And Elijah said to them, Seize the prophets of Baal; let not one of them escape. And they seized them. And Elijah brought them down to the brook Kishon and slaughtered them there. – 1 Kings 18:40
Friday, July 17, 2015
Dealing with our delusions requires a radical approach. The idols that we create in our minds and the thoughts that support, protect, and empower them cannot be dealt with in whack-a-mole fashion. There are too many of them. Elijah was up against 450 prophets of Baal and another 400 prophets of Asherah. Thinning the wolf pack is not going to solve the problem. Sure, they will drop back and hang out in the brush for a while, but they’ll recruit and breed more and probably come back stronger than ever.
All-or-nothing is the way to go. I have a feeling this is how God works a lot of the time. He lets us suffer the consequences of our vain pursuits, allows us to hit rock bottom, as the AA’ers say. This drought was extreme, three years with no rain. Israel is forced to face a grim reality. The same thing happens to us as individuals. Reality intrudes on our comfortable illusions. Our faith in the “priests of Baal” and our Baal itself begins to show signs of wear and tear. Fissures appear. Meanwhile, the truth hammer continues to fall.
God confronts us and challenges us. This is the key to breaking free of our illusions. There has to be something real to replace the false. We are going to believe in something because that is the way we are made. Faith is always reaching out, always feeling for that connection. If the false prophets are eradicated and the false god exposed as a lie, it has as an opportunity to connect to the Truth.
Just as He did undeniably before all Israel on Mount Carmel, the Lord can pull back the curtain, let the light in, and reveal the dead, hollow uselessness of what we have been serving. Nevertheless, those people would never have responded to Elijah’s call to seize and slaughter the false prophets merely because Baal had been exposed as a lie. They had to see not just that Baal could not answer by fire but that the Lord could and did.
I often meditate on the scene in Exodus 20:18-19 where the children of Israel were witnesses to the presence of God: Now when all the people saw the thunder and the flashes of lightning and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking, the people were afraid and trembled, and they stood far off, and said to Moses, You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, lest we die.
Sometimes we want a level of plausible deniability in our relationship to God. We want a buffer, a middle man who can be questioned and with whom fault may be found (as Israel often did with Moses). The raw feed, so to speak, of a direct encounter with the Holy One blows away our defenses, the wall of little dishonesties that we hide behind. Those who demand a “Damascus Road” experience before they believe are, perhaps, the most deceived of all. If we refuse to see the Lord with our eyes open, we will have to find Him blind.
Perhaps this is why prayer is such a struggle for people like me. It's not that God isn't hearing me so much as, if I stay at this too long, He might start talking. That really is my problem. I get some great idea and when the end of the day comes, Jesus is there waiting for me. Sometimes He doesn't even have to say anything. He just looks at me, and I know I have been entertaining one of Baal's prophets. The Sword of the Spirit comes out and another head rolls. Ah, well ...