Meditating on the Will of God: 22: God who Chides
1 Kings 19:9 And the word of the LORD came to him: “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
We live in an age where unfortunately ‘self’ is encouraged to reign and we might even refer to it as the ‘spirit of the age’. What is more unfortunate is that this is so often true of Christians as well and so, in a series of studies on the will of God, we perhaps need to face this as a separate issue; people don’t like being told off, but God DOES correct us.
Elijah was a most remarkable man, a prophet who had opposed both a bad king and large numbers of bad false prophets. As a result of that he had earned the displeasure of the queen who, being a powerful person, threatened to take his life. Elijah decided to run. What is amazing is that by the time he reached the mountain at Horeb, the Lord had twice sent angels to sustain him; he wouldn’t have got that far with out it. So he gets to the cave on the mountain and rests and then the Lord turns up!
Now when the Lord asks questions it is not because He doesn’t know the answer, because He does. He asks so that we will face the truth. So, Elijah, whatever do you think you’re doing here, hidden away? Prophets need to be out in the open in the world! “Ah,” he replies, “I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.” (1 Kings 19:10) How we dress up our excuses to sound good! “I have been very zealous for the Lord.” True, good man! Israel have gone astray and “I am the only (faithful) one left.” Ah, not quite true. Stress makes us lose perspective.
Now what is interesting is that we are told that “the word of the Lord came to him.” (v.9) What follows is even more interesting. After his excuses we find, “The LORD said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by.” (v.11) There is a difference between just hearing a word and sensing the very presence of God. The latter is more scary and so he had better be honest in God’s presence! Eventually, “a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” (v.13c) The same question. Are you going to be honest this time, Elijah, and confess you took your eye off the game and got scared? Sadly he gives exactly the same answer. Even great men of God show their humanity and stick to making excuses. So the Lord gives him marching orders and ends with, “Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel–all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and all whose mouths have not kissed him.” (v.18) That is the truth; there are in fact quite a number of those who remain faithful to the Lord in Israel, Elijah, and (implied) they need you to be my mouthpiece.
Perhaps one of the best known verses in Scripture about the Scriptures, speaks very plainly to this: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Tim 3:16,17). Notice in this context, the words ‘rebuking’ and ‘correcting’. Some of us think Jesus is so ‘meek and mild’ that all he ever does is pat us on the back and make encouraging noises. The truth is that he loves us too much to just leave it at that. A rebuke is a reprimand or scolding for getting it wrong. We do need to know when we’ve got it wrong otherwise we’ll never get it right. Correcting is all about showing how to put something right after getting it wrong. Again, the truth is that we quite often need God’s word to put us right.
We often think how wonderful it must have been to have been with Jesus in the three years of his ministry and we forget that he was there, not only to reveal his Father to the world, but also train up (disciple) his followers to be able to carry on doing what he was doing when he left. Part of that process involved a) Jesus setting targets for them and b) him chiding them when they fell short. And example of his target setting might be when he sent them out in pairs to do the stuff (Mt 10:1,5 & Lk 10:1-)
An example of his chiding them is found in the middle of a storm! “The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!” He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.” (Mt 8:25,26) He chided them for their lack of belief of his care for them and his ability to protect them. In his general teaching he chided his listeners for worrying: “If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, `What shall we eat?’ or `What shall we drink?’ or `What shall we wear?’” (Mt 6:30,31) Again he chided them for not believing that His Father cared for them and would provide for them.
A similar situation, involving one of his servants who had stepped out in a big way but then balked at what he was doing (like Elijah) was that involving Peter walking on the water: “Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, why did you doubt?” (Mt 14:29-31)
Another chiding situation arose when the disciples were discussing bread among themselves: “Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked, “You of little faith, why are you talking among yourselves about having no bread? Do you still not understand? Don’t you remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered? Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered?” (Mt 16:8-10) Then came a time when, while Jesus was up the mountain, some of his disciples failed to drive a demon out of a boy and so when Jesus came back they questioned him: “Then the disciples came to Jesus in private and asked, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?” He replied, “Because you have so little faith.” (Mt 17:19,20)
In Gethsemane we find a further gentle chiding when the disciples fell asleep when they were supposed to be waiting on Jesus: “Could you men not keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter.” (Mt 26:40) Six times in Matthew’s Gospel we have seen Jesus chiding his disciples. He had expectations of them and when they failed, he chided them. He wanted them to lift their game, we might say. There are in the other Gospels other examples as well. Are you living up to Jesus’ expectations of you? Is he calling you to lift your ‘faith game’?