God often shows up when we least expect it. Samaria, the setting for today’s reading, has been in the midst of severe famine. Matters have become so desperate that King Ahab and Obadiah, the manager of his palace, scour the land for enough grass to keep their horses and mules alive. Ahab and Obadiah have split up in their search, and Obadiah bumps into the prophet Elijah.
King Ahab, and even more so his wife, Jezebel, have been systematically killing the prophets of the Lord. Elijah appears and says to Obadiah, “Go tell your master, ‘Elijah is here.’” Obadiah, while sympathetic to Elijah and wanting to help, knows that publicly aligning himself with Elijah could cost him his life.
Ahab follows Obadiah’s request and goes to meet Elijah. Elijah commands Ahab to summon the people and all of the prophets of Baal and of Asherah for a meeting on Mount Carmel. “So Ahab sent word throughout all Israel and assembled the prophets on Mount Carmel.” The face-off: Elijah versus eight-hundred and fifty prophets of Baal and Asherah. Elijah expects God to show up in a big way.
“Elijah went before the people and said, ‘How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.’ But the people said nothing.”
Encounters with God that call for a clear decision, a firm and unwavering commitment to follow God and renounce all competing idolatries, often catch us off guard and make us uncomfortable. They can also be gracious occasions of repentance, a returning to faith in God, the Lord of Israel.
God, prevent our wavering between two opinions. Embolden us to declare that you are God, follow you with every part of our lives, and worship you with our hearts, minds, and actions. Amen.
I join many of those who will pray for you as you seek to discern what you are called to be at this moment. May God grant you the courage to fulfill that calling. May we all open our eyes and see the misery, open our ears and hear the cries of God’s people, and, like God through the Lord Jesus Christ, be incarnate amongst them.”
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