Today’s Text and Thought of Encouragement:
“Yet, O Lord, You are our Father;
We are the clay, and You our
Potter and we all are the work
Of Your hand.”
Isaiah 64: 8
“Have Thine own way, Lord!
Have Thine own way!
Thou art the Potter; I am the clay,
Mold me and make me after Thy will
While I am waiting, yielded and still.
Have Thine own way, Lord!
Have Thine own way!
Wounded and weary, Help me, I pray!
Power – all power – surely is Thine!
Touch me and heal me, Savior divine.”
Today’s Study Text:
“At the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, Elijah the prophet came near and said, ‘O Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that You are God in Israel and that I am Your servant and that I have done all these things at Your word. Hear me, O Lord, hear me, that this people may know that You, the Lord, are God, and have turned their hearts back to You.’”
1 Kings 18: 36-37
“Our God Is Holy”
“God’s holiness is His separateness from all that smacks of evil.”
If I had been Elijah, how do I think I would have offered my prayer in response to what had been the antics of the prophets of Baal earlier in the day?
What would I define as the key “essential” found in Elijah’s prayer as it relates to the characteristics found in my heavenly Father?
“There is danger of forgetting that the Bible reveals, not first the love of God, but the intense, blazing holiness of God, with His love as the center of that holine"
“A true love of God must begin with a delight in His holiness.”
Several days ago I was talking with a friend who confided that there were days in her life when things just seemed to fall into place, exactly as they should. Then she admitted that there were other days she found quite the opposite happening. Nothing worked right. Maybe you can relate to her assessment. I know I can!
What’s more, today’s devotional ended up being one of those times where I had to rewrite my thoughts, including the title and replace many of the quotes, four different times. Why? Because today’s study text contains a prayer I simply didn’t understand, at first.
Has this ever happened to you when you were studying the Bible or reading a certain text hoping to find a new and inspiring thought which would encourage you on your spiritual journey? However, for some unknown reason, you just couldn’t get to the heart of the passage. Something about the verse seemed to baffle you. Well, this is how I felt at first about 1 Kings 18: 36 and 37 which is the prayer Elijah offered to God on Mount Carmel.
As a point of comparison, I read several other well-known prayers in the Bible. I read again Hannah’s prayer to God, found in 1 Samuel 2: 1-10. This is a lengthy prayer by a woman in Scripture who was pouring out her heart in gratitude for the gift of her son, Samuel. A heartfelt prayer of thankfulness for an answered prayer. Elijah could have responded on Mount Carmel with an outpouring of gratefulness for God had already assured him that rain was on the way. But his prayer did not have as its primary focus, gratitude.
I then turned to 1 Kings 8: 23-53, the prayer of dedication which King Solomon offered at the completion of the building of the Temple in Jerusalem. This prayer has a direct application to the situation Israel found itself in at the time of Elijah. In 1 Kings 8: 35-37, Solomon made this petition of God:
“When heaven is shut up and no rain falls because they have sinned against You, if they pray toward this place and confess Your name and turn from their sin when You afflict them, then hear in heaven and forgive the sin of Your servants, Your people Israel, when You teach them the good way in which they should walk. And give rain upon Your land which You have given to Your people as an inheritance.”
This certainly appears to be a plea, given ahead of time, for God to forgive Israel’s waywardness in times of apostasy if His children repent. But as I read Elijah’s words, while he speaks of the hearts of the people being “returned” to God, as I read the passage, I found that it was God’s gracious kindness which “turned” Israel’s hearts back again, or as the Hebrew states, surrounded or bordered or revolved. In other words, by turning back to God, Israel’s focus “revolved” around God. They weren’t placing their attention on things of this world. Eternal values now became their core.
And this got me to thinking about the words of Elijah in his prayer to God. As I studied this cry to God, I began by looking at the context in which these words were spoken.
First, I looked at the specific day which had almost been entirely taken up by the false prophets of a false god trying with all their might to get their phony god to respond to them. These prophets wanted a god, quite frankly, that you could, if you wished, click your heels together and he would automatically do your bidding. Guess what? Sometimes I want a god who does the same for me. I want a god who will do what I want, when I want. Thankfully, my Creator, the God of heaven and earth, has as His goal for your life and mine, an eternity spent in the joyous presence of our Father and His Son along with the realm of heavenly beings. What a tragedy to miss out on the glory of heaven all because of my impatient desire to “have it all” right now down here on earth. It was this revelation about what is at the center of our Father in heaven that led me to look at a special word.
It was the definition of the word “focus” which caused me to re-evaluate my first, second, third and fourth thoughts regarding Elijah’s prayer. For as I prayerfully concluded, this is a prayer which is about the focus of our lives and how our focus relates to the core value that is at the center of our heavenly Father’s being. As the great theologian Oswald Chambers correctly indentifies, the “intense, blazing holiness of God” is central to what our Father is about.
Least we get some false notion that holiness reflects some somber, gloomy, sentiment that makes us intolerable to be around, J. I. Packer correctly points out “God promises that if we pursue holiness, happiness will come.” Thus, rather than making us boring, holier-than-thou individuals, the joy of the Lord and a peace that passeth understanding will be the result of a holy life or a whole and complete life.
Now let’s take a moment to compare the life promised by a holy life and the behavior we find was reflective of the false prophets of the false god Baal. And we must remember, while the Phoenicians and many of the Canaanites followed Baal, even God’s own children had been drawn into the net of Baal-worship, a lust-filled sensual religion which focused on human feelings and desires. As I thought about the “me-now” focus of Baal’s alluring worship, I realized how careful I needed to be when throwing stones at others for too frequently my own worship has been in a glass house. A house designed to meet my greedy desires rather than focus on God’s call to unselfish living. A house whose foundation may have incorporated a materialistic view of my wants rather than putting God’s call to sacrificial living first. A house that had walls erected which contained my worldly ambitions rather than a response to the singular call to give my heavenly Father an undivided heart.
Yes, how easy it is for me to think I couldn’t bow down and worship Baal when in fact it is exactly what I’ve done more times than I’d like to admit.
It was with the knowledge that Baal-worship can trap anyone that God’s servant Elijah, came before God, his Father in heaven, with the reminder of God’s calling through the lineage of Abraham, Isaac and Israel (and just don’t forget, this was the new name our loving Father gave to Jacob, the supplanter, who had lied in order to obtain the birthright. What a wonderful example of God’s forgiveness!)
Elijah then told God, “You are still our God. You are the only God of Israel.” While Elijah also identified the fact that he was God’s servant, he reminded God that all he had done was at God’s request. But it is at this point that I find Elijah, the pleading suppliant, approaching a God of holiness with this unforgettable cry, “Hear me, O Lord, hear me.” And I asked myself this very critical question: “How do I come to a God whose holiness is beyond anything I can imagine?” My answer: Just as Elijah did. For at the close of this prayer, we are reminded that even a “desire” to return to God is an impulse He places in our heart. Even in the hearts of the rebellious people of Israel. It was their Father, their Creator whose intense longing was that “not any should perish.”
In Revelation 4: 8-11, there is a passage of Scripture which served as the inspiration of Reginald Heber’s beloved hymn, “Holy, Holy, Holy.” In the third verse, Heber wrote, “Holy, holy, holy! Though darkness hide Thee, though the eye of man Thy great glory may not see; only Thou art holy; there is none beside Thee, perfect in power, in love, and purity.”
While we may not, like Israel of old, witness the unadulterated visage of our holy Father, we can call out, like Elijah, with undivided hearts, “O Lord, hear me,” and we can know that He will answer our cry. In the words of John Chrysostom, “O Lord, I being a human being, have sinned; You being God forgive me in Your loving-kindness for You know the weakness of my soul. O Lord, send down Your grace to help me, that I may glorify Your holy name. O Lord, may You will be fulfilled in me…for You are blessed forevermore. Amen.”
“Holiness is…our destiny. It is God’s work in us…what a blessing that is.”
“O Lord, the Lord whose ways are right, keep us in Thy mercy from lip-service and empty forms; from having a name that we live, but being dead.
Help us to worship Thee by righteous deeds and lives of holiness; that our prayer also may be set forth in Thy sight as the incense, and the lifting up of our hands be as an evening sacrifice.”
Dorothy Valcárcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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