Putting Limits On God’s Grace and Greatness.
1 Kings 19-20, 2 Corinthians 8
For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich. – 2 Corinthians 8:9 ESV
A big part of the narrative of the Bible is its focus on the greatness of God. From the creation account found in the opening chapters of Genesis all the way to the image of God’s recreation of the world and the redemption of man found in the book of Revelation, we can see His greatness on display. But one of the things we human beings tend to do is limit God. We fail to recognize just how great, gracious and good He truly is. We put limits on His capacity to love and His capability to intervene in the affairs of mankind. In the story recorded in chapters 19-20 of 1 Kings, we see even Elijah, the prophet of God, who had just witnessed an unmistakable display of God’s greatness through the defeat of the prophets of Baal. And yet, this man who had displayed such unwavering faith in God suddenly finds himself faced with the wrath of Jezebel, the wicked queen. The next thing we know, Elijah is on the run and wishing he was dead. Two different times Elijah responds to a question from God with the same answer: “I have been very jealous for the Lord, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away” (1 Kings 19:10 ESV). Elijah was having himself a first-class pity party, whining over his sorry lot in life. But what he was really doing was limiting the power of His God. It seems that Elijah’s God was great enough to defeat the prophets of Baal, but He was not match to the revenge-seeking, false-god worshiping wife of the king of Israel.
But Elijah wasn’t the only one limiting God’s greatness. It seems that the king of Syria had no qualms attaching the nation of Israel, with the help of a 32-nation alliance. He saw his odds as pretty good and his army as greater than the God of the Israelites. But he was wrong. The Israelites won a great victory over the Syrians, with God’s help. But then the Syrians decided that the only reason they had lost the batlle was because the “gods” of the Israelites were gods of the hills. Since their defeat had taken place in the hills, it only made sense to attack the Israelites on the plains, where their “gods” would be impotent. But they were wrong.
What does this passage reveal about God?
God is great – all the time. His greatness never diminishes. His power never decreases. His all-encompassing, incomparable strength never changes. It didn’t matter if the Syrians fought the Israelites in the hills, the plains, the valleys, the forests or along the shores of the sea, the God of Israel would always prove greater than any god they might worship or any army they might muster. Elijah’s God was not only great enough to defeat the prophets of Baal, He was great enough to handle the likes of Jezebel. Contrary to Elijah’s assertion, he was NOT the only one left. He was not the only faithful Israelite left in the world. God was still in charge – in spite of Jezebel’s threats, Elijah’s doubts, the Syrian’s faulty logic, and any evidence that might point to the contrary.
What does this passage reveal about man?
The greatness of God is not just a pious-sounding platitude or religious catch-phrase we use to impress one another with our apparent faith. It is a non-debatable reality. But occasionally, we have a hard time believing it. Elijah had been a witness to an extraordinary display of God’s power. Fire came out of heaven, consuming “the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench” (1 Kings 18:38 ESV). Elijah himself had single-handedly killed the 450 prophets of Baal – all in the power provided by God. He even received supernatural strength to outrun King Ahab and his royal chariot. going on the way from Mount Carmel to Jezreel on foot and in record time. But in spite of all this, Elijah still put limits on God’s greatness and grace. While things seemed to have turned out remarkably well that day on the mountain, they evidently didn’t turn out quite like Elijah had expected them to. The death threat on his life from the irate queen left him feeling like things were worse than ever. But rather than focus on all the great things God had done through and around him, Elijah put limits on what God could do. A common trait in even the most godly of men.
How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?
God’s greatness goes hand-in-hand with His grace. His power is provides Him with the capacity to extend grace to sinful men. Paul reminds us that it was the death of Jesus Christ, provided for us by God Himself. that made possible our redemption and reconciliation with Him. But it was God’s power that made it possible. Yes, Jesus had to die. But had not God’s power raised Him from death back to life, the cross would have ended in nothing more than tragedy, and Jesus would have been nothing more than just another human martyr for a worthy cause. But God’s incomparable greatness made it possible for Him to provide us with His invaluable grace. And Jesus displayed grace to us by sacrificing not only His life, but His very place at the right hand of God by taking on human flesh and dying a sinner’s death on our behalf. Why in the world would I ever doubt God’s greatness after all He has done for me? Why would I place any limits on His capacity to great things in and around my life, when He has already done so much on my behalf? Our God is truly great and His grace is greater than all our sins.
Grace, grace, God’s grace,
Grace that will pardon and cleanse within;
Grace, grace, God’s grace,
Grace that is greater than all our sin.
Father, You truly are great. Please forgive me for the many times I doubt Your greatness and put limits on Your power. I have no reason to do so. You have proven Yourself great and gracious time and time again in my life. Amen
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men