The scriptures for next week are: I Kings 18:20-21 (22-29) 30-39; Psalm 96; Galatians 1:1-12; Luke 7:1-10.
These lessons teach us about the power of the Holy Spirit without naming the Holy Spirit. Nevertheless, the Holy Spirit is implied throughout the Bible even when it is not named, mentioned or spelled-out. Somewhere I read that the Holy Spirit is the hiddenness of God, which does not call attention to itself, but it is there to help us to see through it like spectacles or eyeglasses in order to read small letters, recognize distant faces and discern tiny details that we could not see without the glasses. Let us not be confused into thinking that the Holy Spirit is not at work in these texts where it is not directly named. It is the power of the Holy Spirit that sustains the Prophet Elijah in his prophetic role and work. His role is to represent God’s word and will in the wide arena of politics, society and poverty. The same prophet who heals the widow’s son against poverty and death also condemns King Ahab for his abuse of political authority and calls upon the society to worship the true God who answers by fire. It is the Holy Spirit that gives Elijah the strength and the courage to stand alone. All God’s servants must have the boldness to stand for God’s truth, even if it makes one unpopular. See Jeremiah 15:17 and Mark 15:34 where Jesus felt forsaken not only by people, but also by God. But Jesus knew that God was there because he called God, “My God!” Similarly, as the narrative unfolds, we discover that Elijah’s loneliness is accompanied by Elijah’s awareness that God is present with him and with his nation. He believes in God so strongly that he risks everything upon the assumption of faith that God is always present, and God will reveal God’s power openly for all eyes to see it. God faithfully responds to Elijah’s radical risk of sincere faith. God will also respond to our genuine ventures of absolute faith.
Psalm 96 implies the Holy Spirit’s eternal call to worship and praise. The Holy Spirit teaches us that God is worthy to be praised because of what God has done to establish the world and the community of faith; but God is also worthy to be praised because of what God is doing in the present to sustain all creatures in life and opportunity. “Strength and beauty are in his sanctuary.” (Verse 6). Thirdly, God is worthy to be praised because of what God is about to do in the future. (Verse 13). All evil has not yet been punished. All innocent victims have not yet been vindicated. Perfect justice has not yet been fulfilled; but God will move and God will bring all things to completion and perfection. We are impelled to praise God in anticipation of future manifestations of God’s love.
Galatians 1:1-12 is Paul’s angry response to the false teachers who had followed him in Galatia in order to contravene and contradict what he had taught the new Gentile converts of Galatia about salvation by Grace through Jesus Christ. The false teachers had added the keeping of the law to believing in Christ as the cause of salvation. Paul insists that salvation comes as the will of God, the work of Christ and the power of Holy Spirit, not by the works of the law. We are not saved by what we do; but by the power we have received from God who has made us new creatures in Christ. The new life in Christ has more to do with grace, freedom and love than with legalism, compulsion and coercion. Those who are free in Christ can do all things through Christ, and therefore, they are not slaves or captives to any higher authority than the God who makes us free! Any gospel that enslaves, restricts, dominates and controls is a false gospel. The true Gospel liberates, lifts and encourages. (See II Corinthians 3:17 and Philippians 4:13!)
The Gospel Lesson in Luke 7:1-10 is about the authority of Jesus to heal, and the faith that we are called upon to invest in that authority. Both the authority and the faith are gifts of the Holy Spirit. We must have so much faith in the authority of Jesus to bless, heal, save, empower and deliver, that we will always refuse to be depressed by trouble, defeated by challenges, devastated by grief, discouraged by poverty, dismayed by sickness, disheartened by pain or destroyed by death. A Gentile soldier, who was neither a Jew nor a Christian, had so much faith in the sheer authority of Jesus that his spectacular victory in Christ puts all Jews and all Christians to shame! We must call upon the Holy Spirit to so flood our minds and hearts with the breath of God and the wind from heaven that it will sweep away all doubt and fear, removing all hindrances to new manifestations to us and new achievements through us of God’s glory and love! These lessons are powerful! Study them!
C. G. A.