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Monday, June 13, 2022
Today’s Scripture Reading | 1 Kings 19:1–15a
Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. 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.” 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.
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.” Then he lay down under the broom tree and fell asleep. 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, or 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. 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?” 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.” (NRSV)
Around the edges of this story there is a lot of violence. Elijah reports that Jezebel and her people have killed all the prophets of God. And Ahab reports to Jezebel that Elijah has killed all the prophets of her people. Jezebel promises retribution for all the killing that Elijah has done. She’ll come for him, she says. And it sounds like Elijah’s violence might have been, in part, in retribution for the violence of Jezebel’s people. We might ask a question that we continue to ask to this day: when will the cycle of violence end?
It’s tempting to read out of context the portion about Elijah hearing God—to just read that beautiful phrase about hearing God in the “sheer silence,” or as the King James translation puts it, in the “still small voice.” But keeping it in context makes it even more powerful. God speaks to Elijah in spite of the violence, in spite of the great wind that breaks mountains and splits rocks, in spite of the earthquake and the fire. Even in the midst of all that violence, all that noise, all that upheaval, there is a still place, a silent place, at the center of our existence where God speaks to us.
God provides nourishment for Elijah and tells him, “Go.” Elijah’s specific task is different from our particular callings, but God also whispers to our hearts to receive nourishment and then to “go” to serve God and God’s creation.
Holy God, help me to hear you in the still, small voice, in the sheer silence at the center of my being. Help me to find and receive the nourishment that you provide for me so that I am strong for the journey that is my life. Amen.
Written by Nanette Sawyer, Associate Pastor for Discipleship and Small Group Ministry
Reflection and prayer © Fourth Presbyterian Church
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