Despair settled over me like a too-heavy yoke.
I’d secured my sandals, slung a pack of provisions over one shoulder, and caught up my walking staff. Then, with hand on door, I froze, unable to push through the dread into the sunlight outside.
I can’t do this, my mind protested.
I’m only one man.
Go, the small voice whispered.
Groaning, I straightened my shoulders and set out to Samaria.
As dusk approached, I set up camp, then slumped dejectedly before a small fire.
“Am I crazy?” I muttered aloud.
I must have imagined the small voice, I decided. In the morning, I’d return to Gilead. The evil in Israel was too great, and one man was too small to save a nation.
Bolstering my growing resolution, I remembered the Asherah poles atop the hills I passed. I’d kept my head down, trying to avoid the attention of prostitutes practicing sexual rituals to entice the goddess of fertility to bless the land.
I certainly couldn’t stop them, I reassured myself. I can’t uproot generations of wickedness.
Israel’s unfaithfulness to God began nearly as soon as their dusty feet touched Canaan. Raised in a community founded by Israel’s early judges, I’d grown up on tales of Israel’s infidelity.
I could hear grandmother’s voice recounting Israel’s story. Our history was a tapestry laced with tragedy and faithfulness, she explained.
Miraculously rescued from slavery in Egypt, Israel cowered from entering the land God promised them. Consequently, they wandered the wilderness as an entire generation passed away. Yet God faithfully protected and provided for His children, leading them again to Canaan.
Accustomed to the desert, we’d entered Canaan’s lushness agog, my grandmother recounted. Baal and Asherah worship, the god and goddess of fertility to whom Canaanites attributed their agricultural prosperity, assaulted Israel on all sides.
“I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt [. . .] Do not have other gods besides me.” (Exodus 20:1-3)
“When you enter the land the LORD your God is giving you, do not imitate the detestable customs of those nations. No one among you is to sacrifice his son or daughter in the fire[.] Everyone who does these acts is detestable to the LORD [. . .] You must be blameless before the LORD your God.” (Deuteronomy 18:9-13)
My grandmother’s voice always grew deep with mourning when recounting God’s words. He forewarned us to protect us, she murmured. God is sovereign; He knew evil and suffering would come with worshiping other gods.
Yet the siren call of other gods was strong, and Israel’s devotion for Yahweh wavered.
Briefly, Israel was led by David, a king whose sinful humanity was undeniable, but who remained a man after God’s own heart, worshiping God alone.
Successive kings once again married pursuit of other gods with Yahweh’s worship. (1 Kings 11:33)
Astarte, the goddess of the Sidonians.
Chemosh, the god of Moab.
Miclom, the god of Ammon.
Golden calves, unsanctioned temples, and an illegitimate priesthood. (1 Kings 12:25-33)
David did what was right in God’s sight, following God with all his heart. (1 Kings 14:7-11)
Consecutive kings each did evil greater than their predecessors, thrusting God behind their backs. (1 Kings 15:1-3, 25-26, 34)
But for daily provision? For ensuring consistent rain cycles? For flourishing in stone-built houses, rather than wilderness tents?
Perhaps Jehovah Jireh, the Lord Who Provides, wasn’t quite up to the task, the people reasoned.
Better include Baal,
also known as lord of the earth.
Lord of rain and dew.
Rider of the clouds.
I broke from my reverie, memories of my grandmother slipping away into the blackness edging the fire. Fire . . . and Baal.
Baal was reintroduced to Israel through the marriage of our current king, Ahab, to Jezebel, a Sidonian. Baal was worshiped with massive fires laid at the base of monstrous effigies. In times of plenty, livestock were sacrificed.
But in times of drought or famine, people believed Baal could only be aroused to send rain by the sacrifice of first-born children. Young children were thrown into the outstretched, superheated arms of the flaming idol, as priests created a cacophony of sound to drown out the horrific death-screams. Nearby, worshipers engaged in ritual sex, hoping to stimulate the gods to their own acts of fertility, bringing the rain.
Israel had known God, His eternal power and divine nature, as Creator of the world; yet they exchanged His truth for a lie, worshiping and serving creations instead of the Creator. (Romans 1:20-25) The evil into which Ahab led Israel and the rushing flood of suffering in its wake were nearly incomprehensible.
The people overflowed with unrighteousness, greed, and wickedness.
They breathed envy, murder, and malice.
They reveled in gossip, slander, and God-hating pride.
They abandoned trust, love, and mercy.
Israel, it seemed, had done their very best to obliterate any trace of the One in whose image they were created. (Genesis 1:26-27)
“So why are you sending ME?!” I flung my vehement question toward the star-pocked heavens. “I am no one from nowhere, nearly the last of Your followers. You want ME to convict Ahab?! To convince him to repent? By foretelling famine and drought?? Do You understand, this will only drive him further into the fiery arms of Baal? I can’t compete with those priests! I can’t persuade the people! I can’t do it!”
My throat raw, my chest heaving, I turned away to the shadows.
“I’m not even sure You’re really there,” I whispered.
As I gazed into the darkness, a flicker of light appeared, diminutive as the flame of a single candle.
Elijah, the small voice gently replied.
I am Yahweh, I AM WHO I AM.
I am the Sovereign One;
I alone possess the power and responsibility to convict, convince, or persuade.
I am the Sovereign One;
no evil is so profound I cannot overcome it, no one is so lost I cannot rescue him, no darkness is so complete I cannot light it.
I am God With You, now and always;
I will go with you wherever I send you, for I hold your days in My hands.
Sketched XI, Day 2
He was requesting God Himself to be near – a reflection of his own desire to abide (dwell) in God’s presence.
Just as Moses desired. Just as Elijah desired.
Can We Pray With You?
Prayer is central to our ministry as believers in Jesus as we carry eachother’s burdens and intercede for one another. Our team is honored to share the work of praying alongside you!
This Week's Lock Screen
Authentically living out a life of worship to the God who rescued us from darkness requires accountability and intentionality. Join a GT POD and take the next step in your faith journey!