Good News for 2023: It’s Not About You

Good News for 2023: It’s Not About You

Amid the New Year’s hubbub about self-focused resolutions and self-improvement and self-care and self-whatever, don’t forget that 2023 is not about you. It’s about Jesus. It’s good to ask how this year could be different than the one before—but for Jesus’ sake, not just ours. Whatever our plans, intentions, hopes, or fears are as we think about the future, let’s enter this new year intent on making much of Christ, not ourselves.

I’ve been reading through 1 Kings with my kids, and we recently got to the section about Elijah. Introduced abruptly in chapter 17, the early record of his ministry is a near barrage of miracles. After being fed by ravens, and then a never-ending supply of flour and oil, he raises a widow’s son to life before confronting Ahab and the false prophets on Mt. Carmel. In response to Elijah’s prayers, first fire falls from heaven, and then rain, ending a three-year drought. Chapter 18 ends with him supernaturally outrunning a chariot to beat the king to his palace.

And then Elijah falls apart. A death threat from Queen Jezebel shows him that the war with Baal worship is far from over, and he crumbles. He starts running for his life and doesn’t stop until almost six weeks later when he finally arrives at Horeb.

When God asks him why he’s there, Elijah’s answer is revealing: “I have been very jealous for the Lord, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away” (1 Kings 19:10, 14).

Even though he should know better (18:13), Elijah has come to believe he’s the last prophet standing. And now that his initial bout of despair (19:4) has passed, self-preservation has become his main goal. If he dies, he thinks, so does all true religion in Israel. It all comes down to him. As I explained it to my kids the other night, Elijah seems to think he’s the main character in this story.

God’s response gently cuts him down to size. Elijah still has a job to do, a part of which includes appointing his own replacement (v. 16). Almost as a by-the-way, Elijah is informed that a full 7,000 Israelites will remain faithful to the Lord. Clearly, not everything rises or falls with Elijah. This story is a lot bigger than him.

The continuing narrative of 1 Kings itself reinforces this point. After the calling of Elisha, chapter 20 recounts a series of events involving Ahab’s wars with Syria. At least four unnamed prophets have a role in this account—but not Elijah. After briefly reappearing in chapter 21, Elijah once again fades into the background as yet another prophet speaks to Ahab in chapter 22. And then, after a final confrontation with a wicked king in 2 Kings 1, Elijah is taken off the scene.

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