There is a Hebrew word tattooed on the shoulder of my left arm. It is the Hebrew word “Malak” which translated roughly means “messenger of God.” It is used in the Bible to refer to envoys, angels, prophets and priests. In The Story, God has chosen many different messengers to deliver His word to His people. And I have always loved the idea that the holiest of shiny angels to humblest of ash covered, sackcloth wearing humans were counted as equals in light of the message that came from their mouths. After all, the messenger’s worth is measured only by the news they carry.
One of these messengers was neither an angel nor a errand boy with a scroll, but an authentic, tortured soul. Elijah became something of myth and legend to the Hebrew people. His name became so famous that it was equated with fresh revelation from God and Jesus himself was thought to be a reincarnation of Elijah, the messenger of God. But if you read his story, you find that it is not the messenger that is worthy of awe… it was the hope he carried for God’s people and the fear he brought to the enemies of YHWH.
Elijah was sent as a messenger to King Ahab and his wife Jezebel. Ahab ruled the kingdom but he himself was ruled by Jezebel. The queen was ruled only by her own selfish ambitions. So she brought her wooden and stone gods with her to Israel along with her priests who puppeted her gods to say whatever she wanted them to say. And so it is in this world that the only threat to people like this is the authentic truth of God which shines through every dark lie. This threat had to be eliminated. So Jezebel sought out God’s messengers to kill them all.
So what does God call Elijah to do? Present himself to this Killer Queen to let the royal family know that no rain would fall for three years… until God allowed it. Knowing that Jezebel’s wooden and stone gods were said to control things like harvests, rain, storms, fertility… you could not have chosen a more brazen claim. No one could have come up with a greater show of the impotence of her gods, her priests and her own power. She wanted to kill Elijah… slowly… painfully.
And this is the part of the story that really gives me pause.
Later in the story, Elijah kills 450 of Jezebel’s prophets, calls down fire from heaven, meets God on a mountain, and ascends to heaven in a fiery chariot. So when I say this part is what sticks out to me, I don’t say that lightly.
Elijah is guided by God to a hidden brook. Elijah lives there alone… by the side of a small brook that he slowly watches dry up as the land becomes more and more desolate. Each morning and each night a raven (an unclean animal by Jewish standards) would bring him some bread and meat. I’m not sure what windowsill these birds were stealing food from consistently but in my overactive imagination there is an angry cartoon butcher and baker shaking their fists at these crazy birds. I’m sure they were down at the local tavern telling anyone who would listen about these thieving black birds of doom. And from Elijah’s point of view it must have felt a little bit like taking crazy pills.
Disney hadn’t been invented yet so the idea of woodland creatures helping you get dressed and making breakfast while you sing to them hadn’t been a staple for young Hebrew children. I imagine this daily routine was a great shock and a little maddening. No one to talk to but God and the birds. No guarantee of a meal. Nothing to do. A bounty on your head. Hiding next to your only source of water that is slowly but surely drying up.
What does this do to a person?
It doesn’t say exactly how long this went on, but it was long enough for the brook to completely dry up. Months? A year? What does that kind of isolation and single focus on daily miracles do to a man?
The next we hear from Elijah he is called by God to go to a nearby town and live with a widow and her son. And while Elijah was living in their home the son takes ill and dies. What does a half-crazed prophet who has been living in the desert being fed by birds do in that situation? He prays that God would bring the boy back to life.
This the first time in recorded history that anyone was brought back to life.
Elijah had no reason to pray this. It wasn’t something that had ever happened before. It would be like praying today that you could fly like Superman. It wasn’t a reasonable request or a common request or a tried and true method. It wasn’t something Elijah could do on his own. It was a miracle from God that you’d have to be a little crazy to ask for and believe in. And I’m certain that is why God answered his prayer.
Our faith should be a little crazy, shouldn’t it?
Aren’t you tired of small prayers for small things because we are too rational to pray for anything too crazy?
I know I am.