Elijah had his moment of success. He did something achieved by no other prophet. He called down fire from heaven. He did this to win the people of Israel back to the worship of the one true God. He had a contest on Mount Carmel between himself and the priests of the pagan queen Jezebel, who worshipped Baal.
The pagan priests danced and shouted all day long. They implored Baal to send down fire to consume the sacrifice of a bull. No fire came down. After it was obvious that no answer was coming from Baal, Elijah called out to God: “Yahweh, God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let them know today that you are God in Israel, and that I am your servant, that I have done all these things at your command. Answer me, Yahweh, answer me, so that these people may know that you, Yahweh, are God and are winning back their hearts.”
According to the First Book of Kings, “Then Yahweh’s fire fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and licked up the water in the trench. When all the people saw this, they fell on their faces. “Yahweh is God,” they cried, “Yahweh is God!”
This should have been Elijah’s moment of triumph. It was not. The leaders of Israel, Jezebel in particular, were not impressed. On the contrary, Jezebel was so furious with the miracle that she swore an oath to her pagan gods. She promised to have Elijah’s head chopped off before the day was over. Elijah had no choice but to leave Israel and flee for his life.
Nothing has changed since the days of Elijah. We cannot change the world by working miracles—not even spectacular miracles like the one of Elijah. Look at the example of Jesus himself. Our Lord worked thousands of stunning miracles. It did nothing to keep him from being rejected, nothing to keep him from being condemned to death.
Miracles are important, but not because we can use them to change the world. Miracles act as a seal of authenticity. As we read in St John’s gospel, Nicodemus said, “No one can work these signs unless God is with him.” Miracles are a seal of certainty for those who believe. They strengthen our faith. But God does not expect us to change the world by performing miracles.
Does that mean Christians are wasting their time trying to overcome evil and build a society where peace and justice can thrive?
No, a thousand times no! It can be done, it will be done, by living the Gospel:
“Bless those who persecute you ... Never try to get revenge. Resist evil and conquer it with good.”