Young Adult Sunday School Lesson – May 27, 2012
“And Elijah came unto all the people, and said, ‘How long halt ye between two opinions? If the LORD be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him’. And the people answered him not a word.” I Kings 18:21
The would-be emperor of Rome, Mark Antony, had a flair for the outrageous even before he went down in the annals of history as Cleopatra’s ill-fated sire. It appears as though in his extravagance, at one point he drove a chariot pulled by two lions. Not horses mind you, or even mules, but harnessed lions—roaring and bellowing in rage as he drove them through the streets of Rome with his whip.
Many Christians try and perform the same feat today. They follow the ‘Lion of the Tribe of Judah’ on Sundays, and then follow another lion the rest of the week; one who’s only goal is to be ‘seeking whom he may devour’. Lions weren’t meant to be harnessed together and driven from the seat of a chariot, no matter how experienced or brave the operator.
This week we continue with our prequel to the showdown on Mount Carmel between Elijah and the prophets of Baal. At this point in our study, Ahab has assembled ‘all of Israel’ on the slopes, and Elijah steps forward to address the people. Notice that he has nothing to say to the prophets of Baal. He also has nothing further to say to wicked King Ahab. Instead he addresses the Children of Israel directly with a challenge. This challenge screams down through the ages to those of us living in our own sinful and wicked, modern and so-called enlightened world today: make a choice because you cannot have it both ways in your Spiritual life.
I see three classes of people on that mountain, and their stereotypes are still with us in our present day and age. One group ignores G_d completely, confident in following the wicked ways of their leader, Satan, who is in himself as much a false god in every design of the word as Baal was in Elijah’s day. This group sees no reason at all to change. Sadly, there is no hope for them as nothing will turn their hearts until they find themselves facing the Great White Throne judgment.
Then we see Elijah, and though he states that he is alone in following Jehovah, the truth is G_d had set aside seven thousand followers who had not bowed their knees to Baal. We also have the timid but erstwhile faith we saw in Obadiah from last week’s lesson. The faithful were still out there; maybe hidden from view with the exception of Elijah—yet there will always be those men and women of faith that hold fast to the things of G_d without wavering despite the circumstances of the day and age they find themselves in.
However, I believe that Elijah’s focus here is on the third and largest group present upon the bleak summit of Carmel that day. It was on those same ‘undecideds’ that still inhabit our churches today, as unable then as they are now to even verbalize a reply. Maybe you know a few of them, or just maybe you find yourself filling their shoes when you honestly examine your own heart. Many would like to ‘enter at the straight gate’ if only it did not cost them anything. If only they could still pursue the things of the world, while peacefully coexisting in the Spiritual realm—if only they could keep Christ on a shelf! You know, take him out on Sunday morning, dust Him off, follow Him that entire day, then replace Him on the self-same shelf that night and go about their business. By Monday morning it’s back to the rat race; to get gain and live life for all it’s worth, with merely an occasional pause to remember the things of G_d when and if merit calls for it. In far too many ways this is similar to those stoic Children of Israel back in their day; keeping an altar to Jehovah in their houses along with an altar to Baal placed next to it.
In the end, when we live our life in this manner, we'll find we cannot be truly happy as we try and serve both masters. We will not get the blessings and peace that comes only through following Christ, but at the same time, we can never totally fall into the worldly things of Baal that keeps that first group I mentioned above satisfied in some manner or another. At best, we will merely lose the respect of the other groups in sum and total. The Christians will see us for what we are as hypocrites, and the world will see us as merely wannabe-Spiritual-church-goers, all the while laughing at us behind our back. At the very worst, the Bible warns that we’ll become double-minded and end up unstable in all of our ways.
If we are truly committed to our salvation, then we need to go all out with it and follow Jesus seven days a week. We must bravely stand up and face the trials and temptations that are surely going to come our way. We have an eternal reward promised and waiting for us that will truly be worth it all. On the other hand, if we are not going to commit to Jesus, and instead merely pay Him lip-service for a couple of hours on Sunday, we may as well not waste His and our time at all. We should go ahead and live life to its sin-filled fullest, chase vainly after those things that tempt us most, and when the end finally comes, at least we will be able to proudly stand and sing, “I did it my way”.
Elijah admonished those conflicted citizens to make a choice: If the Lord be G_d, then follow Him as such. Believe in Him. Trust in Him. Serve Him. Love Him. Worship Him. If Baal (The World) is your god, then follow him. A choice must be made now/here in our same day and age because it should be easy to understand by all of us that we are rapidly running out of time.
Besides, you realistically cannot hitch your chariot to both.
“No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” Mathew 6:24