landed on the Hebrew altar.

“Ah!” Elijah jumped back to the other end of his boulder.

A flame as big as a house whooshed up from the altar, and one long gasp surged from the crowd. “Ooooh!”

People fell back shouting and tripping over each other. Some froze in place with their hands over their mouths. Criminy

While sparks and smoke soared in a giant column, the smell of burning meat and wood touched filled Obadiah’s nostrils.

He patted Ahab on the forearm. “A sweet aroma, my king. As in Noah’s day, ‘the Lord said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground.’ There’s hope.”

The flames licked at the trench. Then the water flashed and was gone in a cloud of steam while the altar stones turned to powder and spread across the mountain as a fine gray silt. Where the stones had stood, the topsoil dissolved and disappeared into the column of smoke.

As the flames died, the people lay facing tiny wisps of steam rising from the blackened earth.

“The Lord.” The words came from a graybeard who had helped rebuild the altar.

“It’s the Lord.” From beside him.

“The Lord. He is God!” From another.

Beside Obadiah, the king stood perfectly still except for his mouth, which fell open.

Four hundred fifty Moloch officials huddled wide-eyed and trembling as the elders of the tribes surrounded them.

Obadiah and Ahab watched in silence.

“Let no one escape.” Elijah brushed ashes from his shoulders. He marched the black-robed gang down to the Kishon riverbed and supervised as town fathers and heads of clan slit the throats of those who had burned their grandchildren.

After he climbed back up the path, Elijah stood next to his quiet friend and turned toward Ahab and Obadiah. “I suggest you head home before the downpour wipes out the road.”

“Downpour?” Obadiah checked the empty sky.

“Talk.” Ahab flapped the back of his hand at Elijah. “You’re only talk.”

“My king, now that the Lord has spoken with fire, he sends the rain.

As Elijah knelt beside them, he tucked his face between his knees.

Obadiah cringed. He hadn’t bent that far since he was six. Why was the young man praying? Hadn’t he won the battle?

While Ahab paced, Obadiah touched Elijah on the shoulder. “Why are you praying, son?”

“For the rain, sir. The Lord said to show myself to Ahab and he would send rain.”

Obadiah shaded his eyes with his hands and searched the source of rain, the surface of the Great Sea. Did the boy think the Lord needed reminding?

Pelicans sailed along next to the wave tops and gulls flew in packs closer to shore. A whale spouted. A galley pulled across the blue expanse toward Cyprus. The sun dipped close to the surface. But no clouds.

Elijah spoke while on his knees. “You should see clouds, sir.”

Ahab sauntered over. “You talk of rain but only show fire.”

“I hear the rain, my king. Can you see it?”

Ahab glanced toward the sea. “Nothing.”

The sun dropped below the horizon, and twilight settled over the mountain.

“One more time, please. Look again.”

His quiet friend slapped him on the back. “Ha. You gotta see this.”

Ahab crowded in. “What, boy? See what?”

Obadiah squinted with them.

Way off, drifting fast over the horizon, the teeniest speck of white fluff caught rays rising from the hidden sun.

Obadiah moved his hand from side to side. “It’s so tiny my finger covers it.” He looked again. “The cloud’s too big now. My hand won’t cover it.”

“Wa-hoo!” Elijah danced and bumped elbows with his friend. “Thank you, Lord. There’s your rain, my king. You best be going.”

Black clouds rolled in as Obadiah trailed the king to their chariots.

He stroked his chin. After the Moloch officials had danced and screamed without a spark, a boy uttered a simple request. The Lord burned the place up, and tribal elders slit the throats of the officials. A day to remember.

Sheets of rain hit him in the face, and a gust knocked him off the path. He climbed back on. Extra strides brought him next to the king, and he hooked arms with his old friend as they racedto their chariots.

I think I’d ilke to know more of what Obadiah feels and thinks when the fire falls, and when the downpour starts.

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