"Yet I will leave 7,000 in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal and every mouth that has not kissed him."
1 Kings 19:18 (NASB)
Hymn: "May Jesus Christ Be Praised" Joseph Barnby, translated by Edward Caswall
Elijah has come from the destruction of the prophets of Baal and seeing the worship of God restored. In response, Queen Jezebel has threatened his life and he went into hiding and asked for death. This is the end of God's response to him. This passage is generally used to point out God's provision and care for Elijah, to address depression, to encourage those who feel they are failing or alone or hopeless. And all of that is there, and one of them is probably the actual theological point of the passage. But with today's readings, I was really hung up on that last line.
It can be easy to get so hung up on the great heroes of the Bible and the big name prophets and apostles that we forget that God is using a whole lot of regular people all the time. Elijah believed that he was alone among the remaining servants of God, but not only was that not true, but God was actively working with and could readily identify hundreds of people whose names do not appear in scripture.
One of the most notable churches in the New Testament in the church of Antioch, where the term 'Christian' was first applied and where Paul was accepted and then sent out. We don't know the names of the people who founded that church, though, nor do we have the names of the people who laid hands on Paul and Barnabas and sent them out on the first missionary journey. But we know that Paul never forgot that the body of the church was important, active, and working.
"Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them."
Acts 20:28-30 (NASB)
In his final address to leaders in Asia on his way to be arrested in Jerusalem, Paul's focus is turned to the safety of the people in the churches. Let's not overlook the fact that the enemy has reason to attack the people who sit in the pews, the laymen, the people who are not working in pastoral ministry or doing missionary work abroad. It is important that we support, encourage, and pray for our leaders; and it is just as important that we pray for and support and encourage one another. We should see the importance God places on each individual in the church, and seek to be useful to Him and to see how He is working through others. There is no Christian who too lowly or unimportant to be a great servant of Christ.
Are we seeing ourselves and our fellow church members as equal participants in the mission of the church? Are we devoting ourselves to the work with the understanding that God has something great for us, as well? Our leaders will struggle, as Paul and Elijah did, and they will need to be helped. Let us not lose sight of our own service to God and each other as we do so.
For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God.
1 Corinthians 1:26-29 (NASB)
Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. Copyright by The Lockman Foundation