"Holding it Together" May Surprise You
Have you asked God for a sign?
Are you looking for God to show himself in a cataclysmic event forcing nations to bow and submit to His authority?
You’re not alone. This has been a common expectation for centuries. It’s commonly believed God brings calamity on the wicked and righteous together. Hurricanes decimating cities, fire consuming the land, plagues, and pestilence all credited by God in answer to someone else’s sin. The self-righteous and unaffected may point and mock the misfortune of others. It feels good to sit high in judgement on others while feeling safe. But It’s confusing if you’re the one stricken.
Jesus was asked, “Who sinned, this man or his parents?” His disciples referred to a man who had been blind since birth. It was believed such an ailment came from being steeped in sin, a punishment possibly passed down for the sins of his parents. Jesus simply responds in a cryptic yet clear fashion, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned. But this happened so that the works of God may be displayed in him (John 9).”
To answer this question more fully, we must investigate the nature of God and creation. When God created the world, He stepped into chaos and brought order. In the beginning the earth was formless, empty, and dark. This swirling primordial abyss of chaos. He separated the dry land from the sea. He spoke life and light into the world. God is the order holding all things together (Col 1:17).
God has allowed mankind to make choices, He has given them over to their choices allowing them to suffer the consequences of their decisions. In the same way Adam and Eve ate from the forbidden tree allowing them the knowledge of violence, power, and all the terrible emotions associated with them. Cain killed his brother Abel, marked by the violence and horror of murder, he produced a lineage defined by it.
Where they pushed God out of their lives chaos and the curse reigned. The knowledge of the tree forced them to cover themselves in clothing relying on physical protection opposed to the spiritual guidance of the heart. They saw vulnerabilities they could exploit to achieve power over the other. This required violence in taking the skins of animals. Instead of relying on God and his creation to provide their needs, they took and forced creation to their will at the expense of life and nature, producing chaos. Each time Men forced their will, damage and chaos increased; until creation was overwhelmed rather than reaching its destruction at the hands of Mankind, God sent the flood allowing creation to reset and heal.
God restores order in His glory.
When order is restored, as it was in the beginning of creation, God’s glory is revealed. Any healing or restoration of order reveals God’s glory. In the case of the man blind from birth (John 9), his healing revealed God’s glory through restoring order to the chaos causing blindness. The same is true of disasters, natural or synthetic, they are products of chaos. God intervenes through His people bringing order through love and sacrifice, the natural order of creation.
Mankind, through its knowledge of good and evil, sees the potential of evil and preemptively acts in evil to defend against evil. This is reminiscent of the cliché, “Fight fire with fire.” Some would say, “The end justifies the means.” Humanity easily forgets the sacrificial good individuals do daily but celebrate the cataclysmic fire and smoke of retribution. Society elevates the celebrity, the loudest and most boisterous. It’s like elementary when the manipulative, loud, annoying classmate demanded the teacher’s attention while acting vile when no one was looking. He shot a sly smile at you when protesting your innocence and no one listened. A master manipulator. There’s a pleasure in the loud and dramatic, it feels important.
Elijah challenged the profits of Baal, a standoff between the gods. Or, was it? It appears to be a standoff between Elijah and the prophets of Baal, but Elijah brought a nuke to a knife fight. God crushed the challenge in fire while Baal didn’t show. “Slay the prophets of Baal, kill them all.” Elijah ordered.
Elijah reveled in it. He was on top of the world. He thought surely this would bring Israel back to God, the fire from heaven was irrefutable. However, Jezebel doubled down looking to kill Elijah. Suddenly Elijah lost hope and wished to die. He wandered into the wilderness and lay down to die beneath a tree.
God asked Elijah to meet Him at the top of Mt. Saini. Possibly the same place Moses encountered God long before. Elijah was to wait for God, He told him he would come. A great wind with hurricane force ripped tree, rock, and bush from the mountain, but God was not in the wind. An earthquake came shaking and breaking the mountain to pieces, but God was not in the earthquake. A fire decimated the mountain in an inferno, but God was not in the inferno.
A quiet settled, soft and silent. Peace rested in that place. God was there, in the quiet, in the order; a soft whisper. That’s where God was, not the mountain, not a burning bush, not a pillar of fire, not the rushing wind, God is in the quiet. Elijah had to listen to hear God’s whisper.
Elijah told God, “I’m the only one. The only one who has not bowed to Baal.” Perhaps he remembered God telling Moses He would start over with him. Following the golden calf incident, at the foot of Saini, the very mountain God had brough Elijah to, God wanted to start again with Moses as He had with Noah and Abraham. Perhaps, Elijah thought God would start again with him. Instead, God said he had a remnant who had not bowed the knee. Elijah was not all that was left. God had a plan.
Elijah called for God to show himself in fire and violence. He believed the people would turn to God when they saw the cataclysm of His force and authority. He ordered the prophets of Baal to be violently executed. He believed he was cutting out the cancer, but still the people resisted. After the fire, violence, death, and catastrophe the people weren’t convinced, their hearts did not change.
That was God’s lesson to Elijah in the spectacle on the mountain. God had another plan. Healing would come at the foot of a tree where a man hung. Where God gave His life, the example of how order and healing would come to the world. Death and destruction were tools of chaos, tools of the Satan (advisory). Life comes in order, from God who holds all things together through sacrificial love.
Love at cost to ourselves is the example we are to follow. This is how we remain in Christ. Daily we bring order into the world through sacrificial love. It’s not fireworks. It’s not cataclysmic. It’s gentle, soft, and powerful.
In our world it is cataclysmic. It redefines how we understand life. Imagine Elijah searching for the wind, earthquake, fire and violence in the name of God, believing he was doing the work of God. Then, God makes himself known in the last place expected, silence and a whisper. God ended the power of death and violence with his own violent death.
Then his resurrection brought order to the finality of chaos’ death. He made all things new again returning order to creation. His glory shone “. . . and the light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it (John 1:5).”
“But this happened so that the works of God may be displayed in him (John 9).”