1 Kings 18:1–2 (NIV)
After a long time, in the third year, the word of the Lord came to Elijah: “Go and present yourself to Ahab, and I will send rain on the land.” So Elijah went to present himself to Ahab.
ME: THIS IS THE WAY—
YOU: FROM GLORY TO GLORY!
It is so tempting and easy to skim the biblical text for biblical principles. I call it the extraction approach. Here on the Daily Text we are going for the immersion approach. It requires slowing down, taking in the views, understanding the context, delving into the characters—in short, realizing this story is for us but it is not about us. We must learn this way of decentered reading (and decentering ourselves in everything else for that matter). This is the way . . . (I can’t hear you) . . . yes, this is the way—from glory to glory. It may strike you as odd, but the encounter with transcendent glory requires deep immersion in the human experience in all its inglorious condition.
This is why we need to understand Ahab. It is just not enough to have a “Baal bad—God good,” level of analysis here. Why is Baal bad? Why was Ahab wicked? Might we actually have more in common with Ahab than we do with Elijah? Let’s see. Here’s Ahab’s bio sketch.
In the thirty-eighth year of Asa king of Judah, Ahab son of Omri became king of Israel, and he reigned in Samaria over Israel twenty-two years. Ahab son of Omri did more evil in the eyes of the Lord than any of those before him. He not only considered it trivial to commit the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, but he also married Jezebel daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians, and began to serve Baal and worship him. He set up an altar for Baal in the temple of Baal that he built in Samaria. Ahab also made an Asherah pole and did more to arouse the anger of the Lord, the God of Israel, than did all the kings of Israel before him. (1 Kings 16:29–33)
Let’s remember, people don’t worship other gods because they want to be wicked or do wickedness. No, they put their trust in other gods because they want their life to work. They believe in what they are doing and they think it is the best thing for them and others. This is why the first commandment is,
“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. “You shall have no other gods besides me. (Exodus 20:2–3)
This is the first commandment not because it is the most important commandment but because it is the most foundational commandment. The commandments, like the beatitudes, contain an intrinsic inner architecture laden with the intricate wisdom of God. I digress. The most fundamental, foundational commandment on which all of our lives hang in the balance is this one. The God of heaven and earth is the God of freedom. Everything else is slavery.
Why is this? Well, let’s be clear. To worship other gods does not mean to go to their church service and sing songs to them. No, it means to put your trust in them or to make them one of your sources of security. And now we are getting to the root of the problem.
The issue is security.
The problem, the real human problem is not wickedness or even sin. It is insecurity. Human beings, including you and me (maybe especially concerning you and me), are fundamentally insecure at the core of our being. The fall of humankind was not driven by the wicked, malicious hearts and minds of Adam and Eve. No, they were not secure in their core identity as the image bearers of God. They wanted instead to be like God; to be their own gods.
In short, the fall of the human race was not first and foremost a moral fall but a trust fail—it has led to all manner of sin, moral failure, and catastrophic wickedness. Bottom line: they did not trust God’s Word. They chose to put their trust in something other than God, some other source of security and the outcome was to separate themselves from God. When you separate yourself from God you separate yourself from his total security and loving provision (which is life in his presence, i.e., Eden), and you enter the wilderness of scarcity where security becomes a business; the place we willingly put our trust in anything and everything under the sun that promises to give us security (and all the schemes to get it), including misusing the name of God, stealing, coveting the goods of others, murder (and on a mass scale war). Am I oversimplifying? Yes, but you see the point.
The nature of idolatry is not that you willfully turn away from the true and living God. It is that you add another source of security to your life. Ahab believed in God, but he had a pretty comprehensive backup plan. It started with him marrying the daughter of the king of another nation. Why? National security, of course. This led to him worshiping the gods of the other nation (i.e., Baal and Asherah). Why? Personal security and prosperity, of course. Baal was the god of fertility and flourishing, which at its core was a wicked kind of sex cult complete with temple prostitutes. Ahab didn’t get rid of the worship of God; no, he just brought in a host of other gods. None of this was in the interest of disobeying God and the first commandment. It was in the pursuit of security and flourishing as a nation. When you fling wide the door of your heart or your nation to a so-called god who promises security, you become the slave to that false god and you create systems that enslave others and you introduce all manner of wickedness and evil into the land.
Okay, I’m going long today. Elijah was Israel’s most wanted because he, as the agent of the living God, threatened to bring down this entire system from which a relatively few people were making bank while many others were gathering sticks. That’s a pretty insecure system isn’t it? An obscure man living in hiding with a widow at the margins of a country could bring the whole thing crashing down with a Word from God?
Now, for something completely different (or not). One of the most fascinating, ironic, and mind-blowing things I find about the United States of America is our currency (which seems to be rapidly disappearing from our daily lives). Every bill of every denomination, every coin of every value, right down to the last penny is boldly inscribed with these four words:
“In God we trust.”
Insert mind-blown emoji here.
This is the way—from glory to glory.
Abba Father, I trust you and yet I want to trust you more. There remain broken places in me where I do not trust you. Even worse, those broken places and ways lead me to place my trust in other things that promise security. I confess, they only deliver slavery. Jesus, you are mighty to save. You are my deliverer. You are my Lord and my God. Holy Spirit, I want this way of glory to glory, no matter how hard or what I perceive it will cost. The other will cost more and leave me with nothing. I know this and yet I still need convincing. Praying in Jesus’ name, amen.
I know this one was a thinker today. So what are you thinking?
For the Awakening,