Summary: Lesson of Life and Faith from Elijah
Who doesn’t love superheroes? Every child watches shows about superheroes and every culture throughout history has had its heroes; people who were able to do and be more than the rest of us. In ancient times, you had the heroes of Greek mythology. Then it was King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table and Robin Hood. Then there were the explorers who sailed around the world and discovered new places. Then here in the U.S., you had the tall tale heroes of the early American culture, like Paul Bunyan, Wild Bill Hickok, Annie Rogers, Calamity Jane and Billy the Kid. In our lifetime, there were The Lone Ranger, Batman, Nancy Drew, Harry Potter and Katniss Everdeen. Every generation has its heroes.
Many of our blockbuster movies tell stories about superheroes. Since 2000, there have been over 100 big-budget movies with superheroes or characters with super human strength. And they’re consistently among the top grossing movies at the box office each year! Why do we love stories about superheroes? What is the draw? When you look at when particular heroes were created, you discover it was usually during a time of great difficulty, uncertainty and darkness. For instance, many of the most popular comic book heroes were created in between The Great Depression and the beginning of World War II. It was during this time that people were searching for symbols, something to put their faith in; someone who could protect them.
What all of this says is that our draw toward superheroes is about way more than entertainment or just wanting to hear a good story. There is something deeper going on. Grant Morrison writes in Relevant Magazine, “Superheroes deal with the interior elements of humanity; they are colorful incarnations of the human soul. In this way, we put our hopes, fears, dreams, emotions and all the unspeakable facets of human nature into physical form and loose them in fantastical worlds to see what we may learn from them.” In other words, our heroes are projections of some of our deepest longings and our greatest fears and teach us about ourselves and what we can be. Every hero lives a story worth telling.
But heroes aren’t just limited to the big screen. There are numerous heroes in Scripture whose stories have been told and embraced by people of faith for 1000’s of years. From them we learn who we are, who God is, and the life available to us. For the next 6 weeks, we’re going to take a look at several Biblical heroes in order to see what we can learn from them about living a story worth telling. Our first hero is Elijah who was one of the greatest prophets of the Old Testament and is to this day one of the most celebrated heroes in the Jewish faith. In the New Testament, both Jesus and John the Baptist are compared to Elijah. The watershed event of Elijah’s ministry and life was taking a stand against the wicked King Ahab and his wife Jezebel.
Elijah was a prophet during a time in Israel’s history when the nation was divided between the northern Kingdom of Israel and the southern Kingdom of Judah. Ahab was a Jewish king of northern Israel, but the truth is his wife Jezebel, a Sidonian woman, was calling the shots. Some say the last decision Ahab ever made was, “I do.” Every great hero has an equally wicked villain and Jezebel was that. She made it her mission to wipe every trace of Israel’s God off the earth and to force the people to worship her own gods instead. To make things worse, the people didn’t put up a fight; they just went along with it. Now they didn’t necessarily stop worshiping Yahweh, their God, but chose to worship Jezebel’s gods too. In the midst of all of this, there’s Elijah courageously taking a stand for God and calling people to faith alone in God: “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.’” 1 Kings 18:21 The Hebrew literally says, “How long will you limp between two opinions? At some point you’ve got to make a decision and choose.” What made him such a hero is that at a time when virtually no one stood for anything, Elijah stood for God.
What do we learn from Elijah about living a story worth telling? First, heroes have a purpose. Elijah’s name literally means, “Yahweh is Lord.” Jewish tradition suggests that Elijah actually chose this name for himself. Why? He knew who he was and what he was about. Every great hero knows their purpose and what they stand for. The same is true in real life. Think of some of the greatest people who are real life heroes. They knew what they stood for: Martin Luther King, Mother Theresa, Helen Prejean, Billy Graham. What about you? If your life were a movie, would people have a hard time figuring out what it is about? Many of us lead lives with no clear purpose and no idea what we stand for. We’re just trying to get by, going through the motions and working for the weekend. But that’s not what God wants for us. The Good News of Jesus Christ is an invitation to participate in God’s plan of salvation.