Wednesday, February 18, 2009

February 18- Elijah and Calvin

[Picture of John Knox- Calvin's Scottish disciple]
17 May the favor [a] of the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us— yes, establish the work of our hands. (Psalm 90:17)
Then a voice said to him, "What are you doing here, Elijah?"
14 He replied, "I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too."
15 The LORD said to him, "Go back the way you came, and go to the Desert of Damascus. When you get there, anoint Hazael king over Aram. 16 Also, anoint Jehu son of Nimshi king over Israel, and anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from Abel Meholah to succeed you as prophet. 17 Jehu will put to death any who escape the sword of Hazael, and Elisha will put to death any who escape the sword of Jehu. 18 Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel—all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and whose mouths have not kissed him." ( I Kings 19:14-18)

Calvin: I have lived here amid continual bickerings. I have been from derision
saluted of an evening before my door with forty or fifty shots of an
arquebuse. How think you must that have astonished a poor scholar timid
as I am, and as I have always been, I confess? Then afterwards I was expelled from this town and went away to Strasbourg, and when I had lived there some time I was called back hither, but I had no less trouble when I wished to discharge my duty than
heretofore. They set the dogs at my heels, crying, Here! Here! and these snapped at my gown and my legs...As to our internal state, you have elected M. Beza to hold my place. Advise how to relieve him, for the charge is great, and so weighty that he
might well sink under the load. But advise how to support him. Of him I
know that he has a good will and will do what he can. (Farewewll to the Pastors)

In hard times when the church is oppressed by evil in the secular world outside and division, neglect, and tough times within, it is easy to feel lonely. This passage in I Kings is a great reminder that even the greatest, most godly leaders can falter and waver a bit. Elijah had just done one of the most amazing things to turn the nation back to the Lord. He had defeated the prophets of Baal with a spiritual test. The people ganged up against the false prophets and the faith was saved from utter oblivion and dilution. Today, in our postmodern world, some would consider it barbaric to even say the ones who worshipped Baal were wrong or unhealthy spiritually- much less allow them to be killed! They would not care that God showed his presence with lightning and thunder and Baal evidenced his non-existence. To many, it is the cultural toleration that is more important than the true existence of God Himself! What is important to these secular despisers is the act of religion, not the results or truth of religion. Actually to them what is more important is the respecting of other human beings and their differences, more than the respect of God. They really have no idea about being accountable to God at all. But I digress…
After this terrific defeat of the prophets of Baal, the queen said she would kill Elijah. He ran all the way to Mt. Sinai (I think this is about 150 miles). In his exhaustion he became depressed. He felt he was the only one left and the queen was trying to get him. God’s solution was for him to be nourished, and then to get some human help. Some of the help was secular (anointing the king of Syria), some semi-secular (the king of Israel), and some religious (Elishah). Then he reminded him that he wasn’t the only one left.
There were times when Calvin was in despair. When he was running from the Sorbonne, trying to escape death in France, and then he was robbed on his way. I could almost hear the angels say, “the journey is too much for you” (I Kings 19:7). Then when he was kicked out of Geneva with Farel. Then when his three children died. Then when his wife died. Then when he heard of the persecution of the Hugenots in France, or the defeat of the Schmakaldic league. Then when many attacked him for the Servetus affair when the Catholics would kill 30,000 in the one day St. Bartholomew’s massacre a few years after his death and it is estimated 40,000 before that day. People made fun of Calvin in every way- naming their dogs after him (not in fondness), kicking him and his family, jeering at him.
Calvin managed to write voluminously; preach about 4,000 sermons; established the Reformed church; negotiated a union with the Zwingli followers, some of the Hussites, and tried with the Lutherans; was involved in the political scenario.
But what made his work last was the passing on of the baton- establishing a university and school; establishing a form of government with elders that has lasted about 500 years now; establishing the company of pastors; passing the baton to Beza, Knox, and others- similarly to what Elijah had done with his company of prophets and anointing. In our secular, unbelieving world, we need to re-establish what the New Testament began and Calvin Reformed, and after establishment, pass the baton on to the next generation.

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