1 Kings 19:4-5 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) 4 But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a solitary broom tree. He asked that he might die: “It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life, for I am no better than my ancestors.” 5 Then he lay down under the broom tree and fell asleep. Suddenly an angel touched him and said to him, “Get up and eat.”
Are you depressed during this epidemic? There is certainly enough to be depressed about. People’s businesses are going down, unemployment is high, we have to take unnatural precautions, and no end is in sight. We may feel as Elijah did in the verses above, that the best part of our lives are behind us. Elijah was depressed. But Elijah was also open to talking and listening to God. He understood that his life was in God’s hands. He gave himself to God. It was then that God intervened and sent an angel to help him. On the strength of the food angel gave him, he was able to travel many days. We are mortal, weak, and we also get weary of life. By ourselves, often, we can’t help ourselves. But, like Elijah, if we put ourselves in God’s hands then God will surely help us.
Sustaining God, you uplift all who trust in you. Draw us closer Lord, when we get tired. Amen.
1 Kings 19:11-12 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) Elijah Meets God at Horeb 11 He said, “Go out and stand on the mountain before the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by.” Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake; 12 and after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence.
Elijah was waiting for God and he was depressed. He’d just beaten the prophets of Baal in a contest and yet he was forced to flee for his life. Queen Jezebel was after him for killing her prophets. Where was God? God had helped him defeat the Baal prophets. Why wasn’t God helping him again? He heard roar after roar, but God was not in the roar or the destruction. Why did God allow a man to die in police custody last week? Why did God allow crowds to destroy the businesses of innocent people serving their community? I can’t believe God had a hand in the man lying on his face dying at the hands of police, nor in the fire, looting and destruction afterwards. Justice was served in neither case. Often, it is only when the tempers have calmed and the outrage settles that God appears. When we calm our souls enough to listen to God, it’s then when we can hear God’s still, small voice. Most times God doesn’t shout, God whispers to those who will listen.
Oh God, calm our hearts, help us to abandon our immature ways, and listen quietly to your voice of justice. Amen.
Job 5:7 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) 7 but human beings are born to trouble just as sparks fly upward.
My wife Erika and I have a firepit in our back yard. On spring and fall evenings we sit by the fire, cook hot dogs and watch the fire burn. It’s comforting and even mesmerizing. The sparks always fly upward just as the verse above states. The image in Job 5:7 is just as vivid for us today as it was for the ancient Hebrew shepherds who sat by their fires at the end of a long day.
The first part of the verse above is just as relevant to us today, as well. Not long ago I witnessed on the evening news the video of a man’s death in police custody. The officers involved were fired and protest riots broke out the next day, harming many businesses and another man was killed. I don’t know what happened, but clearly people are prone to trouble indeed.
We need a savior.
Jesus Christ, shine your light on this world. Turn the darkness in our hearts to light and bring Your kingdom to earth. Amen.
Psalm 97:9 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) 9 For you, O LORD, are most high over all the earth; you are exalted far above all gods.
Israel changed its view about other gods in the course of the Old Testament writings. In this verse from Psalm 97, the Psalmist talks about God being more powerful than other gods. By the latest books of the Old Testament, Israel didn’t believe in other gods. Not only were other gods lower than our God, but they didn’t even exist. These other gods were “false gods.” They were gods without any real power, so they really weren’t gods at all.
We still have false gods today. We call them money, power, and a hundred other names. They have no real lasting power, and they will desert us in the end. And if we exalt them above God Almighty, our lives will have no end of pain.
True God, you have made us to worship you. Keep us from worshipping anything else. Amen.
Ephesians 3:16 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) 16 I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit…
When I was on an archeological dig, we had teams and each team was assigned to 30x30 foot squares of our pit. Then we dug, slowly and carefully, often using small picks and toothbrushes to reveal what was beneath the surface. It was painstaking, tedious work. Then, when our leader had determined there was nothing more of value on that level, we would scoop out and lift out the dirt as fast as we could, using 30-40 lb. buckets, up the 15 feet to the surface, again and again. That was grueling work. We tried our best to keep up, because our leader would work harder than any of us, often singing as he went.
I can’t imagine Paul singing, but I can imagine him with even more energy than his followers. Good leaders work harder than their followers and give most of the credit to them. Good Christian leaders go one step further. I believe they pray harder than anyone for those who follower their lead.
Where are you a leader right now? How hard are you praying for them? Everyone is a leader somewhere: at home, at work or with your closest friends. Pray for them deeply, as Paul prayed for the church at Ephesia.
Strengthening God, empower us in prayer and give those we lead with strength to do great things for You. Amen.
Hebrews 5:11-12 New International Version (NIV) 11 We have much to say about this, but it is hard to make it clear to you because you no longer try to understand. 12 In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food!
Every so often, I talk to someone who is struggling with evil. How could God allow evil? Why doesn’t take away COVID-19 and every other disease when we ask for it? Those who struggle in such a way can even give up faith in God. I have no true answer to “why evil” expect to say, God allows evil for a purpose. If we don’t have evil to struggle against, we never mature as Christians. Those who never face adversity seldom grow up. We all know cases of rich people who raised their children completely sheltered from all strife. Most don’t grow up to be very nice people, because they seldom have compassion for others who do have problems. We modern Christians must face evil openly and honestly, as all great men and women of faith have done. We must not give up and expect others to solve problems for us. We may grow weary, but we must not stop. We must remember that evil exists always, but that God will help us fight it!
Good God, teach us not to be complacent or give up in the face of evil. Help us to fight it. Give us the gifts to help us fight COVID-19 and its effects on our lives and world.
2 Thessalonians 3:10 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) 10 For even when we were with you, we gave you this command: Anyone unwilling to work should not eat.
Most Christians in the first century AD were convinced that Jesus would return in their lifetimes. That he didn’t remains one of the mysteries of our faith, because there are verses that seem to point to the return of Christ sooner rather than later. Some Christians took this idea seriously, almost too seriously. They stopped working because they believed there was no point in preparing for the future, since Jesus would return soon and everything would end. Others kept working, for they believed their food would run out otherwise and the date of Jesus’ return to earth was uncertain. Some even ended feeding the ones who were waiting for Jesus without working. Paul had to issue a decree for those idle Christians who would not work: no work, no food. How does this apply to us Christians today? Well, to be certain of almost any future event in religion or civic life is impossible. We Christians have to be prepared. How do we do that? As uncomfortable as it is, our churches have to be nimble, able to change directions easily. We have to be nimble, as well. Life is changing too quickly to do otherwise.
Lord of Eternity, help us Christians not to remain idle, but to changes as we must, so we can remain active and relevant in the lives of others around us. Help us preserve what is good and move on as we must. Amen.