From the Fringes: Growing in God

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Caves near the Dead Sea

Pastor Catherine Toyin Labinjo brought the message this week, and used her own life and experiences to make some excellent comparisons to not only biblical principles, but of our own lives.

She began by noting that she is a bit of an introvert, and one who in her youth was competent, but often overlooked.  She was not a shining star, but a good steady worker. She drew the parallel with young David. Not dad’s first choice in showing off his sons to the prophet. David was not a man with great outward stature, but he did have a heart for God.

David manifested this later when he went to visit his older brothers at the Philistine front. He was no trained soldier, but he was a competent shepherd who tended, and protected, his father’ flocks.  When the army of Israel cowered in the face of the giant, David rose to the occasion. He had slain a lion, and he had slain a bear, not with full confidence in the God he served he would take care of a Goliath as well.

Sister Catherine showed that we need not be the model prayer warrior, worship leader, or lesson giver. Those on the fringes, like David with his flocks, can in our quiet ways develop in or relationship with the Lord, and be able to step up to the challenges that rise, even those that have wearied “the A team.”

The confidence of David was not arrogance of his own abilities, however.  It was rooted in his trust in God. “If God be for us, who can stand against us?” Elijah had a similar confidence.

in 1 Kings 18:19 he stands up to the false prophets of the kingdom. It reads,

“Now summon the people from all over Israel to meet me on Mount Carmel. And bring the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal and the four hundred prophets of Asherah, who eat at Jezebel’s table.”

He was preparing for a show down.  His adversaries numbering 850, and he with a team of 2: himself and God!  Verses 20 and following tell us,

 So Ahab sent word throughout all Israel and assembled the prophets on Mount Carmel. Elijah went before the people and said, “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.” But the people said nothing. Then Elijah said to them, “I am the only one of the Lord’s prophets left, but Baal has four hundred and fifty prophets. Get two bulls for us. Let Baal’s prophets choose one for themselves, and let them cut it into pieces and put it on the wood but not set fire to it. I will prepare the other bull and put it on the wood but not set fire to it. Then you call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the Lord. The god who answers by fire—he is God.” Then all the people said, “What you say is good.” Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, “Choose one of the bulls and prepare it first, since there are so many of you. Call on the name of your god, but do not light the fire.”  So they took the bull given them and prepared it. Then they called on the name of Baal from morning till noon. “Baal, answer us!” they shouted. But there was no response; no one answered. And they danced around the altar they had made. 

The challenge was simple:  two bulls, two altars, and no earthly fire. Who’s offering will be consumed by flame? “Let the best god win.” The priests of Ball have the first go, and not with any success.  After hours of trying, Elijah begins to mock them,

At noon Elijah began to taunt them. “Shout louder!” he said. “Surely he is a god! Perhaps he is deep in thought, or busy, or traveling. Maybe he is sleeping and must be awakened.”  So they shouted louder and slashed themselves with swords and spears, as was their custom, until their blood flowed. Midday passed, and they continued their frantic prophesying until the time for the evening sacrifice. But there was no response, no one answered, no one paid attention. 

It was now Elijah’s turn,

Then Elijah said to all the people, “Come here to me.” They came to him, and he repaired the altar of the Lord, which had been torn down.  Elijah took twelve stones, one for each of the tribes descended from Jacob, to whom the word of the Lord had come, saying, “Your name shall be Israel.” With the stones he built an altar in the name of the Lord, and he dug a trench around it large enough to hold two seahs of seed.  He arranged the wood, cut the bull into pieces and laid it on the wood.

Then to increase the witness of the power of God (and to further show the lack of Baal’s power),

Then he said to them, “Fill four large jars with water and pour it on the offering and on the wood.”  “Do it again,” he said, and they did it again. “Do it a third time,” he ordered, and they did it the third time.  The water ran down around the altar and even filled the trench. At the time of sacrifice, the prophet Elijah stepped forward and prayed: “Lord, the 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 these things at your command. Answer me, Lord, answer me, so these people will know that you, Lord, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.”  Then the fire of the Lord fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench.When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, “The Lord—he is God! The Lord—he is God!”

But even with this great witness of God’s power, when Jezebel threatens Elijah runs an hides in a cave.  Essentially he is running back to the fringes.  Seemingly forgotten is the confidence in the power of God that was so recently demonstrated.  How like us that seems.  Sister Catherine challenged us with this point.  When we get engaged in making the “stepping up” to God’s call, we are often attacked.  We then recoil and seek to return to the wings away from anything that might leave us exposed.

But God challenged Elijah as well, and called from his cave. He was hesitant, he at first only moves to the entrance, only to be challenged again.  How about us? Do we need to be reminded of the relationship we built with God in the first place?

He has brought us from the fringes, and stands with us, as we are people for a heart for Him. That relationship is more than sufficient to keep us from the caves (no matter how appealing they may seem).

Let us be like David, and step up to the challenge.


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