One of the most loving things God can do for us as individuals is show us and remind us that we are not irreplaceable. I realize this might sound odd to some, but it is one of the truest evidences of love, when God chooses to keep us humble, show us our impotence and frequently so.
I have preached many a sermon on the prophet Elijah. His courage, and boldness in the face of overwhelming odds, his experiences with God, and his obedience, makes him and his life a treasure trove of practical teaching for believers at all levels of spiritual maturity. Yes, Elijah was a rare man, but he was a man.
One of the greatest attributes of the Bible, and consequently one of the most overlooked attributes of the Bible, is that it reveals the humanity of those whom God called into ministry and used in powerful ways. The Bible is not one of those books where all the lead characters are flawless, ever valiant, perfect and brave in every way, but it is an honest portrayal of these men and women who lived so long ago, yet had many of the same shortcomings and trials as we do in our present day. There is no spin, no one tried to cover up the fact that Peter denied Jesus three times, no one attempted to whitewash the fact that David sinned, or that Thomas doubted the reality of Jesus until he was allowed to feel the wounds in Christ’s hands and side.
When we read the Word, we do not read of perfect men, we do not read of superhuman men, we read of men very much like ourselves whose faith and obedience carried them far beyond their abilities.
There is no denying that Elijah was a man and a prophet of God, there is no denying that God did great and mighty works through him, yet even Elijah was flawed.
After having seen the fire of God descend upon the alter, after having slain the prophets of Baal, after having prophesied the coming rain, and outrunning Ahab’s chariot on foot, Elijah finds himself fleeing from before Jezebel.
Apparently Jezebel was not a very forgiving woman, and even to this day her name lives in infamy. Upon hearing that all the prophets of Baal had been executed by the hand of Elijah, Jezebel sent a message to him, informing him in so many words that he too would be dead by that time the next day.
Now here was Elijah, the great and mighty man of God fleeing from before the presence of Jezebel. The Word tells us that first he ran to Beersheba, and after leaving his servant there, went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a broom tree.
It is here that Elijah does something that I’ve always found very odd, even baffling. As he sat under that broom tree, Elijah prayed that he might die saying, ‘It is enough! Now, Lord, take my life, for I am no better than my fathers!’
This prayer is troubling for one reason in particular. If Elijah really wanted to die, why did he flee? If Elijah really wanted to die, why didn’t he just sit at home and wait for Jezebel to come and do as she had threatened?
Because I believe Elijah thought in his heart that he was irreplaceable. He fled because he thought to himself, ‘if Jezebel kills me, who will stand for the truth; If Jezebel kills me, who will confront the prophets of Baal?’
Why would I come to this conclusion? Because of a very telling encounter that Elijah had with God some time after his time under the broom tree. Between Elijah asking God to take his life, and the conversation I refer to, there is a window of about forty days and forty nights. During this time, Elijah’s strength was sustained by one meal that the angel of the Lord had brought him, and this too is a fascinating and practical teaching, but for another time.
For forty days Elijah journeyed until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God. There he went into a cave and spent the night, and behold the word of the Lord came to him, and said, “What are you doing here Elijah?”
1 Kings 19:10, “So he said, ‘I have been very zealous for the Lord God of hosts; for the children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. I alone am left; and they seek to take my life.”
So here he was, the man of God, bemoaning his fate, and having self-pity. He also accentuates the fact that he is the only one that is left of those who were zealous for the Lord God, as the other prophets were killed with the sword.
“If I don’t fight, if I don’t rebuke, if I don’t warn, then who will? I’m the only one left, all the others have been felled by the sword, I’m irreplaceable, and that is why I had to run from Jezebel, because if she killed me, there would be no one left.”
Here is where God open’s Elijah’s eyes, here is where I believe that for the first time he realizes he is not the last man standing, nor is he irreplaceable.
1 Kings 18:18, “Yet I have reserved seven thousand in Israel, all whose knees have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.”
One might think that this is directed at pastors, evangelists, or ministry leaders exclusively, but the truth is that anyone can fall into this dangerous mindset of thinking themselves irreplaceable.
“No one can lead worship the way I do, no one can vacuum the church the way I do, no one can keep the books the way I do, what would this fellowship be without me?”
Some have even allowed themselves to be so blinded by their own self-importance that they think because they’re so necessary to the work of God, even if they sin God will overlook it because they’re irreplaceable. If history has taught us anything, it’s that no one is irreplaceable. Servants come, and return to the earth from which they came, but the work of God goes on. Just when we think we’re the only ones left, just when we think there is no one else who will stand, God opens our eyes to the reality that there are seven thousand others who have not defiled themselves.
If God has called you to serve in any capacity, serve faithfully, serve honorably, serve with dedication, serve with passion, but always remember that it is God working through you, and as such you must guard your heart from sin, and keep yourself in His will.
God is not impressed by the size of our church, or the size of our ministry, He is not impressed with how well we speak or how well we write. God simply expects to be obeyed! When He said be holy for I am holy, he meant it, and He will use someone with less natural talent and ability to do His work and bring glory to His name who is walking in holiness, than someone who is gifted in the eyes of the world but has chosen the way of compromise.
With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.