It’s Chaos out There, and God’s in it Somewhere
by Mike McKinniss
Death and taxes, man. Death and taxes.
Uncertainty plagues us all. It is fundamental to the human condition for two infuriating reasons. One: the universe is far too vast and complex to know intimately the interrelated causalities affecting your future. Call it chaos theory, the butterfly effect, whatever—it’s what God tells Job at the conclusion of his eponymous text: we’re too small to know it all.
Another major cause of uncertainty in our lives, frustrating as it is: all these 7 billion people keep making up their own minds about what they’re going to do all the time. It’s maddening.
But never mind why it’s there. The chaos, it seems, still reigns, and right here at home. The question isn’t why things are so befuddled with insanity, but what to do about it. How do we go on living and reject the paralysis that threatens to encroach upon our innate desire for order?
To live, actually live, with hope, it may be helpful to use the unknown to your benefit.
In 1 Kings 17-18, Elijah the prophet rises up in a time of spiritual crisis for Israel. Ahab, king of Israel, has married Jezebel the Sidonian. Her god was Baal, and Ahab welcomed both she and her deity into the court. Indeed, all of Israel began bowing the knee to the foreign god.
Elijah, however, challenges this new state of affairs and brings about a direct confrontation with the king and queen. A drought ensues (Baal was supposed to have been able to control the weather), and a competition is arranged: Yahweh vs. Baal on Mount Carmel—The Melee on the Mediterranean.
We know the result. Baal and his prophets fail to alight the sacrifice. Yahweh rains fire on the altar. Elijah, his God victorious, commands the death of the 450 prophets of Baal, and a storm cloud appears on the horizon.
Yahweh has won the day. Elijah’s cause is victorious. There has been no clearer moment of the Lord’s control.
Jezebel, incensed, issues a death sentence on the prophet, who flees to the wilderness winds up alone in a cave.
How often have we found ourselves huddled in a cave, wondering where the Lord has gone? We do the right thing, we stand tall for the Lord, and where is God? How many times have we uttered words like Elijah’s? “I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away” (1 Kgs 19:10b).
But God whispers a reply to Elijah—as I suspect he would respond to us in our despair—by reminding him of the first point we made about the world’s complexity. Elijah does not have all the facts. There is more to the story than even the prophet knows.
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 Abelmeholah 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 Kgs 19:15-18).
There exist within Israel 7,000 likeminded people who remain faithful to Yahweh and have refused to give their allegiance to the non-god Baal. Elijah is not alone. And the Lord will have vengeance on those who have rejected his beneficent reign.
The point is God is always doing more than we know. He is always wrangling good in the midst of desperate situations. True, he works quietly, with whispers and through people we may not know if far off places. He is always preparing others who wish to work good alongside him. He is always looking to rescue and renew and redeem.
Yup, it’s chaos out there. And God’s out there in it.