Posts Tagged ‘Elijah’

“Glory to God in the Highest,” Day 7: They Went with Haste

December 7, 2016

I recently created a 31-day Advent/Christmas devotional booklet for my church called “Glory to God in the Highest.” I will be posting a devotional from it each day between now and the end of the year. Enjoy!

Scripture: Luke 2:15-20; 9:51-56

glory_cover_finalIn Luke 9:51-56, when Jesus and the disciples were passing through a Samaritan village on their way to Jerusalem, the Samaritans reject them. They won’t let them stay in their town. This gives James and John a brilliant idea: “Lord, do you want to tell fire to come down from heaven and consume them?”

Their suggestion is not without precedent. In 2 Kings 1, an evil king named Ahaziah sends soldiers to arrest the prophet Elijah. Elijah is sitting on a hill when the commanding officer says, “O man of God, the king says to come down.” Elijah says, “If I am a man of God, let fire come down from heaven and consume you and your men.” And that’s exactly what happens. Twice.

To their credit, at least James and John know that Jesus is much greater than Elijah. And since that’s true, why shouldn’t the fire of God’s judgment fall on these Samaritans who’ve rejected him?

Of course, this is unimaginable to us. We hear this story and feel morally superior to James and John. After all, we would never want the fire of God’s judgment to come down and consume people who reject Jesus Christ. Right?

Before you answer, consider this: At this moment, there are tens of thousands of people within a few miles of our church who are currently rejecting Jesus Christ. What do we believe will happen to them if they persist in their unbelief?

Unless we make sharing the gospel with them our highest priority, aren’t we saying—either out of fear, indifference, or benign neglect—that we’re O.K. with the fire of God’s judgment falling on them?

By contrast, consider the response of the shepherds when they receive the “good news of great joy” of the gospel: They go “with haste” not only to see the baby Jesus but to share what they had seen and heard with the Mary and Joseph. When they return home, they continue to praise and glorify God. They continue to share this good news with others.

If you, like the shepherds, have experienced the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ, are you sharing this good news “with haste”? Do you make witnessing a top priority in your life? Why or why not?

When we feel like “total failures”

December 14, 2012
Based on the cover, not so much "for everyone" as for the really beautiful people.

Based on the cover, not so much “for everyone” as for the really beautiful people.

John Goldingay, whose For Everyone commentaries on the Old Testament I couldn’t recommend more highly, writes with candor and self-deprecation, qualities that, I hope, are reflected in my own preaching and blogging. Like Goldingay (I suspect), I tend toward self-doubt and pessimism. I’m not saying that I’m justified in this tendency. But it’s who I am. After 42 years of being this way, I’m probably not going to wake up an entirely different person.

With this in mind, you can imagine how much I appreciate this first paragraph of Goldingay’s reflection on 1 Kings 19, where Elijah runs away in fear from the murderous Jezebel:

I am inclined to think that nothing I do in seeking to fulfill my vocation achieves anything. My vocation is to help people understand the Old Testament and let their thinking and their lives be shaped by it. I am passionately committed to this task and want to carry on seeking to fulfill it rather than retire and spend more time cycling on the boardwalk, but I am inclined to think I totally fail. It is not because I am incompetent but because the odds are stacked so high by the church’s ignorance of the Old Testament, especially in our culture over recent decades. Nothing I can do, like writing all these commentaries or having four five hundred student in my classes every year, can make a significant difference. This raises the question of why I continue seeking to fulfill this vocation, and I guess the answer is contained within the question. It is my vocation.[†]

† John Goldingay, 1 & 2 Kings for Everyone (Louisville: WJK, 2011), 90.