February 6, 2006
The Master's Program
The Point of View - A Weekly Commentary by Bob Shank

Dear Marketplace Friend,

Breathe deeply: let your heart rate drop back to normal. Sit down; be calm. Things will get back to normal now; it's over.

In some American households, Christmas and New Years are the main thing... but, in some areas where they put testosterone in the drinking water instead of fluoride, the "holidays" are just the pre-game events for the Big One.

Super Bowl XL
: we're through it. The sole motivation for some jocks to learn Roman numerals was the need to keep NFL history straight. Some helmet heads still don't get it: they think that "XL" was the preferred size on the commemorative sweatshirt; for the more studious (the guys who got the 'ball scholarship AND went to class), it means "40". Bigger, mas grande than ever, over 90 million people joined the live thousands by television to see Aretha Franklin and Aaron Neville belt-out the anthem... and the Rolling Stones substitute for a marching band at half time. Steelers: 21; Seahawks: 10. Little boys across America will stun their parents with their ability to spell "Roethlisberger" in Scrabble, just to find out that proper names are an improper play. Bring on the post-game advertisement awards for "best Budweiser spot." The national dialog took a break from illegal wiretaps and terrorist response to editorial cartoons for a cool winter day; what now?

Big-time events have a way of capturing attention, in every culture, in every generation. It was true for America's Super Bowl #40; it was true for Israel's Prophet Bowl, too.

Not an annual expectation, but a one-time phenomenon, from about 2700 years ago. Israel and Judah had long-since split up, going their separate ways. The ten tribes who were Israel had a pair in the palace - Ahab and Jezebel - who took the northern kingdom from bad to baddest, during their 22-year reign. Among their "reforms:" eliminate the vestiges of legitimate Jehovah worship, and substitute, instead, the pagan religions that featured Baal and Asherah as the idols du jour.

Elijah was God's spokesman to these deviant royal losers, and He used Elijah to communicate His severe opposition to their evil leadership. Think economic collapse (for an agricultural community, that's the result of drought), over a multi-year period, declared by Elijah, in advance, as "judgment from God." After three years of national irritation, things came to a head: Elijah "called Ahab out" to Mt. Carmel.

The showmanship surrounding Super Bowl made it bigger-than-life; the Prophet Bowl was probably the ancient version, on steroids. The "home team" - sponsored by King Ahab and Queen Jezebel - were the "professionals" who worked in the Baal/Asherah operations (850 were suited up, on the field). The "away team" was Elijah: one man standing for the faith of Abraham/Isaac/Jacob. Those are tough odds: 850:1. What chance did Elijah have?

No MoTown stars were there for the pre-game: just Elijah, with a sobering question for the folks in the stands: "'How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal is God, follow him.' But the people said nothing." (1 Kings 18:21) In that deafening silence, Elijah "played the game;" both sides erected altars, butchered oxen... and called for supernatural fire from heaven to nuke their pile. The Baal/Asherah team failed; Elijah - God's QB - scored. Fire from heaven... and, then, the formerly-silent audience took the field and eliminated the prophets of Baal/Asherah, restoring God as #1.

While you were watching Super Bowl, I was on the field at a modern version of the Prophet Bowl, in Manila, Philippines. More than 125,000 people were there, in the audience, as Franklin Graham asked them to stop hesitating between two opinions: "If Jesus is God, follow him... and do it now." Over 9,000 people said, "Yes" last night... and joined over 22,000 who had done the same thing in the prior three days.

Big events still draw big crowds, and big crowds still produce big results. In American football, those results include lucrative player contracts and more beer sales. In the Kingdom play-offs, the results have eternal consequences. The Super Bowl is fun... but the Gospel Bowl is phenomenal.

Bob Shank

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