Meditation on 1 Kings 19:4-8
The Presbyterian Church, Coshocton, OH 43812
Pastor Karen Crawford
Aug. 8, 2021
Link to our Livestreamed Worship on Facebook:
The week was off to a great start with VBS on Monday night! This year’s theme was Beach Party, with our programs mostly outside on the church lawn. Storytime and snacks were served up on beach blankets under some shade trees. Children listened to Bible stories on the theme of water and fish, such as Moses and the Israelites crossing the Red Sea on dry land; Jesus walking on water and calming the storm; Jonah and the Whale, told from the perspective of the whale; Jesus calling the disciples to be fishers of people; and, another miraculous picnic: Jesus feeding more than 5,000 people with a few loaves and fish.
Jeff and other volunteers sent me photos from the nights that I couldn’t attend. Thursday, the last day, was water day. Janice filled wading pools with 600 water balloons. Some experiences that you don’t get from the photos, Jeff said, are the heat of the August night; the anticipation, “I’m so gonna get you!!” Then, splat!! The water balloon hits you in the back, and the water is COLD. And all the laughter!! And shrieks! Until all the balloons were thrown and everyone was SOAKED.
Jeff saw drivers slowing down as they passed the church, hearing the shrieks and laughter; grinning, then driving by slowly…. Jeff was still laughing on Friday when he shared the photos by text message and told me about the last evening.
Isn’t it wonderful that our VBS was a blessing to the children and families and volunteers AND a witness to the love, joy, and peace of those who happened to be driving by the church???? That’s what we have been praying for!!
Though too brief, Monday night was a feast that strengthened me through a long, dry, wilderness week—when Jim had his knee surgery, and we struggled with his care at home after two days and one night in the hospital.
While I was sad to have missed so much of VBS, the Lord spoke to me in the quiet at home through happy memories from Monday of this powerful outreach to children and families in our church and community. Whenever I was discouraged and weary, the Lord brought to mind the joy of all who participated in VBS—and all the seeds that were sown for the sake of the Kingdom. God was saying to me with these nourishing, uplifting reminders of his faithfulness in my life and in the life of our church, “Get up and eat.”
Elijah the Tishbite, the great prophet of Israel, is running for his life in our reading in 1 Kings today. Queen Jezebel, wife of King Ahab of Israel, has vowed to kill him.
Jezebel is a Phoenician princess in the 9th century who marries Ahab, the prince of Israel. Have you heard of Jezebel? Phoenicia is located in what is now Lebanon. While Israel is struggling with internal tribal differences and susceptible to frequent invasions, it still follows the beliefs of Yahweh, the “one true” God. Phoenicia is a large, cosmopolitan, religiously diverse area. Jezebel had grown up in a wealthy family and was well educated by tutors. Her family worshiped many gods.
When Ahab and Jezebel rule as king and queen of Israel, Jezebel continues worship of the nature god Baal and begins killing off the prophets of the Lord.
You wouldn’t know it by his despair, but Elijah has just had a great victory over the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel. After Baal fails to respond to its followers sacrifice and their shouting, “O Baal, answer us!” from morning to noon, Elijah builds an altar and prepares a sacrifice to the Lord, pouring water over and around it. Then he prays to God and immediately fire falls from heaven and consumes everything. When the Israelites see it, they fall on their faces and shout, “The Lord alone is God. The Lord alone is God.” (I Kings 18:39). The prophets of Baal are seized and killed by sword.
Elijah’s fear and despair are triggered by a note from Jezebel’s messenger saying that he will be killed by the next day. He runs to Beersheba in Judah. Leaving his servant there, he goes a day’s journey into the wilderness. Under the broom tree, he finds shade and a place to pray. But instead of asking God to deliver him from the queen, he asks the Lord to end his life.
He has had enough.
Even a great prophet of the Lord can become weary of body, mind and spirit. In more modern-day terms, we could say that he has PTSD. He is a prophet and a soldier for God. The fear and tiredness are talking when he says, “I am no better than my ancestors.”
Elijah, who prays for death, is one of only a few in the Bible who will not die. When his ministry draws to a close on earth and his assistant, Elisha, is prepared to take his place, Elijah will be taken up in a whirlwind and a fiery chariot will ride the sky.
God’s answer to Elijah’s prayer is sleep!!! He falls asleep under the desert broom tree!
This passage really brings home to me how the Lord cares for us– body, mind, and soul. We are not always good about taking care of ourselves! Especially caregivers! We can become so focused on our loved one that we don’t take the time for self-care. But God our maker knows how precious we are. He tenderly feeds us, when we don’t have the strength to carry on.
An angel awakens Elijah with, “Get up and eat.” He doesn’t let the prophet oversleep!
Throughout this passage, we encounter phrases that connect Elijah’s story with the great story of God and God’s people in the Old Testament and New—and with our own story. Through God’s loving action, Elijah experiences redemption!
The broom tree and wilderness remind us of the Israelites’ time in the desert with Moses, when they camp at a place known for broom trees in Numbers 33:18-19. The cake baked on hot stones reminds us of God’s provision of manna from heaven, tasting sweet like honey, when they were hungry. Water in the stone jar reminds us of water provided by God from a rock when the Israelites are thirsty. And when Jesus turns water into wine and offers living water to the Samaritan woman at the well in John.
The rest and nourishment prepare Elijah for his 40-day and 40-night wilderness journey to Mt Horeb, the Mountain of God. This is a spiritual journey that brings to mind Moses spending 40 days and nights atop Sinai in Exodus 24:18;
memories of the rain falling on Noah’s ark;
and in the New Testament, when Jesus is tempted in the wilderness to prepare for his ministry —and, in his time of need and weakness, at the end of 40 days and nights, is ministered to by angels.
God will speak to Elijah on Horeb. He will surprise him as he passes by, not in the great and mighty wind, splitting mountains and shattering rocks. Not in the earthquake that follows, nor the fire. God’s voice will be heard as a soft murmur in the silence.
How does the Elijah story connect with your story today? Are you or a loved one weary in your journey of faith? Is life getting you down? Are you having trouble hearing from God in the noise of your life?
The Lord is teaching me to rely on Him for EVERYTHING—and that means learning to ask for help—from God and from others, when I need it. And that some days, the best thing we can say is that we made it through the day—and tomorrow will be better!! And that food and rest are necessary for mental and spiritual health.
And that worry is a waste of time and energy. As Jesus says in the Sermon on the Mount in the gospel of Matthew, today really does have enough worries of its own. So don’t worry about tomorrow!! God is still using angels to help us in our time of need! Only the angels are YOU and Me! Sometimes, God will use a complete stranger to minister to you or a loved one in need.
Do you know that God is with you, right now? And that his voice can be heard if you just stop running and giving into fear and despair? The Lord is speaking to us, offering nourishment for those who are weary in body, mind and soul:
“Get up and eat.”
Let us pray.
Holy one, thank you for your love, for calling each of us your precious child and for having a plan for our lives. Thank you for our VBS and the many children and families our congregation was able to serve. Bless all our volunteers for their acts of kindness, sewing seeds of faith for your sake, sharing your love and grace. Reassure us, Lord, when we are weary and discouraged, in spite of how you have used us for your ministry. We still get tired! Keep us from obsessing over failures and weakness and to look to you for our strength. Remind us to take time to care for ourselves—to find nourishment for body, mind, and soul. And that you desire us to rest and eat, care for our physical bodies—and leave the worrying to you. Help us to know when to ask for help from you and others—and to recognize the angels in our midst. Use us, Lord, as your ministering angels, helping and encouraging others who are in need. We pray these things in the name of the Triune God—Father, Son and Spirit. Amen.