My last post actually fits in neatly with what we studied today in church: Trust in God.
Seriously, my brothers and sisters in Christ, do we really trust in the God of Creation? Do we honestly place our hope in the covenant God of Israel? Do we place our full confidence in His unshakable and unbreakable promises? Do we rely completely on the power and faithfulness of our risen Lord and Savior?
That is the foundational question we must all ask ourselves: Is our trust in God alone, in Christ alone?
Elijah was a mountain man. Because he came from the mountains, he was probably a bit uncouth. Because he came from the mountains, he wasn't very refined. Because he came from the mountains, he wouldn't have had the same level of education as those who were raised in the city of Jerusalem [actually, since Elijah prophesied to the Northern Kingdom, it might have been better for them to say "Samaria," since Jerusalem was the capitol of the southern kingdom of Judah -Kat].In that day, people from the city tended to look down their noses at men from the mountains the same way people today sometimes look down on folks who come from the hills. Hill people. Hillbillies. Elijah was like an Old Testament hillbilly. Before you laugh too much, remember this. You don't want to make those people mad. You'll lose that argument. You might lose something else, too. You don't want to mess with mountain folks. They're a tough breed.
Elijah was sent by God to Ahab, who was probably the wickedest king of the whole Old Testament. Elijah, a man with no genealogical background (very important to the Jews), a mountain hillbilly, stalked in to Ahab's throne room, and said:
And Elijah the Tishbite, of the inhabitants of Gilead, said to Ahab, “As the LORD God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, except at my word.” (I Kings 17:1, NKJV)
Elijah spoke what God told him to say with no prelude, no buildup, and no waffling - and then he stalked right back out, back to his hills. O_o (<--- that's an emoticon for flabbergasted astonishment, in case you didn't know. Think two big eyes, hehe.)
Yo, Ahab? Dude, you just got served! The gauntlet is down, man... You are so wicked, so far from God, and so hardhearted, that God doesn't even have His prophet explain anything, he just speaks God's judgment bluntly and leaves. Ball's in your court, your kingship!
As Pritchard writes, "They're so far down in the pit, a city boy isn't up for that kind of job." No, sirree, gotta get an uncouth, no-nonsense, loud-mouthed hillbilly man to smack 'em upside the head with God's word, that's for sure!
Now, the point of our lesson this morning was, where the heck did Elijah get all that chutzpah?! Well, take a look at that verse.
Elijah served the living God. Ahab just worshiped ol' Baal, a fertility god made from the hands of men. If the rains didn't come, the crops wouldn't grow - and where would Baal's power be? A fertility god ruling over a drought-ravaged land certainly isn't very powerful or helpful, is he?
.But the God of Israel LIVES! He rules, He reigns, and He is in control over everything. It is in Him that we live and move and have our being, it is by His power that all the universe was created, and it is HE who upholds and sustains all creation. Baal? Hah, Baal is just a two-bit wannabe!
Elijah served this living and almighty God; why should he fear the king of Israel?
"As the LORD God of Israel lives..."
Elijah served the covenant-keeping God.
Hey, Israel, Who called your daddy Abraham out of Ur of the Chaldees? Who sent Moses to all-y'all and plagued Egypt so bad that they threw all their riches at you and begged you to leave? Who was it again who destroyed their whole army when the pharaoh had a change of heart? Who was it who gave you the manna from Heaven and protected you through forty years in the wilderness? Who descended upon Mt. Sinai and gave you the Law? Who went before you into the Promised Land and delivered it to you? Who sent the Canaanites and Philistines to punish you when you sinned and left God's commands? Who sent judges to rescue you from the Canaanites and the Philistines when you cried out your pain to Him? Who gave you David and Solomon, the two greatest kings of history (save for One, of course)?
ISRAEL!!!! Who has been with you all this time, upholding His covenant with you and calling you to turn back to Him???
The LORD God of Israel, that's who!
So, what's Baal done for you lately? Not much? Yeah, that's what I thought, too...
Elijah served the living and almighty God who always keeps His promises and who watches over His people. Ahab? Meh, he's just a guy in a fancy robe.
"As the LORD God of Israel lives, before whom I stand..."
Elijah served in the presence of God.
The living God is everywhere, you know. There is no place we can run or hide and escape His presence. God knows everything as well, so there is no possibility of concealing ourselves and our true motives in the "privacy" of our minds. God is everywhere, and He knows everything - we all live in His presence each and every day...
But Elijah knew this. He knew to the very marrow of his bones that wherever he went, God was with him. Whatever he said at God's direction had the full force of God's power and truth. Whatever he did under God's leading had God's authority and effectiveness. Elijah lived coram deo, before the face of God, and he knew it!
Elijah served the living and almighty God who always keeps His promises, who watches over His people, and who goes with His servants to guide and protect them.
So, yeah, of course Elijah went in to Ahab's throne room and threw down that gauntlet with such confidence! After all, wouldn't you?
Ah, so maybe you wouldn't? Yeah, I'm there with you. I get far too caught up in the
- "What will they think?"
- "What if God doesn't come through?"
- "But I'm just nobody, how will they listen to me?"
- "Do I really need to do/say that right now?"
Let me tell you, Christian, I look at those attitudes in myself and think, "Gee, Kat, I guess you don't really trust Him much, do you?"
Do you see that in yourself as well?
Well, how can we work to increase our trust in God? It's all very well to say, "Well, buck up, buddy! Put your best foot forward! Stiff upper lip! Go get em, tiger!" and so on, but unless we base our trust and confidence on biblical truth, this bravado will crumble in the face of opposition fairly quickly. And this point leads me to Pastor Hank's sermon this morning, which dovetailed nicely with the Bible study lesson.
Hank's sermon was titled "Walking in Faith: the Cure for Unbelief," and his main Scripture came from Genesis 18:9-15. God has come to visit Abraham, and He tells him that Sarah will have a son the following year. Sarah, who is listening in secret, "...laughed within herself, saying, 'After I have grown old, shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?'" She doesn't believe that God can do this! She thinks that this task is too difficult for God - the LORD God Almighty! - to perform!
Well... You know the story - the following year, Sarah gives birth to Isaac (whose name means "laughter" - and who God had named already: see chapter 17), so I suppose God got the last laugh after all ;-)
But Hank gave some good pointers on how to strengthen our faith and our trust in the living God who is faithful, trustworthy and able to do all things He purposes:
Trust God because of Creation - take a look at Genesis 1. Out of nothing, God brought forth everything! Can you imagine the power that must have taken? And do you realize that all that power didn't take even the least amount of effort on the part of our infinitely powerful God? Do you know that He is still keeping the universe going out of His own power (see Hebrews 1:3)?
When I look at creation - fallen and marred by sin as it is - I see the powerful hand of a good, loving and beautiful God, and I cannot help but have confidence that He will take care of His servants.
Trust God because of Conversions - did you know that all twelve of Jesus' disciples abandoned Him at His darkest hour? Oh, sure, Judas Iscariot betrayed Him and proved to be a false disciple, but all of the other "faithful" deserted Him in Gethsemane. Even Peter, who swore he would never leave Jesus, denied Him three times when a young girl challenged him. Throughout Jesus' earthly ministry, the disciples were continually scolded for their unbelief! And where did Christ find His followers when He came to them after the resurrection? Huddled together like frightened children in a locked room!
And yet, something happened to them between Jesus crucifixion and Pentecost, something amazing! They, like the Cowardly Lion, found their courage. But their courage wasn't a paltry medal - it was the Spirit of Christ, the Holy Ghost, who came into them and lived in them. The Holy Spirit empowered those men to go out and preach the Gospel and the resurrection with uncompromising power, and almost all of them died horrible martyrs' deaths for it. What changed?
From that time to this, God's Spirit has indwelt His people, giving them His fruit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. He has taken the dregs of humanity, filled them with His love and power and made them shining vessels of His grace and mercy. He has made millions of everyday sinners witnesses to who He really is.
When I look at all He has done - in me and in other Christians - I know that I serve a powerful God who makes cowards courageous.
Trust God because of Inspection - Have you ever really looked at Jesus? Really looked at the evidence? Have you ever put aside your materialistic, secular, smug intellectual "superiority," and come to examine the life of Christ? Have you studied why He came? There is so much evidence of God's power, love, kindness, mercy, perfection, and tenderness in just the four Gospels, that anyone who has come to them to seek and ask in humility and honesty is blinded by the glory of Christ and of His infinite love for us.
Lee Strobel, who used to be an atheist, did the research - and gave his life to Christ (the Case for Christ: A Journalist's Personal Investigation of the Evidence for Jesus is a must-read!). Josh McDowell was an agnostic (which is really simply a soft way of saying "atheist"), but when he went to the evidence, it piled up so high in Jesus' favor that he converted, and eventually wrote one of the best reference books on the subject ever: the NEW Evidence that Demands a Verdict. Just two examples - but two men who have documented their journeys and research, and have provided them for our benefit.
The more I look at Jesus, the more I read my Bible, the more I know I can trust God to do what He has said that He will do, and the more faith I have in His promises of things yet to come.
Trust God because of Distinction - Jesus is unique. He is the sine qua non. He has no equal or match. He is the God-Man who left eternal glory and came to live in persecuted poverty - all for the love of us. Unlike Buddha, Mohammad, Confucius, David Koresh, Jim Jones, all the popes, all the apostles, and any of us, He alone is God-made-flesh, and He alone has an empty grave. He laid His life down for us - it wasn't taken from Him, He gave it - and when the time was accomplished, He took it up again in His own power.
Only Jesus. All the Jesus-wannabes, all the other soi-disant "prophets" of God and "teachers of enlightenment" are dust and gone, their graves weathered by time. Jesus alone has the empty tomb; proof that He is who He said.
Only Jesus. The more I meditate on that fact, the more my faith in Him grow
Only Jesus. The more I fix my eyes upon the Captain of my salvation, the more He helps me lay aside the hinderences of sin, the more my confidence in Him blossoms.
Only Jesus. And maybe one day, as I journey towards full faith and trust in Him, I can be a hillbilly gal like Elijah!