URC Daily Devotion 26th November 2019

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Tuesday 26th November

1 Kings 19:9b-18

Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying,

‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’ 

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.’

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; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence. 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?’ 

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.’ 

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. 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. Whoever escapes from the sword of Hazael, Jehu shall kill; and whoever escapes from the sword of Jehu, Elisha shall kill. 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.’

Reflection

Elijah’s encounter with God begins with a question. Why has Elijah travelled to Horeb, the mountain of God? What does he want? The prophet declares his faith in Yahweh and, almost petulantly, tells God about Israel’s sins, how he’s the only faithful prophet left and that his life is in danger. The irony is that the last time Elijah spoke to God he wanted to die; and the rest of what he says is somewhat out of kilter with the previous narratives. What about the prophets of Yahweh protected by Obadiah; Israel’s recommitment to Yahweh at Carmel; and that Jezebel (not Israel) is seeking his life?

Elijah is told to stand on the mountain because Yahweh is about to pass by – just as happened on Sinai when Moses asked to see God’s glory (Exod.33:19-23). Before Elijah leaves the cave there is a violent storm (symbolic of weather gods such as Baal), an earthquake followed by fire, all the natural phenomena associated with the theophany at Sinai (Exod.19:16ff) but Yahweh doesn’t appear in any of these. Then a sound of silence.

It is the silence that prompts Elijah to venture outside where he hears the initial question to him repeated. He makes exactly the same reply. Then Yahweh speaks to him (there is no ‘appearance’) and commissions Elijah to travel through the whole territory of Judah and Israel into the land of Aram (Syria). He is to anoint the next generation of kings in Aram and Israel and identify his own successor. God is looking to the future and Elijah is called to prepare people for what lies ahead, not to worry about the present.

Regime change is coming – and, by the way, God will preserve thousands of faithful people in Israel when this takes place; Elijah is not alone!

Prayer

Eternal God, there are times when we fail to see the bigger picture and even allow our anxieties to distort our understanding of the present. Forgive us, we pray.

Still our hearts and minds. Grant that we might rediscover your gift of silence; and in the silence be expectant that your call might come. Give us a glimpse of your future and of our role in preparing for it. Amen.

 

Today’s writer

The Rev’d Dr Janet Tollington is a retired minister and member of Downing Place URC in Cambridge.

Copyright

New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Copyright © 2019 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.
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