A Challenge from the Prophet- Reading Elijah’s Actions onto Our Own Ministries

April 28, 2009

I was reading the passages composing the life of the prophet Elijah this morning (roughly 1 Kings 17 through 2 Kings 2) and as I was reading I highlighted two verses that I want to share with you here.

The first verse occurs in the introductory account of Elijah, as a prophet who comes bringing a drought, only to find himself later bringing new life to a widow’s dead son.  After this event, that being the resurrection of the widow’s son, Elijah presents the now-living offspring to its mother leading to the following reaction:

And the woman said to Elijah, “Now I know that you are a man of God, and that the word of the LORD in your mouth is truth.” (1 Kings 17.24)

Elijah’s spiritual gifting of raising the dead boy confirmed to the widow that this message of God he was proclaiming was the truth.  Not only was he speaking of God (cf. v.18) but he was speaking a true word of God, which God was delivering through him, about the Lord’s power in regards to life and death, to fertility and infertility, over and above the power of the foreign gods and Baal.  Elijah’s message was true and his actions confirmed this, to which all the widow could reply is, “The word of the LORD in your mouth is truth.”

What does it take to hear people say this of us today?  This makes me think in particular of the issue we raised concerning Rick Warren a few weeks ago.  Pastor Warren had a message that he was delivering with strength and integrity, that God’s intention for marriage is one man and one woman, and for the state to sanction elsewise, for the individual to support a statute declaring elsewise, was a stance in clear violation of God’s revealed word.  But then he wavered.  Instead of providing a firm resolve leading people to declare that “The word of the LORD in [his] mouth [was] truth,” Pastor Warren hedged and qualified and basically lied trying to ingratiate himself to a population which stood opposed to God on this issue.  He had a large enough platform to cast a decisive vote in favor of God’s design in marriage, and instead he squandered it for the ability to be liked by people in high places on the other side of the aisle, which one can only conclude hurts his position with both sides in the end.

We must live in such a way that the word of the LORD from our mouth is undeniably true.  Second, we find this statement from Elijah’s encounter with the priests of Baal in front of the people of Israel at Mount Sinai:

And Elijah came near to all the people and said, “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.” And the people did not answer him a word. (1 Kings 18.21)

Huh, interesting!?!  Here we find Elijah standing before the people of God confronting them with a decision to follow either God or Baal, and the people come off dumbfounded.  His proposition is priceless: “If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.”  You better choose.  If you truly follow God as you say, then follow him and leave off this crap with Baal.  But if your god is really Baal then quit running around telling people that you serve the one true God.  

It is certainly no stretch to imagine Elijah saying the same thing at any church in America today only to receive the same response.  Our churches and schools and televisions are littered with people who claim to follow God (or God through Christ), only to later demonstrate that they are following Baal or some other pagan good of personal satisfaction and desire.  Our message gets watered down, our witness destroyed and our patience tried, watching people who don’t know Jesus from Beyonce claiming allegiance to Christ.  Yet we accept it without a word.  We let it be done without confrontation, and as such we see God’s name dragged through the mud of pop culture tolerance while the truth remains unproclaimed.  Elijah did not leave the people of Israel this option.  He said first and foremost that all cards were on the table.  Either you follow God or you follow Baal.  No one gets to ride the fence.  If only we had such courage in the culture today, to call out the hypocrisy of our nation instead of placating their sins and abusing the notion of grace as to not look intolerant to the world.  Who cares what they think?  Certainly not the incomparable God we serve.

So, here we have two strong statements from the life of Elijah.  Now let us seek to find them true in our own lives and ministries.