Of two minds...
Week 9, Day 3
I Kings 19. 1-18
I Kings 18. 20,21: So Ahab sent to all the Israelites, and assembled the prophets at Mount Carmel. Elijah then came near to all the people, and said, ‘How long will you go limping with two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.’ The people did not answer him a word.
Ahab ascended to the throne in Israel and brought Jezebel along to be his queen. Together they did everything they could to promote the worship of Baal—Jezebel’s favorite god. Between them they turned the religion of Israel on its head.
Baal, with Ahab and Jezebel as his representative, was the polar opposite to Yahweh, the God of Israel. In this story from I Kings 18, where Elijah challenges the 450 prophets of Baal to a sort of theological duel to the death, Elijah tells the people it is time they made a decision. Baal and Yahweh are not on equal footing. They will not share power and neither one will accept partial allegiance from their followers. “You will have to choose,” Elijah says.
But these were hard times. It hadn’t rained in 3 years. Their crops were failing, their animals dying, their children going thirsty. They were afraid.
Elijah was just some guy in funny clothes who popped up from time to time to tell people what to do; then he would disappear again. Ahab and Jezebel, on the other hand, were the rulers of Israel, with all the trappings of royalty and making all the promises rulers are prone to make. They were going to make Israel great again, safe again, wet again. The rains would fall just like in the old days. Baal, the god of weather, Ahab and Jezebel promised, would make this happen.
The choice seems obvious to us—the real God Yahweh or the fake god Baal. But the choice wasn’t so obvious them. Under their circumstances, “limping along with two different opinions” may have seemed reasonable.
Christians around the world today, like the Israelites in Elijah’s day, limp along between two opinions. We have the promises of Jesus and his call on our lives, on the one hand. We have the promises of politicians whose lives and values are polar opposite to everything Jesus stood for, on the other. If Elijah showed up today (as he just might—see Malachi 4:5), he would likely tell us what he told the waffling Israelites: “Quit your limping! If Jesus the way, follow him. If he is not, follow someone else. Don’t think you can do both. You can’t”.
Or, if you prefer a kinder word, Jesus would say: “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me”. Or, to keep it simple, “Don’t be afraid”.
Prayer: Fear is ever present. Give us courage, Loving God. Keep us at your side so we will forget to limp and learn to dance. Amen.