Sunday, December 28, 2014
Elijah's God Still Lives
In the early 1920's a group of seven young Chinese Christian men sailed to a small island off the coast of China to evangelize the fishing village of Mei-hwa. It was a pagan village, the people being devoted to the worship of ancient idols that were venerated by their ancestors long ago. As far as was known, only one Christian lived in the village---- the mid-wife lady, and it was through her urgent invitation that this missionary evangelistic team was there. The oldest of the seven young men and the leader was destined to go on to become a well known figure in the persecuted Christian church in China and a prolific writer; many of whose books have been translated into English. His name was Watchman Nee.
For days this enthusiastic team of evangelists mingled with the people at the market place, preached on the streets, passed out Christian literature, but the best response they could get from the people of the village was just an aloof politeness.
Finally the youngest of the team, Kuo-chig Lee shouted at the crowd in frustration, "Why don't you people believe on the Lord Jesus?"
"Oh, we do believe in our great king, Ta-Wang. He never fails us."
Kuo-ching questioned the people further about this god and he learned that every year on January 11th they held an elaborate festival to honor Ta-Wang. They took his massive idol from its temple and paraded it through the streets. They feasted and rejoiced and made music and worshiped this idol. They had done this for 286 years and Ta-Wang had always provided them with beautiful weather for that day. It had not rained on January 11th for 300 years, they boasted.
Impulsively Kuo-ching cried out, "Then I promise you that our God, who is the true God, will make it rain this year on January 11th," he announced in a loud voice.
The crowd took up his challenge. Say no more," they replied, "If it rains on the 11th then this Jesus Christ you speak of is God and we will listen to what you say about Him. Now we will see."
When the seven evangelists were all together again and Kuo-ching related what he had done, there was much consternation among them. For one thing, January 11th was only two days away. For another thing, this was one of those parts of the world where dry periods and rainy periods were fairly predictable---- and this was the dry period.
Watchman Nee's first thought was to chide Kuo-ching for his impulsiveness, but instead he went aside to pray about the matter. As he prayed, he thought of the Biblical account in I Kings, chapter 18, of the prophet Elijah challenging the priests of the false god, Baal. He proposed that both he and they would build an altar---- he to Jehovah God and they to Baal. They would lay out wood on both altars for fuel and sacrifices on top of the wood, but neither would put fire to the wood. "The God who sends fire to consume His own sacrifice, let Him be God," Elijah challenged. The Baal worshipers went first and yelled themselves hoarse for several hours praying and chanting and begging Baal to light their fire. All to no avail. Elijah first called for barrels of water to be poured over his sacrifice---- making it more difficult to burn---- then prayed a brief prayer of calm faith... and whoosh! Heavenly fire suddenly consumed water, wood, sacrifice and even altar stones! God whispered to Watchman Nee's spirit, "I still live, I can do this."
January 11th dawned bright and clear. Not a cloud in the sun-lit sky. The festivities began as planned. The pagan priests got their idol out and started up the street with it. Everything was set up for a triumphant celebration that would demonstrate the superiority of Ta-Wang over the "new" foreign God.
Suddenly a huge rain drop was heard hitting a tile roof. Then another and another! It was a tropical deluge. The priest toting Ta-Wang slipped and fell on the rain slick street. Poor Ta-Wang hit the pavement so hard he broke his head and one arm off. By the time the rain stopped, water stood in the streets level with the porches on the houses.
Undaunted, the pagan priests patched up Ta-Wang and said they had made a mistake and the feast was supposed to have been on the 14th that year. But at exactly the hour they named for the festivities to start on the 14th, another torrential downpour began and Ta-Wang got another undignified soaking.
The power of false religion was broken on the island of Mei-hwa and a great number of people responded to the Gospel, resulting in a strong church.