THE GOOD NEWS: What can save us from our faithlessness?
Elijah! The champion of the Lord’s cause, as he is called. He must be wise, brave, loyal and fearless! He is the one that God used to show his power over the prophets of Baal. Yet, here we see that he is not the brave champion we might envision. Queen Jezebel in all her wickedness, puts out a threat to his life.
For all his faithfulness to God, his loyalty to the Lord, his willingness to stand before enemies and evil prophets and do that which looked impossible, how does Elijah feel like he is rewarded? By being threatened and chased, his life at risk. In all his human wisdom, he reasons that he will be safe in the desert.
How often does the church and her people feel dispirited like Elijah? We read our Bible and yet find that we don’t understand it. We pray and find that our problems remain. We live as kindly as we can and find that we’re still hated. We love our enemies and still find ourselves hurt. We share the Gospel and still find that they ignore it. It can feel like Queen Jezebel is tightening her grips around God’s faithful even today. The world insults, puts down, and tries to silence the Christian Church.
Can it not feel like we ought to zip our lips, retreat back into our homes, and try to avoid Queen Jezebel’s eyes? Wouldn’t that be the wise thing to do? To protect ourselves and our loved ones? Why put in all the effort and get all the hate to share the Gospel if our neighbors will only ignore it? Why trust in God and prayer if I still have problems? Wouldn’t it be wiser to step back and deal with problems our own way?
It’s all very dispiriting. Our human nature can’t bear the burdens that come with faith and a world so opposed to it. So, let’s run away to the desert. Let’s retreat! We’ll be OK if we take matters into our own hands. Just like Elijah, right?
But what happened when Elijah ran away? Did Jezebel’s threat simply vanish because he had slipped away into the wilderness? Had he solved his problems? No! Queen Jezebel was still hunting him. Where did his relief come from? God himself sent an angel to Elijah to minister to him. It’s so simple.
The answer is God and yet even a prophet of the Lord could forget it. Elijah’s provision, safety, strength, comfort, his everything was in God. Yet, his wicked heart would turn from God and run. His faithlessness would win, and he would retreat! Doubting, he figured God couldn’t protect him from Jezebel’s threat.
It’s the story of every Christian. In faith, we come to church and profess that God is all. Creator, savior, and sanctifier. Yet, our faithlessness still watches the news, looks at the world, receives its threats, and cowers. Our spirits faint within us and our trust in God falters and we grow afraid. Hiding away we think we’ll be safe, not only from Queen Jezebel and the world, but we can delude ourselves into thinking we’re more equipped to handle the Prince of this World, Satan, than God is.
Yet, the story of Elijah still rings true today. Where God could let us run and leave us to our own means, to die alone in the desert, he doesn’t. He sends his Word, Jesus Christ, to minister to us. He bore all the insults and threats of the world, all our sin and faithlessness, and instead of retreating to the wilderness, Jesus Christ marched to the cross. And there he accomplished it all. Christ died with our sin and faithlessness and has revived us in faith.
God comes to us still. He moves us in faith to confess our weakness and sin and to receive his free and complete forgiveness. He gives us his Word and by it we are strengthened. We are given all the sustenance we need in our Lord’s Body and Blood. Here we live secure in our baptism.
Let Queen Jezebel rage. Let the world riot. Let Satan scheme and tempt. He can harm us none. We have nothing to fear. One Word can fell him. The same Word that enlivens us. Christ, the bane of Satan and life for believers.
Like Elijah we are brought back to our feet by God’s Word. Returned to our God by his faithfulness. Our life rests in him and it shall not be taken away. For our champion, Jesus Christ, has bought us by his blood. Not that we would live trouble-free in this world. He gives us all the provisions we need to complete our journey in this life. But his blood was shed for us for something better: life eternal. That we would have life in him forever. And by the promise sealed by his death and the empty tomb, we shall. Praise be to God!
The Rev. Logan Landes is assistant pastor at Grace Lutheran Church. He can be reached at email@example.com.