“I alone am left; and they seek to take my life”
– 1 Kings 19:14.
How often are God’s people under pressure to follow the crowd? How often do God’s people feel alone in the world who tries its utmost at getting everyone to change and sway at every different dogma, belief or scientific theory? (Proverbs 4:27) Many times, everyone at some time will feel the urge to do the age old saying: “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” Many will do exactly as the Romans do when they know that they would never be able to do the same things in their home countries or in their own family. Democracy is an idea where the “majority rules” seems to hear to the “best” interests of all citizens. Nonetheless, how can one ensure the protection of minority citizens who do not have the “crowds” of people to ensure that their rights are also heard? In the West, the rights of minority groups are thankfully heard to prevent vigilante justice. Christians interested in promoting the truth of the real gospel have much for which to be thankful. Although Christians in Western countries can peacefully worship, many turn to what secular society has to offer: unlimited pleasure, an answer to all covetness and the idea that humanity as a whole can do all things without God because humans are evolving in a more “noble” people. This utopian idea still creeps into the human consciousness even today. Aldous Huxley after writing the novel Brave New World in 1932 believed like most utopians of his day that mankind would evolve into more “noble creatures.” However, one does not need to say that Nazi Germany came shortly afterwards to prove to the world how brutal humans were and still are. Can man be trusted to not again utterly brutalize another people? The Bible says that man cannot be trusted and one should never put their full faith in man:
“Stop trusting in man, who has but a breath in his nostrils. Of what account is he?”
– Isaiah 2:22(NIV).
“Do not put your trust in princes, Nor in a son of man, in whom there is no help”
– Psalms 146:3.
Essentially, every professing Christian who truly believes in the word of God as a faithful guide to ones footstep in life will be faced with the daunting task: “I alone am left” and must stand against the thousand.
To begin, the Bible’s words do not mean that one can never trust in man, but one’s trust must first and foremost be with God. Trust in Yahweh with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths” – Proverbs 3:5-6. If one places their first trust in God, one may not be as hurt or deceived by others who willing or unwilling do harm to oneself or others. One must be fully grounded in their faith in the one true God of the Bible in order to not be changed or tempted to change from one’s solid beliefs. If one’s faith and conviction does not come from the Bible, everyone will be submitted to a form of temptation (willing known or unwillingly known) that will cause any person to not follow entirely their once cherished beliefs. The deception allows one to slowly lie to themselves deceiving themselves and others. Nonetheless, the desire to satisfy the crowd is strong. One only needs to look at Mark 15:15 where Pilate released Barabbas a criminal to “satisfy the crowd.” Isaiah describes how humans (particularly religious leaders) are more concerned with looking after themselves: “They (Israel’s Watchmen) are dogs with mighty appetites; they never have enough. They are shepherds who lack understanding; they all turn to their own way, each seeks his own gain” – Isaiah 56:11. It seems as if all that is needed is one who would turn many away from “the faith that was once delivered to the saints” – Jude 3. Everyone must always be on guard for even in Paul’s day the “mystery of lawlessness” was already at work – 2 Thessalonians 2:7. One must not forget that rebellion must come first and that the “son of destruction is one who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God” – 2 Thessalonians 2:6. Lucifer wants to be worshipped and he prefers anything that directs one’s attention away from Yahweh because only the true word of God can truly protect oneself from the trials of life.
Nonetheless, how can one ignore how the lack of knowledge destroys? (Hosea 4:6) It can only lead to destruction and yet the bible wisely talks of how humans love to turn to their own ways (Isaiah 56:11). The bible describes well what has happened and will happen when humans ignore the words of the Bible. It is true that when humans have no guidance and choose rather to listen to leaders instead of what the words of the Bible say,“everyone (does) did what was right in his own eyes”- Judges 17:6. Is it good that everyone does as they “feel” to be right? Where are the limits? The truth is that there are no limits when man does what he feels to be right. The times of Judges was a terrible time and the Bible truly tells the truth as to how horrible people had become. Even today, as Paul had foretold: “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers” – 2 Timothy 4:3. How many churches and doctrines exist? Far too many, yet many prefer to hear a good word and not the truth and that is truly how many people prefer to remain: in ignorance. Man can never fully trust in himself to choose the right decision without God’s guidance in all things. It says: “There is a way that seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death” – Proverbs 16:25. Paul also says: “…we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead” – 2 Corinthians 1:9.
How tempting it is to follow along with the crowd! A careful reading of the bible will say that God does not want His believers to follow the crowd. It says: “You shall not follow a crowd to do evil; nor shall you testify in a dispute so as to turn aside after many to pervert justice” – Exodus 23:2. Many assume in the Christian community that if there are more people following one way, it must right. But, remember God is not saying that believers should follow the crowd. The wisdom of the crowd mentality is exactly as Exodus says: that following the crowd will in fact pervert justice. God is a just God and He does not like the injustices in the world. It is easy to see why so many prefer to follow the crowd rather than follow the few who stand for justice. One reason why so many follow the “pack” is the fact that there is a sentiment of “safety” in numbers. The pack mentality offers security that is not always so easy to obtain when one is alone. They can offer food, clothing and a place to live. And yet, it is easy to see the pack mentality within Nazi Germany and its treatment of the Jewish people; justice had obviously been perverted. Nonetheless, following the crowd is easy and everyone is guilty of following the majority to some degree. Believers must look to Jesus’ words for answers as to whether one should follow the crowd:
“Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it”
– Matthew 7:13.
Jesus obviously says that the path that leads to life is a path that is very difficult. Jesus also says that many will take the broad path because it appears to be easy to follow. There are many examples of broad paths that lead to destruction. There may be people who belong to gangs who offer some form of easy escape from poverty and misery. The fact remains nonetheless that the average life expectancy of a male gang member is 19 to 20 years of age. It is obvious that this path can lead one to destruction. And yet, can churches and leaders of the flock also lead its members down the path of destruction? There are many churches that profess to have the truth, but many churches prefer not mention the fact that they keep many unchristian symbols, holidays and doctrines that are not biblical founded. The fool that says in his heart: “There is no God” – Psalms 53:1 shows how “foolish” those who believe in the God of the Bible to be when believers continue to keep unbiblical rites. It makes a mockery of God. There are even some churches that say that the Bible is only a big book of stories and no one needs to worry about anything. God in the book of Ezekiel denounces false prophets (or teachers and leaders) who choose to say “Peace, peace” when there is in fact no peace:
Thus says Yahweh GOD: “Woe to the foolish prophets, who follow their own spirit and have seen nothing! O Israel, your prophets are like foxes in the deserts… They have envisioned futility and false divination, saying, ‘Thus says Yahweh!’ But Yahweh has not sent them; yet they hope that the word may be confirmed. Have you not seen a futile vision, and have you not spoken false divination? You say, ‘Yahweh says,’ but I have not spoken.” Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: “Because you have spoken nonsense and envisioned lies, therefore I am indeed against you,” says the Lord GOD. “My hand will be against the prophets who envision futility and who divine lies…they shall not be in the assembly of My people, nor be written in the record of the house of Israel, nor shall they enter into the land of Israel. Then you shall know that I am the Lord GOD. “Because, indeed, because they have seduced My people, saying, ‘Peace!’ when there is no peace…
- Ezekiel 13:3-10 (Jeremiah 6:14; 8:11)
One may say that gang membership and pagan idolatry in a church is nothing comparable. It is true that if someone chooses to worship a “statue” as “God” they are hurting no one other than themselves. Nonetheless, the worship of statues will hurt the children of idolaters because the children will be faced with the fact that their parents worship idols but that the words of God say to not worship idols. In fact, destruction is not always immediate and one could say that of Adam and Eve who when eating of the Tree of Knowledge did not in fact “die” right away, but many years later. Anyhow, Jesus said the path to life is a narrow path and few find it. Jesus also said:
“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’
- Matthew 7:21-23.
The fact then remains that not everyone will enter the Kingdom of Heaven just because they happen to use the name of Jesus to do many things but have only added to the amount of lawlessness practiced in the world. The world is not something that believers should follow: “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever” – 1 John 2:15-17. Essentially, the world is the majority who will try to seduce many believers into denying God through entire or partial denial of God’s commandments and truths. It is a mighty act to stand against the thousand, but “the people who know their God shall stand firm and take action” – Daniel 11:32. (ESV)
There are many examples for believers to find encouragement in the Bible of those who chose to love their God will all of their hearts by clinging to His word. The prophet Elijah in 1 Kings 18 makes an extraordinary stand where he was in fact the only true prophet of Yahweh. Many were not following the one true God of Israel: imagine the pressure Elijah must have been feeling when he realized that he was alone standing against many who despised Yahweh’s truth. Elijah faced 450 prophets of Baal and 400 prophets of Asherah (not including the people of Israel) (1 Kings 18:19). Elijah challenged the 450 prophets of Baal to call upon their gods to burn up a bull sacrifice. Vainly, the prophets of Baal called upon their gods for an entire day pleading upon Baal to create a fire to burn up the bull. When Baal still did not answer, the false prophets started cutting themselves with knives in order for the blood to gush out from themselves and still, nothing happened. Elijah prepared the bull properly and asked for four pots of water to be poured on the bull and the firewood not just once but three times. Elijah prayed to Yahweh and immediately a fire ignited and consumed the burnt bull sacrifice. When the people saw this, they were obviously afraid and fell to the ground proclaiming: “Yahweh, He is God! Yahweh, He is God!” – 1 Kings 18:39. Although Elijah made a courageous stand against the prophets of Baal, he proceeded later on in 1 Kings 19 to run and hide because he was afraid that someone would try to kill him. One would think that after such an evident example of God’s power portrayed that Elijah would be thoroughly convinced. Nonetheless, God comforted Elijah when Elijah heard God’s still small voice at the cave:
“And behold, Yahweh passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before Yahweh, but Yahweh was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but Yahweh was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but Yahweh was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice”
– 1 Kings 19:11-12.
All believers can be encouraged knowing that even great men like Elijah feared for their lives but still took a courageous stand to not follow after other gods like everyone else.
Another example of a man who stood up against the peer pressure to be like everyone else is Daniel. Daniel and his three friends Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego were called into the service of Nebuchadnezzar. These men refused to eat of the king’s delicacies:
“But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king's meat, nor with the wine which he drank: therefore he requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself”
– Daniel 1:8 (KJV).
These men chose not to eat the king’s food for various reasons that are not told. One can assume more than likely that the food was forbidden food based on Leviticus 11. It was also probably an “orgy-like” party which could possibly lead one to defiling oneself immorally and possibly saying something against Yahweh. The chief of the eunuchs did not want to do what Daniel and his friends were suggesting, nonetheless, the chief accepted. Daniel and his friends ate only vegetables and water for ten days to show that they were in fact appeared better and fatter than any of the other young men who ate of the king’s delicacies (Daniel 1:15). The fact of the matter is, that there were many young men called into the king’s service and many of these young men must have been also from Judah. Only four men chose not to eat of the king’s food. What an incredible stand! The peer pressure must have been strong and yet, Daniel and his friends chose to follow Yahweh and to not back down on Yahweh’s commandments.
There are many other examples of God’s people standing up against many. There is Esther, a quiet woman, who stood up for her people when they were about to be exterminated (Esther 4:14). There is Nehemiah who stood up for the keeping of the Sabbath when everyone else defiled the Sabbath Day (Nehemiah 13:17). There is also, most importantly, Jesus who stood up against the religious authorities condemning them for their hypocrisy and transgressing the commandments because of their tradition (Matthew 15:3). One can never say that Jesus did not face temptation or say that Jesus did not have anxieties. Jesus did in fact face temptation (Hebrews 4:15) and Jesus prayed so hard that his sweat became like drops of blood (Luke 22:44). Jesus was a man who did indeed have anxieties and he gave us such a wonderful example of someone who went to God to be strengthened and comforted. It is very difficult in this world to be tempted to do as others do. Good examples are getting involved in pagan holidays and passing them off as Christian like Christmas and Easter. Each time anyone gets involved in these holidays, one denies God and the value of His wisdom. Anyone who wishes to keep all ten of God’s Commandments and not only nine will face resistance at some level from friends and family who may not have yet realized the whole truth of God’s Word. Those closest to us will try to pull even the most stubborn person away from God’s Word unless one is strong and truly understands what God has done for them. It is very easy to fall into the traditions of our fathers that lead away from God rather than towards God.
As the salt and light of the world, we will face difficult times especially when it requires us to stand against the thousands who do not care to keep God’s commandments. How many times have we felt like we were alone? We have probably felt alone more than we would care for, but we have hope knowing that God is always there for us even in the valley of the shadow of death:
“Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for Yahweh your God is with you wherever you go”
– Joshua 1:9.
“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you.
When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned,
Nor shall the flame scorch you”
– Isaiah 43:2.
There are many leaders wishing to teach us the truth, but our ultimate example is Christ. Paul said: “For though you might have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet you do not have many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel. Therefore I urge you, imitate me” – 1 Corinthians 4:15-16. Even during Paul’s day, Paul was constantly fighting those who would wish to led astray many. It was not easy for Paul either. We have to remember that we will be persecuted in some way, as Jesus said:
“If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you.”
– John 15:18-21
Therefore, it should not come as a surprise when we face peer pressure to change our morals to suit the crowd. If we believe that Jesus is our King and Messiah, we will be persecuted either mentally, physically or psychologically to follow the crowd. The pull of the crowd is strong but Jesus is the only way, the truth and the life. The path Jesus laid for us toward the Father is the only way that will truly give us peace. “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” – John 14: 27-28. The fact is that we will never have true peace from the world and all that the world has to offer. The world will fail us somewhere and to whom can we turn other than God. Through Jesus, Yahweh has made his light shine to the world to be as a light to the Gentiles (Isaiah 49). If we place our trust in the world, we will have problems. If we place our trust in Yahweh and his Son Jesus, we will truly have peace: “In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world”- John 16:33. Even though our enemies may be all around us, God is near to us and will give us the strength to proclaim Yahweh to the ends of the earth (Psalms 91:7).
“I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people
Who have set themselves against me all around” – Psalms 3:6.
All quotes are taken from the NKJV bible unless otherwise stated.
Bibliography: Sources of inspiration
Aust, Jerold. “Rise Above Peer Pressure.”
Kjos, Berit. “How to Resist the Pull of the Crowd.”
http://www.crossroad.to/articles2/05/crowds-2.htm. March 2005.
Kushner, Harold S. When Bad Things Happen to Good People. New York: Anchor
Gang Violence in America. “Classroom Guide.”
The Fight Against Gangs in America. “Educational Guide.”
United Church of Canada. “Overall Beliefs.”
http://www.united-church.ca/beliefs/overview. March 2006.
Yahweh. The Holy Bible. Creation: “For a thousand years in Your sight Are like
yesterday when it is past.” Psalms 90:4.