Juniper Tree Religion
I was reading in my devotions today about the prophet Elijah in the Old Testament book of 1 Kings chapter 19. Elijah had won a great victory against the false prophets to the pagan god Ba'al.
His prayers resulted in a dramatic miracle with fire from heaven, and hundreds of those false prophets meeting their doom as the people of Israel began to turn back to the One true God. It was a huge win for the good guys.
Then he got threatened. Jezebel, wife of Ahab, and queen of Israel made this declaration:
“The gods will get you for this and I’ll get even with you! By this time tomorrow you’ll be as dead as any one of those prophets.”
Elijah ran for his life, filled with fear and despair. He fled into the desert and where he fell to the ground underneath a juniper or "broom" tree:
"He came to a lone broom bush and collapsed in its shade, wanting in the worst way to be done with it all—to just die: “Enough of this, God! Take my life—I’m ready to join my ancestors in the grave!” Exhausted, he fell asleep under the lone broom bush."
An angel appeared to him at last and gave him food and something to drink. "Get up and eat!" the angel exclaims. So Elijah wakes up, eats the heavenly food, and then he goes back to sleep.
That's the moment in the story that made me curious. If an angel appeared to you, fed you and told you to get up... would you go back to sleep?
How tired and disheartened do you have to be to lay back down after you've been ministered to by an angel. It takes another miraculous visitation with more food and another exhortation by the angel before Elijah gets up and actually starts moving again.
I feel sometimes like most Christians are practicing a Juniper Tree Religion. We've gone to sleep. There is so much injustice, so much wrong with the world, so many things that need the love of Christ. The victory of the Resurrection has been won, but we act like it hasn't.
There are so many reasons why Christians want to remain lying under the bush. The work before us is difficult. There are other Christians who claim to speak for us, who are making us look bad. We are so focused on our own problems, issues, challenges, etc., that we feel like we haven't any energy left.
But it's time to rise. It's time to continue the journey. There are people who are living in darkness who need to see the light. There are injustices that need to be made right in this world. There are false gods that need to be discredited. There is evil that needs to be defeated.
And God is expecting us to step out in faith, and with the strength of Resurrection power to be the hands and feet of Jesus to the world.
May you push away from Juniper Tree Religion, and walk out of the desert you are in with the power and might of the One who loves you and gave himself for you. May you life in boldness, unafraid to speak the truth in love. May you shed the loving, light of Jesus to everyone you meet.
And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and forever. Amen.