The Old Testament reading at church today was from 1 Kings, bits and pieces from chapter 18.
In a nutshell, Elijah goes to the Israelites and says, "You all are worshipping a false god, Baal. We'll see which god is the real God. We'll each prepare a bull for sacrifice, and whichever god can burn his own offering we'll all agree is The God. You guys go first." So they slaughtered a bull and prepared it, but didn't light it on fire, and started praying to Baal. They prayed fervently all dang day, but nothing. Elijah taunted them, and they cut themselves according to their tradition and still, Baal never showed up to burn the offering. Elijah slaughtered a bull and prepared his offering, but doused it in water first, like, really drenched it. And he prayed, and God showed up and burnt the offering thoroughly, even the water burned.
When all the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, "The Lord indeed is God; the Lord indeed is God." We didn't read the next bit, about Elijah slaying all the prophets of Baal. (1 Kings 18:39)
I'm thinking, How awful would that be?
So, you watch as your god gets beaten soundly in a whose-god-does-better-fire contest, your community leaders get schwacked by the victors, and you, what, fall down acknowledging the power of the new God, and get back to your life? Just like that? Just, bam!, yesterday we were Baalites, now we're Jews.
There wasn't one guy that called for a do-over? There wasn't some goodwife back home, saying, "well, you men probably didn't do it right. Baal's there, you just messed up the offering." Or, "Baal's a perfectly good god, but he demands we follow the rules he gave us, which include burning the offering. You want the god, you gotta follow the rules."
And isn't that, in essence, what God (via Elisha) does in 2 Kings chapter 5? He (again, through Elisha) cures the captain of leprosy, but only if he goes and bathes seven times in the Jordan. Not the Abana or the Pharpar, but in the Jordan. Again, you want God, you gotta follow the rules.
I don't want to get into a discussion on whether or not we really have to follow the rules, or what exactly the rules are, or anything like that. My point is, isn't that kind of harsh? And more than a little hypocritical?