The Seven Thousand
1 Kings 19:1-18
These are exciting times that we are living in. Technology has brought the world to our finger tips. Within a short time we have the ability to see almost anything that is going on in the world around us. From the hurricanes, tornadoes and earthquakes to the shootings, terrorist attacks, and wars. Our Facebook pages let us know what is happening in the lives of people we know. We see the vacation posts, we know when they go out to eat at a local restaurant, and we know when they get a new dog or go to a football game or even if they are just having a bad day.
If we want to go somewhere our phones can give us instant directions, we can see a satellite view of almost any place around us. We can get our emails and pay our bills while hiking in the woods. We have access to almost anything we want to know just by asking our phone.
And yet with all this technology and all the information we have available to us, it seems that the world has moved further away from religion. Many churches have seen a decline in members as the younger generation just doesn’t have the desire to read the bible or to think about the sacrifice of Christ. They find churches boring and uninteresting. They may even claim to have a belief that there is a higher power, but they never search it out.
I can understand why people are so adverse to religion. The bible can be harsh and unforgiving. It tells us that our heart is deceitful and wicked.
In recent years the way we parent our children has changed. It has been found that using positive reinforcement can lead to good results. So instead of telling our kids how bad they are and threating discipline, we highlight their good traits and offer rewards for good behavior. Spanking a child is frowned on. Instead we give them a time out.
But the bible doesn’t give us a time out for our bad behavior. Instead it threatens judgment and fiery indignation. It promises death without mercy.
We struggle to do the commandments and if there was ever a time when we might actually succeed and keep the commandments then Jesus say “When you have done everything commanded of you then you should say we are unworthy servants because we have only done our duty.”
And why would we even make the attempt to be righteous, the bible says there is no one righteous, not even one. All have sinned and come short of the glory of God. All these things make us feel that it is impossible for us to be perfect. They make us feel that it is impossible for us to please God.
When we think of the prophets of Baal we think of groups of wicked men. From our point of view Jezebel was a very terrifying person. But if you were a prophet of Baal, then she would probably be a pretty cool leader. In fact, the whole worshipping of Baal could actually be appealing. You were worshipping a storm god, a rider of clouds that gives rain and stability to the physical world. The worship involved magic and rituals and things that cause pleasure. Compared to worshipping Yahweh, Baal worship was easier, enjoyable and seemed to be more satisfying to its worshippers.
Baal worship was a positive in many peoples life. And these men and women who worshipped Baal seemed like decent people, they were actually very pleasant to be around. Baal worship gave them purpose and hope. So when Elijah came around and by Gods power directly challenged Baal by causing it not to rain for 3 years, Elijah was the bad guy. Elijah’s way was no fun.
And it is not much different today. The way of the Bible is no fun; the Bible is the bad guy. It is the Bible that is wrong; it is the Bible that needs to be destroyed.
This attitude about the Bible can be very discouraging for us to hear. But during these last days the Bible teaching is in direct conflict with the lifestyle of the modern world. And because technology has brought the world closer together, technology has really highlighted this conflict to the point that many want nothing to do with the Bible or its teachings.
Jezebel is no longer alive, but there are many modern day Jezebels in the world around us. And these Jezebels are so mad, they are so angry they will stop at nothing to destroy the Bible and its teachings.
It doesn’t matter if the Bible is truth or not. It didn’t really matter back then that Elijah’s God had showed himself to be true by raining fire from heaven that burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones, the soil and the water. It doesn’t matter today that the prophecies in the Bible are coming to pass with alarming accuracy. It doesn’t matter because Jezebel is more interested in preserving her lifestyle then she is in worshipping the one true God.
But what happens now is important for us to learn from. Elijah, the man who is it obvious to all that God is working through, the man who helped demonstrate that Baal was false, the man who by his prayer brought down fire from heaven, this man of God became afraid. He was so afraid of his life that he ran. He just wanted to die. He just wanted it to be all over. He felt like a failure.
This is important for us to learn from because it is very easy for us to feel the exact same way. We can become so frustrated by the things happening around us that we just want to die. We can become so afraid of the hatred of men that we run and hide. We can feel that we are only a failure and worshipping God is impossible.
Well, this all has to do with perspective. Perspective is a particular way of considering something. And our perspective can change dramatically depending on the depth or distance in which we view something.
Step back and think about the trees about us. This is the time of the year when the leaves begin to change color. People come from miles away to look at the trees. They see browns and yellows, oranges and reds. What a beautiful thing that God created. Now focus on a single tree. It can beautiful and majestic with its branches reaching to heaven. It can be strong and solid, unshaken by the wind. Now focus closer on the branches. What do you see? You will see the branches going this way and that way in an almost chaotic manner. Some branches are short, some are long, and some look healthy, some look weak, and some have knots and blemishes on them. The closer we zoom in, we would wonder if there could be any beauty to it all. It seems impossible that those branches could ever amount to anything. And yet this is the base that God uses and He has taken the impossible and turned it into an absolute breathtaking beautiful thing when we step back and look at it.
But it is all about perspective and we can see it in other things. Step back and take a look up into the sky. You will see white clouds dancing in the clear blue sky. The clouds will come to life as we look at them. The wind moves them across the face of the sky. It can be breathtaking to behold. Now focus closer on a single cloud. You will see it change shape in sky. It may look like a boat, or a dog or a cat. You may see faces, shapes, objects. Now zoom in closer and what will you see. There is nothing but mist and white, no shape or beauty, nothing to be desired. It would seem impossible that this mist could ever be turned into anything of beauty. And yet this is the base that God uses and He has taken the impossible and turned it into an absolute breathtaking beautiful thing when we step back and look at it.
But it is all about perspective. We live close to some amazing mountain peaks. Step back and look at them. They are so beautiful and majestic, some have tops that are bare or covered with snow. Now focus closer onto a single peak. You will see its rock shine in the sun as it reaches towards heaven. It is beautiful to behold. Now zoom in closer and what will you see. There is nothing but stone and dirt. It can be dry and rocky. It would seem impossible that from this dust that anything of beauty could be created. And yet this is the base that God uses and He has taken the impossible and turned it into a thing of beauty that we take pictures of and admire all our lives.
This perspective is what Elijah was missing and this is what we can miss. The disciples wondered the same thing. It seemed like the path to the Kingdom was just too ridged, just when they thought they understood what they needed to do, Jesus would add something else to the list. They were overwhelmed by it all and wondered who in the world could ever be saved. But Jesus had the right perspective. He acknowledged that with man it is impossible. It is impossible for us to even see how God could take people like us – people with faults and short comings, and turned us into a thing of beauty. We know we could never accomplish it on our own. In all of history only one person ever born accomplished it, so who are we to think we could?
But Jesus said that what impossible with man is possible with God.
So there we find Elijah. He spent 40 days traveling through the wilderness, afraid, feeling like a failure. He came to the mountain of God. God asks him what’s up. Elijah answers that things are a mess in Israel. Nobody is worshipping you, any good person has been killed or is now dead, and now they are trying to kill me.
At first glance at the answer God gives him, it would appear that God just brushed off the way that Elijah was feeling and more or less just told him to get off his butt and get back to work. But God spent some time trying to give Elijah perspective.
I don’t know what it is about a really good thunderstorm. But, as long as I am in a safe place, I will love listening to sound of thunder and seeing the lightning fall from the sky. When it shakes the house it can be frightening. There is something about it that makes me think of the power of God. It reminds me that He is there.
But the truth is that He is always there. Even on a clear sunny day with no wind.
Sometimes we may want Him to pour out His fury on the earth and to wake up the people around us. We want Him to put an end to this time when everyone around us goes their own way and no one seems to care about God. We want Him to rise up and shake the earth, to we want him to make Himself known, and we want him to put an end to the wicked.
And when day after day passes and nothing seems to be changing and the world just seems to be getting further away from God we can think that He isn’t around.
But Gods showed Elijah and He is showing us that He is very much around, sometimes all so quietly in the background. Things are happening. People are being made ready and even though Elijah could not see it, even though he thought he was the only one left, God told him that there were 7,000 men and women out there who had not bowed down to Baal. Elijah was not a failure and he was not alone in the world after all. There was a remnant.
When Paul wrote to the Romans he reminded them of this moment when Elijah talked with God. It was important for Elijah to understand that there was a remnant and it was just as important for the ecclesia in Rome to understand that they too were not alone. God was at work and even though it might not have seemed that way, Paul says there was a remnant alive in that day. And I believe that the same is true today, there is remnant of people. People out there, people we may know and people that we may not know, but people who serve the Living God.
When we think of the faithful we often think of well-known men like Abraham, Noah, Job and Daniel. But the faithful includes so many more men and woman. We don’t know the names of the 7,000 people. We don’t know their faces. We don’t know where they lived, or what they did for work. Did they feel that they were all alone? Were they depressed about the world around them? Did they feel like a failure?
What we do know about these men and woman is that they believed in the one true God and refused to worship any other God. They were not out to make a name for themselves.
They lived simple, humble lives believing and trusting in God.
Everyone wants to find their place in the world. We all want to know how we fit in. Well your place is where you are at. It is the little things you say and do that matter. These are things that maybe no one else in the world knows about. But your kind acts and deeds do not go unnoticed, your faith and trust in God does not go unnoticed. God notices.
But let us be honest with ourselves. When we really think about it, none of us feels worthy, none us of feel like we have kept the commandments. None us feel like we are part of that remnant.
Elijah fled to the mountain of God because he knew he needed God. He was nothing without God and we also need God in order for us to rise up above our own feeling of failure and unworthiness.
Remember the branches on the tree. Well we are like the branches on the tree. Look up close at any of us and you might wonder what God sees in us. But it doesn’t stop with the branches and in order to become a thing of beauty the bible tells us we need to be grafted into Christ. Christ is the tree and this is not an option. There isn’t a substitute. It is a necessity. Without Christ we cannot be saved. The branch will die without the tree and we will die unless we become part of Christ through baptism.
Remember the mist in the cloud that didn’t have any form or appearance. Christ was like that mist. There was nothing about him that we would have desired. Christ would be nothing without the spirit of God. But you take that mist and you add the spirit of God and now he became beauty. This beauty is the water and spirit that we need to enter the Kingdom of God. In the same way Christ would be nothing without the spirit of God, we also will be nothing with the spirit of God.
Remember the rocks on the mountain. That represents the Church. On our own we are weak, but by assembling together as brethren of Christ we become strong as a rock, and a light that shines from the mountain tops reflecting the glory of God.
Put all your fears aside, do not think that you are impossible to save, just step back and see God at work.
So when you are feeling a little bit lonely and when you think that God has abandoned you and is not around. When you are tired, tired of listening to the sound of your tears, when you think the best of the years have gone by, when you feel terrified about the things happening in the world around us, when you feel like you are falling apart, then step back and look.
God is here, He is always here.