Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Speak Up or Perish

The Colonel, thanks to Uncle Sam as his travel agent, has stood on the summit of Mount Carmel where scripture tells us that Eliljah called out the prophets of Baal and challenged them to a to-the-death barbecue contest. The Colonel attends a Bible study with several men from his church early every Tuesday morning at a local diner. The food, fellowship, and faith fills my burgeoning belly, my happy heart, and my joyful soul, respectively. For the past several weeks we have been studying the life and times of Elijah, and this morning we looked at the account in the 18th Chapter of First Kings wherein God's prophet challenged the prophets of Baal to a test to determine whose God is the greatest.

You know Elijah's story. God sends him to the evil king Ahab with the warning that for the Hebrew peoples' idolatrous transgressions, not a drop of rain or even dew will fall on the land for three and one half years. God then sends Elijah into the wilderness and sends ravens to bring him food every day. Elijah slakes his thirst in a brook, until, owing to the great drought, the brook runs dry. Then God sends him to a town and to a destitute widow who is about to prepare a meal of her last bit of flour for herself and her child, and then, as the scripture succinctly captures her situation, she expects "to die." God extends the widow's bowl of flour and she and her son and Elijah satisfy their hunger daily in the midst of the famine brought on by the great drought. Scripture tells us the widow's son falls ill and dies, and Elijah calls on God to bring the boy back to life, even though there is no record to that point in the life of God's people of Him ever doing so.

From the moment we are introduced to Elijah, we see God preparing him for greatness for His sake. God puts Elijah through a series of faith-building trials, each one demonstrating an increasing degree of God's miraculous provision and power. By the time he confronts the prophets of Baal at Mount Carmel, Elijah's faith in God's power is such that Elijah unhesitatingly calls on God to do the impossible and places his own life on the line in the process. Elijah gives the prophets of Baal all day to call down fire on their offering--Baal does not respond, even when his prophets go to the attention-getting extreme of letting their own blood. Elijah soaks his offering and fills a trench around his altar with water, and then calls on God. Scripture tells us that the supernatural fire that fell not only consumed the bull on the altar, but burned up the water, and the stones, and the very dust beneath them.

What strikes the Colonel most about Elijah's experience is not the power of God demonstrated in His miraculous provision of food, nor His raising the widow's son from the dead, nor even the supernatural fire with which He consumed Elijah's burnt offering. The Colonel is most struck by the attitude of the people when Elijah asked them, as is related in I Kings 18: 20, "How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal is God follow him." The last sentence in the verse is an indictment of a people too afraid to make a stand for what is right: "But the people said nothing."

Their nation, as ordered by their leader, had turned 180 degrees from the principles of faith upon which it had been founded. But the people said nothing.

Their nation had a centuries-revered written law, a constitution if you will, that their leader had spurned. But the people said nothing.

Their nation had followed a succession of leaders away from their founding fathers' reverence for the sanctity of life. But the people said nothing.

Their nation had endured a disastrous drought that had brought famine and economic ruin--all due to their leaders' folly and self-serving avarice. But the people said nothing.

How long will YOU waver?
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