Tuesday, August 23, 2005

If the Lord is God, then Follow Him!

We need—today more than ever—men like the Prophet Elijah. He was so zealous and uncompromising in his faith and dedication to the true God, and to the fulfillment of his mission. One of my favorite stories about him is the confrontation with the prophets of Baal (1Kings 18:19-40).

The people of Israel were being influenced by the false gods of the pagans, and Elijah saw that it was time for a showdown. Either YHWH (hereafter, “the Lord”) was God or Baal was; it couldn’t be both. Elijah chided the people: “How long will you go limping with two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal, then follow him.” So he proposed a contest: the prophets of Baal would prepare a sacrifice, and so would Elijah. Whoever’s deity would answer with fire from heaven would prove to be the true God. Fair enough, they said, and set to preparing their sacrifice.

They called on their god for hours, crying and raving and cutting themselves. No answer. Elijah taunted them: “Cry aloud, for he is a god; either he is musing, or he has gone aside (a euphemism for “relieving himself”), or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened!” So the prophets of the false god failed.

Now it was Elijah’s turn. He prepared the sacrifice, and decided to enhance the expected miracle. He had water poured all over the sacrifice. He was as confident as Mighty Casey at bat, but since he trusted in God and not in himself, he couldn’t strike out. “Do it again,” he said, and more water soaked the sacrifice. “Do it a third time,” and they did. Now he was ready. He cried out: “O Lord…let it be known this day that you are God…and that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your word. Answer me, O Lord, answer me, that this people may know that You, O Lord, are God…” At once the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the sacrifice and even the water in the trench around the altar. “And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces, crying: The Lord is God! The Lord is God!”

There ought to be a movie about him. What a powerful and dramatic scene! I’d like to see this happen in our own day, that all unbelievers and followers of false gods would fall on their faces, confessing the true God. But God has his own ways of revealing Himself, and the truth about Himself. People are so cynical and jaded today, anyway, that if they witnessed such a miracle, they probably would say that it was a computer-generated special effect.

We have God’s revelation in the Scriptures and the Church, the testimonies of saints and martyrs. The history of the Church abounds in miracles. So we know that the Lord is God. Why do we sometimes sit on the fence? Why do we entertain doubts, reserve a “plan B,” or behave like the pagans? If the Lord is God, then follow Him! When the Lord prepares to return to judge the living and the dead, there will be plenty of drama and earth-shaking events—and at that point you may wish you hadn’t wanted something dramatic to convince you! Now is the time to express our fidelity in the silence of heartfelt prayer, in the humble and ordinary following of the crucified carpenter of Nazareth.

Our fathers in the faith knew it; their wisdom stands undiminished and their testimony is true: the Lord is God. Follow Him, then, and be vindicated in the face of the ravings of today's false prophets and contrary voices. You may not see fire fall now, but you’ll be at the right hand of his glory when He comes.