Real Magic

April 19, 2012 - 5:00 am

“Now Ahab told Jezebel everything Elijah had done and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. So Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah to say, ‘May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like that of one of them’.” — 1 Kings 19:1–2

What was Jezebel thinking?

The people of Israel had gathered at Mount Carmel for the ultimate standoff. On one side were 450 self-proclaimed prophets of the god Baal backed by King Ahab and Queen Jezebel. On the other side was the lone figure of Elijah the prophet. The challenge:  To offer a sacrifice that would bring down fire from the heavens and thus be devoured. The goal:  To prove who represented the true God.

Here is what happens. The 450 prophets go first. They build an altar, call out to Baal, and offer a bull.  Nothing happens. They perform a ritual dance. Nothing happens. They call out louder, inflict wounds upon themselves, and “prophesy.” Nothing happens.

Then it is Elijah’s turn. Elijah builds a stone altar and forms a trench around it. He places wood on the altar and a bull on the wood. To add to the drama, he drenches the offering, the altar, and the trench with water. Elijah invokes the name of the Lord, and a fire immediately descends from heaven and devours the offering, the altar, and even the water in the trench.

The contest is won, and the nation of Israel proclaims, “The Lord – He is God! The Lord – He is God” (1 Kings 18:39)! The nation promptly rounds up the 450 false prophets and hands them over to Elijah who executes them. The grand spectacle concludes with a thunderous rainstorm putting an end to a three-year drought.

So what was Jezebel thinking when after hearing all of this, she vows to kill Elijah the very next day? Didn’t she fear an uprising from the masses if she murdered the most popular figure in the entire kingdom?

The answer is that Jezebel had a keen understanding of human nature. Jezebel knew that grandiose displays had their place, but had very little power. She understood that inspiring experiences were not lasting. She planned to kill Elijah “tomorrow,” because she knew that by then the effect of his showmanship would already begin to wane. “Perhaps it was a magic trick,” “maybe our eyes deceived us,” the nation would say. Jezebel understood that even miraculous moments are nothing if not followed up by daily action.

Lasting change does not happen in a single moment. Inspiring moments can catalyze change, but they do not guarantee it. It is only when we are able to experience God in the “everyday” that change is really possible. Everyday prayer, Bible study, and good deeds are the path to lasting change. Discover the miracle of a flower, a birth, or a single breath. That’s where the real magic lives — a magic that lasts forever.


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