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Friday, October 21, 2005

Musings on Elijah at Mt. Carmel

At our church's mid-week service on the 19th, our associate pastor read us I Kings 17-18. Here are some thoughts that came to me during our discussion of the passage.

He told us that the main theme of I Kings 17-18 is obedience. I don't disagree. He, and others in our bible study group, said that Elijah obeyed, and Ahab didn't. True. However, some non-human entities obeyed, too. The weather obeyed God, and so did the ravens, who brought Elijah food, meat and bread, twice a day. Did they have a choice? I doubt it. God is sovereign, and directed the winds and the birds. The people did have a choice. For a time, the Mt. Carmel experience influenced them to obey God.

Where did the ravens get their food? Surely God must have provided it (and the ravens). Behavior like this must be foreign to ravens, or any birds. Perhaps C. S. Lewis had this story in mind when he wrote the part about Aslan's table in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.

The NIV study bible says that the widow of Zarephath lived in the geographic center of Baal worship, outside of Israel, and indicates that probably Elijah went there during the drought to signify God's supremacy over Baal.

Why did Elijah lie on top of the widow's dead son? Was he revived because of Elijah's faith, as he prayed, or because of Elijah's actions, in lying on top of him, and, perhaps warming him up, or performing rescusitation? The associate pastor said, both. We need to pray, and we need to do what we can.

When the sacrifices were made at Mt. Carmel, each religion had a bull. They could possibly have used the same bull twice, as Elijah knew that Baal wouldn't, and couldn't, send fire for the first one. Probably being sacrificed, even to a non-existent god, defiled a bull for sacrifice to the God of Israel. Elijah asked for two bulls, one for him, and one for the false prophets.

Where did the water come from that was poured over Elijah's sacrifice? One person suggested that this, too, was a sign of obedience. They used what little water was available, as Elijah directed, knowing that, in this drought, water was precious, and valuable for other purposes. It is also possible that the water was carried up from the sea to the top of Mt. Carmel.

Mendelssohn did a great job with the oratorio Elijah. My state university performed this music twice while I was there, and it was my privilege to be part of the chorus both times. You can hear much of the oratorio here, done with electronic instruments--I missed the chorus and orchestra! (I found these audio files with this search engine)

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