Day 83—Days of Elijah—“Unbending Faithfulness” 1 Kings 17:1 – 19:21
March 24, 2021, 7:09 AM

Day 83—Days of Elijah—“Unbending Faithfulness” 1 Kings 17:1 – 19:21

When we got to this chapter, Alistair was so pleased “Ah, the troublemaker of Israel!” he said. That, of course, refers to Elijah (the LORD is my God),, prophet of God sent to confront King Ahab, who called Elijah in our translation the “troubler of Israel” (18:17) Troubler of Israel is a great job description for what prophet are sent by God to do.

Prophets are not people who stand on street corners and tell the future. They are not like the guy with sign “The End is Near”, except that they sort of are. Prophets are given the responsibility of being the social commenters, of showing the people the error of their ways, and of being encouragers of change. If there is a way in which they predict the future, it is simply to tell the rulers and the people that if they do not follow the One God who is Yahweh, the Holy One of Israel, that their lives will veer off course, and that only catastrophe can come of that. It was not a popular job, needless to say.

One of the themes we see over and over in this passage from today is the clear power that the LORD has over nature. Through the prophet Elijah, the widow of Zarapheth (a place, not a name) and her son miraculously eat for years, her son is brought back to life, a drought is both caused and then ended by the LORD, and a spectacular scene of sacrifice is set up by Elijah and then is consumed with a flourish by God. The bloody, self-wounded and exhausted Ba’al worshippers have danced around their sacrifice all day, and nothing has happened to show them that Ba’al has any power at all. But Elijah has the grandstand magic show of the day—he cuts up the sacrifice, surrounds it with the wood for the fire, and then completely drenches it several times before calling on the LORD. As we read, the sacrifice, the wood, and the water are completely consumed on the spot, leading many of the Ba’al worshippers back to God.

The prophet clearly has more power than that expressed by just his words, however. Elijah also has the power to have people killed, if not to kill them himself. After the sacrifice to the LORD has been consumed, Elijah has the prophets of Ba’al seized, brought down to the Wadi Kishon and killed. (‘Wadi’ is a type of valley or riverbed that is typically dry during the drought season, and that provides a pathway for water to flow during the rainy season—in Spanish, this is an arroyo, if that is more familiar to you. Kihon is the name of the river that will flow through the Wadi.) So prophets demonstrated God’s power and God’s will in a variety of ways, as we will continue to see through our readings.

But the part that always captures me is the presence of God with Elijah. Elijah is afraid of Ahab and is even more terrified of Ahab’s wife Jezebel, and yes, this is where we get the idiomatic and derogative statement sometimes used against women to describe them as shameful or sinful, usually in a sexual reference. If fact, if you look up the word ‘jezebel’ it is not even capitalized, but is considered a descriptive word. This is the power of ancient bible stories centuries and millennia later.

Elijah runs from Jezebel and her threats and begs God to take his life rather than letting jezebel torture and kill him, but angels of God (messengers) come to feed him and make him strong for the journey he is called to take to Mount Horeb. Note the reference to 40 days, which reminds us always of the Passover, and of Moses. And that is exactly what the writer is reminding us, because Mt. Horeb is also called Mt. Sinai, which is the holy mountain where Moses encountered the burning bush, which is the place where Moses received the Ten Commandments, and which is also the place where Moses said to God “Show me your glory” (Ex 33:18). God did show Moses his glory, and God also shows Elijah a taste of glory in his appearance before the prophet as well.

We read of cataclysmic things—earthquakes, storms of wind, fire, and finally….silence. And in that silence was God. And in that silence Elijah could hear the LORD speak to him clearly. And in that silence there is a purity and a clarity that allows Elijah to hear God and to trust God. Elijah is given an assignment in that place of silence, and he goes out immediately to take care of the tasks that God has given him, including the anointing of the prophet who will replace him. That must be a bittersweet assignment, knowing that as he ages, another person must step in and take on the mantle of responsibility to turn the hearts of the people back to the God of Israel who loves them with a jealous love. And so we meet Elisha (my God is salvation), the successor—and yes, it can be very confusing to know who is who and which is which. So my way to remember is this—EliJah has a J in it, and J comes before S, as in EliSha, so Elijah is the first prophet and Elisha is his successor. This may just confuse you more, but it has served me well for years now!!!

Be blessed and be a blessing to others,

ML

 

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