A nature like ours
Updated: Jul 4, 2018
“Elijah” said the apostle James, “was a man with a nature like ours” (James 5:17). As one considers this great prophet of the Old Testament who singlehandedly rescued a nation from idolatry and restored the worship of the One True God, one could be excused for thinking, “What on earth have I got in common with this superhero of faith?”
However, I would like to show you in this article that you are more like Elijah than you probably realize. The story begins with the marriage of Ahab, the king of Israel, and Jezebel, the daughter of Ethbaal, king of the Sidonians. Apparently Jezebel was a very influential and persuasive woman – a witch, if you will – who possessed certain occultic powers. She was determined to exterminate the worship of Yahweh, the God of Israel, and replace it with the worship of Baal, the god of nature. To this end she became the patron-sponsor of 450 prophets of Baal and 400 prophets of Asherah, a Canaanite fertility goddess (1 Kings 18:19).
Consumed with the zeal of the Lord, Elijah challenged the prophets of Baal and Asherah to a contest of power on Mount Carmel, near modern day Haifa. As the curious spectators gathered, Elijah said, “How long will you falter between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him …. You call on the name of your gods, and I will call on the name of the Lord; and the God who answers by fire, He is God” (1 Kings 18:21,24).
After the prophets of Baal had exhausted themselves calling on the name of a god who obviously did not have the power to respond, Elijah repaired the altar of the Lord and prayed. Suddenly, the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt sacrifice! When all the people saw it, they fell on their faces and cried, “The Lord, He is God! The Lord, He is God!” Recognising the opportunity to gain a decisive victory, Elijah said, “Seize the prophets of Baal! Do not let one of them escape!” And Elijah brought them down to the brook Kishon and executed them there (1 Kings 18:39-40).
The following day Jezebel sent a message to Elijah: “So let the gods do to me and more also, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by tomorrow about this time.” Totally intimidated by this devil-woman, Elijah fled for his life to Beersheba, and then headed south a day’s journey into the desert. Curling up under a juniper tree, he prayed, “It is enough! Now, Lord, take my life, for I am no better than my fathers!” (1 Kings 19:1-4). In the space of 24 hours he had gone from the pinnacle of national revival to the depths of personal despair, because of the threats of one woman!
Awakened and nourished by an angel, Elijah travelled for 40 days and nights to Horeb, the mountain of God. As he sheltered in a cave, the Lord said to him, “What are you doing here Elijah?” Elijah replied, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God of hosts; for the children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they seek to take my life” (1 Kings 19:9-10).
And therein lay the problem: As far as Elijah was concerned, he was the only prophet of the Lord left in Israel. Notwithstanding the fact that Obadiah, Ahab’s chief of staff and a secret follower of Yahweh, had hidden 100 of the Lord’s prophets in a cave during Jezebel’s murderous rampage (1 Kings 18:13). Furthermore, there were 7000 God-fearing people in Israel whose knees had not bowed to Baal, and whose mouths had not kissed his image (1 Kings 19:18).
If Elijah had considered the matter in the cool light of day, he might have reached a different conclusion. The events at Mount Carmel had severely disrupted Jezebel’s network of communication and control; 850 of her best men were dead and her influence was greatly diminished, both spiritually and practically. Moreover, the nation had turned back to the Lord in a spontaneous expression of reverence and awe. Now was the time to capitalize on the victory and ensure that the people continued to follow the Lord – not run away and hide!
Instead, Elijah focused on the problem and in so doing, magnified it until it dominated the landscape of his vision. Like so many of us, he became fixated on the predicament to the exclusion of any alternate possibility. His perception distorted his perspective, and consequently, his sense of reality.
We are all familiar with the saying, ‘making a mountain out of a molehill’, yet that is what we tend to do day after day. To counteract this most troublesome of human habits, I would like to suggest the following strategy:
· Don’t view the problem as personal
Problems are the stuff of life. The only people who don’t have problems are the ones in the cemetery. And as we all know, ‘stuff happens’. Sometimes there’s no rhyme or reason; no discernible cause, no identifiable trigger. However, we all love to attribute blame – whether to ourselves, or better still, to someone else. But attributing blame doesn’t solve anything. The road of blame only leads to two destinations: depression (if you blame yourself) or bitterness (if you blame someone else).
Even if you can accurately attribute blame, it’s not going to change anything. It’s certainly not going to help you get out of the mess that you’re in. Instead of trying to find out who’s at fault, you need to ask a different question: “What can I do, starting right now, to turn this situation around and move on with my life?” If you ask a better question, you’ll definitely get a better answer!
· Don’t view the problem as pervasive
We all have problems in certain areas of our lives at certain times. But just because you have a problem in one area doesn’t mean that your whole life is in disarray. Step back, take a deep breath, and look at the big picture. You might have a problem with your finances, but thank God, your body is healthy. Or, you might have a problem with your body, but thank God, your marriage is sound. Or, you might have a problem with your job, but thank God, your spiritual life is bearing fruit.
I am yet to meet a person whose entire life has been declared a disaster zone. There is always something to thank God for … something to celebrate … something to build on. As the Psalmist said, if all you’ve got left is the breath in your body, then that’s worth praising God for!
· Don’t view the problem as permanent
One of the most common sentences in the Bible is, “and it came to pass…” Yes, things come, and then they pass. Nothing in this life is permanent. Everything is subject to change. Let me encourage you, the problem you currently face will one day pass away and be no more. You will look for it and won’t be able to find it. Like Jezebel, it will be thrown down, trampled underfoot, and disappear from the face of the earth.
Jesus said, “You will say to the mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea, and it will obey you’” (Matt. 21:21). The prophet Isaiah declared, “I will make you into a new threshing sledge with sharp teeth; you shall thresh the mountains and beat them small, and make the hills like chaff. You shall winnow them and the wind shall carry them away …” (Isa. 41:15-16).
Mountains symbolise problems and adversity. As we navigate through life, we will encounter mountains that stand in our way. It’s unavoidable. It comes with the territory of serving God. But Jesus – the Miracle Man from Another World – is trying to give us a new perspective. Those mountains that we thought were permanent fixtures can and should be moved.
For with God all things are possible!