Thursday, December 13, 2012


Let me tell you what I like about the Bible. To begin with, this book doesn't sweep anything under the rug. No details are spared, no matter how insignificant, terrible, or ridiculous they seem. When a big-time player is caught in the middle of a scandal, there's no cover-up. Unlike any other news source, the Bible really is fair and balanced. Nor does this book pull any punches. It tackles some pretty hefty topics head on. There's no skirting any issues or beating around the bush. The Bible tells you like it is. I can respect that. It also means the Bible is actually relateable. It's not account after account of these super-spiritual people that get it right all the time. Yes, it shows their incredible successes, but it also shows their struggles with doubt, their insecurities, their bouts of depression, and even their blatant failures. Because of that, I am able to catch a glimpse of myself in these individuals. The most recent story I got caught up in is the story of Elijah.

For this story, let me take you back to a time when Kings still ruled the land. During a period of great divide for the Jewish nation, God raised up a prophet named Elijah. He becomes a key player in the midst of some of the most extraordinary oppression the Jews had faced at that point. King Ahab, a push-over of a Jewish man, was married to Jezebel. She pretty much dictated every decision he would make as King. At her beckoning, Ahab began a campaign to eradicate anything Jewish. At the height of this campaign, around 99% of the Jewish population either submitted to Ahab and Jezebel, or was killed. Elijah, the lone surviving prophet, is part of the remaining 1%. Even then, Elijah doesn't back down. He actually makes a prediction about 3 years of drought and famine--the original Hunger Games story--that comes true. Needless to say, this infuriates the royal couple even more. From then on, their sole purpose in life is to hunt down Elijah and kill him.

The story reaches a head when Elijah sets out to settle this dispute once and for all. He decides it is time to set Jehovah against Baal. Like a grade school boy, Elijah sets the time and  place for the throw down. Early one morning, on top of Mt. Carmel, the showdown between hundreds of prophets of Baal and Elijah (talk about an unfair fight) takes place. Both sides make an altar for their god to set on fire. Elijah, being such a gentleman, offers the prophets of Baal the first opportunity. After a morning of shouting and dancing around, the altar Baal was to set on fire is still sitting there. So, antagonist Elijah comes out and taunts the prophets (did I mention there are hundreds of them--not too smart) saying "Maybe your god is sleeping. Perhaps he went on a walk. He might be busy or hard of hearing. It's possible he's going to the bathroom. You better shout louder." In desperation, they cut themselves, dance more erratic and shout even louder; all to no avail.

Finally, Elijah steps up and takes center stage. He begins by dousing the altar with several jugs of water, just to show off a little (I can see myself doing something like this). After offering up a quick, little prayer, God sends a bolt of fire and the water dries up, the wood is consumed and the offering is burnt to a crisp. With that, there is a clear winner. Elijah then has all the prophets of Baal detained and he kills each and every last one of them. From here, Ahab heads back home and, as you might guess, tells his wife everything. Upon receiving this news, Jezebel sends word to Elijah that she will kill him by tomorrow. And we read that "When Elijah heard this, he was afraid and ran for his life."

Here, we have Elijah coming off this mountain-top experience, where God showed up in a big way and proved himself more than faithful. On the heel of that we find Elijah running like a frightened little girl (no offense). Are you kidding me? 450 prophets of Baal died at his sword; and here stands Elijah scared of one woman. Come on dude! What happened? Where's your confidence in God now? What happened to that 'bring on the world' attitude? And I can't believe you don't have a sarcastic response to this. This entire time Elijah commanded my respect...until now.

There's a lot we could unpack from this story. But my most recent reading brought one question to the forefront of my mind. Am I seeking God, or just an experience? And honestly, I think it's a question we all need to ask ourselves.

What I mean by that, I will try to flush out in part 2.

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