Great incidents and heroic stories can inspire and challenge us greatly.
The Bible is most certainly a power-filled storehouse of such great incidents and heroic stories…
… which inspire us to be more zealous in serving the Lord
… which challenge us to be more enthusiastic in our following of the Lord
One of the most powerful incidents, which has this dual dimension of “inspiring and challenging” is the one found in the First Book of the Kings, Chapter 18, verses 20-39.
This incident is known by many titles …
>>The Challenge of Elijah, the Prophet
>> Elijah v/s Baal
>> Elijah and the prophets of Baal
… and many more.
The incident is familiar to most of us…
After a drought of three years, the prophet Elijah presented himself to Ahab, the king of Israel, with the promise that the Lord would provide rain.
Elijah, then went on to challenged 450 prophets of the pagan god named Baal and 400 prophets of another pagan god, Asherah to a contest on Mount Carmel.
His words of challenge to them were powerful:
“How long will you falter between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.” (1 Kings 18:21).
The game of challenge began:
>> Each side (The numerous prophets of Baal v/s Elijah, the solitary prophet) made sacrifices to their God without building a fire…
… and the lighting of the fire was to be performed by the strongest god (God!)!
Baal was silent.
>> The confident prophet Elijah began to even mock the prophets of Baal:
“Cry aloud, for he is a god; either he is meditating, or he is busy, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is sleeping and must be awakened” (1 Kings 18:27).
The time then can for Elijah to intercede for the revealing of the Glory of God…
He poured a large amount of water over his sacrifice and asked Jehovah to reveal Himself by consuming the sacrifice.
>> “Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood and the stones and the dust, and it licked up the water that was in the trench” (1 Kings 18:38)
When the people saw the clear victory of Jehovah, they fell on their faces and said:
“The Lord, He is God!
The Lord, He is God!”
Elijah then commanded the people to seize the prophets of Baal and to not let one of them escape.
>> God then sent the rain he had promised and the drought ended (1 Kings 18:41-46).
One of the most powerful messages derived from this incident is that…
…” When we stand for God, God stands by us!”
… “When we seek to uphold the Lord, the Lord reveals His Glory through us!”
The Prophet Elijah, who stood for the Lord and was bold to proclaim His Power…
… became the mighty instrument through whom God would reveal His glory!
Elijah, the prophet , through whom God manifested His Glory…
… would foreshadow the Great Prophet, Jesus, Who would be the fullness of God’s Glory! (Col 1: 19)
>> Jesus is not just the Great Prophet, Who is the Voice and Word of God
>> Jesus is not just the Supreme Law-Giver, through Whom everything came into being
… Jesus would be the fulfilment and the completion of the Law and the Prophets (Mt 5: 17)!
This Jesus goes on to present a mighty challenge to His followers:
“Whoever relaxes one of the least of the commandments and teaches men so, shall be called least in the Kingdom of Heaven;
But he who does them, and teaches them shall be called great in the Kingdom of heaven” (Mt 5:18-19)
This is a powerful invitation that the Lord presents before us:
>> “Are you willing to stand up for me?”
>> “Are you willing to uphold my virtues and the Kingdom values by your life?”
Just as Prophet Elijah, in his days, found challenged by paganism, our world today is faced with innumerable challenges…
>> A spirit of materialism, that seeks to devour all people into a life of comfort and cosiness…
… at the loss of dependence on God and faithfulness to Divine Providence
>> A spirit of relativism, that does away with even fundamental truths and basic institutions…
… by seeking to dilute the virtues for which the Church champions and makes void Christ’s teachings
>> A spirit of division, that slays communities and societies on peripheral grounds like colour, language, caste, region etc…
… and causes people to even divert from essential elements like faith, worship, communion etc
>> A spirit of indifference, that makes people to behave as strangers to one another…
… and making one to be insensitive to the needy and hurting the Triune Image of God within oneself
As Christians, more than ever before, the challenge is before us…
>> To stand up for God…
… and know for sure, that He will stand by us!
>> To uphold the Lord…
… and experience truly the Glory of God revealed through us!
Today we celebrate the Feast of St Antony of Padua…
… one of the most loved Saints, all over the world.
He is popularly invoked by those who have trouble finding lost objects.
But in own day, he was more popular as the “Hammer of Heretics”…
… due to the powerful witness of his life and preaching.
An account in the life of St Antony tells of an Ordination of some Franciscan and Dominican friars both…
… and the superiors desired that someone be designated to preach.
With no one prepared to speak, St Antony was pressed by the other friars in attendance (both Franciscans and Dominicans) to take on the unprepared task.
… but was encouraged by the others to speak “whatever the Spirit of God gave him to say.”
Anthony proceeded to preach with great brilliance, to the shock of all those in attendance!
His zeal, oratory skill, and many conversions won him the title “Hammer of Heretics.”
>> His brilliance made him the foremost preacher in his day.
May the great incidents and the heroic stories of the Bible continue to always “inspire and challenge” us
>> And May the Powerful Intercession of the “Hammer of Heretics” – St Antony of Padua…
…. help us to be bold and daring – to rise up to the occasion… and Stand up for God!
God Bless! Live Jesus!