5 min read
The answer to the question posed in the post’s title is—God shuts the heavens over you. God will not move on your behalf.
Let me unpack this
Israel was in decline. They had rebelled against Yahweh, his statutes and his prophets. Time and time again Yahweh sent prophets to warn them of impending doom but instead, they raised the middle finger to their God. Things got worse for them. They were struck with famines and droughts. They lost wars against enemies. They died from sickness and diseases. Yet despite their rebellion, God loved them, and when they turned to him he immediately turned their misfortunes into blessings. He healed them. He blessed them. He provided for them. He protected them.
But as human nature loves to coil back to its default mode of sinning, they turned their backs against Yahweh time and time again.
The situation became so bad that a public contest of some sorts took place between the prophets of Baal and the prophet of the true Yahweh, Elijah. This event took place on Mt Carmel. Each was tasked with bringing an offering and pray that their God would fire up the sacrifice. The prophets of Baal went first. They offered their sacrifice, they prayed, cried, danced, shouted and bloodied themselves with knives and swords. But Baal, their god didn’t answer them.
Then Elijah took his ox, slaughtered it, and placed it on the wood. He then directed them to pour water on the sacrifice, which they did. And then Elijah prayed.
“O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, prove today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant. Prove that I have done all this at your command. 37 O Lord, answer me! Answer me so these people will know that you, O Lord, are God and that you have brought them back to yourself.”
1 Kings 18:36-37 (NLT)
Notice how short his prayer was compared to the hours that the prophet of Baal spent trying to convince their god?
Elijah’s prayer was answered instantly.
Immediately the fire of the Lord flashed down from heaven and burned up the young bull, the wood, the stones, and the dust. It even licked up all the water in the trench!
1 Kings 18:38 (NLT)
Two groups of people are present at this event. The prophets of Baal and Elijah. The prophets of Baal offered their own “blood” sacrifices. They offered themselves.
Christians and non-Christians do the same thing.
Christians offer their own “sacrifices”. Their sacrifices look like this—fasting and praying, obedience, seed offering, theological purity, good works such as helping the needy, orphan, prisoner, widow, hungry.
Non-Christians offer their intellect, wealth, titles, education, experience, physique, hard work, smart work, account balance, good morals, etc. All these and more are “blood sacrifices” that we offer so that God could accept and bless us.
God answered Elijah’s short prayers. Why? God only opens the heavens when he sees the one blood sacrifice of his son. When he receives the offering, he accepts and blesses you. What is that one sacrifice? It is the sacrifice of his Son, Jesus Christ. Where is Jesus in this narrative? Elijah slaughtered an ox and laid it on the altar and fire came on it. An ox? Picture of Jesus. Wood? A picture of the cross. Fire? God’s wrath on Jesus against our sin.
At the beginning of every year, there is a rallying call to fast and pray so we can “position” ourselves to receive from God all that he has for us in the New Year. This idea was made popular by a charismatic mega Church pastor a few years ago. It became a phenomenon that swept across the charismatic landscape. What if our praying and fasting to “position” ourselves to receive from God all that he has for us in the New Year are “blood sacrifices” to make God hear us? Could it be possible we are experiencing unanswered prayers and petitions because we regularly offer our own “blood sacrifices?”
What if we, like Elijah, depended on the one time sacrifice for all and for all time? What if when we receive the Lord’s supper, we see the ox, the wood and the fire? We see through the eyes of faith what Jesus accomplished for us on the cross. What if we believed the New Year has been blessed not by our “blood offerings” but by the offering of Jesus on our behalf?
The answer to these questions is—God would have no choice but to answer our prayers and meet our heartfelt desires. God only answers our prayers in the name of his Son. God forgives us because of His Son. God accepts us in his beloved Son. Everything we have is because of what Jesus has done for us. Only the sacrifice of His Son unlocks all of heavens resources for you.
Every other person at the end of the year will look back and consider all that they had to do to get blessed. Only the Christian looks back and says, “I was blessed because of Jesus and his work for me. God accepted and blessed me because I trusted his Son’s work on my behalf”. No Christian should look back and say, “I was blessed because I fasted and prayed, I gave a seed offering, I submitted to my pastor, I attended Church regularly, I didn’t drink or smoke, I worked hard, I was obedient, I was a fierce defender of the true gospel, I preached the gospel” etc.
This year, and every other year, I will depend on the sacrifice of God’s Son for my acceptance and blessings.
That’s what grace looks like