image courtesy of Bing Images
(The idea for this entry came out of our Saturday morning prayer group as God downloaded it to my wife Betsy’s spirit. As she shared it with me, I jumped on that wonderful insight to guide my thoughts for this time)
One of my favorite accounts of God doing over-the-top stuff in the Old Testament can be found in 1 Kings Chapter 18. In this chapter we read about the Prophet Elijah calling out the 400 or so prophets of Baal, one of the main false gods of the time.
The extremely condensed version goes like this: Elijah had become fed up with King Ahab’s leading of the people astray by worshiping this Baal character. Basically, Elijah tells the king to make a choice, either follow Baal or the God of their ancestors. He even makes it a visual choice. Elijah advised Ahab to gather the prophets of the false god and prepare a sacrifice. If Baal answers their petitions, he will indeed be the god.
Elijah, full of faith in the God of Israel, allows those poor guys to go first. They prepare the bull on their altar and begin to loudly plead with Baal to do his thing by bringing fire down to consume it. This goes on for some time which causes Elijah to speculate, tongue in cheek, that perhaps their god is sleeping and can’t hear them. The ever more frustrated prophets of Baal become greatly agitated and even begin to cut themselves in a show of devotion to the empty deity they are praying to.
Elijah finally says it is his turn. Just to make it interesting, he tells the Baal followers to douse his sacrifice three times with plenty of water. They use so much in fact that the Bible says it filled the trench around the altar Elijah had prepared. As you may have guessed, Elijah then calls of the name of the God of heaven who promptly answers by sending a consuming fire from heaven that burns up both altars with the sacrifices on them. Elijah then commands the people who saw this powerful display to gather up the 400 hundred prophets of Baal and put them to the sword.
I share all this as introduction to my main point for today, that being what Elijah did next. You might assume that after an affirming display like he had just witnessed, Elijah would be going all in and all out for God. Well, don’t assume. Reading on in the narrative we find Elijah hiding out in the desert, the very next day, afraid for his life after he learned that Ahab’s wife, the evil Queen Jezebel, has sworn to kill Elijah for what he has done before the sun goes down that day.
I can understand the fear Elijah felt, but not so much the pity party he throws for himself. The Bible says that he came to a broom tree, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” (1 Kings 19:4 NIV)
I have struggled with his reaction for quite some time. How could he so quickly feel as if God was going to leave him alone after what he has just seen done the day before! Obviously, we can’t know what was going on inside Elijah’s head and heart, but perhaps that’s not the point.
No, I believe the point is to relate to Elijah rather than judge what he said. Now, I haven’t called any fire down from heaven lately, but that’s not to say I haven’t seen God at work doing wonderful things around me. In fact, I have witnessed God do two healings that should have me shouting about it on the rooftop of our home.
Instead, I find myself at my laptop at 4 am unable to sleep (again) because of the poison ivy covering my right arm and leg. Using all my willpower not to scratch as I wait for the morning dose of medicine to kick in, I find myself lamenting what I am currently going through. My itchy limbs have all put driven the mighty work of God from my mind.
OK, being troubled by some nasty poison ivy doesn’t quite compare with a queen swearing to kill me before the sun goes down today, but I hope you catch my drift. I, like most of us if we’re to be honest, am self-centered to the core. My current situation almost always takes position in the forefront on my mind, whatever it is.
I’ve been at this Christian life for quite a while now but it’s times like this that make me wonder what, if anything, I have learned along the way. I stop myself right there! For this is yet another veiled ‘pour me’ line of thinking. Though I’m no Rhodes Scholar or Mensa candidate, I have learned much on this journey as a follower of Christ. Most importantly, that God is faithful even when I am not at the top of my game.
This morning, that realization leads me to once again ask our always faithful Lord to forgive my self-indulgence on the pity pot. My prayer is a simple one, and you may join me if feel so moved:
Dear Jesus, Thank you for all you have done for me and around me. Please forgive my shortness of sight and thinking. Help me to stayed better focused on you, the Great Sustainer of my life. Give me the courage and opportunity to speak often of your Greatness. Help me to rise above current circumstance that wants to distract or discourage me. May I never forget how much you love me, itchy limbs and all.
Though I know Jesus knows me by name, I sign this for you, Faithful Reader,