This past Sunday, I had the great privilege of having about 18 sweet girls come over for a Bible study between our Senior and Junior Companies. Shelley and Jess brought over pounds of different flavored ice cream, to which we all devoured with sprinkled cookies, delicious cupcakes, and tiny brownies! The Word of God is meant to be flavorful and sweet on our lips....we were getting in the zone:)
Our lesson, once we all settled down and a few cups of hot chocolate had been made, was on the story of Elijah.
What a story of trust in our awesome God! To brush up on this incredible story that comes to us out of 2 Kings, we have Elijah, a prophet of God, facing off against 450 'prophets' of Baal (and another 400 prophets of Asherah). They have all been called together to Mount Carmel to settle this once and for all.....who is the one true God? Two bulls are prepared on two different alters and the god that is able to bring fire down to ignite the alter.....he is the real god worthy of worship.
So the 450 prophets of Baal get things started. (Can we just stop and appreciate that number for a second? What that crowd must have looked like to Elijah?) They start praying to Baal, shouting (no answer), dancing around the alter (still no answer), and even cutting themselves! "Maybe he's sleeping," Elijah says, "You've got to wake him up!" Midday passes and still there's no response.
Then it's Elijah's turn. He takes twelve stones (one for each tribe of Jacob) and built an alter. Then he takes four large jars and fills them with water and pours them on the alter and the offering three times. Finally he prays.
"O Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel. Let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all of these things at your command. Answer me Lord, that these people will know you are God and that you are turning their hearts back again."
And then; the very next verse....fire of God fell and burned up the sacrifice! (The very same sacrifice that had seconds before been dripping with water!) It doesn't say that Elijah had to wait, his prayers were instantly answered and the result was 450 men falling to their knees in worship, finally recognizing God for the true God He was (is).
I can't imagine how that must have felt! To feel the heat of those flames that had just come down from heaven, knowing that his faith in The Lord had not been in vain, and to see the looks on those people's faces as they recognized the Lord for the first time as the One and Only God. I like to think that even though Elijah was wholly devoted to proving that God was in fact the only God worthy of worship, that he delighted and rejoiced for these people that came to finally know Him too! I hope that in all of our hearts, when we see someone come to truly recognize God (and the grace given to us by Jesus too now), that we can rejoice for the freedom that a friend, a relative, a stranger has now found!
Elijah didn't have to wait in these circumstances because it pleased God to make His presence known immediately. But lets not forget that many times we must wait on the Lord. I think that the Bible uses that phrase at least nine times. Psalm 31 says "all you who wait for the Lord, be strong and let your heart take courage." It's a chapter full of recognition that the Lord is the One who is our protective fortress and our rock. It says that He is "intimately acquainted with (our) deep distress" but He didn't hand us over to our enemy. He is a God that is invested and not surprised, by what we're going through. I pray that we, as Christ-followers, would take up faith like Elijah and pray boldly, bringing our requests before the Lord with humble hearts. To pray continually, rejoice always, and give thanks in every situation is God's will for us. For a suborn, head-strong woman like myself it can seem like a passive thing to sit and wait for the Lord. But God loves each of us and knows us by name. And when His time is right, He provides in ways that are beyond our wildest dreams. He makes His presence known.