In chapter 19 of the Book of First Kings, we see the Prophet Elijah fleeing the idolatrous Queen Jezebel who was seeking to kill him. He fled to the wilderness, and he felt alone in his faith in God. Then, in his dejected and dispirited state, he prayed the following in response to God:
I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away. – (First Kings 19:10)
Consequently, the Lord God gave Elijah the great gift of a mystical glimpse of God’s glorious Presence and power. And then God assures Elijah that he is not alone in his faith. In fact, God tells him that he has Hazael, Jehu and Elisha, as well as “seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal” (verse 18).
As people of faith in God, we sometimes feel alone in our spiritual convictions. Like Elijah, we can sometimes feel under assault by secularism and anti-religionism. So, as it was for Elijah, we also need to be reminded from time to time that we are not alone in our faith in God. And for me the 2015 ELCA National Youth Gathering in Detroit was exactly this kind of powerful reminder.
With 30,000 Lutheran youth in Detroit, I was encouraged and strengthened in my Christian faith and spiritual life. Through all the activities, including worship and charitable service, I felt like I was given a glimpse of God’s glorious Presence and power. Again, Elijah’s experience gives us perspective:
And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice. – (First Kings 19:11b-12)
With all the music bands, massive venues, impressive stage effects, and all the big bells and whistles, I have to say that we received a high-tech dose of musical wind, theological earthquakes and spiritual fire. However, for me, I encountered God most powerfully within the massive silences when we were called to bow our heads in prayer, or when the entire assembly at Ford Field was intently listening to the Word of God read to us from the Holy Bible, or when all 30,000+ of us were silently focused on Jesus’ words of Holy Communion (his sacred Words of Institution) prior to receiving the Sacrament of Holy Communion. And, in addition to God’s “still small voice” within the massive silences of this gathering, I would also add that I encountered God when I heard the voices of tens of thousands of Lutherans professing the Apostles’ Creed and praying the Lord’s Prayer. It was amazing!
Therefore, as Elijah was strengthened in the wilderness, and as our Adoration group was strengthened in Detroit, you can also take heart that there are many others who share our faith in God. Like a modern Jezebel, the present-day idolatry of Godlessness and secularism may be seeking to kill faith and spirituality, but God is mightier than we can imagine, we have been given the greatest gift of God’s precious Son Jesus to save and redeem us, and we are not alone because God has maintained a faithful remnant by his grace.
For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever. Amen. – (Romans 11:36)
Together in Christ! Pastor Tim