God-Soaked World Bible Guide – Day 10
March 15, 2017
Wednesday, March 15 – I Kings 19:1-18
Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. 2 Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, “So may the gods do to me, and more also, if I do not make your life like the life of one of them by this time tomorrow.” 3 Then he was afraid; he got up and fled for his life, and came to Beer-sheba, which belongs to Judah; he left his servant there.
4 But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a solitary broom tree. He asked that he might die: “It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my ancestors.” 5 Then he lay down under the broom tree and fell asleep. Suddenly an angel touched him and said to him, “Get up and eat.” 6 He looked, and there at his head was a cake baked on hot stones, and a jar of water. He ate and drank, and lay down again. 7 The angel of the Lord came a second time, touched him, and said, “Get up and eat, otherwise the journey will be too much for you.” 8 He got up, and ate and drank; then he went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb the mount of God. 9 At that place he came to a cave, and spent the night there.
Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 10 He answered, “I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away.”
11 He said, “Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; 12 and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence. 13 When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. Then there came a voice to him that said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 14 He answered, “I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away.” 15 Then the Lord said to him, “Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus; when you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael as king over Aram. 16 Also you shall anoint Jehu son of Nimshi as king over Israel; and you shall anoint Elisha son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah as prophet in your place. 17 Whoever escapes from the sword of Hazael, Jehu shall kill; and whoever escapes from the sword of Jehu, Elisha shall kill. 18 Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.”
Points of Interest:
- A couple hundred years after Samuel’s death, I Kings introduces us to the royal couple Ahab and Jezebel, and their chief adversary, Elijah. Ahab and Jezebel are violent tyrants who rule over Israel, the northern half of what used to be one nation, since split by tribal division. The couple also worships the local Canaanite fertility gods above the God of Abraham and Sarah, and Jacob, and Samuel, and on to Jesus. Elijah also has a violent streak in him, but he is loyal to the one true God and is deeply, publicly critical of Ahab and Jezebel’s rule. After a recent protest staged by Elijah, Jezebel puts a death threat on his life.
- Elijah had no clinicians available to diagnose him, but he exhibits signs of significant anxiety and serious depression. Fleeing for his life, he hides under a solitary tree, prays for his life to end, and falls asleep.
- We have angels – messengers of God – again. And before Elijah can experience God directly, he is given food and water and exercise and a pilgrimage to take to Horeb, the same place where Moses first saw the burning bush. God cares for Elijah’s body and restores hope in him before talking to him at all.
- God begins speaking to Elijah not with a command or a song, but with a question. What are you doing here? What do you want? Elijah speaks his truth to God – he is faithful, he thinks, but lonely and afraid.
- After all this, Elijah stands on a mountaintop and witnesses the kaleidoscopic range of nature’s wonders. But God is most present, perhaps only present, in the sheer silence that follows. God isn’t always in noise or power or spectacle, but in still wonder.
- After Elijah experiences God’s presence, he is ready for more. He senses God’s inquiry and speaks his truth again. And then God speaks God’s truth. Elijah is not alone – he has thousands of unseen partners and a younger person to mentor. And he needn’t be afraid – he has good and important work to do.
- Based on the narrative that follows, this seems to be enough to nudge Elijah out of his anxiety and depression-induced paralysis. Good food, exercise, hope, companionship, good work to do, and an assurance that God is with him – all of this gets him moving again.
Taking It Home:
- Spiritual Exercise – Ask yourself where you are in your own God-soaked 40-day journey? Does God have something to say to you today? Do you long to sense God’s presence in the sheer silence? Or are you just tired and empty, needing renewed hope? Consider eating a favorite food, drinking a favorite drink, exercising, or resting today and receiving it as God’s gift to you. Give it your mindful attention and enjoy this gift, thanking God for it. Ask God to build up your hope that you will meet God in this season.
- Prayer for your six – Ask God to refresh the bodies and minds of any of your six who are discouraged, anxious, lonely, or depressed. Pray that God will give them hope, and give them a sense of God’s transcendent presence sometime today.