The weeks seem to pass with increasing speed as we adjust to the lock down in our communities. However, it is also clear that a greater number of people are feeling the mental and emotional strain of separation from friends and family and the familiar routines they previously enjoyed.
On this day, another Wednesday, when we have set aside some time for prayer and reflection, we come to remember each other in our prayers for strength to continue our day to day lives.
I Kings 19:9b-10 What are you doing here?
And the word of the Lord came to him: ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’ 10 He replied, ‘I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.’ (I Kings 19:9b-10)
Elijah had been happy with the dramatic and adventurous calling God had given him. He was a person happy with his own company and more than willing to live a lonely life as an itinerant minister serving the various rural hamlets of Gilead and in training future prophets to minister in other communities in the years to come through the small Bible schools at Jericho and Bethel.
His was a hard life, with many a night spent outdoors in the cold, together with endurance of the burning heat by day. Into that steady and settled work to which he was committed for the rest of his life Elijah’s regular routine had been shattered by the call to address the king of Israel concerning the judgement God was about to visit on His sinful people Israel.
The cumulative pressures piled upon his broad shoulders were gradually taking their toll. No ordinary mortal could have continued the day after the triumph on Mount Carmel as if it was another day at the office! The Covid-19 virus pandemic has come like a most unwelcome visitor into many of our lives that if we are honest had settled into a fairly comfortable pattern. It was not that everything was wonderful, but at least we had a fair idea of what was happening week by week.
By contrast, the opposite is now true for many people. We cannot plan too far ahead because there is too much uncertainty surrounding what may or may not happen in the coming days.
Will a vaccine be found that is completely safe? In the meantime how will my job be affected by the changes in guidelines from the governments in Edinburgh and London? Or will my company survive the lock down restrictions? When will I finally be allowed to go out freely to do what I want again? When will it be possible to gather as before in a church or a school, or a cinema or football ground?
These and so many more unanswerable questions pass through our minds. This chapter of I Kings reveals very clearly the pastoral heart of God, in the way that He deals with His servants in their most vulnerable times. It gives us a window into the heart of God and here in the Old Testament shows us a God of compassion, a term associated uniquely with Jesus in the New Testament, but it is an accurate word to describe the love of God for His people throughout recorded history.
Elijah had sunk into self-pity and despair, recycling his difficulties repeatedly in his own mind. It may be part of the human condition to go through this process at times, but sadly we never feel any better for doing it, because the problems are not changed as a result of this activity.
He had reached the point where he wanted to resign from his ministry because he was weary with it and felt it was time for someone else to take over. All of us can feel this way at times and sometimes with good reason, but not here.
The lesson from this passage is the very opposite: Elijah wanted to quit because of the pressures of the calling, but these stresses arose precisely because he was being effective in God’s service and had more years still to give in this important work. He could not see that, but being on his own that was not surprising.
This is why it is so vital for us to be there for one another to encourage and sustain each other in our service for the Lord. Who might you want to contact today to encourage them at the present time? Ask God to put someone in your mind and sent a message of encouragement to them or even phone them to see how they are getting on.
Our song for today is: ‘ I do not know what lies ahead’
Pointers for our Prayers
• What blessings in particular do you want to thank God for today? Take some time to praise God for who He is and then thank Him for the things we can be grateful for in our lives. Give thanks for Robin and Aileen G reaching 60 years of marriage tomorrow.
• Give thanks for the many gifts that have come in for our care packages for the staff of the residential care homes. It is good to see the generosity evident in our community.
• Continue to pray for the Government in Scotland and in the wider UK and for their clinical and scientific advisers, that they may work together effectively at this time
• Pray for our NHS and Social Care Staff as they continue to serve so willingly the many people under their care. We particularly remember Hannah A and the social care staff who have been caring for very vulnerable people under extreme pressures in the last few weeks. We pray that they and all other workers in our country may be able to carry out their duties as safely and effectively as possible.
• Pray for those ill with the Covid-19 virus, in particular John G, that they may soon regain their health and strength. We pray also for people with other health conditions that they may also have access to the medical care they require at this time.
We continue to remember Jan and Jim F especially as Jim has become progressively weaker that they may know God’s peace and strength at this very difficult time. We pray also for Ali T’s parents, Jude R’s grandma and Isdale A’s dad; we also pray for others waiting for hospital appointments to address their health issues at this time.
• Pray for teachers and pupils, and lecturers and students, at different levels of education especially those known to you. That they may be able to work adequately online. Help them to overcome the challenges of technology and the difficulties of communicating effectively through online learning. Help parents also trying to work from home alongside supporting their children doing schoolwork.
• We pray for the emotional and mental health of our nation, especially those of whatever age who are particularly struggling to cope with the lock down and the inability to meet with their families or friends.
• Pray for those recently bereaved that they may experience more of God’s love and comfort at this time, in particular we especially remember Betty and Scott R, Betty W, Eloise P, Elizabeth F and their families.
• Pray for ourselves that we always make time each day to read His word and spend time in His presence.
• Pray in advance for the online meetings and activities throughout this week and the service next Sunday