It is easy to miss the obvious in every aspect of life. One of the massive lessons from the Old Testament is that God is constantly at work in the world and in the lives of people. God doesn’t just lead and use those who are faithful to Him, but even those who don’t know Him and don’t even believe that He exist. One of the things that made prophets like Habbakkuk so confused was God using a Nation like Babylon to punish Judah for their sins. He couldn’t see how God could use a nation and king that was evil to punish a nation that wasn’t nearly as bad off as the ones being used to punish them. It is amazing after he wrestles with the whole topic for most of the 3 chapters of the book that bears his name, the conclusion found in chapter 3:17-19 is a testament of trust to God. “Though the fig tree shold not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yeild no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there is no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s, he makes me tread on the high places.”
Amazingly, the king of Babylon was Nebuchadnezzar and Daniel describes how God humbled him after he had been so arrogant and talking about how powerful he was. God gave Daniel a vision to share with Nebuchadnezzar. It was of a tree that was growing tall and strong, but an angel God came and cut it down and left only a stump in it’s place. The interpretation was that if the king didn’t humble himself and give God the glory for what he had done, then he would come and take his mind away. He would be driven from the throne and live like an animal until his hair grew long like an eagle’s feathers and his nails became like claws. He would be insane and another would sit on the throne, but he would come to his senses and be the king again. The king believed Daniel and for a year he remained humble and gave glory to the Lord, but at the end of the year he began thinking again of how great he was and how mighty his kingdom was. God struck him down then and for a period of time his mind was taken from him and he lived as an animal. His hair grew out like eagles feathers and his nails became like claws. When he finally did come to himself he gave glory to God and praised his work in his kingdom.
How often, I wonder, is God’s hand in the things that are going on in our world, but we fail to see it or grasp the lessons He wants us to get. Elijah was truly one of the great prophets of the Lord in the Old Testament. he had prayed and God stopped the rain from falling in Israel for a period of over three years. Then he had all the prophets of Baal (450) and Asherah (400) gather for a contest. Elijah challenged the people who gathered around them, “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.” The people were as quiet as a mouse. They had the contest of who could call down fire from their God to cook the animal on the altar. Baal’s prophets cried out, cut themselves, screamed and did everything imaginable to get their god to wake up and act. But when Elijah’s time came he had water poured all over his altar and the animal. Then he called up the Lord to send down fire and consume the animal and the fire came immediately. Elijah challenged the people to kill the false prophets and they killed all 850 of them. Then Elijah prayed and God sent rain on the nation.
But the amazing thing is that after all that had happened and God had shown himself powerfully through him, Elijah faced a whole different problem. Ahab went back to the palace and told Jezebel what had happened and she declared that she would have Elijah killed before the day was over. Strangely, after such evidence of God’s strength and Elijah’s courage, he was so frightened that he ran from the land, into the desert and sat down beside the stream of water to pray. When he prayed it was for God to go ahead and take his life. It makes no sense to us. If he wanted to die, why not just stay and let Jezebel take his life. But God gives him rest, feeds him and has an angel to care for him. Then Elijah arose to go to the Mountain of God where Moses had received the Law. It was a 40 day trip. On the mountain, he entered a cave and stayed there. God spoke to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” He said, “I have been very jealous for the Lord, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.” God told him to go out and stand on the mount before the Lord. “Behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire, and after the fire the sound of a low whisper.”
Elijah heard the whisper of God and wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. The Lord again asked, “What are you doing here Elijah?” He started his same speech again about how he was the only one left for the Lord. God told him to return to Israel. He gave him a new mission and Elijah served until he was taken up in a chariot of fire into glory.
God works in the world in mysterious ways that we will never understand nor even recognize much of the time. I truly wonder what God is doing and what we would see if God opened our eyes to see what all his hand is in today. I wonder how often his angels are moving and changing things in all parts of the world. I wonder if, when we get to heaven, God will show us what all He was doing in our own time and in days past or future. Like Job, we want answers, but couldn’t handle most of the answers if we had them.
God, open our eyes to know that you are always at work and we won’t ever, on this side, understand all you are doing. but God help us to hear the gentle whisper of your voice today and every day. Show us the mission you call us to even in a broken and hurting world. God help us to be ready to go and serve wherever you call today and every day. Through Jesus we pray, Amen.