Friday, April 20, 2012

Big Moments

TOWARD THE END of I Kings, Elijah the prophet engages in his famous standoff with the prophets of the idol Ba’al. As the story goes, he performed a bunch of grand miracles and made a laughingstock out of them. When it was all over, Jezebel, the wicked wife of the king Ahab, sends a messenger to Elijah:

So Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah to say, “May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like that of one of them.”[1]

It’s interesting. If she wanted him dead why didn’t she just have him arrested? It sounds like she’s telling him that he has a day to flee; what’s with the heads up?

I once heard a profound insight. Oftentimes people find inspiration in pomp and circumstance, in great gatherings and incredible displays of faith. Jezebel knew a secret though. It doesn’t last. It’s there one day, but a week later we’re back to the same old routine. Nothing changes. Real faith is not found in the fanfare. It is an intensely private experience. It doesn’t make much noise, but rather is a quiet, unwavering voice permeating the seemingly dull void of mundane life.

Jezebel knew that if she’d have Elijah killed, he would die a martyr. The miracles he had performed were fresh in everyone’s minds, and he still had their respect. She couldn’t risk it. But she knew that if he would disappear for a while, the inspiration would naturally die down. A few miracles wouldn’t make a permanent impact on the society she wished to cultivate. That’s why she gave him the heads up to get out of town; it was simply the smarter move for her.

As we read further along in the story, Elijah flees to the desert, where he has a vision:

And [the word of God] said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

What a perfect allusion to this message. God is not in the great wind, in the earthquake, or in the fire. God is in the gentle whisper.

What does the Lord seek of you, but to act justly and to love mercy, and to walk humbly (quietly, hidden) with your God?[2]

No fanfare necessary. Just to live our regular, mundane lives, in quiet faith. That is the most enriching thing we can do.

[1] I Kings 19:2 - NIV
[2] Micah 6:8

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