An apostate king sits on the throne of an apostate people. Under threat from Jezebel, Elijah runs away and cries out to the Lord.
I’m the only one left!
But he is not alone. In the midst of his groaning, the Lord reveals that there are 7,000 who have not bowed down before Baal. Think about that for a moment.
Israel has been judged and found wanting. The land and the people suffer the wrath of God. In the middle of this dark place and dark age, 7,000 people remain faithful.
As we follow the journey of God’s people across time, we discover hidden, faithful pilgrims struggling to walking in the midst of dark places and dark times. Daniel suffers the judgment on Judah and is thrust into the lair of Babylon. Renamed Belteshazzar, he bears the title of a Babylonian deity.
How does he live faithful to the Lord in an alien land and under the name of an alien god? In this new land, Daniel faces the threat of seduction. Power and privilege are his. How can he remember Jerusalem from the palaces of Babylon?
Like Daniel, the hidden faithful are often called to live in alien places among alien gods. How do we wait? How do we watch? How do we long for the coming kingdom while living in luxuries of alien kingdoms?
The prophets calls us to our true hope, and call us away from false hopes that ultimately enslave. The watching and waiting of Advent are about tuning that hope toward our only hope, the Coming Lord.
As I think of watching and waiting in the land of plenty, I am reminded of a game I learned many years ago from my professor Darlene Graves. She divided us into pairs. One person wore a blindfold and the other person guided the blindfolded person across the room and to the door.
Then we repeated the exercise only this time the guide merely spoke and never touched the blindfolded person. Then we repeated the game again. But this time, Dr. Graves covered the floor with obstacles that could easily trip up the blind folded person. Other voices called out to the blind folded person, trying to distract and confuse. The guide could only whisper. The blindfolded person walked slower and listened carefully, attuning her ears to the whisper.
We listen for the whisper in aliens lands among alien gods. The way may seem clouded and confused. The promised land so far away. Does it still even hold promise for us? The temptation of discouragement may encircles. We may hear the sirens of discontent and fear and anguish. We may hear the call to trust in lesser gods. We may grow weary and lose heart.
When all hope seems lost, our hope rests in His faithfulness, not ours. He alone is faithful. Our Savior also heard the voices of distraction and seduction in the wilderness, in the streets of Jerusalem and even in the Temple. He walked attuned to the voice of His Father.
Even now, He tunes our hearts to His voice, to the gentle rhythm of His grace. Let us look up from these alien places and alien gods. Let us watch and wait for His coming. And let us listen for His call, inviting us to sings songs of love and deliverance over the people and places where we walk.