Today’s Text and Thought of Encouragement:
“Trust and be confident in the Lord and do good; so shall you dwell in the land and feed surely on His faithfulness.”
“There’s a stream of trouble across my path;
It is black and deep and wide.
Bitter the hour the future hath
When I cross its swelling tide.
But I smile and sing and say:
‘I will hope and trust always;
I’ll bear the sorrow that comes tomorrow,
But I’ll borrow none today.’
Tomorrow’s bridge is a dangerous thing;
I dare not cross it now
I can see its timbers sway and swing,
And its arches reel and bow.
O heart, you must hope always;
You must sing and trust and say:
‘I’ll bear the sorrow that comes tomorrow,
But I’ll borrow none today.’”
Today’s Study Text:
“Elijah was a human being with a nature such as we have with feelings, affections, and a constitution like ours.”
James 5: 17
“Someone Just Like Us”
“Man is a peculiar, puzzling paradox, groping for God and hoping to hide from Him at the self same time.”
What do I think the Apostle James meant when he said “Elijah was a man of passions just like us?
How do I believe I am like Elijah?
“The most profound essence of my nature is that I am capable of receiving God.”
Augustine of Hippo
“And thus ever, by day and night, under the sun and under the stars, climbing the dusty hills and toiling along the weary plains, journeying by land and journeying by sea, coming and going so strangely, to meet and to act and react on one another, move all we restless travelers through the pilgrimage of life.”
In the Charles Dickens novel, Little Dorrit, the reader is introduced to the extremes of English society along with the characteristics which are often uncovered in the everyday lives of individuals. Amy Dorrit, the tale’s heroine, had, since her birth, lived in the Marshalsea Prison for Debt. As I read this touching story, there were many times when I found that the characters related to the world we live in today. There was the disparity between the daily lives of the rich and poor; along with the untold injustice which stood in stark contrast to heartfelt compassion expressed by kind hands. Plus, the fact that no matter what an individual’s social stature might be perceived in society, it could still be difficult to break the chains that bind one to their own generational legacy.
When this story was recently portrayed on television, I found it interesting that so many people I knew, felt that their own life, in ways they never could have imagined reflected at least one or more of the story’s characters.
I share this perspective, for the Bible, is also a book of stories -- many of which contain a narrative that follows the plot of our own lives. However, throughout many of these Biblical stories, the writer never comes out directly and says to the reader, “You’ll be able to relate to this individual because they are just like you!” Not in the story of Eve or Esther are we told, “I bet you’ll find your life story mirrored in theirs.” Yet, in describing the prophet Elijah, the Apostle James, whom scholars tell us was Jesus’ brother, states that there is one person, at least, who is just like us. Someone we can really relate to, and this individual is Elijah. This is what James says about Elijah.
First, he begins with this kindly advice, and I’m quoting from the paraphrase of The Message Bible, “Are you hurting? Pray. Do you feel great? Sing. Are you sick? Call the church leaders together to pray and anoint you with oil in the name of the Master. Believing-prayer will heal you, and Jesus will put you on your feet. And if you’ve sinned you’ll be forgiven –- healed inside and out. Make this your common practice: Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you can live together whole and healed.” Second, James gives us an example of the power of prayer when he states, “The prayer of a person living right with God is something powerful to be reckoned with. Elijah, for instance, was human just like us, prayed hard that it wouldn’t rain, and it didn’t -- not a drop for three and a half years. Then he prayed that it would rain and it did. The showers came and everything started growing again” (James 5: 13-18, The Message Bible).
In his gem of a book, Meet Me on the Mountain, author William J. Petersen shares his feelings about the fact that Elijah was like you and me. “I had a hard time thinking of Elijah, waiting on the corner with me for the commuter bus to the city, or buying hamburgers for the family at McDonald’s on Saturday night…but whether I liked it or not, (James) called that desert-dwelling shaggy-haired Elijah, ‘a man of like passions as we are.’”
Author Petersen continues by comparing a variety of Biblical translations from James 5: 17. Here are some of his examples:
1. “Elijah was a man with a nature like ours.” (NASB).
2. “Elijah was a man with feelings just like ours.” (WMS).
3. “He was a man as human as we are” (PH).
And finally, there is our study text for today from the Amplified Bible where we read that, “Elijah was a human being with a nature such as we have -- with feelings, affections, and constitution as ourselves.”
It is the phrase, “human like us,” which I find so inspiring and, yes, encouraging. As we delve deeply into the life of this common, regular man in the next few weeks, it is his “just like us” commonality that gives me the faith to believe that what God did for Elijah, He can certainly do for Dorothy and all His children here on earth. It is not our specialness that makes it possible for God to do amazing things through us -- it is His greatness.
Matthew Henry says that it is our “regularness” which is at the heart of the way God can take what’s common and use it to His glory. As he describes, “(We) are made of the dust of the ground, a very unlikely thing to make (us) of; but the same infinite power that made the world of nothing made (humans), His masterpiece, of next to nothing. (We) are not made of gold-dust, powder of pearl, or diamond dust, but common dust, dust of the ground. Our fabric is earthly, and the fashioning of it like that of an earthen vessel.”
This statement certainly gives me a lot to think about for if our infinite God, who can take finite people like you and me and do the seemingly impossible with us, there’s absolutely no limit to what God can accomplish on earth through His children.
This is why James makes the point about Elijah, using as his example the life of a man whom we may deem a great man, yet who in reality was a common guy from the hills of Gilead. As one author noted, Elijah was a local “hillbilly”. But it was with this every day vessel that God crafted a treasure who spoke to his generation on behalf of the Creator of heaven and earth.
The next time you think you are just too regular for God to use, think for a moment about Elijah, who was just like you and me. Remember what God did through this man. And then remind yourself that He’ll do the same through you, if you’ll just let Him.
“Be such a (person), and live such a life, that if every (person) were such as you, and every life a life like yours, this earth would be God’s paradise.”
“Follow Me, and I will make you…
Make you speak My words with power,
Make you channels of My mercy,
Make you helpful every hour.
Follow me, and I will make you…
Make you what you cannot be
Make you living, truthful, godly,
Make you even like to Me.”
Dorothy Valcárcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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