Can Spiritual Empowerment Be Used Wrongly?

It’s terrifying for a prophet to tell an authoritarian king bad news from God. Doing such a thing often got prophets killed in ancient times, so Elijah was likely very fearful when the king sent 50 soldiers to fetch him for his prophetic word about the king’s death. Indeed, the prophet flipped out and called down fire from Heaven, which wiped out the 50 guards. So the king sent 50 more. Elijah, too, wiped out those 50. So the king sent 50 more. But before Elijah could wipe them out, the Angel of the Lord showed up and told Elijah to go with them. This was no mere angel, this was the angel of angels—indeed, many Bible scholars are convinced (and I agree with them) that this particular heavenly being is pre-incarnate Jesus.

And so in that moment, Jesus showed up and told Elijah to simply go with the soldiers. So Elijah went and told the king his prophetic word directly and that’s the end of the story. There was never any need for violence. As odd as it sounds, it seems to me that Elijah wrongly used the spiritual empowerment entrusted to him.

This is all the more clearly seen when Jesus couldn’t find a place in town to stay one night. This frustrated his disciples and some of them asked Jesus if they should call fire down from heaven on the town—some manuscripts even adding, “like Elijah did.” Jesus’ response? He rebuked them—a word often used in the gospels in reference to demons. Jesus’ disciples were thinking in terms of hate and pride, not love and humility. They were embodying a demonic mentality and ethic. And so just as Jesus stopped Elijah, so he stopped his own disciples. Jesus-people get on crosses, they don’t put others on them.

The old Spider-Man adage carries Biblical weight: “With great power comes great responsibility.

*This devotional was created out of the themes of Luke 9:51-62 found in today’s reading at

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