Monday, May 10, 2010

Wet Wood

Have you ever tried to start a camp fire with wet wood? It doesn’t work very well. Once as a camp counselor in college I had to make a fire for a group of campers who were having a picnic outing in the woods. It had rained the night before and everything in the woods was wet, except for a roll of paper towels that we brought along with the food we were to cook over an open fire. We decided to set the paper towels on fire and that combustion lasted for about a minute so we ate cold hot dogs that night. Wet wood does not a good fire make.

How I wonder at the prophet Elijah who was having a contest with the priests of Baal one day on Mt. Carmel. Elijah and the prophets of Baal each made an altar and put wood on the altar and placed a sacrificial animal on that wood and they called upon their god to light the fire. The contest was to see which god was the real god: the God of Israel or the god of Baal. Whichever God had true sovereignty and power would be able to light the fire on their altar. The account of this can be found in I Kings 18:20-40. It is an all-day event with the priests of Baal going to great lengths to call upon their god to light the fire but to no avail.

Then Elijah prepares his altar by repairing an altar that had been previously destroyed, arranging the wood and the sacrificed bull on the altar and then he does this additional step of pouring water on the altar. He drenches the wood with not 1 but 12 jars of water. He even builds a trench around the altar to catch the water so this altar is as wet as it can be. The point of this no doubt was to make it abundantly clear to the wishy-washy Israelites that only a supernatural, all powerful God would be able to light fire on this altar. The story ends with God sending down so much fire that the altar is consumed, the wood, the stones, the burnt offering, the dust and even the water in the trenches were “licked up.” The people were more than convinced and fell on their faces and cried “The Lord indeed is God.” Our God can do the impossible. The power of God is able to overcome any obstacle.

In our daily lives we face difficulties, challenges, disappointments, tragedies, want and suffering. Sometimes it seems like the old phrase “when it rains it pours” and just when you think it can’t get any worse, it does. I am thinking of the people of the Gulf shore region who are suffering now from a tragedy of the oil slick. These people who lived through Hurricane Katrina and other storms have another difficult crisis. I am reminded of the people in Haiti who are going to be getting the rainy season, which will cause flooding in an island that is hardly recovered at all from the earthquake.

Sometimes in life it seems like jars of trouble are poured into our lives. That is when we realize, like the people in Elijah’s day, that it is only God that can make a way out of no way. In our own human strength we cannot overcome the many troubles on our earth. Humanity more or less has made a mess out of things and it is only the power of God that can heal and help and bring solutions to our problems. When things begin to look impossible, remember the wet wood and God’s power to light the fire. Trust in God to bring about the answers. Ask God to direct you in what you need to be doing next. Don’t be overwhelmed by hard times. See it as a workshop in faith and pray for the eyes of faith to see God’s victorious hand in the midst of it. Wet wood is no match for God’s fire.

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