“Scenes from the passion” Lent devotion for Tuesday, March 30, 2021. Photo by Jamie Street on Unsplash.
And some of the bystanders hearing it said, “Behold, he is calling Elijah.” And someone ran and filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink, saying, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down.” (Mk 15:35-36)
Those who hear Jesus speaking the words of Psalm 22, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” think he’s speaking the name of Elijah, the powerful Old Testament prophet. Will Elijah hear Jesus’ plea? Will he come to help? “Let’s watch and find out.”
“Live and in person” Advent devotion for December 10, 2020. Read 1 Kings 19:9-12 and Psalm 29.
What does the voice of God sound like? Most people probably imagine it to be loud, deep and with a British accent. In Psalm 29 David describes it as powerful enough to break trees and shake the ground beneath your feet. Jesus cried out in a loud voice at Lazarus’ tomb or when He gave up His spirit in death. In Revelation His voice is like the roar of many waters, as if your were standing on the beach before the crashing waves. Or the roar of rapids echoing from canyon walls.
But for Elijah, it wasn’t like that at all. Convinced that he’s the last believer left on earth, Elijah ascends a mountain where the Lord Himself passes by. Though the moment is marked by gale force winds, a ground-splitting earthquake and scorching flames, it is the sound of a low whisper that draws the prophet to the mouth of a cave where he converses with God.
When you are in a room full of children, the volume of their voices often increases as they try harder and harder to be heard. Sometimes you have to remind them, “You don’t have to yell. I’m right here. You can use your inside voice.”
Some small sounds immediately capture my attention. Water dripping from some faucet. An unusual noise from the car engine. A subdued “Uh-oh” from the other room. A low growl from the dog who heard someone outside the house. Or a far off ambulance siren.
Sometimes God’s voice seems very small, almost unnoticeable among all the noise in our world. Ours is a noisy world full of car horns and barking dogs and ringing phones and crying children and advertisements and weather alerts. The voice of the Savior can be drowned out by all kinds of other folks trying to get your attention.
So sometimes you have to turn all that off, close all the doors, disconnect the distractions and just listen. Listen to what He has to say as you read scripture aloud. Listen as someone else reads the Word to you. Listen as if He were talking to you.
The Savior came into this world as an infant, one small voice that few noticed or listened to. Yet His are the words of eternal life. What a blessing that He still quietly and powerfully speaks to us through His Word!
Thank you, Lord, for using Your inside voice to speak Words of comfort, reassurance and life to me. Amen.
Then Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, “Choose for yourselves one bull and prepare it first, for you are many, and call upon the name of your god, but put no fire to it.” And they took the bull that was given them, and they prepared it and called upon the name of Baal from morning until noon, saying, “O Baal, answer us!” But there was no voice, and no one answered. And they limped around the altar that they had made. And at noon Elijah mocked them, saying, “Cry aloud, for he is a god. Either he is musing, or he is relieving himself, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened.” And they cried aloud and cut themselves after their custom with swords and lances, until the blood gushed out upon them. (1 Kings 18:25-28)
The contest between Elijah and the prophets of Baal is a bloody affair. Apparently, according to their custom, the way to get your pagan god’s attention was to cut yourself again and again. What a mess! And it was all for nothing. No one answered. No one paid attention.
We all do things to get someone to pay attention to us. Little kids call out, “Watch me!” Or they’ll act out. Just to be noticed. We’ll raise our voices, do silly and outrageous things, pick a fight or reach out to touch someone so they’ll pay attention to us.
We don’t have to do that with God. We’re never off his radar. He never slumber or sleeps. He’s keenly aware of our desires, needs, wants and fears. He knows our thoughts, hears our cries, listens to our prayers and goes to search for us when we wander off and get lost.
Christ’s mission to seek and save the lost meant that his blood would be poured out for us on the cross. A soldier would shove a spear into his side to make sure he was dead. Blood and water poured out. That’s the one true God!
Lord, you made me, you saved me, you hear me. You are my God. Amen.
Here’s what the angel Gabriel said about Zechariah and Elizabeth’s son John: “He will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared” (Luke 1:17).
Who was Elijah? He was an Old Testament prophet who infuriated some and blessed others. He called for a three year famine to move God’s people to repentance during the reign of Ahab. He also miraculously provided for a widow during that time. He wiped out the prophets of Baal after his sacrifice to the true God was consumed with fire from heaven.
Four hundred years before, Malachi had prophesied, “I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes” (Malachi 4:5). Everyone had their eyes peeled for an Elijah-type personality. When he showed up, the Messiah couldn’t be far behind. And then it would finally rain. Or as Jesus put it, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink” (John 7:37).
Later, Jesus would help his audience put the pieces together by explaining, “if you are willing to accept it, [John] is Elijah who is to come” (Matthew 11:14). Not only that, but this is how Jesus identifies himself as the Christ.
Sometimes we need an Elijah to get our attention, call us to repentance, and turn our hearts to Christ. Thank God for those people in our lives who challenge us, “What are you doing?” Or urge us, “You need to make better choices!” Or even better, “Our God abounds in steadfast love.”
Who’s your Elijah? For whom might you be an Elijah?
Thank you, Lord, for those Elijah-types in my life, who grab my attention and remind me of you. Amen.