Our almost-daily readings this month are introducing us to three characters from Hebrew scripture: Elijah, Elisha and Jonah.
Comments I’ve heard about the readings are generally in the range of: “These sure are some strange stories!” And we’re not even to Jonah yet!
Elijah and Elisha are the first two great prophets of Israel (unless you count Moses and/or Samuel, but that’s another discussion).
Elijah is Hebrew for “Yahweh Is My God.” He lived during the reign of king Ahaz (9th century BCE). He was a fierce opponent of the increasingly accepted practice of worshiping gods other than Yahweh.
Elisha is Hebrew for “God is my salvation.” He was Elijah’s hand-picked successor who established a school for prophets (seminary). He, like Elijah before him, practiced the prophet’s craft of confronting corrupt political power and directing Israel back to Yahweh.
Here’s a picture from our Children’s Hallway Mural of Elijah and the widow (1 Kings 17) .
In 2 Kings 5 we find the story of Elisha healing the Syrian general Naaman from a debilitating skin disease.
Jesus references both of these stories in his inaugural sermon at his hometown synagogue (Luke 4:16-30). Jesus’ point was that Yahweh is the God of all races—Phoenicians like the widow and Syrians like the general—not just the Jewish race. This wasn’t a popular message in first century Nazareth! With it Jesus put himself clearly in the prophetic line of Elijah and Elisha, challenging worshipers whose faithfulness had veered off course.
Here’s a suggestion: you might want to use your quiet time to go back over some of the Elijah/Elisha stories and ponder what God is saying to you through them. For instance, is God allowing some brook of yours to dry up in order to move you to some new place (1 Kings 17:7-9) or is God encouraging you in the depths of discouragement (1 Kings 19)?
On Easter I concluded the message with this verse: “… How tremendous is the power available to us who believe in God. That power is the same divine energy which was demonstrated in Christ when he was raised from the dead…” Ephesians 1:20 (Phillips)
Tremendous power is available to us: this is what Elisha teaches the young prophet-in-training when he opens his eyes to the fact that in a world that claims scarcity of resources, we serve a God of abundance (2 Kings 6).
If you pray and listen, you just might be surprised what God has to say to you through these strange, old stories.