February 3, 2014
Nothing better than a Big Win.
Come on: it’s been less than a day since the Big Game. Your mind is stuck in reverse; you hear “Big Win,” and you’re thinking “Yo, Seahawks! What a blow-out!”
Some things are just timeless, and I don’t mean the annual NFL grand finale. I’m referring to the timeless nature of live, public, decisive competitions that end the season, and settle – once and for all – the question of, “Who’s best in class?” Despite the efforts to dismiss superiority and pass out trophies for just showing up, something in the heart of humanity longs for the declaration of “Victory!”
So, Super Bowl XLVIII is history; we’ve passed-out rings for the winners. They’ll snag endorsement deals and renegotiated career contracts for the next year… and, then, we’ll do it over again. Recessions, recoveries, droughts or deluges: the realities of front-page headlines rise and fall, but the pursuit of greatness continues despite rainfall gauges or Dow Jones gyrations.
When God writes history, He includes some of the memorable Big Wins; He understands our longing to be around the winning team. Joseph vs. The Ten; Moses vs. Pharoah; Gideon vs. Midianites; David vs. Goliath: those are timeless accounts of Big Wins, played in front of sell-out crowds.
One of the Biggies happened at the stadium at Mt. Carmel, in Israel. It was no squeaker; the outcome was decisive. It happened during the reign of King Ahab – and, his devious wife Jezebel – around 850 BC. The Kingdom had divided into Israel in the north (10 tribes) and Judah in the south (two); Ahab was in Israel, and he was Bad News, start to finish.
Ahab’s primary goal was the elimination of the worship and recognition of Jehovah God. He and Jez had worked to displace the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob with the idols of the Canaanites: Baal and his sidekick, Asherah. Government and God were in conflict…
God wasn’t going to go down without a fight. He raised up Elijah – from obscurity – to become His prophet, and to speak truth and judgment to Ahab and Jezebel. Elijah flexed God’s power by shutting down the rain for three years, causing famine and economic collapse in Israel (not a real blessing if you’re the king). Elijah and Ahab had an adversarial relationship…
1 Kings 18 reads like an adventure article: to prove the PowerPoint, Elijah challenges Ahab to put his reputation on the line and fight like a man. “Bring the prophets of Baal and Asherah to Mt. Carmel, and we’ll see who can deliver the goods on the spiritual power above the throne…”
Elijah shows up as God’s visiting team (they used to be the Home Town squad, but Ahab and Jez had traded down); the buses with the Royal Religion Rangers unloaded 450 prophets wearing Baal jerseys, and 400 with their Asherah uniforms. Talk about a massive mismatch: it’s 1 vs. 850. Where would you put your bet, in the office pool?
The crowd from Israel arrived; it was a sell-out crowd. The rules for the prophets: each side had stones, wood, oxen… and their prayer shawls. Build an altar with the stones, put the wood on top, slaughter the oxen and place on the wood: then, pray for your deity to send fire, as proof of life. Elijah allowed the guys from B&A to go first.
They have the ball for half the day; by lunch, they’re out of luck. No fire; no points. It’s Elijah’s turn. Then the one-man-team replicates their performance, to a point: once constructed, fueled and fileted, he adds a handicap: douse the whole shebang with water, making the fire even harder.
A great story; it’s worth rereading: God sent fire from Heaven, proved His power… and Elijah ordered the death of the 850 imposters, and the deluge of a storm to restore the reservoirs. Now that’s a Big Win! Not a “come from behind;” rather, “come from Above!”
He’s still winning big; we’re never really outnumbered!