1 Kings 19:13–14 (NIV)
Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
He replied, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”
ME: THIS IS THE WAY—
YOU: FROM GLORY TO GLORY!
After all this glory, God asks Elijah the same question again.
What are you doing here, Elijah?
It is a real question for someone who shows up on Mt. Sinai without an invitation.
Elijah’s answer is even more baffling—especially considering he gave the exact same response again.
He replied, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty.“
Who says this?
Someone whose sense of self and identity is more anchored in what they have done for God than who they are in him . . .
Someone who needs recognition, commendation, validation, and for their own sense of importance to be otherwise affirmed . . .
Someone who needs God and everyone else to know they are somebody and have done something.
“I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty.“
Who says this?
Okay, I’ll go first. I’ve said it.
I think Elijah is looking for a merit badge; a gold star; a jewel in his crown—and I’ll just say it plainly—Elijah is looking for a share of glory. It is perhaps the biggest pitfall on this pathway from glory to glory; the subtle seduction to claim a little of the glory for ourselves; or at least get an “honorable mention,” which is the same thing.
There is something in us all that craves recognition isn’t there? We want our efforts to be noticed, appreciated, and yes recognized. We want this from God, and we really want it from each other. Is it wrong to want this? Well, to give recognition and affirmation and appropriate honor to people is a good thing. The problem comes when we need it and want it and crave it. Why? There is something in all of us that longs for validation based on something other than who we most truly are. Or is it just me?
I used to want to do great things for God, to make a name for myself while making a name for him. I wanted to be seen for something I accomplished rather than for who I really was. Why? Because for the longest time I was not secure in my true self. And when we aren’t secure in our true self, we unwittingly construct a false self. That false self is not necessarily a bad character. They are often quite good people; at least they do good things. They just aren’t real.
The false self is so often built on aspirations and accomplishments undertaken for the secret motive (even hidden from oneself) of affirmation and accolades. I used to be really good at subtly letting people know how much I had accomplished and the achievements I had amassed. Did you know I did this and that; started this thing and led that thing. There was a time when I would have stealthily snuck these things into a post like this. I would want people I perceived as important to know about the people I knew who were more important than they were, which in a self-deceptive way made me feel more important than they were too. And deep in the recesses of my still-being-sanctified soul I’m sure there is a subterranean motivation to be so vulnerable here in order to be admired and commended by you. In reality, what I am attempting here is public confession and repentance. LJCHMOMAS!*
Do you know what is at the heart of all these shenanigans? My own broken need for a glory of my own. It is not unique to me but common to us all. This could be at the very core of the core of the fall of humanity. We wanted to be like God. We wanted his glory for ourselves. We wanted to be exalted. We wanted to make a name for ourselves. We are good to share the glory with God, but not before claiming some of it for ourselves and then trying to deny it. That’s what’s going on when we say things like,
“I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty.”
This is something that never needs to be said. There was something in Elijah that needed to say it. There is something in me too.
So often I hear people saying things like, “It’s not about me.” I find myself scratching my head in wonder, thinking, “who thought it was about you?” The only reason we might say such a thing is because in a place much deeper than we want to recognize, we do think it is about us. There is a reason one feels compelled to say these words. Our very words and the need to speak them betray us.
Have you ever noticed how people when complimented for some good they have done in service of God, will try to deflect the recognition and say something like, “God gets all the glory.” It’s just another way of saying look how zealous I have been for Jesus. It’s better to just say thank you and honor the one who recognized you and then get back to the humble business of being a joyful bondservant of Jesus.
One more thing. Never ever, ever say this, even if you actually think it:
“I am the only one left.” ;0)
This is the way—from glory to glory.
Abba Father, all of this thirsting for glory; I will just name it: pride. And I will name pride for what it is: the unhealed wounds of a broken and insecure soul. I am looking for your glory to hide the real shame of the real me. It’s why the cross is all at once so heinous and beautiful. There we see ourselves in the frame of the Pierced One, our shame being covered by his naked body; our brokenness healed by his suffering; our own counterfeit glory we reached for in Eden at the tree of shame, now shattered by the resplendence of the glory of God in Jesus Christ, lifted high on the tree of life. This mystery is too wonderful for us; to lofty for us to attain. Yet you give it to us so freely. How we thank you. Praying in Jesus’ name, amen.
How do you struggle with these thoughts today? Am I the only one?
For the Awakening,
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*Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on me a sinner.
JD, I’m going to push back a little on why we might say “God gets all the glory”. Didn’t Jesus always deflect compliments concerning his teachings or miracles back to his Father? For a human example, is it not true that J.S. Bach, who in my opinion was the most gifted composer who ever lived, sign off on his great master works: “Sola Deo Gloria”, to God be the glory? Should we not give proper credit to the Holy Spirit when people try to complement some good work that He has accomplished through us? I perceive that apart from Christ Jesus, I can do nothing to please God.
I agree, Bob. But I guess that JD is saying that even doing that can become prideful. We could say ‘God gets all the glory’ then walk away thinking, ‘ see I am so ‘zelously’ humble I even give it all back to God.’ It won’t always be the case, but the danger is there and needs to be watched. It can also become a little cliched like saying ‘God willing’ before we do ANYTHING. (I have known people who say this if they are planning to meet friends for coffee). I suppose it comes down to motive.
Pride and being proud are not equal. There’s a thin line separating them. We are on one side; God is on the other. Our Intention is the line.
God was proud when He created life in Genesis. After each day, He said it was good. On day six, He threw in a “very.”
God was proud of Jesus at His baptism. “This is my Son, whom I love; with Him, I am well pleased.”
Is it wrong to desire these words from Jesus,” ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!’
Pride builds the I until the PR and DE seem microscopic. Being proud is celebrating with Christ as long as He is honored. Then I decrease, and He increases. Still, we must do our part.
Reminds me of the story of a salesperson calling on a farmer. The farmer’s land was beautiful. Rich in flowery colors and healthy crops. The salesperson commented on its beauty, “God sure has blessed you with this land.”
The farmer replied, “He sure has, but you should’ve seen it when He had it all to Himself.”
The question is, did the farmer share his bounty with the orphans, prisoners, widows, and the needy? If he did, did he draw attention to himself or Christ?
Today, may the I in pride become more microscopic than yesterday. Teach me to decrease so you can increase. Yet, can I be proud to be called your servant? Your child? You have blessed me with Your Spirit, the mind of Christ. May I always point to You for the change in me. Born again until the end. The end being eternal life with Christ.
Self is sneaky and snuggles up to the splendor of God, not just to worship, but also to subtlety boast.
LJCHMOMAS, amen! But, there are times I have truly wanted others to give God the glory with me. I am so amazed at how God uses our brokenness and weakness. That’s Holy Spirit transformation. I feel like I’m taking His glory from Him when I say thank you and move on. So I can see both sides of this…
This is so timely as this is a word that falls after just having completed a prison ministry weekend for the last three days here in a women’s state jail in Texas. We are overwhelmed by the the words of praise from these participants. But I love the analogy taught in another prison ministry that tells of a carpenter and his tools. With them he creates a beautiful piece of furniture. Does one praise the tools or does one praise the carpenter? The tools are only doing what they can in the hands of the carpenter.
This message today is very convicting and much needed for me. Why am I surprised that this was the message God designed for me after witnessing the new images He was designed?
J.D., I appreciate your take and usually understand what you are trying to get across but I feel that you missed the mark a bit today. I see Elijah as scared down to his bones and the mighty, great, powerful God is calling him out and asking him a question. He came “home” to God because he was afraid and terrified and now he is afraid that God is questioning why he is at Mt. Horab/Sinai. He feels that he must justify his existence just so God won’t want to kill him too. I don’t think there is any pride in it at all, just supposed justification why he is there. He doesn’t have a good reason and is too afraid to admit he is terrified. He is very well aware of God’s power after the Baal issue and just cannot find the words to ask for help any other way.
Yes, he is creating a false self of serene loyal servant but he is quaking and terrified. Better to fear the one you know than the one you don’t!
JD…YOU are not alone!