In 1 Kings 19, the prophet Elijah is discouraged. Exhausted mentally, physically, and spiritually, he cries out to God twice, lamenting, “I alone am left…” (1 Kings 19:10 & 14). The first time Elijah says this, God reveals Himself to the lonely man (vs. 11-13); when Elijah again asserts that he is the only one left of God’s people, the Lord reminds the prophet that there are still 7000 other faithful people left in the land of Israel (vs. 18).
Think about that—seven thousand! Yes, it’s a small number compared to the unfaithful, but still: Elijah is far from the only one who loves the Lord. So how did he miss them? Why did he despair? I don’t know Elijah’s exact thought process—the Scriptures simply do not say—but I know my own thoughts when I feel like I’m the only one. Why did Elijah forget about the 7000? Perhaps because they weren’t who he was looking for….
- The 7000 weren’t his age. They were 30, 40, 50 years older and so out of touch with modernity they couldn’t possibly relate to his situation; or they were 30, 40, 50 years younger and too inexperienced to know how he was feeling; or they had the same number of years, but they weren’t as spiritually mature as the prophet of God.
- The 7000 weren’t at his social level. They were city people, and Elijah was from the country. They were highly educated, but couldn’t learn to understand his trade school perspective. They were poorer, he was richer, and the wage gap was just too big to jump.
- The 7000 weren’t like him. They were lighter-skinned, or darker skinned. They liked sports and he liked music. They weren’t as athletic. They stuttered. They had cancer, or autism, or clinical depression. Their culture was not his, and their “traditional” meals were strange indeed.
- The 7000 weren’t in the same location. They lived 3000 miles away; they lived in the next town. Travel was expensive, they were too busy to write, and he didn’t even do email, much less Skype.
Again, I don’t know for sure why Elijah told God that he was the only faithful person left in the land, but I do know that I’ve felt that way, too. And I also know that both I and Elijah were wrong. The 7000 are out there—God’s faithful people are out there! And just because they look different or live somewhere else doesn’t mean they aren’t serving God. Scripture speaks over and over of the eradication of racial, social, and personal difference in the unified church. Speaking specifically about the racially and culturally divided Jews and Gentiles, Ephesians 2:14-18 says Christ’s sacrifice
“made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might create the two into one new man, establishing peace, and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity. And He came and preached peace to you who were far away, and peace to those who were near; for through Him we both have our access in one spirit to the Father” (emphasis added).
In God’s eyes, there’s no difference between an American Christian and a Haitian Christian, a 22-year-old grocery-store-clerk Christian and a 78-year-old retired-neurosurgeon Christian. Yet sometimes it seems my favorite thing to do is resurrect the barriers Christ died to break down and fence myself in until every one of my fellow 7000 is too weird, too unrelatable, or too distant to possibly be an ally or a friend. I alienate myself from the people of God because they were not what I wanted or what I thought they should be.
Sometimes I resurrect the barriers Christ died to break down and fence myself in until every one of my fellow Chris is too weird, too unrelatable, or too distant to possibly be an ally. I alienate myself from the people of God because they are not what I thought they should be.
I’m so tired of doing that; I’m tired of living that way. It’s lonely; it’s scary; and the worst part is, it’s not even based on reality! There ARE people out there who love God just as much as I do. I need to take off the blinders of prejudice and self-pity and start looking for them! Rather than looking for someone my age, I should look for someone who spends her retirement sending encouraging cards because she loves people as much as I do. Rather than looking for someone of my status, I should look for someone who uses his money (however much of it he has) to buy food and gas for those in trouble because he, too, is looking to the eternal reward. Rather than looking for someone whose hobbies are the same as mine, I should look for someone who loves to talk about God even more than sports because she values spiritual things, just like me. In amongst all the varying levels of education, wealth, and maturity, the far-flung addresses, and the far-out personalities, if the other person is a Christian, we have something in common: love for, faith in, and submission to Jesus. What other commonality do I think I need?
Let me encourage you to look for the 7000. They were out there in Elijah’s day, and they’re out there now, serving God and blessing the world. Find them. Love them. Foster relationships with them. Trust me—they’ll bless you, too.
by Abigail Buchanan