Righting Our Expectations

“After the earthquake a fire but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of gentle blowing. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood in the entrance of the cave. And behold, a voice came to him and said, 'What are you doing here Elijah?'” (1 Kings 19.12-13)

We are blessed to have in the story of the kings the story of a handful of prophets. Elijah, like Micaiah and others were not writing prophets, but they spoke to the people on God’s behalf. This instance in 1 Kings isn’t the only place where God speaks to a prophet. Instead it seems that the prophets words were thought to come directly from God. For Elijah, this was a depressing thing. He was faithful throughout his life in proclaiming the word of God to Israel, even to the king. And after an eventful season where God displayed his power before the prophets of Baal and before King Ahab and Queen Jezebel, Elijah arrived at Mount Horeb where he twice told God that he was the only prophet who remained faithful and that everyone else was seeking to take his life. However, God was not exactly impressed with Elijah’s speech (that he felt he had to repeat to God twice). Instead, God sent him back to continue his calling as a prophet before both Israelites and Gentiles who were opposed to the ministry of Yahweh.

Not only did God send him back to continue serving as a prophet, but he reminded Elijah that he had left 7,000 men who had not bowed the knee to Baal. This was perhaps a necessary critique for Elijah who presumptuously and with an almost hidden pride felt as though he was the remaining faithful prophet left in Israel. No, there were 7,000 more and they were faithful and had never bowed the knee to Baal nor kissed him. Even when we read of the crowd of unfaithful prophets crowding in around Ahab and Jehoshaphat later on in 1 Kings, there were still many who were faithfully proclaiming the very words of God.

When Jesus came, the need for prophets like Elijah ended. There was no more need for a new word from the Lord because the Word of the Lord became flesh and dwelt among us. The Word, Jesus Christ, became a human being and revealed to us the Father and his glory. In our day and age, we, like Elijah, can feel as though we are alone in being a faithful witness as the world around us seems to fall apart. Our passage here reminds us though that we ought to take heart. Why? Because God is the one who is at work in the world. He has kept his own just like he preserved the prophets in the dangerous reign of King Ahab and just like he preserved a remnant in Israel. Second, we ought to take heart because we have his word and Jesus Christ, the fulfillment of the prophetic word, who has overcome the world. We also have his Spirit dwelling in us even now as we live in this dangerous world.

Our response then is that we ought to shift our expectations of how God might work in the world. We often expect to see the effects of our witnessing or faithfulness right now, but usually we don’t see God’s work in the world so evidently. Instead, God has been building and is building his church in his way and timing. Each of us plants seeds and water in this world, but it is God who gives the growth and brings us and others to salvation. We are called to be faithful witnesses of the Word wherever God has placed us. To see the world in this way removes the burden to change and save the whole world. This is a praiseworthy God who is at work in a sinful world and uses even us. Let us praise him for his faithfulness, mercy, and love.

--J. Andersen 7/21/16

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