In August, I began reading through the Bible in a year. I take turns reading in the Old Testament and the New Testament. At this moment, I am in 1 Kings in the Old and something struck me – not for the first time, but it struck me for the first time in a concise, simple way.
God WANTS to be known. He WANTS our attention. There are all sorts of ways that He hides and all sorts of secrets that He keeps from us, but He WANTS us to FIND HIM!
“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.” (Revelation 3:20 ESV)
At the same time, He but knocks. He does not break down the door.
“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.” (Matthew 7:7-8 ESV)
While He is knocking, it is OUR responsibility to open the door – Then, He will come in.
Yet, this idea that God wants to be found, is something that I’ve thought about for quite some time. The new idea is this: God gets our attention in two different ways. He will get our attention through the great blessings that He gives to us, His great majesty, all of the good things of God OR He will get our attention through great trial and pain.
Have you ever thought of it so concisely and simply?
Here’s what prompted me to think about this idea. 1 Kings 18 contains the account of when King Ahab (King over Israel) summons the 450 prophets of Baal who contest against the prophet Elijah in calling down fire upon an offering. The prophets of Baal are unable to get their god’s attention.
“Then Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, “Choose for yourselves one bull and prepare it first, for you are many, and call upon the name of your god, but put no fire to it.” And they took the bull that was given them, and they prepared it and called upon the name of Baal from morning until noon, saying, “O Baal, answer us!” But there was no voice, and no one answered. And they limped around the altar that they had made. And at noon Elijah mocked them, saying, “Cry aloud, for he is a god. Either he is musing, or he is relieving himself, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened.” And they cried aloud and cut themselves after their custom with swords and lances, until the blood gushed out upon them. And as midday passed, they raved on until the time of the offering of the oblation, but there was no voice. No one answered; no one paid attention.” (1 Kings 18:25-29 ESV)
That was the response of the false god, Baal. He did not answer nor pay attention.
Now it’s Elijah’s turn. He fixes up the altar of God which was in ruins, prepares the bull for sacrifice, and then proceeds to saturate the wood and bull by pouring twelve large jars of water over them.
“And at the time of the offering of the oblation, Elijah the prophet came near and said, “O LORD, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel, and that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your word. Answer me, O LORD, answer me, that this people may know that you, O LORD, are God, and that you have turned their hearts back.” Then the fire of the LORD fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, “The LORD, he is God; the LORD, he is God.” (1 Kings 18:36-39 ESV)
Now, if you were King Ahab, wouldn’t this be enough, for you to believe in the LORD GOD, rather than Baal? God’s power and might is so great.
Yet, God is so merciful, that next He speaks directly to Ahab himself, sending a prophet to speak on His behalf. Ben-Hadad (the king of Syria) is preparing to attack Israel after King Ahab has refused his demands. The prophet declares to King Ahab, “Thus says the LORD, Have you seen all this great multitude? Behold, I will give it into your hand this day, and you shall know that I am the LORD.” (1 Kings 20:13 ESV)
Do you see it? God is going to save Ahab and His people Israel, that Ahab would KNOW that He is the LORD. Sure enough, in 1 Kings 20:21, we see that Ahab overpowered the Syrians. This course of events is repeated again in the spring, as the Syrians once again attack the Israelites, yet this time on the plains as they thought the the God of Israel was a “god of the hills.” And, once again, the prophet tells Ahab, “Thus says the LORD, ‘Because the Syrians have said, “The LORD is a god of the hills but he is not a god of the valleys,” therefore I will give all this great multitude into your hand, and you shall know that I am the LORD.’” (1 Kings 20:28 ESV)
Sadly, though King Ahab and Israel are saved again, the king has not turned to God as a result of God’s power and mercy. Instead, he chooses to spare King Ben-Hadad’s life and God once again sends a prophet to King Ahab, but this time with bad news. “Thus says the LORD, ‘Because you have let go out of your hand the man whom I had devoted to destruction, therefore your life shall be for his life, and your people for his people.’” And the king of Israel went to his house vexed and sullen and came to Samaria. (1 Kings 20:42-43 ESV)