By Michael E. Brooks
“And he said, ‘I have been very zealous for the Lord God of hosts; because the children of Israel have forsaken your covenant, torn down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left; and they seek to take my life'” (1 Kings 19:14 NKJV).
A group of us were traveling upriver in Bangladesh by boat from the city of Pirajpur to visit various villages and points of interest. We were thrilled when, soon after our launching, we were joined by a pod of river dolphins who swam along beside the boat, frequently rolling on the surface and even leaping out of the water in a display of power and grace.
Our pleasure in this display was enhanced by our knowledge that the Gangetic river dolphins (along with all other freshwater dolphins) are rare and are classified as either threatened or endangered by governments and environmental agencies.
Pollution, net fishing, the abundance of engine driven boats (with sharp propellers) in their habitat, and other factors has reduced populations to a few thousand or in some species mere hundreds. We were blessed to see something which most of the world’s population may not even know exists, and which may not exist much longer if steps are not taken soon.
Elijah the prophet was a member of an endangered species. He had already resigned himself to the fact that he would soon die, and with him, all hopes that Israel would be a nation which served the Lord God. He was discouraged and defeated, confused as to how God Almighty could allow his people to reject him totally. Unless steps were taken soon, all hope would be lost.
Yet steps were being taken. Elijah’s survival, and that of the faithful in Israel, did not depend upon human government or agency. God himself was supervising their fate. He had resources of which even the prophet was unaware. “Yet I have reserved seven thousand in Israel, all whose knees have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him” (1 Kings 19:18).
Elijah did not have a complete count of the faithful. He was not aware of the seven thousand faithful worshipers of God remaining in Israel.
So also when modern Christians despair at the prevalent immorality of our cultures, and when it seems that the wicked prosper while the righteous perish, we may not know the true state of affairs. But these things we can know by faith, and that knowledge will encourage us to continue to serve our God.
First, we know that God is still in charge. Jesus promised “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will by no means pass away” (Matthew 24:35). Of his kingdom it is said that “[It] cannot be shaken” (Hebrews 12:28).
Though the earth and all that is in it will someday be destroyed, “Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2 Peter 3:13).
Secondly, we know that righteousness abides. Paul affirms that salvation has been received by many through faith in Jesus. “But I say, have they not heard? Yes indeed: ‘Their sound has gone out to all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world'” (Romans 10:18).
Again we are taught, “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age” (Titus 2:11-12).
We may not always see or know of the many who have obeyed such teaching and who are living righteously before God. But we are assured that they exist.
Finally we know that Jesus will come again. “For yet a little while, and he who is coming will come and will not tarry” (Hebrews 10:37). “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come . . . (2 Peter 3:9-10).
God preserves his people unto his own purpose. We can have confidence before him in every situation, knowing that he loves us and that his power will prevail. We may be threatened, but the people of God are never endangered, so long as they trust in him. “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31).
By Michael E. Brooks