Then Elijah stood in front of them and said, “How much longer will you waver, hobbling between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him! But if Baal is God, then follow him!” But the people were completely silent.
1 Kings 18:21
Friend to Friend
My daughter Rachel is limping right now. Her knee likely hurts from all the jumps and back handsprings she does as a cheerleader. The pain in her knee affects the way she walks, and limping is no fun. It calls attention to a weakness or flaw. I have stubbed my toe, banged up my shins, and had sciatic nerve pain that left me hobbling like a person twice my age. Elijah uttered the words in today’s truth just before he challenged the people of Israel to a contest on Mt. Carmel. He asked them, “How much longer will you waver, hobbling between two opinions?” It seems the nation of Israel suffered from a limp of their own.
In his question, Elijah used a Hebrew idiom that “means, literally, ‘hobbling upon two branches. The imagery is probably that of a bird hopping from branch to branch or a person on two crutches made of branches.’” Elijah was basically telling the people of Israel to stop sitting on the fence! Earlier in Israelite history, Joshua similarly drew a line in the sand and compelled those entering the Promised Land to choose whom they would serve: “But if you refuse to serve the LORD, then choose today whom you will serve (Joshua 24:15).
These types of biblical statements can leave us feeling uncomfortable because we all know the wavering in our own hearts. None of us does the right thing every time. We all operate out of some level disparity between what we say we believe and how we think and act. Many times our duplicity grows not from a deliberate decision but a slow erosion of awareness. This is when we claim the name of Christ but acclimate ourselves to living contrary to His teachings. We all struggle with this hypocrisy to a certain extent, trying to reconcile our beliefs and behaviors. However, some behaviors do not co-exist well with our faith. Just as worshiping Yahweh and Baal did not work for the Israelites, in the same way trying to serve both God and greed, or God and adultery, or God and bigotry does not work for us. We cannot have it both ways. Either we serve God and obey His commands or we live according to our own set of standards.
Though we all struggle to live this out, we must guard against being lukewarm as the church of Laodecia is described in the Book of Revelation. God said, “I know all the things you do, that you are neither hot nor cold. I wish that you were one or the other! But since you are like lukewarm water, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth!” (Revelation 3:15-16). It’s an indictment of indecision—of sitting on the fence.
Walter Bruggeman wrote about the indecision of the German Christians in the days of Hitler, saying, “These were church people who thought they could live faithfully without choosing between the dominant ideology of National Socialism and the claims of Christ.” The truth is, we cannot waver on issues of morality. When it comes to our favorite ice cream flavor or our hairstyle, waffling is okay. But in the case of pursuing God and avoiding the sins He says destroy our souls, we cannot continue to waver between two opinions. We must choose. God didn’t create birds to hobble from branch to branch. He made them to fly. In the same way, the Lord knows that wavering keeps us from the victorious life He has planned for us. Elijah insisted that the land of Israel could not have it both ways, and the people fell silent when asked to decide.
Every day we make either/or choices: we will choose food that is healthy or unhealthy; we will be active or sedentary; we will scroll through social media and read about others’ lives or go out and live our own; we will count our blessings or our problems; we will pray and study God’s Word or we will find other things to fill our time. God calls us to make the choice to fall in love with Him. When we set our hearts and minds to love Him, the disciplines of following Him become less tiring. We find our spiritual stamina building as we choose to imitate His faith, hope, love, and forgiveness. Yet rather than try to do it on our own, we invite the Holy Spirit to do it in and through us. We choose rather than waver.
We all have areas of duplicity in our lives, but as we begin to recognize them, we then ask God to help us. Rather than sit in silence as the people of Israel did after Elijah called them to stop limping along between Baal and Yahweh, let us live what we say we believe. Though none of us is perfect, over time we will grow in faith and obedience as God’s Spirit draws us more and more to Jesus’ way of love.
Dear Lord, I long to rediscover an undivided loyalty to You. I don’t want to limp along in my faith anymore. You know how the world presents so many ideas that are contrary to Your truths. Help me Lord to stop wavering between following You and chasing worldly ideas and opinions that don’t line up with Your Word. Show me what it means to be loving rather than legalistic when it comes to seeking You with wholehearted devotion.
In Jesus’ Name,
Now It’s Your Turn
Is there an area in your life where you sense you have been wavering, dabbling in both cultural accommodation and intentional Christian community? Take some time to really consider this question. Don’t allow this evaluation to lead to shame. Shame is not from God, but conviction that leads to repentance is right up His alley. Ask God to help you identify any clear areas of duplicity and ask for His help in overcoming them with faithful choices through the power of His Spirit.
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Melissa Spoelstra is a women’s conference speaker, Bible teacher, and writer who is madly in love with Jesus and passionate about helping women of all ages know Christ more intimately through serious Bible study. She is the author of several women’s Bible studies including Numbers, First Corinthians, Joseph, and Jeremiah which include video teaching and daily study. Her newest study, Elijah: Spiritual Stamina in Every Season released in 2018 and is available for personal and group study. She lives in Pickerington, Ohio, with her pastor husband and four kids. Find her online at www.melissaspoelstra.com.