Elijah – SO Human
When I began my first series of sermons at Westminster Chapel for some reason I chose Jonah as the book I wanted to work through. When asked, Why Jonah?, I always replied: Because I am Jonah. I identified with Jonah from start to finish – from his being swallowed by a great fish to his self-righteous sulking at the end.
As it happens my last series of sermons at the Chapel was on Elijah. And guess what – surprise, surprise – I identify with Elijah too, only more so. I refer not to his anointing or his extraordinary confrontation with the prophets of Baal and the miraculous fire falling from heaven. I can’t think of any person who can match that. I refer to Elijah’s humanness. He was – oh, SO human. James says he was “just like us” (James.5:17 – “a man of like passions as we are’ – KJV). James wants to show that God uses not only obedient men and women but also ordinary people.
Keep in mind that Elijah epitomized the prophetic dimension of the Old Testament. When Jesus was transfigured before his disciples, who appeared with him? Moses – representing the Law, or the Word; and Elijah – representing the prophets, or the Spirit. Whereas one can go through the life of Moses and see how human he too was, with the great Elijah there is an undoubted and obvious frailty in him with which all of us can surely identify.
There are a number of things that (to me) stand out regarding the person Elijah. First, he took himself too seriously. He claimed to be the “only one of the Lord’s prophets left”. (1 Kings 18:22). Elijah was utterly wrong to say it or think it. He surely knew better. He had just been with Obadiah a day or two before! What about those hundred prophets Obadiah had hidden in caves (1 Kings 18:4)? But Elijah was so full of himself and so insensitive that he did not recognize anyone else as being valid. He had just been with Obadiah who had risked his own life to hide one hundred true prophets in caves. It was almost as though Elijah were showing contempt for anyone but himself! What selfishness! What self-centeredness! Worst of all, Elijah really thought it! He repeated it later when in his depression and tiredness by the broom tree he said, “I am the only one left” (1 Kings 19:10). Wrong again.
This encourages me. I will come clean with you. I think one of my greatest problems throughout my ministry of nearly sixty years has been to take myself too seriously.
What does it mean to take oneself too seriously? First, you magnify your importance. Second, you want to make sure you get the credit for what you do.
Third, you are too insensitive and oblivious to other people God may be using who may or may not have the platform and recognition you have. I have said for years that at the Judgment Seat of Christ the greatest rewards will be given out primarily to those who had little or no profile on earth but were equally faithful to God’s dear cause.
On Mount Carmel – right in the middle of Elijah confronting the false prophets when saying “I alone am left”, God might have said, “STOP! I now call off the whole proceeding, Elijah. You are certainly NOT the only prophet left. How dare you say that. I cannot use you now. Sorry”. But God did not call off the proceedings. He let Elijah carry on. It would be some time later when God would sort out Elijah.
I don’t like to think how I have taken myself so seriously over the years. It must have made the angels blush. But God continued to use me. In my old age he has patiently whispered to me that I am not so important after all.
You can read much more about this in my New book: These are the days of Elijah available at a discount for this month.