Tag Archives: Elijah

Looking Backward and Forward

The last verses of the Old Testament have both a backward and forward orientation. Malachi instructs the reader to Remember the past and to Anticipate the future.

Remember the teaching of my servant Moses, the statutes and ordinances that I commanded him at Horeb for all Israel. (Malachi 4:4)

Lo, I will send you the prophet Elijah before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes. He will turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the hearts of children to their parents. (Malachi 4:5-6)

Malachi reminds us that God has worked in Israel’s past. Look back and remember how God worked at Mt. Horeb (Sinai). It calls us to remember how God has worked in our own past, to instruct and teach us.

I remember making a pilgrimage to Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Port Angeles, Washington, to remember the place where I first learned the Bible stories, acted in Christmas plays and sang the familiar carols. Christmas has so many specific memories for many of us. It can be simple nostalgia, but it can also become a deep spring of joy, light and love that calls us back to our spiritual roots. Where and when do you remember hearing the story of God’s statutes?

Yet Malachi also pushes into the future, that God is not simply an ancient figure of distant history, but a God who will act in our future. The prophet Malachi recycles the ancient prophet, Elijah, to describe the messenger who is coming. (Elijah had not “died” but was taken up into heaven on a chariot of fire, 2 Kings 2:11). The future return of Elijah will cause our hearts to turn to one another, to bring peace and harmony to God’s family. And God’s family is much larger than our own households; Jesus redefines family in the New Testament.

Looking at those who sat around him, Jesus said, “Here are my mother and brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother, sister and mother.”

Further, Jesus, the Son of God, turns the hearts of God’s children to their heavenly Papa. The future is so much brighter than our present reality. To what do you look forward in God’s glorious kingdom?

As we read scripture, we need to be mindful of how the past, the present and the future all intertwine.

Lord Jesus, be thou my vision, backwards and forwards.

Mountain Voices

Elijah, in a spiritual funk, ran away from Queen Jezebel to the mountain of God. Called Horeb by the northern tribes of Israel, it is the same mountain where Moses received the 10 commandments and saw the back side of God (Exodus 33). Moses had hid in a cleft in the rock when God passed by and scholars think it was this cleft or cave to which Elijah ran.  In this high place God was sure to meet him (I Kings 19).

Israel is a hilly country, with deep valley and high craggy peaks. The high places were often used for worship, whether for idols or for the Lord. Solomon’s Temple was built on Mt. Zion. Elijah confronted the priest of Baal on Mt. Carmel. Jesus preached his sermon on the mount (Matthew 5).  The most significant high place was a hill outside Jerusalem when Jesus was crucified.

Atop Hallett Peak in RMNP

Mountains have always been associated with holiness and transcendence. They reach towards the heavens and can give a person a unique perspective on the world. I have been drawn to mountain peaks since boyhood, looking up at either Mt. Angeles or Mt. Rainier. Last summer I climbed Hallett Peak in Colorado as a kind of spiritual exercise in prayer.

But as Elijah discovered, God is not restricted to mountain peaks. Though Elijah experienced a dramatic sequence of wind, earthquake and fire, God was not in the dramatic. It was in the sheer silence that followed where Elijah heard God speak. This silence can be found anywhere, in the deepest valley as well as the loftiest peak. We seek a holy space where the ears of our souls yearn for simple assuring voice of God. And “voice” may not be the right word, more like presence, peace, hope, like a mother’s calm shush that ease’s a baby cries. As a child of God, I still yearn for that quiet, assuring voice of God’s grace.

God’s “voice” gives us the assurance to carry on the journey. Elijah did not stay on the mountain, but turned around and went back to face Queen Jezebel. More on that tomorrow.

Lord Jesus, quiet my noisy life that I may hear your loving voice.

Heavenly Reststop

On Sunday Resurrection Lutheran will engage the story of Elijah the prophet. Elijah lived about seventy-five years after the death of King Solomon or about 850 BC. He spoke against King Ahab and Queen Jezebel and their re-introduction of Baal worship and human sacrifice (I Kings 16:34). Elijah’s story is a roller coaster of spiritual and emotional energy.  I Kings 18 contains the story of Elijah’s victory over the Baal priests, calling down the fire of God on his sacrifice. I posted on it last June after re-telling the story at Vacation Bible Adventure.

Elijah in the Desert by Michael D. O'Brien

After securing this victory, one would think Elijah would be filled with supreme confidence. Instead he sank into depression when he learned that Queen Jezebel wanted him dead. He could face the 450 prophets of Baal, but not an angry queen. The instinct to escape took hold, and he ran away to the edge of the map and beyond. Beersheba is the southern edge of civilization and Elijah pushed beyond it into the wilderness. There he collapsed under a broom tree and prayed for death. Like the prophet Jonah after Nineveh’s repentance, Elijah asked the Lord to take his life. He had hit bottom, emotionally and spiritually. Exhausted he fell asleep.

At this low point, God intervened.

Suddenly an angel touched him and said to him, “Get up and eat.” 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. 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.” 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. (I Kings 19:5-8)

What a comforting moment, with  the angel’s touch, the warm cakes, and the jar of water. And then the cycle is repeated: rest, touch, cakes, water. It was if Elijah needed to slow down, to stop and rest.

Perhaps that is the intent for us as the reader. To stop and rest in this story for a moment. Are you able at this moment to simply rest in God’s grace and love?

You have made us for yourself, oh Lord, and our hearts are restless until we rest in you. Augustine.

Lord Jesus, teach me to rest in you.

Elijah and the Fireman

The joy and excitement of last week’s Vacation Bible Adventure still resonates in my soul.  It was a great week of singing songs, making crafts, playing games and telling Bible stories.  The coordinators, Laura Holtmeier and Tonya Bushard, asked me to be the storyteller and I was able to tap some of my passion for the dramatic.  With the help of Adam Behnken,  we relived stories from the Old and New Testament.  The children were called to imagine God’s great acts of power and compassion.

One day we retold the story of Elijah confronting the 450 prophets of Baal from I Kings 18.  We had the children build an altar in a plastic tub with stone and wood. They prepared a sacrifice of chocolate as we reimaged the story.  We even had the children drench the “altar” with pitchers of water, like Elijah.  Then, prior to calling for the LORD God to send down fire, I had to intervene as a fireman.  I warned them because when Elijah called down the fire, it consumed not just the sacrifice, but the wood, stones and water.  I had to prevent the children “from burning down the church.”  Unfortunately, the chocolate was still lost due to the pitchers of water.

Our story telling may not be “historically accurate,” but it does place us in the story, participants in God’s great story.  One of my criticisms of modern Biblical studies is that we can get so bogged down in the historical analysis that we forget the story is meant to engage us as readers.  Scholarship can sometimes place us “over” the text, as a kind of superior critic, when actually God wants to place us “under” the text or “within” the story, so that our hearts, minds, imaginations can be reshaped in God’s image.

As I read the story of Elijah, and visualize the people watching this confrontation, I wonder which side I would be rooting for.  After all, Baal is the ancient version of our own idols and false gods that we give allegiance to: popularity, success, wealth and status.  Baal was the popular god of Israel at the time, that is why 450 prophets stood against Elijah.  As I enter the story, sometimes I am Elijah, but often I am one of bystanders or a prophet of Baal. Through the story, I encounter the call of God to be faithful in my time and place.

How has a Biblical story confronted you and your life?

Lord Jesus, help me to read your Word so that your Word enters into my life.

The Contest at Vacation Bible Adventure

Singing out "God is wild about us!"

This week my blogging is down but energy is up as Resurrection hosts Vacation Bible Adventure.  I am so excited with all the volunteers who add their passion, gifts and strengths to transform Resurrection into a Pandamania Jungle as together we learn about God’s creation, Elijah’s contest, Jonah’s trip, and Peter’s denial.  I am working with a talented seventh grader Adam Behnken and creative Micki Fredin to tell the Bible stories each day. 

This morning we retold Elijah’s contest with the 450 prophets of Baal (see I Kings 18). The people of Israel were waffling in their allegiance to the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Elijah.  So Elijah challenges the prophets of Baal to a contest. Each would prepare an altar with sacrifice, but neither would bring fire.  They would each call upon their god to light the sacrificial fire. 

First the prophets of Baal tried to coax their god to send fire upon their altar.  Like those ancient prophets, the children and I shouted, danced and called for the fire, but nothing happened. Then the children imitated Elijah and prepared an altar with stones, wood and a sacrifice of “chocolate.”  They even doused the altar three times with water, just like Elijah.  But just before they called down God’s fire, a firefighter (with the initials JVK) entered to stop any fire from happening.  We did not want to burn the church down with it.  Instead we retold  the ending of I Kings 18.

Elijah cried out, “O LORD, God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known this day that your are God in Israel, that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your bidding.” Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt offering, the wood, the stones and the dust, and even licked up the water that was in the trench.  When all the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, “The LORD indeed is God; the LORD indeed is God.” (I Kings 18:36,38,39)

Where or when have you experienced God’s power?

Almighty God, send the power and fire of your Holy Spirit into our lives.