Elijah did a lot of amazing things. He defeated the prophets of Baal. He warned of the drought and prophesied to the people. He was turning hearts and minds back towards God.
But he lost confidence.
Jezebel threatened him.
It’s not really clear from the passages what happened or what was said. But he fled. This was a person with supreme confidence and trust in divine protection. This is someone that literally said that his God would defeat all the other Gods and this and that with a strange and strong crazy boldness and resilient bravery, even an outright terrifying and punishing audacity.
And yet he fled.
Staying the course on anything can be extremely difficult. Staying the course when you have riled up enemies threatening to destroy you is dang near impossible. It’s hard even for a person of such powerful faith like Elijah.
Elijah was so loved by God and so devoted to him, they say that he never experienced death. God merely took him up in a whirlwind. And they say, that when End times occur, Elijah will return as one of the 2 witnesses with Enoch. They will prophecy for 1,260 days and then be killed and return to heaven.
Elijah is not the only Bible character that had to wrestle with finding his confidence. Another one was Nehemiah.
Jerusalem was fallen and broken. Nehemiah was just an ordinary guy, nothing super special about him. He certainly wasn’t a Samson or Gideon. But he knew how to build stuff and how to repair things and he must have struggled a bit with leaving his ordinary job to decide to rebuild the breached walls.
He started building brick by brick and then other like-minded people joined him, slowly but surely. The thing was though, that others were watching too. These others certainly did not approve of what they were doing and some were even enemies throwing taunts and barbs and hateful words and little snide glares and obscene hand gestures undoubtedly their way and trying to sabotage their efforts. Who knows, they might have even tried spiritual warfare or evil eyes or bad magic or whatever to thwart Nehemiah and his friends.
It is said that the re-builders of the wall had to learn to carry a brick in one hand and hold a spear in the other to protect themselves and ward off danger of an attack by enemies. They were vigilant as they began to rebuild Jerusalem brick by brick by brick.
This is like our own lives today.
We are like Nehemiah, the ordinary person who decides to do an extraordinary thing brick by brick by brick. We move everything in our lives forward, slowly one little thing by one little thing trying to build our own foundations for our families and empires. It’s important to remember Nehemiah’s lesson too that when you began to fix things and repair the breach, when you step out in faith like Elijah to repair the breach in God’s people’s faith too, you will be besieged by unkindness and cruelty and taunts and even death threats.
Think about all the taunts and threats and general meanness that Noah must have faced building the Ark. They probably called him all sorts of foul names. I wonder how their faces must have changed when the water droplets began falling more and more out of the sky. They must have shown surprise at first and then extreme hatred for Noah even then at the end. They must have absolutely hated him in the end when they discovered the truth. They were probably filled with envy.
If we choose this path, God’s path, then we also must choose to be vigilant with spear in one hand and brick in the other, with the words of God in our hearts and the prayers for his protection in our mouths just as Elijah did.
Peter stepped out onto the water at the Sea of Galilee. Jesus told him to follow him across the water and trust. Peter stepped out and at first he stood on water but then began to sink and panicked for he didn’t know how to swim and was afraid of drowning. What was wrong?
A brick in one hand, a spear in the other…..step out in faith but also trust in protection.
Recently, I started talking more about spirituality because a woman who claimed to be a prophet spoke to me. This was a month ago. She said, “You have been looking for signs that God is real. This is your sign.” She also told me some other very personal things and said that “the call is now.” So I’ve been trying in my own unique and perhaps quite crude way to step out in faith and trust in protection at the same time. The whole reason I am doing this is to help others or bring back the ones on the outskirts that have gotten lost or trampled.
I posted quite a lot on social media and online and then set back and waited and just like Elijah, I encountered my own Jezebel. My confidence plummeted and got crushed by the unkindness of others, her in particular.
I was met by some disdain, some outright rudeness, a lot of folks that just flat out ignored me completely, and a few that were openly nasty and hostile. I was accused of hypocrisy. I was accused of being a liar. I was accused of being a fruitcake. One person made a generalized comment about how “you unfortunately cannot pick your relatives.”
I was mocked and made fun of and generally treated with disdain by those who openly opposed things I said and I didn’t even say anything that was super accusatory or nasty other than to warn people to get right with God and treat others like they would want to be treated.
It made me doubt myself and I fell into moments of quiet and reflection and even feeling moments of fear and regret. I worried for my own future. I drew back my fervor and began posting innocuous stuff like recipes and memes for fear of losing friends or being gossiped negatively about. For the first time ever in my life, I was stepping out in faith and trust in God and doing exactly what I was asked to do, only to be verbally clubbed upside the head or just ignored all together. I think this is how Jeremiah felt.
Jeremiah worried for his own future.
Jonah worried for his own future.
Probably Isaiah and Ezekiel did too. Heck, even Jesus did too. He couldn’t even preach in his hometown for fear of being run off and scoffed at and mocked by everybody. People who know your past, particularly if it was negative, sometimes refuse to see anything else in your future other than what they want to see.
Esther worried about her own future too. She was probably scared to death to reveal herself as a Jew. She knew what happened to people that crossed the authorities and she had to know the consequences of any plots if discovered. But she was brave. Her concern for others superseded her fear. Sometimes you gotta take risks.
Elijah went back.
Jonah went on to Nineveh.
When the rains came, Noah got in the Ark with his family and the animals he saved.
Jeremiah, Isaiah, and Ezekiel kept up prophesying.
Esther saved her people.
Peter became a great leader of the Church.
and even ordinary Nehemiah rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem.
We can do great things when we step out in faith and trust in God’s will and protection.
My confirmation saint is Catherine of Siena. She is the only female saint that is considered to be a great writer of the church. Catherine was super brave. She wrote letters time and time again to the Pope after the Great Schism when the papal see had moved to Avignon. She saw corruption in the Church in France. She asked the Pope to bring it back to Rome and she advocated over and over for revival, renewal of the Church, and faith. As a woman, what she was doing was bold and audacious. It was not her place to do such a thing. Who did she think she was? She must have encountered much negative judgment and outright hatred. She probably faltered too at times but eventually the papal see did return to Rome due to her efforts.
I was watching the movie Maverick Top Gun recently. Over and over, through out the movie, there are clutch moments when characters falter and lose confidence in themselves. They struggle for a while with the fear and doubt and then suddenly something kicks in and they re-engage with renewed determination and effort.
In the movie Noah, you see the moment of fear, doubt, and loss of confidence in the eyes of the rock angels as they hold the line against the siege of the Ark. Things look glum as they are surrounded by a great many. But then, the ultimate goal for which they strive, they saw it fulfilled as promised with God’s will and protection and they renewed their strength and vigor to continue.
There’s a lot of folks today trying to hold the line too in an uncertain and uneasy environment with so much bad stuff on the news. They got a spear in one hand and a brick in the other, trying to build their households and communities and trying not to get in danger for themselves or their loved ones. The recent public shootings have made this particularly difficult as of late.
Life isn’t easy. It’s one wild ride. It was like that thousands of years ago and it still is today. There are Elijahs, Peters, Esthers, Noahs, Jeremiahs, Ezekiels, Isaiahs, Jonahs, Nehemiahs, and Catherines all around us everywhere we go.
You just gotta open your eyes to it and see it for what it really is.
One big story. An evolving and ever changing living story.