“How long will you go limping with two different opinions?”
That’s the question the prophet Elijah asks of the Israelites, who had been very shaky in their devotion to their God Yahweh. Again and again, they strayed and followed other gods, particularly Baal, a Canaanite storm god. Elijah is as fed up with the vacillating faith of the Israelites as he is with the pride of the prophets of Baal. He forces a confrontation. Who will win: Baal or Yahweh?
That’s the story in our scripture from the first Book of Kings this Sunday – one of the most exciting in the Bible. (It is also immortalized in Mendelssohn’s stirring oratorio Elijah.) We know whose power wins in the end!
But Elijah’s question is really about us humans: how long will we go limping – vacillating – in our devotion to God? How long will we be tempted to follow other gods – money, power, prestige? How long will we make our families, or our jobs, or our self-comfort into our real god?
The image of “limping” suggests how our divided loyalties can hamper our progress in life…our walk with our true God. We cannot find true integrity and congruence in our lives until we work this out. Most of us do a lot of limping – a lot of hedging our bets, maintaining our comforts, and hoarding our wealth – even as we claim to walk with Jesus. I know I do. We need continual repentance, healing, and renewal.
But the sun of righteousness does shine through us. We can rise to the occasion: do great acts of courage and deeds of mercy; make sacrificial, generous gifts; stand up for our weak and exploited neighbors.
When we do these things, we know how it feels to stand tall and walk, even run…our limp disappears! We know what it means to follow Jesus. It’s a great feeling! JBM