Read 1 Kings 19:1-13
Poor Elijah! Queen Jezebel swears vengeance against him so the prophet hightails it to the wilderness in hopes he might die in peace, the last of God’s prophets.
Two things interrupt his pity party. First, an angel disturbs his suicidal slumber with two meals and word of a journey. The second interruption occurs after Elijah settles into a cave on Mount Horeb after a journey of 40 days. Horeb is another name for Sinai, the mountain where Moses received the commandments.
And the 40 days? Israel’s wilderness sojourn following the Sinai experience lasted 40 years. So with all that Exodus tradition washing over him, Elijah hears a voice that promises an appearance by God.
Naturally, the expectation will be of God’s coming in wind and earthquake and fire. Weren’t those the accompaniments of God’s first Sinai revealing? (See Exodus 19:16-18.) And isn’t God the same yesterday, today, and forever?
Wind blows, earthquake shakes, fire rages – but no God. Instead, God chooses a new entrance: “a sound of sheer silence” or in the more familiar King James rendering, “a still small voice.” In that surprising self-disclosure, God goes on to disabuse Elijah of his mistaken notion that he alone remains a faithful prophet. God sets Elijah back on his prophetic path.
So what sort of invocation does this narrative provide, particularly in the season of Lent? It announces that the God in whose name we gather is a God who may surprise us and shatter our presumptions about life in general and about God in particular.
We cannot shut God up in neat boxes of theology or liturgy that we trot out for pious show and put away when gospel truths like cross-bearing become inconvenient. …
This story testifies to the God who refuses to be locked in to any one tradition or liturgical style. The God who surprises Elijah on Horeb is the God who retains the freedom to be God in God’s own image. May we open our lives and faith to the God still capable of holy and redemptive surprise.
– John Indermark
Worship in Light of the Cross
From pages 39–40 of Worship in Light of the Cross: Meditations for Lent by John Indermark. Copyright © 2016 by John Indermark. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Upper Room Books. http://bookstore.upperroom.org/ Learn more about or purchase this book.
As you have grown in faith, how has God surprised you? Share your thoughts.
For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. O that today you would listen to his voice!
Psalm 95:7, NRSV
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This week we remember: Patrick of Ireland (March 17).
(Courtesy of Vanderbilt Divinity Library)
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