Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Elijah & Elisha

The Story of Scripture: Elijah & Elisha 1/30/11
I Kings 19:9-18, Micah 6:1-8, Mark 9:2-13

Imagining the story:
What if you could experience the best accomplishment of your life, but the cost would be two months of rejection immediately following the accomplishment? Would you go for it?

Whether he would have chosen it or not, this is what happens to the prophet Elijah.

Elijah triumphs over the false prophets of Baal.
· Ahab and Jezebel conspire and swear to find and kill the prophet.
· “Elijah was afraid and ran for his life”
· He went a day’s journey into the wilderness…to pray that he might die.
· He falls asleep, awoken by an angel with food and comfort and courage.
· Travels for forty days, where he finds a cave to rest for the night.
· “And the word of the LORD came to him: What are you doing here Elijah?” I wonder if Elijah knew the answer to that question.

Have you ever wondered the answer to that question?

Elijah states the case, which seems to have been stewing for 40 days within him.
--I have been zealous
--These people have rejected you, torn down the alters and killed the prophets
--and now they are looking for me…I’m the only one left.

To which God says: Go out and stand on the mountain, because I am going to pass by.

God is not in the great and powerful wind: which tears the mountain apart and shatters the rocks.

God is not in an earthquake or a fire.

God is in a gentle whisper. Elijah hears it, and stands at the mouth of the cave, with his face covered by a cloak.

What are you doing here Elijah?

Go and anoint a new king for Syria, Israel and a new prophet to succeed you.

Oh yeah, and Elijah…

There are 7,000 who have not bowed the knee to Baal.

Pressure, anxiety and heaviness make us look more closely, whether inward or around what we can see. But there is always more than meets the eye. There is always another part of the story. There is always others who serve the Lord of lords.

To another prophet, Micah, the Lord makes his case, wondering why the people have forgotten the faithfulness of God for his people. And when face to face with the history and case that God makes, Micah can only muster:
With what should I come before the Lord?

His litany of shortfalls includes a stunning awareness of his incapability to impress God.

At the end of the day, Micah understands the appropriate response to faith:
Do what is right (both in justice and in mercy) and walk humbly before God.

God owns everything. God is the all in all, the end all, the be all of the cosmos. And God doesn’t need from us. Yet we answer to God. We walk by faith and we show our faith by doing what is right and being humble.

When you are humble, and you stay close to Jesus, you can see great things.

The Transfiguration Story:

The three see Jesus in all his glory: clothed in dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them. And who was with Jesus, but Moses and Elijah. They were the 2 greatest heroes of the Israelite people: Moses was the law giver and Elijah the prophet. There before Jesus, the two greatest heroes talk.

Peter’s response is classic: We should stay here, hey, how about I build you guys a shelter.

And then the voice of God comes to the mountain: This is my son, whom I love, listen to him!

Peter, when thinking about this incident toward the end of his life, writes these words:
“I think it is right to refresh your memory, as long as I live in the tent of this body, because I know that I will soon put it aside, as our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me. And I will make every effort to see that after my departure you will always be able to remember these things. We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses to his majesty. For he received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic glory saying, “this is my son, whom I love, with him I am well pleased.” We ourselves hard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain. And we have the world of the prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scriptures came about by the prophet’s own interpretation, For prophesy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

The story today reminds us of the humanity of Elijah: he felt lost and alone. He felt worthless. He considered and prayed to have his life taken. And yet God was using him to destroy idols and anoint kings. His work was worthy. Though he might not have felt it in those intense moments.

Elijah goes on to anoint Elisha. And the Bible never records Elijah’s death. It says a chariot came from heaven and took him away. And the Hebrew theologians felt that Elijah would return one day to announce the coming of the Messiah. He did, alongside Moses. And the work of his coming was also carried out through the ministry of John the Baptist, about whom Jesus said: If you are willing to accept it, he is the Elijah that was to come.

The past two weeks, we talked about Kings, as part of our year long study of the story of Scripture. Kings can be seen and heard. We can record their doings, comings and goings. Their decisions have real affect upon their citizens, who can alter the lives of those they interact with. But God wanted to be Israel’s king, and so while he allows the kings to exist, despite his wishes, he keeps them accountable. He sends prophets to announce his will and to inform kings when they become wayward.

And so in the book of Kings, we read of many kings, and also of great prophets: like Elijah and Elisha. For all the idolatry in the land, God reserved 7000 who would not bow the knee and kiss the hand of anything or anyone less than God.

So, there are times when you will feel alone. You might even have some alone time to steam and hee and haw about what is bugging you. But pay attention: God is going to come, sometimes in the form of a gentle whisper.

And when God comes to us, we quickly and clearly see our place. There is only one response to God and his judgments: to do what is right and to walk humbly before God. Nothing else will do. Only faith and its responses will work.

And when you open yourself to it, and you spend enough time with Jesus, you’ll see his glory, you’ll recognize God’s affirmation of his beloved Son. You will see his glory, and you will end your days with a keen awareness that your days have been walked near and alongside God. And that is the best ending.

Live alongside the kings of this world. Listen to prophets when they speak the will of God. But most of all, love God. For he has shown us what his will is, and he is there to ask: What are you doing here?

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