May 5, 2016

I Kings 18-19
A long time passed. Then God’s word came to Elijah. The drought was now in its third year. The message: “Go and present yourself to Ahab; I’m about to make it rain on the country.” Elijah set out to present himself to Ahab. The drought in Samaria at the time was most severe.

Ahab called for Obadiah, who was in charge of the palace. Obadiah feared God—he was very devout... Ahab ordered Obadiah, “Go through the country; locate every spring and every stream.....  Obadiah went his way and suddenly there he was—Elijah! Obadiah fell on his knees, bowing in reverence, and exclaimed, “Is it really you—my master Elijah?”
“Yes,” said Elijah, “the real me. Now go and tell your boss, ‘I’ve seen Elijah.’” Obadiah said, “But what have I done to deserve this? Ahab will kill me..... 

Elijah said, “As surely as God-of-the-Angel-Armies lives, and before whom I take my stand, I’ll meet with your master face-to-face this very day.” Obadiah went straight to Ahab and told him. And Ahab went out to meet Elijah.

The moment Ahab saw Elijah he said, “So it’s you, old troublemaker!” “It’s not I who has caused trouble in Israel,” said Elijah, “but you and your government—...Here’s what I want you to do: Assemble everyone in Israel at Mount Carmel. And make sure that the special pets of Jezebel, the four hundred and fifty prophets of the local gods, the Baals, and the four hundred prophets of the whore goddess Asherah, are there.”...

Elijah challenged the people: “How long are you going to sit on the fence? If God is the real God, follow him; if it’s Baal, follow him. Make up your minds!”...

Then Elijah said, “I’m the only prophet of God left in Israel; and there are 450 prophets of Baal. Let the Baal prophets bring up two oxen; let them pick one, butcher it, and lay it out on an altar on firewood—but don’t ignite it. I’ll take the other ox, cut it up, and lay it on the wood. But neither will I light the fire. Then you pray to your gods and I’ll pray to God. The god who answers with fire will prove to be, in fact, God.”  All the people agreed: “A good plan—do it!”...

So the Baal prophets took the ox, prepared it for the altar, then prayed to Baal. They prayed all morning long, “O Baal, answer us!” But nothing happened—not so much as a whisper of breeze. Desperate, they jumped and stomped on the altar they had made.

By noon, Elijah had started making fun of them,... They prayed louder and louder, cutting themselves with swords and knives—a ritual common to them—until they were covered with blood.  This went on until well past noon....  but nothing happened—not so much as a whisper, not a flicker of response.

Then Elijah told the people, “Enough of that—it’s my turn. Gather around.”... Elijah took twelve stones, one for each of the tribes of Jacob,...  Then Elijah dug a fairly wide trench around the altar. He laid firewood on the altar, cut up the ox, put it on the wood, and said, “Fill four buckets with water and drench both the ox and the firewood.” Then he said, “Do it again,” and they did it. Then he said, “Do it a third time,” and they did it a third time. The altar was drenched and the trench was filled with water.

When it was time for the sacrifice to be offered, Elijah the prophet came up and prayed, “O God, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, make it known right now that you are God in Israel, that I am your servant, and that I’m doing what I’m doing under your orders. Answer me, God; O answer me and reveal to this people that you are God, the true God, and that you are giving these people another chance at repentance.”

Immediately the fire of God fell and burned up the offering, the wood, the stones, the dirt, and even the water in the trench.  All the people saw it happen and fell on their faces in awed worship, exclaiming, “God is the true God! God is the true God!”....
 
Meanwhile, Elijah climbed to the top of Carmel, bowed deeply in prayer, his face between his knees. Then he said to his young servant, “On your feet now! Look toward the sea.”...And sure enough, the seventh time he said, “Oh yes, a cloud! But very small, no bigger than someone’s hand, rising out of the sea.”...

And God strengthened Elijah mightily. Pulling up his robe and tying it around his waist, Elijah ran in front of Ahab’s chariot until they reached Jezreel.

Ahab reported to Jezebel everything that Elijah had done,... Jezebel immediately sent a messenger to Elijah with her threat: “The gods will get you for this and I’ll get even with you! By this time tomorrow you’ll be as dead as any one of those prophets.”

When Elijah saw how things were, he ran for dear life to Beersheba, far in the south of Judah. He left his young servant there and then went on into the desert another day’s journey. He came to a lone broom bush and collapsed in its shade, wanting in the worst way to be done with it all—to just die: “Enough of this, God! Take my life—I’m ready to join my ancestors in the grave!” Exhausted, he fell asleep under the lone broom bush.

Suddenly an angel shook him awake and said, “Get up and eat!”He looked around and, to his surprise, right by his head were a loaf of bread baked on some coals and a jug of water. He ate the meal and went back to sleep.  The angel of God came back, shook him awake again, and said, “Get up and eat some more—you’ve got a long journey ahead of you.”
He got up, ate and drank his fill, and set out. Nourished by that meal, he walked forty days and nights, all the way to the mountain of God, to Horeb. When he got there, he crawled into a cave and went to sleep.

Then the word of God came to him: “So Elijah, what are you doing here?”  “I’ve been working my heart out for the God-of-the-Angel-Armies,” said Elijah. “The people of Israel have abandoned your covenant, destroyed the places of worship, and murdered your prophets. I’m the only one left, and now they’re trying to kill me.” Then he was told, “Go, stand on the mountain at attention before God. God will pass by.”

A hurricane wind ripped through the mountains and shattered the rocks before God, but God wasn’t to be found in the wind; after the wind an earthquake, but God wasn’t in the earthquake; and after the earthquake fire, but God wasn’t in the fire; and after the fire a gentle and quiet whisper.

When Elijah heard the quiet voice, he muffled his face with his great cloak, went to the mouth of the cave, and stood there. A quiet voice asked, “So Elijah, now tell me, what are you doing here?” Elijah said it again,...

God said, “Go back the way you came through the desert to Damascus. When you get there anoint Hazael; make him king over Aram. Then anoint Jehu; make him king over Israel. Finally, anoint Elisha... to succeed you as prophet. Anyone who escapes death by Hazael will be killed by Jehu; and anyone who escapes death by Jehu will be killed by Elisha. Meanwhile, I’m preserving for myself seven thousand souls: the knees that haven’t bowed to the god Baal, the mouths that haven’t kissed his image.”

Elijah went straight out and found Elisha son of Shaphat in a field where there were twelve pairs of yoked oxen at work plowing; Elisha was in charge of the twelfth pair. Elijah went up to him and threw his cloak over him.  Elisha deserted the oxen, ran after Elijah, and said, “Please! Let me kiss my father and mother good-bye—then I’ll follow you.”
“Go ahead,” said Elijah, “but, mind you, don’t forget what I’ve just done to you.”  So Elisha left; he took his yoke of oxen and butchered them. He made a fire with the plow and tackle and then boiled the meat—a true farewell meal for the family. Then he left and followed Elijah, becoming his right-hand man.


II Corinthians 6 - 
Companions as we are in this work with you, we beg you, please don’t squander one bit of this marvelous life God has given us.  God reminds us,

“I heard your call in the nick of time, the day you needed me, I was there to help.”

Our work as God’s servants gets validated--or not--in the details.  People are watching us as we stay at our post, alertly, unswervingly...
in hard times, tough times, bad times; when we’re beaten up, jailed, and mobbed; 
working hard, working late, working without eating, with pure heart, clear head, steady hand; 
in gentleness, holiness, and honest love;  
when we’re telling the truth and when God’s showing his power;  
when we’re doing our best setting things right; 
when we’re praised and when we’re blamed; slandered, and honored; 
true to our word, though distrusted; 
ignored by the world but recognized by God; 
terrifically alive, though rumored to be dead, beaten within an inch of our lives, but refusing to die; 
immersed in tears, yet always filled with deep joy; 
living on handouts, yet enriching many; 
having nothing, having it all....

Your lives aren’t small, but you’re living them in a small way....Open up your lives.  Live openly and expansively!.....

Each of us is a temple in whom God lives....  

So leave the corruption and compromise; leave it for good, says God. Don’t link up with those who will pollute you.  I want you all for myself.  I’ll be a Father to you; you’ll be sons and daughters to me.