Here, we return to a chapter of a classic duel between Elijah, a prophet of God and four hundred and fifty followers of a fake god, Baal.
This is the chapter most of us would turn to when we want to use Elijah as a case study of a good and faithful servant of God, and also showing the mighty works and the power of God. You can use this link (click here: http://www.closerdaybyday.info/2010/09/1-kings-18/) for the posting on the same chapter in 2010.
So for today, instead of looking at the positive attributes of this great prophet of God, let us look at something not that “great”…
Running To The Entrance Of Jezreel
Then the hand of the Lord came upon Elijah; and he girded up his loins and ran ahead of Ahab to the entrance of Jezreel…
– 1 Kings 18: 46
Never mind about how it looked like for Elijah to run ahead of Ahab and reach the gates of Jezreel first. Immediately after praying for the rain to come after a long spell of drought, Elijah went to the entrance of Jezreel, the gates of the city. In those days, there would normally be lots of people at the gates of those cities.
Why did Elijah go to the entrance of Jezreel? He had just retuned from a glorious victory over the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel, and he had prayed to God for the rain to pour down again. I think surely, people would have heard or guessed that he had done something wonderful.
So, is it possible that Elijah was hoping to get some recognition for what had just happened?
No doubt that Elijah was a great prophet and a faithful servant of the Lord God. But as we’ve seen in many parts of the Bible, even great men have shown some signs of weakness. Looking from the perspective of man, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with giving Elijah credit for defeating the prophets of Baal and causing the rain to come down again. But of course, we should know that both of these miracles were the works of God, and not man.
But putting ourselves in the shoes of Elijah, Elijah had just been involved in a spectacular event with a great victory over the enemies of God. Who can blame him for feeling great about himself, if he did?
Some of us might think this is a stretch, but maybe Elijah was expecting something like a hero’s welcome at the city (of course we all know what happened in the next chapter). Being the prophet who had defeated the prophets of Baal and called for rain to end the drought should have been something to the people. And this was probably what Elijah was thinking. Of course, I’m sure he gave glory and praises to God, but it’s not surprising if he had some pride in himself as well.
Haven’t we been in that same situation some time in our lives?
Apart from this example, we also can see a couple more hints of Elijah placing himself in somewhat high regard throughout the chapter (although this is really just my own opinion).
Then Elijah said to the people, “I alone am left a prophet of the Lord…”
– 1 Kings 18: 22a
Lord God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known this day that You are God in Israel and I am Your servant, and that I have done all these things at Your word…”
– 1 Kings 18: 36b
Although these might really just be innocent statements of Elijah, for me, these statements remind me that I must be careful with my inner thoughts and heart about how I feel about myself as a worker of God.
Glory To God, Not To Self
We may be very active and respectable workers of God, acknowledged by our brethren as faithful and diligent. But we must be very careful not to take too much pride in ourselves, or have that desire to seek for that sort of recognition. Whether we are sermon speakers, interpreters, hymn leaders, choir members, RE teachers, pianists, organists, ensemble members, befrienders, caretakers, cleaners, cooks, AVA personnel, receptionists, trainers or any other workers in the church that I can’t think of at the time of writing this sentence, we must not work to receive praises and glory for ourselves.
Some works might expose us to more chances for receiving praises and admiration. Some works are behind the scenes that not many may know of. But whether we do eventually get recognized or not, it is already dangerous to have the heart to seek recognition from the people around us.
If Elijah really did have this desire to be recognized by the people, then he really had the biggest lesson of his life in Chapter 19.
When pride comes, then comes shame; but with the humble is wisdom…
– Proverbs 11: 2
In whatever divine work we do, we must remember that all glory and praise should be given to God and to God alone. We are only the vessels of God, and it is not like anyone of us is indispensible, or so valuable that God can’t just get another person to do the job.
May we remember to give all glory to God in whatever we do, and not just in divine work.