9And he came there to the cave, and he stayed there, and the word of YHWH came to him, and he said, â€œWhat is your business here, Elijah?â€ 10And Elijah said, â€œI have been very jealous for YHWH, God of Armies, for the Israelites have abandoned your covenant, they have torn down your altars, and they have killed your prophets with the sword. And I, I alone, am left, and they are seeking me to take my life.â€ . . .
18And I still have 7,000 people left in Israel, knees which have not bowed to Baal and mouths which have not kissed him. — 1 Kings 19:9-10, 18
Elijah is one of the good guys in scripture. In most of the stories we hear about him, he is the hero. He stands up to Ahab, to the 450 prophets of Baal, and until he finally breaks and runs, to Queen Jezebel.
But in his flight from Jezebel and in his time on Mt. Horeb, he doesn’t do nearly as well. As he begins his conversation with God there we find him complaining: He’s the only good guy left, and they’re looking for him so they can kill him.
God doesn’t immediately respond to Elijah’s complaint. He makes a few demonstrations, and then he gives Elijah a task to do. Once he has given out the marching orders he has an â€œoh, by the was.â€ Elijah, you’re not alone. I have 7,000 people who are on my side. It’s worthwhile reading all of verses 9-21.
We can read this story to learn about faith and fear, how we can be a hero at one moment, and then running the next. We can try to learn something about listening for God to speak. But today I want to talk a little bit about being right and alone.
You see Elijah is a good guy. He’s very, very right. But he’s gotten up on a mountain by himself, thinking that he’s the only right guy left in the whole country. â€œI, I alone, am left.â€ Have you ever felt like that after a church board meeting, or after hearing yet another report of something stupid that has gone on in your church? Have you ever thought that you’re the only person left with any good sense?
I don’t care if the issue is doctrinal, organizational, or even personal. And for today I’m not talking about when you’re actually wrong, but just think you’re right. I’m talking about when you’re right, but it seems that nobody else is listening or thinking. You’re sure you are hearing from the Lord. You’re sure you are thinking clearly. But nobody gets it.
The temptation is to join Elijah on Mt. Carmel, and say, â€œI, I alone, am left.â€ You might even feel good saying it. â€œLord,â€ you say, â€œI have done everything I could, but people just won’t listen. I’m the last guy out there trying to do your work in my church, my community, my town, or maybe in my denomination. This is it!â€
Chances areâ€”actually it’s a certaintyâ€”that God is going to come back to you the same way he came back to Elijah. â€œI’m not done with you,â€ he says. â€œHere’s your tasks. What’s more, you’re not the last right person left on earth, even though you’re very rightâ€”all but for this discouragement!â€
No matter what the issue, the â€œI, I alone, am leftâ€ theme is the devil’s handiwork. If he can’t get you to compromise, if he can’t get you to be wrong, he’s going to try to isolate you in your rightness. If he can get you out on the mountaintop, all by yourself, it’s fine with him for you to be as right as right can be. If you’re isolated, it doesn’t matter.
Remember that Jesus, the most â€œrightâ€ person to ever live, also knew how to forgive and show grace to people who weren’t right very much of the time. If you’re so right that you forget graceâ€”the grace that’s necessary to keep on working with all those oh-so-wrong people who are driving you nutsâ€”then perhaps you’re not really all that right after all.
When you get to the â€œI, I alone, am leftâ€ points in your life, remember that God still has a plan. God is still in control. God is still calling you. Even though you’re so wrong about being so right and hiding out, he’s still going to call you out of the wilderness and use you.
Wait for his voice!