The Word of the Lord came to Elijah, saying, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah? Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.’
When God is about to do a new thing in the lives of his people, there seems to be circumstances beyond their control. Things intensify, which cause the people to cry out to God. If we recall the exodus story, the Egyptians had put slave drivers over the children of Israel to crush their spirits with hard labor. As the hard labor became unbearable for the enslaved people, they cried out to God for relief. And God heard their cry and sent them a message of hope. God said, ‘I have seen how cruelly my people are being treated, I have heard their cry out to be rescued, I know all about their suffering; and so, I have come down to rescue them. Now I am sending you, so you can lead my people out of this place.’ God sent a message of hope to a suffering people.
Everyone with in the sound of my voice, take heed. Down through the ages, God raised up leaders who spoke truth in the midst of adversity. Speaking the truth can get one in trouble with powerful earthly leaders. Elijah found himself in such a situation when he confronted the false prophets and exposed their proclamations as lies. The powers that be rose up against him and he had to flee and hide for his life. Our reading from 1 Kings 19:9 introduces us to such a dilemma.
If we paid attention to the news following the funeral service of the late Honorable Congressman John Lewis, he heard similar criticism of Former President Barak Obama when he compared a time past with the present time in this nation. To some it was inappropriate to make such a comparison at a funeral of someone whose entire life is the epitome of what was being addressed. The congressman had challenged the system that systematically sought to eradicate one group of the human race. Like Ahab who surrounded himself with people who would only tell him what he wanted to hear, so some of our leaders have surrounded themselves with advisors who cannot speak the truth for fear of retribution.
So, our times are no different. We are living at a time when a significant proportion of the human race may be facing extinction if a cure or vaccine for COVID-19 is not found. We have to make a choice between life and death. We have witnessed the consequences of making hasty decisions such as putting the economy over health and life. Island communities that closed their borders seemed to have controlled the spread of COVID-19. Those that did not close their borders are experiencing resurgence! Whose instructions will we follow? Moses would tell us, I put before you this day, life, and death. Choose life!
Elijah in his imperfection and with his limited human understanding followed the voice of God. After threats were made against his life, he became fearful, but that fear did not cause him to turn away from the mission for which he was called and anointed. In the midst of the chaos of his time, God still had work for him to do. It is believed that God is saying the same thing to us. There is work for us to do. We can consider this our cave time when we may be still and listen to God for instruction on how to prepare to live and move and worship in the new normal. Could it be that the former things have come to pass, and new things are now being declared and before they spring forth, God is revealing them to us?
Throughout this nation and the world communities of faith are responding to the COVID-19 pandemic in real and tangible ways by its response to the human suffering. Daily in some communities the hungry is being care for, care packages are being prepared and distributed, persons are receiving assistance with critical matters affecting their family life, to name a few. We are not facing this pandemic alone because the prayers and actions of other believers throughout the world are with us as we journey in the knowledge that our God knows the way through this wilderness and our God will keep us safe and lead us to a new understanding of His purpose for us. We can face this journey in hope that at the end of the pilgrimage God holds us safe ‘til the pandemic passes by.
The word of God challenges us to stand on the promises of God so we and others can discover that God never fails his people. No matter what may be the test, God will take care of us if we trust and obey. Therefore, let us liken the present time to the period when Peter got out of the boat and attempted to walk toward Jesus. There was turbulence in the boat, and there was turbulence on the water. But once Peter kept his eyes on Jesus, he could walk over the turbulence. Yes, we can find comfort, we can find assurance, we can find hope in the word of God that we will be led by still waters and we will feed in green pastures.
As we move forward during this time of uncertainty, let us do so mindful that things will change from day to day, but the word of our God abides forever. There will be change and decay all around us, but the God who changes not, will still bide with us. In times like these let us ask God to give us the grace and courage to endure. Our weeping may endure for a night, but our morning of joy will come as sure as day follows night. May the Lord hold us fast, let us stand in the hallow of His hand, and keep us safe till the pandemic passes by.
— Bishop Edward Ambrose Gumbs is the Episcopal Bishop of the Diocese of the Virgin Islands.