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Monday, February 18, 2013

Stand Firm




1 Kings 19 and Ephesians 6

            Stand firm said Paul to the church at Ephesus (Ephesians 6). Stand is what Moses did when he stood before the Lord on Mount Sinai (Exodus 33:21). Stand strong is what Elijah did in the face of death by King Ahab and Queen Jezebel (1 Kings 19). Stand firm is what Elijah did as he stood before Yahweh at Mount Sinai/Horeb. 
In reading 1 Kings 19, we find Elijah busy at work for Yahweh. He called upon his God, Yahweh, to accept his sacrifice on the altar and show His power after the priests of Baal showed their god’s lack of power. Baal was a non-god. He was not able to be strong for his followers because he was not God. Yahweh, on the other hand, is mighty and real. He is God. God showed Himself as He  consumed the large sacrifice Elijah prepared for Him and as He consumed the gallons of liquid Elijah poured around the sacrifice and altar. The fire consumed the area around the altar; nothing remained, not even liquid. Queen Jezebel roared in outrage that an unimportant human showed her god to be fake and made it visible that not only was Baal not a god, but that she, as queen, was not right to demand the citizens worship this non-god. She abhorred the priests of Yahweh. Jezebel ordered them killed. Her soldiers killed every priest of Yahweh except one hundred and one. One hundred hid in caves and Elijah ran for his life. Elijah stood firm for the Lord.
When we next read of Elijah, he has run from Damascus in Syria to Beersheba in Judah. He ran ninety miles and then lay under a juniper tree, exhausted in body, mind, and spirit. Elijah used up his mental and spiritual strength to stand for the Lord and run for his life. As he lay sleeping under the tree, an angel of the Lord brought food and woke him to eat and drink. Elijah then went back to sleep. A second time, an angel woke Elijah to eat and drink. The angel then told him he had far to go and needed his strength. God understood Elijah’s exhaustion due to his obedience to Him and his human impulse to preserve his life by running from danger. Elijah stood strong for the Lord. He was the Lord’s man and Yahweh took care of him by providing rest, food, and drink. God gave to Elijah what he needed because of the energy he had used to get there. God then provided what Elijah needed because of what he was going to use to get to Mount Horeb 220 miles away. Elijah learned from his studies God met with His chosen one, Moses, on this mountain and so he went there in search of peace that comes from knowing  God. By going to Mount Horeb, Elijah showed his continued faith in Yahweh. He learned about Yahweh of old and His provision and protection. He wanted to meet Yahweh of his own experience again; the One who continued to give peace that comes from knowing He is God, the One of whom no other can thwart His will. 
Elijah arrived at Mt. Horeb and the Word of the Lord asked him what he was doing there (vs. 9). Elijah told his story; he was zealous for the Lord, every prophet of God had been killed, and he was running for his life. The Word told him to go up the mountain. Elijah climbed and went into a cave on the mountain. A strong wind blew, an earthquake erupted, and fire rained down, but God was not in any of these. A “sound of a gentle blowing” (vs. 12, NASB) then occurred and Elijah covered his face with his cloak and went to the entrance of the cave. There Yahweh asked him again, “What are you doing here Elijah?” (vs. 13, NASB). Elijah knew he needed God’s power to remain standing firm and strong for Him. Yahweh showed His power through the strong wind, earthquake, and fire. He showed He could move mountains, break rocks, and control the winds. Elijah experienced God’s power firsthand. He had just seen it on Mount Carmel. There was no doubt Yahweh was powerful. What Elijah needed is what God provided, a gentle wind from which a small voice came. Elijah needed peace that comes from the Lord. Elijah needed the touch of God for himself this time, after the power He displayed for the worshippers of Baal. God gave him the chance to speak his need to Him again. The peace of God soothed Elijah’s soul here. Yahweh’s next statements showed Elijah that God was making a way for him. God told Elijah to anoint Elisha to be prophet in his place. God also told Elijah to anoint two new kings to replace the corrupt men who reigned at the time (vs. 15-16). God met his heart, spiritual, and human needs of mind and body. God said He would provide new kings over Israel and Judah and a new prophet in the place of Elijah. We do not read of Elijah speaking after this. We see him walking from Horeb to Damascus and on the way throwing his mantle upon Elisha. God was providing an easier life for Elijah with the appointment of Elisha. He was also providing judgment over Ahab by replacing him as king of Israel. Elijah received peace through God’s presence, words, and works. Elijah continued to stand for the Lord by going forth and following these commands. 
As we look at the stance of Elijah for and before God, we recall Paul writing to the Ephesians. Paul told them in Ephesians 6 to put on the whole armor of God and stand firm. This armor is not an offensive armor but a protective, defensive armor. Paul said they were to “stand firm.” The Ephesians were to remember the truth they had learned about Yahweh. They were to shield their hearts and minds from the flaming arrows of the evil one and deceiver. The church at Ephesus were to plant their feet deep and strong in the Word, in the gospel of peace, which Paul and others had taught them. Paul told them they are not just to stand passively, but to actively resist the evil ones. Notice he did not say to fight them. There is no need to fight them. Jesus defeated them already. God is not equal in power to evil; He is greater than all powers. Furthermore, He defeated death and Satan on Easter morning. We do not need to fight evil; that fight is finished. Our job is to resist it. Evil will try to deceive, trick, and put us into so much chaos we are tired and prone to doubting. That is why we have the sword of truth and the breastplate of righteousness. That righteousness comes from God through the Son. Through His sacrifice on the cross, Jesus made us sin free; He made us clean and righteous. Evil would love to trip us up, make us succumb to temptation, make us feel unworthy, and make us doubt we can be in God’s army any longer. That would be one less person evil would have to worry waging the war for God and His children. We are to stand firm, actively resisting the arrows and darts of the evil ones for ourselves and for the others for whom Jesus died. We are to stand firm in our faith and for others so they will come to experience God’s saving grace, become God’s children, and put on His armor. Satan knows he cannot pierce the armor. Your life is safe in God’s hands forever. Satan desires to trip you and make you fall and doubt so others will not hear of or see God’s love for them.
Elijah had put on the armor of God. He stood in His strength knowing the might and truth of God; He is Yahweh. There is no other God. Elijah stood firm, but he needed support after his strong standing for Him. He needed rest, recuperation, and re-affirmation of God’s care for him. Elijah had been zealous, but he was not finished standing strong and firm with and for the Lord. We learn God accounted him as worthy not to ever “taste death”; He took him into His hands and His presence without ever Elijah ever “tasting of death,” as the Bible says in 2 Kings 2:11-12. We do not know much about Elijah before his coming on the scene abruptly and strongly for the Lord in front of King Ahab and with the pronouncement of a drought. We do know how strong Elijah was for God in the last years of his life on earth. We learn of God’s care for him during and after his service for the Lord. Elijah was a Tishbite from Gilead, the “hill of testimony.” Elijah stood firm. 
Can this be said of us? Have you stood firm for God? Not, have you fought evil for God but have you fought for God to show His purposes and love to others, to protect others and yourself in the strength of God’s truth and righteousness? To stand firm, God must clothe you in His armor, which comes from truly knowing Him, loving Him, and becoming more like Him. Satan wants to deceive you and trip you, but the more you study the Word and recognize, acknowledge, and trust God, the more His Spirit makes you strong so you can stand firm against the fiery arrows and darts of evil. Can someone say that you stood firm?