“I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.” (I Kings 19:10, NIV) Does that refrain sound slightly familiar? Do we see ourselves as the “only” one going through a particular trial? Have we isolated ourselves to that extent?
Independence can sometimes be disguised as pride, at least, in my case, it has. It’s something I’ve had to face head-on recently. For the last few years, it’s true that I’ve had to dive in on a lot of things: a new life stage, single parenting and eventually, now, co-parenting. It hasn’t been easy, I felt like, many times, that I was this lonely pioneer, forging a new territory, confident that if I cut myself, all it took was a decent tourniquet and a little bit of Neosporin and I could keep on trucking. I had cordoned myself off, thinking that no one else understood where I was coming from, but it was through yet another trial that forced me to come to the end of myself and rely on the body of believers for their prayers and moral support that I realized that God wasn’t asking me to do this by myself.
Upon receiving some teaching from I Kings, I was reminded just how important community really is and how much we can learn from the prophet Elijah’s example…
The time of the kings was a pretty messy one for the Israelites. For years, they begged God for a leader like the nations around them, not realizing that here they had the perfect King of Kings guiding and instructing them…nevertheless, God relented and gave them over to these men, but it didn’t take long for these kings to corrupt God’s chosen nation and lead them into idol worship. Prophets were sent to these kings to warn them of God’s judgment.
During King Ahab’s reign (the latest in a long line of kings who chose to marry foreign wives, thereby introducing false gods into the mix), he “did more evil in the eyes of the Lord than any of those before him.” I Kings 16:30.
So, scripture says, as judgment for turning the people’s heart from the one, true God, there would be a drought, per Elijah’s prayers.
But in this, God protected his chosen prophet, first by having ravens bring him daily food and then provision through a widow. God performed miracle after miracle in Elijah’s life during the three-year drought.
Scripture says, “After a long time, in the third year, the word of the Lord came to Elijah.” instructing him to go back. Whah? Yes, go back, because God was going to use those years of complete reliance on him and extremely close communion with him (brought about by his social isolation) to have him do his greatest work yet: prove to Ahab that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob was the only God. So the impossible got to be even more so, even a little bit scary, because in an effort to prove the existence of their false god, Baal’s prophets were cutting themselves, desperate for a sign from heaven to prove that their god was real and was listening to them, when Yahweh had only had to lick up a drenched altar in a flaming second to prove how mighty he is. When Elijah’s God proved himself real and faithful, Elijah seized the false prophets and killed them.
To be continued…