Jump Start # 2784
1 Kings 19:14 Then he said, “I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of armies; for the sons of Israel have abandoned Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. And I alone am left; and they have sought to take my life.”
Our verse finds Elijah hunkered down in a cave. He is scared, alone, isolated and at the end of his rope. He believes that he is the last faithful one in Israel. Jezebel’s death squad is out looking for him. He has come to the end of the book. The last chapter in his life. Custer’s last stand. The Titanic going down. His words lack hope, faith and any future. His prayers are for the Lord to take him before Jezebel’s goons do.
Twice in this section Elijah repeats these words. Twice he reminds us that he is the last one. Twice we are told that he is alone. The dark walls of the cave seem to be closing in around him. He has passed by discouragement and depression, miles ago. He is way beyond those feelings. He is looking at death as the only way out. The question for the prophet is how will this happen. Will it be by the Lord or will it be by Jezebel? But death is all that he sees.
I was talking to a fire fighter a while back. He has never seen so many 80 year olds taking their lives in suicide as what has happened in the pandemic. Alone. And, when history writes the story of the Covid pandemic, the emotional toll of being isolated and the consequences of loneliness, depression and mental illness may well be worse than the virus. Children unable to see classmates, play in sports and be in Bible classes together; families locked in their homes away from the interaction of others, working from home; school from home; and even, worship from home—has had to have a major impact upon the emotional and mental health of the nation. For five months, we could only visit my father through a window. It was not until he was actively dying, that a couple of us were allowed in. The rules were only two of us for thirty minutes total. But some sweet staff members allowed more of us in after hours. My wife and I were allowed to spend the night in his room hours before his death. Our story is not unique. Funerals with only a handful of family members permitted or worse, a quick burial with the hopes of some celebration service later in the year.
I alone am left, were the words of Elijah. And, one of the biggest impacts this may have had is upon the fellowship of brethren. When things get better, many congregations are going to be faced with a smaller crowd. People have gotten used to staying home. People have gotten by without that spiritual fellowship. There has been a silent death that so few have recognized. It has been the death of fellowship.
There will need to be a concentrated effort to get people back to the church building. Worshipping at home was a substitute but it cannot be a permanent fixture in our future. What worshipping at home misses is the fellowship. We need to see each other. We need to hear the voices of others. We need to see the smiles, feel the hugs and engage with our spiritual family. We need each other.
Here are a few thoughts:
First, sermons on the benefits of assembly and fellowship will need to be preached. Just me and God at home isn’t the total picture of our faith. We need to show people what they are missing and make worshipping together a wonderful and joyous part of their weekly lives. We may have taken some things for granted in this area that we now must teach and help people to see.
Second, we must be patient. Some need to know what safety measures have taken place at the church building to protect the health of those coming. Emails and even videos showing how seating takes place, how the Lord’s supper is conducted and how the building is cleaned between services will go a long way with helping people feel comfortable and safe about returning. Some will come right away. Some will wait. Be patient.
Third, the shepherds will need to make personal contact with the members. Personal phone calls from the elders will allow people to voice their concerns and hear what all has been done for their safety and even give the shepherds an opportunity to encourage and remind the members why assembling is so essential and important.
Fourth, the reality may show that some will not return. This pandemic has been a real test of faith. And in any test, some do well and others don’t. We may find some were coming out of habit and not love for the Lord. And, some may have been away for so long that they never plan to return again. This pandemic has killed some faith. All the encouragement in the world will not bring some back again.
For Elijah, God told him to leave the cave. He was to get something to eat. He was to get busy in the Lord’s work. That would put him around others. And, the Lord revealed that Elijah wasn’t alone. He was not the last one. He had it wrong. He got all worked up about things he didn’t know. He assumed, but he was wrong. The Lord knew of others, thousands of others that were still faithful to the Him.
It won’t be long and you and I will need to get out of the cave. We need to be around others. We need to return to the Lord’s work. What a great day that will be.