In 1 Kings 19.1-16 we read about a particularly significant episode in the life of Elijah. The nation of Israel was facing a cultural, political and religious conflict on a massive scale. On the one side, we have King Ahab, with his infamous wife, Jezebel. On the other, we have Elijah and the prophets of Yahweh. Ahab and Jezebel are destroying the traditional culture of the nation – and making themselves rich through corruption, murder and theft. Elijah is fighting to preserve the worship of God, and the rule of law.

At this point in the story, Elijah has had a few big wins, but is now on the run in fear for his life. He finds himself on a journey of forty days and forty nights, until he reaches the Mountain of God. It’s a bit like Lent, although God does make sure he has food and drink for the journey…

Elijah is wrestling with big questions about his life and what God is going to do. He makes the same complaint over and over again: ‘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.’ It’s a mixture of desparation, pride and confuson…

God promises to meet Elijah. First there is the wind that tears the mountains apart; then an earthquake and then fire. Elijah has experienced the wind, earthquake and fire of conflict, change and violence, but God is not found in any of these.

But then there is a ‘still small voice’ and now God speaks…

The interesting thing is what God says. He doesn’t tell Elijah to be strong, or give him special powers. He doesn’t promise to step in with signs and wonders. He doesn’t tell Elijah what will happen, or make big promises. He simply asks Elijah to go back home and anoint three people and call them to new roles: Hazael is to be King of Aram, Jehu is to be King of Israel, and Elisha is to be Elijah’s successor.

It’s a bold move to anoint new Kings – particularly when the old ones are still in post! This will be the touchpaper that sparks a revolution…

Jesus was also good at calling people. In the story of the transfiguration (when he meets Elijah) he brings three of his disciples who he is nurturing as leaders for his new movement. Ultimately, he anoints them with the Holy Spirit as a sign of this call.

One of the most significant things we can do is to build up others. Many great leaders say that their turning point came when somebody spotted something in them – and told them! A few words of encouragement can launch a lifetime of service.

So here’s my Lent challenge. Can you encourage three people this Lent. Can you find three people who you think have more to offer and tell them. You may never know how significant this might be!

(Based on a sermon at Cornerstone Church on 11th Feb 2018)

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