Reflection for Today ▶️ ⏩ ⏹️
Twenty-first century drought in the USA. Getty images.
And Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the inhabitants of Gilead, said unto Ahab, As the Lord God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word.
— 1 Kings 17:1
Without ceremony, or familial context Elijah the prophet appears. There is great similarity here with the appearance of Jesus in the Gospel of Mark, At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.1 The familial context for Jesus was added later, first by Matthew,2 and later by Luke,3 (who also supplied context for the ancestry of John the Baptist). The two birth stories of Jesus differ in significant ways, leading one to the conclusion they are both creatively invented to explain and justify the significance of this essentially unknown prophet. Yet there is something even more powerful in a prophet as important as Jesus or Elijah coming from nowhere. Prophets such as they need no explanation, and certainly no justification. It is what they do that counts, not who they are, or where they came from.
The name Elijah means Yahweh is my God. In the days when Ahab's government officially supported the worship of Baal and other gods, even the name of this prophet told the truth.4
Elijah was sent to confront, and to undermine Ahab and Jezebel's kingdom-wide enforced worship of the god Baal. Elijah starts that process by predicting (or causing) a drought across the land. Being a god of weather, Baal is thus directly confronted by God, and the story plays out almost as a competition, very Greek in its descriptions of fire, thunder, fear and overall magnificence. Elijah comes from nowhere to turn the world upside down, to assert God's rule as the true king.
Context is important, and when we meet new people we like to learn about them, where they are from, where their ancestors lived, what their parents did for a living, it gives a sense of a whole person. Yet sometimes these things are unimportant. There are certain people we meet who defy context. They just are. They just are here, now, and they affect our lives in some significant way. It may be a stranger at a bus stop, offering a word of kindness, a busker singing a song that touches an emotion in you, a shop assistant being particularly helpful, or funny. Context matters—but not always. We also need to embrace the mystery of people, to be touched by their magic without knowing exactly why.
1 Mark 1:9
2 Matthew 1
3 Luke 1
4 Quoted from Enduring Word