Patmos Journal – #2

March 25, 2020

1 Kings 18:20-39 (NASB)
20  So Ahab sent a message among all the sons of Israel and brought the prophets together at Mount Carmel.
21  Elijah came near to all the people and said, “How long will you hesitate between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.” But the people did not answer him a word.
22  Then Elijah said to the people, “I alone am left a prophet of the LORD, but Baal’s prophets are 450 men.
23  “Now let them give us two oxen; and let them choose one ox for themselves and cut it up, and place it on the wood, but put no fire under it; and I will prepare the other ox and lay it on the wood, and I will not put a fire under it.
24  “Then you call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the LORD, and the God who answers by fire, He is God.” And all the people said, “That is a good idea.”
25  So Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, “Choose one ox for yourselves and prepare it first for you are many, and call on the name of your god, but put no fire under it.
26  Then they took the ox which was given them and they prepared it and called on the name of Baal from morning until noon saying, “O Baal, answer us.” But there was no voice and no one answered. And they leaped about the altar which they made.
27  It came about at noon, that Elijah mocked them and said, “Call out with a loud voice, for he is a god; either he is occupied or gone aside, or is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and needs to be awakened.”
28  So they cried with a loud voice and cut themselves according to their custom with swords and lances until the blood gushed out on them.
29  When midday was past, they raved until the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice; but there was no voice, no one answered, and no one paid attention.
30  Then Elijah said to all the people, “Come near to me.” So all the people came near to him. And he repaired the altar of the LORD which had been torn down.
31  Elijah took twelve stones according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, to whom the word of the LORD had come, saying, “Israel shall be your name.”
32  So with the stones he built an altar in the name of the LORD, and he made a trench around the altar, large enough to hold two measures of seed.
33  Then he arranged the wood and cut the ox in pieces and laid it on the wood.
34  And he said, “Fill four pitchers with water and pour it on the burnt offering and on the wood.” And he said, “Do it a second time,” and they did it a second time. And he said, “Do it a third time,” and they did it a third time.
35  The water flowed around the altar and he also filled the trench with water.
36  At the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, Elijah the prophet came near and said, “O LORD, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, today let it be known that You are God in Israel and that I am Your servant and I have done all these things at Your word.
37  “Answer me, O LORD, answer me, that this people may know that You, O LORD, are God, and that You have turned their heart back again.”
38  Then the fire of the LORD fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench.
39  When all the people saw it, they fell on their faces; and they said, “The LORD, He is God; the LORD, He is God.”

It’s another change this week, with a stricter confinement during the Coronavirus outbreak. News clips show there’s been a lot of wild-eyed folks racing out and wiping out stores in an effort to stockpile some security for themselves. I would imagine that the odds of borrowing a box of noodles or a roll of t.p. from some people are now statistically remote. Astronomically remote…

My usual daily work routine is completely blown up, and like you, I find myself at home. I’ve been bouncing between my home office and my greenhouse, writing, connecting, then moving around outside and getting equipment ready and garden plants germinating. I’ve also had a banner run on eradicating woodchucks from the backyard. Paula’s not amused when I tell her there’s got to be an instant-pot recipe for these things. If times get steadily worse, I think she’ll see the light.  Right now, she’s asking if I’m going back to the church office tomorrow. She really does love me though.

One thing I’ve been contemplating during this pandemic and seismic shift to our lives, is this story of competing gods. I know there’s no God but God who has revealed Himself in Creation, His Word, and the incarnation of Jesus Christ. But if I can probe a little, I believe there are many other gods that have been the object of our worship and devotion right into these present days.

In this recent turn, many of these gods have been found out to not be gods at all. Useless. Worthless. Impotent. Not just having “died,” but truly non-existent.

I have talked to far too many, now despondent because government has not saved us from this. Some who are as collapsed as their stock portfolio. Cheerless individuals because suddenly arenas are dark, and there are no teams to cheer for. Entertainments and amusements are severely curtailed, and many face the grim task of having to interact with others in real life, rather than running to the next distraction. And I can’t overlook those whose very concept of “God” is vaporized–that He could not possibly be God and be good, to allow such suffering to come to His wonderful, busy, productive, educated, polished and entitled followers–at least here on these shores, in the land of In God We Trust.

Ok. So maybe that’s a little harsh and overblown. Maybe.

If you’ve listened to the word in this 1 Kings 18 passage, you’ve encountered a people who should be exclusively devoted to Jehovah God, yet have no trouble embracing other gods of the world along with Him. Can we imagine what they were thinking?

“I mean really, what’s a little harmless diversion? This is new and fun!”

“You’ve got to go along to get along. Embrace other faith traditions, and you’ll be popular.”

“Look at the numbers of people worshiping Baal. I don’t want to look ignorant by not joining up.”

“We’ve been missing out by following the narrow things we were taught in our youth.”

“Look at the Steins! They worship Baal, and their kid just got a scholarship.”

“What did exclusive Yahweh worship ever get us but contempt, ridicule, and hardship?”

The encounter between “the gods” is incredibly powerful. Like a scene built on the lesson of The Emperor’s New Clothes, theatrics and posturing from the Baal priests reveals only naked, stark truth: they have formed and disseminated a lie–a god- that cannot start a simple fire, let alone hear or deliver them.

The Living True One’s visitation then comes through one man praying. A man who knew the quiet, set-aside years, where God tempered Elijah’s faith and taught Him that the LORD hears and responds to the one who declares dependence on Him alone. All-consuming fire falls, and the people witnessing this seem, for at least this moment in time-to get it.

“Yahweh is God. We’ll say it again, Yahweh is God.”

Then, and only then, through man’s repentance by word and deed, God sends relief; God sends the rain.

In this current epidemic around the world and now in our streets, I find myself praying against the common response of many who have said, “I can’t wait for things to get back to normal.”

Back to normal is not what we need. We see that the gods of this world are man-made and impotent, without foundation or saving power. That worshiping them leaves us flatfooted in bad times and deluded and parched in good times. That our recognition that God is God alone must reshape our priorities and winnow our allegiances out, so that there is indeed no other impotent god robbing Him. Robbing us.

There should be a rebirth happening within us during this disaster. A closer walk with our Creator. A deeper appreciation for the gifts He gives: His Word, His church. Your family, friends, and work. A surer prayer life and a bolder witness to the truth of Christ. The blessing of the current day He grants us to walk in His presence.

There should be such a rebirth in us. I believe as well there will be many new births in Christ, as God’s people present the Gospel of Jesus Christ to men and women who, after all their calling, leaping, crying and cutting, have discovered the god they tried to move is incapable to flick even a single spark in their direction.

Share your faith. Share your trust in the Living God. Share your freedom from the gods of this world.

And for heaven’s sake, when I call you to borrow that box of noodles…