Devotion for Saturday, May 16, 2020
From: Wendy Beard
One of the things that I love about studying God’s Word is that I can read the same passage more than once, and each time, something different draws my attention. Sometimes, the capacity of the Holy Spirit to do that can literally take my breath away. This week, I had one of those moments.
In 1 Peter 1:3-9, it says:
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith – more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire – may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”
Verse 3 states that we are born to a living hope. This hope is not a wishful thinking such as hoping you might get a good grade on a test, maybe you will get that new job or that your offer on your dream house might be accepted. This living hope is a firm conviction, a confidence that God will do what He says not because we are who we are but because He is a good God who is unchanging and will do what He promises.
When I think of that depth of confidence, I recall the story in 1 Kings 18:20-40 about Elijah and the prophets of Baal.
“So Ahab sent to all the people of Israel and gathered the prophets together at Mount Carmel. And Elijah came near to all the people and said, ‘How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.’ And the people did not answer him a word. Then Elijah said to the people, ‘I, even I only, am left a prophet of the Lord, but Baal’s prophets are 450 men. Let two bulls be given to us, and let them choose one bull for themselves and cut it in pieces and lay it on the wood, but put no fire to it. And I will prepare the other bull and lay it on the wood and put no fire to it. And you call upon the name of your god, and I will call upon the name of the Lord, and the God who answers by fire, he is God.’ And all the people answered, ‘It is well spoken.’ Then Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, ‘Choose for yourselves one bull and prepare it first, for you are many, and call upon the name of your god, but put no fire to it.’ And they took the bull that was given them, and they prepared it and called upon the name of Baal from morning until noon, saying, ‘O Baal, answer us!’ But there was no voice, and no one answered. And they limped around the altar that they had made. And at noon Elijah mocked them, saying, ‘Cry aloud, for he is a god. Either he is musing, or he is relieving himself, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened.’ And they cried aloud and cut themselves after their custom with swords and lances, until the blood gushed out upon them. And as midday passed, they raved on until the time of the offering of the oblation, but there was no voice. No one answered; no one paid attention.
“Then Elijah said to all the people, ‘Come near to me.’ And all the people came near to him. And he repaired the altar of the Lord that had been thrown down. Elijah took twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, to whom the word of the Lord came, saying, ‘Israel shall be your name,’ and with the stones he built an altar in the name of the Lord. And he made a trench about the altar, as great as would contain two seahs of seed. And he put the wood in order and cut the bull in pieces and laid it on the wood. And he said, ‘Fill four jars with water and pour it on the burnt offering and on the wood.’ And he said, ‘Do it a second time.’ And they did it a second time. And he said, ‘Do it a third time.’ And they did it a third time. And the water ran around the altar and filled the trench also with water.
“And at the time of the offering of the oblation, Elijah the prophet came near and said, ‘O Lord, 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. Answer me, O Lord, answer me, that this people may know that you, O Lord, are God, and that you have turned their hearts back.’ Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, ‘The Lord, he is God; the Lord, he is God.’ And Elijah said to them, ‘Seize the prophets of Baal; let not one of them escape.’ And they seized them. And Elijah brought them down to the brook Kishon and slaughtered them there.”
The 450 prophets of Baal could not even get their gods to bring one tiny spark to the altar that they had made for their bull. Though they continuously called upon their gods and circled the altar, and even went so far as to cut themselves, which was their custom, still there was no fire.
And then Elijah stepped up. He very intentionally proceeded to rebuild the altar of the Lord, dug a trench around it, piled the wood on top and then the prepared bull. After the offering was prepared, he called the people to pour water over the whole thing three times. Then Elijah called on the name of the Lord, and what happened… fire fell and consumed everything that was there, including the stones and the water that still remained in the trench that had been dug around the altar!
The expectation, or maybe a better word is anticipation, that Elijah had that God would do a miraculous work is extraordinary! But where does that depth of conviction come from? It comes from knowing God’s Word, this great book of history with a record of all the miraculous things God has done. And it comes from knowing who God is… His attributes, His promises, the depth of His love for us. By the salvation offered to us through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we also we have the ability that those in the Old Testament did not to regularly enter the presence of God through prayer and to get to know Him and understand who He is through that as well. But do we have the confidence that Elijah had that our God can and will do great things?
That is the hope that is talked about in the beginning of 1 Peter. God has already done the work to give us this hope. The question is, do we have the faith to receive it, to embrace it, for ourselves? May all glory, honor and praise be to the God who gives us this living hope!