Track 1: I Alone Am Left
Have we ever read the news headlines and felt despair? Everything seems to be going in the wrong direction. Not only that, but there seems little we can do about it. That was the Prophet Elijah. He was running for his life, looking for a place to hide. He had read the Jezebel news report. She had promised to kill him.
Elijah was hiding in a cave on Mount Horeb when God spoke to him:
Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” He answered, “I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away.” (1 Kings 19:9-10)
The problem for many of us, as it was for Elijah, is that we have been reading the wrong news report.
The Prophet Habakkuk, in dire times, was seeking a word from God about what God was going to do. He had grown tires of waiting, not knowing what God was doing. Reading from Habakkuk:
Then the Lord answered me and said:
“Write the vision
And make it plain on tablets,
That he may run who reads it.
For the vision is yet for an appointed time;
But at the end it will speak, and it will not lie.
Though it tarries, wait for it;
Because it will surely come,
It will not tarry.
“Behold the proud,
His soul is not upright in him;
But the just shall live by his faith. (Habakkuk 2:2-4)
When our plans fail we must remember that God has a plan. God’s plan is executed on his perfect timing and not on ours. We must live by faith and continue to put our trust in God.
God told Elijah that he wa not the only one left:
Then the Lord said to him, “Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus; when you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael as king over Aram. Also you shall anoint Jehu son of Nimshi as king over Israel, and you shall anoint Elisha son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah as prophet in your place. Whoever escapes from the sword of Hazael, Jehu shall kill, and whoever escapes from the sword of Jehu, Elisha shall kill. Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.” (1 Kings 1915-18)
Today, we are not alone. The psalmist wrote:
Why are you so full of heaviness, O my soul?
and why are you so disquieted within me?
Put your trust in God;
for I will yet give thanks to him,
who is the help of my countenance, and my God. (Psalm 42:14-15)
God is our help. His word is our good news. All the other news may seem bad. God’s plan does not depend on what we may think. He will do what we cannot do. God will do what only he can do.
Today, in whom do we place our trust? No one could do what Jesus did for us. To his disciples, Jesus seemed defeated when he hung on a cruel cross. But good news from God was that Hell and death were defeated. O the cross Jesus bore all of our sin. He is our salvation, He is our good report. He is our future. Everything else will ultimately fail. God’s love for us will never fail.
Track 2: Under the Authority of Jesus
In the Book of James we read:
You believe there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that. And they tremble! (James 2:19-20)
James was teaching that the Christian faith must go deeper than just believing in the existence of God. If we stop there our faith is no greater than that of demons.
In today’s Gospel reading we have an example of how demons believe and tremble:
Jesus and his disciples arrived at the country of the Gerasenes, which is opposite Galilee. As he stepped out on land, a man of the city who had demons met him. For a long time he had worn no clothes, and he did not live in a house but in the tombs. When he saw Jesus, he fell down before him and shouted at the top of his voice, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, do not torment me” — for Jesus had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. (For many times it had seized him; he was kept under guard and bound with chains and shackles, but he would break the bonds and be driven by the demon into the wilds.) Jesus then asked him, “What is your name?” He said, “Legion”; for many demons had entered him. They begged him not to order them to go back into the abyss. (Luke 8:26-31)
Why did the demons fear Jesus? He had authority over them. They knew who he was and that he could order them to go back into the abyss. Demons are on assignment from Satan to torture their subjects. If they fail, they just return to the abyss and be tortured themselves. But that is for another time.
We want to examine the authority of Jesus over demons. We remember the time when Jesus sent out 72 disciples into the country side on minister in his name. Reading from the Gospel of Luke:
The 72 returned with joy. They said, “Lord, even the demons obey us when we speak in your name.”
Jesus replied, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. I have given you authority to walk all over snakes and scorpions. You will be able to destroy all the power of the enemy. Nothing will harm you. But do not be glad when the evil spirits obey you. Instead, be glad that your names are written in heaven.” (Luke 10:18-20)
Jesus is able to grant us his authority over demons to others. On the Day of Pentecost, the Church received the power of the Holy Spirit. Just before his ascension, Jesus commissioned his disciples:
“Go into all the world and proclaim the good news[d] to the whole creation. The one who believes and is baptized will be saved, but the one who does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: by using my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes,[e] and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.” (Mark 16:15-18)
Casting out demons in the Early Church occurred on a regular basis, using the name and authority of Jesus. But this was not some foolproof formula. We read in the Book of Acts:
Some Jews went around driving out evil spirits. They tried to use the name of the Lord Jesus to set free those who were controlled by demons. They said, “In Jesus’ name I command you to come out. He is the Jesus that Paul is preaching about.” Seven sons of Sceva were doing this. Sceva was a Jewish chief priest. One day the evil spirit answered them, “I know Jesus. And I know about Paul. But who are you?” Then the man who had the evil spirit jumped on Sceva’s sons. He overpowered them all. He gave them a terrible beating. They ran out of the house naked and bleeding. (Acts 19:13-16)
The demons were under the authority of Jesus. To cast them out, we must also be under the authority of Jesus. We have no power on our own to do so.
Today, do we understand that much of the opposition to the ministry of the Church comes from demons? We cannot be naive about the demonic. We are in open spiritual warfare. The Apostle Paul wrote:
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power; put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil, for our struggle is not against blood and flesh but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.Therefore take up the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to withstand on the evil day and, having prevailed against everything, to stand firm. Stand, therefore, and belt your waist with truth and put on the breastplate of righteousness and lace up your sandals in preparation for the gospel of peace. With all of these,[take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert and always persevere in supplication for all the saints. (Ephesians 6:10-18)
Are we under the authority of Jesus Christ today? His name must mean something to us. It must mean everything. Therefore, we must give him our everything. He is calling us to give him our all.