Poor Elijah. We’re always kind of down on Elijah, aren’t we? After his stunning victory on Mount Carmel, he flees Jezebel when she threatens to kill him after he put to death her 300 prophets of Baal.
Jonah also finds his way into the ‘Hall of Shame’ for deciding a sea voyage over the Mediterranean sounded better than bringing the word of the Lord to the Ninevites.
In comfortable Christendom, we often hear things like, “the safest place you can be is the centre of God’s will,” and “the will of God won’t lead you where the grace of God can’t keep you,” and other snappy sayings. I think such trite phrases can warp the lens we read these Bible accounts through.
Would God have Elijah call down fire from heaven, lick up every water-soaked piece of the altar, and then let him be slayed by the evil queen of Israel? Surely God wouldn’t ask Jonah to be impaled on an Assyrian spike in Nineveh if the Ninevites didn’t like his message.
But maybe God would.
Cynics ask, “If God is good and loving, why would He let bad things happen to His people?” The inevitable answer is, “Sometimes He does.”
Sometimes He allows evil people to have their way, but that doesn’t negate His goodness or His loving-kindness. In the end, there are two things we can rely on: God’s ways are not our ways, and Jesus Christ is ultimately worth whatever happens to us in this life.
Maybe the reason Jonah and Elijah ran wasn’t that they didn’t have enough faith in God. Maybe they knew, more than I ever will, the cost of that faith.
Maybe our sermons on Elijah shouldn’t focus on the reasons why he ran, but instead on why we should.
Yes, that’s right. For once, I’d like to see a pastor stand up in the service, open the text to 2 Kings 2 and say, “Elijah ran. And if you think God’s ‘will’ will keep you from harm, you’d better run too.”
There is, within what seems like His capricious harshness, a great love and kindness. “For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings” (Hebrews 2:10).
Jesus suffered in order to bring about God’s will. We could ask ourselves why Elijah and Jonah would run from God’s calling. More importantly, though, is the question for us: are we willing to follow God’s will, even if it means suffering?
Leah Grant writes for VOM USA