2018年1月20日星期六

还我伊甸的丰荣

创世记二7-17
亚当被安顿在伊甸园
创世记第一章,讲述一位超越的神Elohim。他透过话语创造宇宙万物,包括照着他的形象来造男造女(一27)。人是特殊的活物,因为唯有人拥有神的形象。这意思说,他有能力与神沟通,有属灵的敏锐和道德良心的觉醒。他还可以代表创造主在地上掌管万物。
现在我们来看创世记第二章。作者从另一个角度描绘这位超越的神Elohim。原来他也是一位临在的『耶和华神』Yahweh Elohim。耶和华;他是与以色列立约的那位神。
创世记二7:『耶和华神用土地上的尘土塑造人,把生命的气息吹进她的鼻孔,那人就成了有生命的人。』
耶和华神亲手以地上的尘土塑造了人。人是来自尘土,开始时候是空壳而已。这点提醒我们人原是卑微的,但人也是有生气勃勃和高贵的,因为神将生命气息吹进人里面。
然后,二8:『耶和华神在东方的伊甸栽了一个园子,把他所塑造的人安置在那里。』
伊甸园即是乐园!园子里头有活水的泉源,流出四道河,滋润大地,好叫生命和树木可以生长。园子里有各样的树木,长出果子作食物,也很美味。园子中间有生命树,又有善恶知识树。园子里还布满了金子、珍珠和红玛瑙(10-14节)。
如此美奂美仑的画面,往后也出现在会幕或圣殿(出25-27章),以及新天新地(结二十八13;启二十一18-21)。这表示伊甸园是圣殿的原型,一个神与人同在之地。伊甸园是一个圣殿花园temple-garden
耶和华神在伊甸园预备了人心里渴望的一切美好和丰盛,包括神的荣耀同在。然后?
15:『于是耶和华神带了那人来,把他安顿在伊甸园,叫他耕种并看守它。』
这里的『安顿』不同于二章8节的『安置』。旧约原文希伯来文的『安顿』,是指休息或安定的意思,也有被献在神面前的意思(出十六33-34;利十六23;民十七4;申二十六410)。
因此,亚当被安顿在伊甸休息,不是不做事情,而是表示进入神的同在里得安息与保障,与神维持团契生活(三8)。
还有,神指定亚当在伊甸园的责任是『耕种看守』,也有译作『修理看守』。
『耕种/修理』在希伯来文是服事或敬拜。这字在摩西五经常常出现,特别是用在利未人要服侍神、敬拜神的经文里面。『看守』有遵守、保守和看管的意思,特别是指听从,遵守神的律法典章。
总而言之,神非常体恤人和关爱他亲手塑造的人。他为始祖预备了伊甸园和其中的一切,让人在此乐土居住。而伊甸园仿似圣殿,一个神与人同在的地方。亚当就好像祭司,敬拜服侍神和听从神的话,以及照顾这神圣之地,杜绝不洁净和罪的进入。然而,亚当不是伊甸的主人,神才是主人。他必须听主人的话。
这位主人耶和华神,吩咐亚当说:『园子里各样的树木所出的,你尽管吃。但善恶知识树所出的,你不可以吃,因为在你吃的那天,你一定死!』(16-17节)
这死亡除了是身体上的,也是灵性上的,就是与神隔绝,得不到福气和安息。
除此之外,神还有命令人要生养众多,遍满全地,以及管理大地(一28),因此亚当也有责任把伊甸园的疆界扩张到全地。但是往后的发展来到一个逆转(3章)!
亚当夏娃没有好好看守伊甸园,反而堕入蛇的引诱,吃了那颗分别善恶树的果子。人就犯罪,背叛了神。亚当夏娃要拥有上帝无所不知的能力。他们要自己决定善恶,不要听上帝告诉他们什么是善恶。他们要为自己立法,拒绝上帝所立的法。
亚当夏娃犯罪,背叛神之后,他们与上帝的密切团契破裂了。他们被上帝赶出伊甸园,失去了原初的祝福,最终肉身也死去。
因着罪进入了世界,世界就沦落苦痛的深渊,出现死亡、暴力斗争、男女关系以及所有人际关系充满冲突、环境受到破坏、因着满足人的利益和权力欲,产生政治迫害、贪污和不公义。
然而,《新约》的作者告诉我们,神差派他的儿子耶稣(第二亚当),成了肉身,住在人间。耶稣胜过魔鬼的试探,逆转了亚当的失败,并且死在十字架上流血,救赎了世界和罪人。耶稣又从死里复活,叫信他的人也得着新的生命。
耶稣说:『凡是劳苦、担负重担的人,都到我这里来吧,我要让你们得到安息。』(马太福音十一28
耶稣要把我们重新安顿在伊甸园,得安息在神的同在里,得神赐给福气与能力。这就是得永生的意思。
应用:
今天我们每个人都可以接受耶稣白白赐给人的救恩,就是透过口里承认,心里相信耶稣是我们生命的主,他就赦免我们的罪。然后,神会安顿我们在各个地方或岗位,作为我们的『伊甸园』。神还要给我们圣灵充满,借此得着福气与能力,在里头修理看守,享受安息,成就神在我们身上的计划。
今天我们无论被神安顿在何处做『修理看守』,我们都可以在那里敬拜神和祈求神,得享神同在的安稳,为那地方谋求福利。这安定不是指没有困难,但神会帮助我们克服困难,来成就他的旨意。
今天神把你安顿在哪里呢?
若神把我们安顿在家里,我们当以顺服的心态,忠心地照顾年长的父母,耐心教养小孩,使我们的家成为温暖的安乐窝。
若我们被安顿在职场某个岗位,我们当把神托付我们的职责,忠心地完成,遵行《圣经》的道德与行为,并且获得同事和老板的赞赏与祝福。我们在职场与人分享神的爱,为人代求,求神赦免罪,感动人归向他。
我们被安顿在教会里,也当『修理看守』,参与各样服侍,而不是袖手旁观。我们更加不应该任意而行,不顺服牧者的带领,以致神的教会和牧者都受到伤害。
神要赐福每位基督徒活出一个敬拜人生。这也是一个使命人生。这生命乃是充满能力与安息的。我们不要再浑浑噩噩,漫无目的,得过且过,活在自我封闭的世界。这是在虚度光阴,消耗神赐给我们的诸般资源。
祷告与呼召:

今天你在哪里安顿下来呢?不要在流离浪荡了!人不会找到安稳、意义和喜乐,直到他按神的引领安顿下来。别再犹豫了,现在就安顿下来吧!神会帮助你,加力量给你,与你同在……

Whispering Hope After Hurricane

1 Kings
19:1-18
Elijah’s Death Wish
The prophetic ministry of Elijah was dramatic and reflective of human nature. Our own experience of ups and downs as we serve God reflects this tension too.
The story of Elijah was set during the reign of King Ahab of the northern kingdom of Israel. Ahab was an ungodly king. His queen was Jezebel, a Gentile. The royal family encouraged the people to worship Baal. They also persecuted the prophets of God. So, God raised Elijah up to confront the wicked Ahab and Jezebel, on the other hand, to awaken the people to affirm that the LORD was the only one true God.
The peak of Elijah’s ministry was at Mount Carmel where he faced 450 prophets of Baal in a showdown to prove the identity of the one true God (1 Kings 18); was he the LORD or was he Baal?
The prophets of Baal tried all kinds of ways but they failed to summon fire to consume their sacrifice. But Elijah prayed to God and fire came down from heaven to consume his sacrifice! As a result, the 450 prophets of Baal were killed by Elijah and the 3-year drought was ended. This proved that the LORD is God and Elijah was God’s servant.
When Ministry Seems Ineffective……..
Having won the victory, Elijah returned to the city hoping that Ahab and Jezebel would repent and God’s fire of revival would sweep the nation. But it backfired. Ahab and Jezebel did not repent nor celebrate the prophet’s homecoming; Jezebel instead issued a death warrant for Elijah (19:2).
Upon hearing the bad news, Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. What was even more ridiculous was that he ran all the way to Beersheba, which was located at the southernmost part of Canaan.
Now he had fled far away from Ahab’s Northern Israel and this ought to be safe enough. But Elijah continued for another day into the wilderness before he finally sat down under a broom bush and prayed that God would kill him.
“I have had enough, LORD,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” (v. 4)
How did Elijah fall so quickly from his peak? How did he reach this low point of wishing he was dead?
Elijah’s response to Jezebel’s death warrant was to flee in fear. He was merely acting out of natural human instinct. And now, he wanted to die because he was in despair over the state of his ministry. He felt that he was no better than Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and other ancestors since he did not have very effective ministries. He was disappointed with himself and with his countrymen.
But Elijah was also disappointed with God. He had a self-righteous moment where he thought that he alone was zealous for God. He thought that he was the only one who did not bow the knee to Baal (v. 10). Therefore, in his view, God should instead grant him more blessing and power so that he may prove that the LORD was God and he was God’s great prophet.
 “I have had enough, LORD,” Elijah said. He was disillusioned with God and himself. He was not necessarily determined to end his life. Rather, he had decided to give up his prophetic ministry. He chose to escape from it all.
Are we also in the same predicament as Elijah when it comes to ministry?
As we strive to serve God and seek to maximise His glory, do we also at the same time hope that our ministry will also receive recognition and affirmation from others? Are we still linger in the past glory and refuse to be humbled by the present situation?
Yes, we firmly believe that God has chosen us to serve Him in our respective capacity. But do we also hope that God acts according to our plans and motives, which include letting others know that we are the true servants of God?
Perhaps we have had hope that when God displays His power, we may also earn some extra credit with people. But when we realise that God does not necessarily act according to our expectations, we become bitter with God. Perhaps we may feel disheartened, afraid, disappointed, or other negative emotions.
Soon, we become disillusioned with the community we are called to serve. Soon, we leave the group and escape from active service. We rather isolate ourselves in our “wilderness” or hide in our “caves”. We may feel that there is no more meaning to our existence. By then, we have lost all sense of direction and may even entertain suicidal thoughts.
But God did not reprove Elijah in his moment of weakness. Instead, God sent an angel to wake him up and give him food to eat. Before anything else, God provided for Elijah’s physical needs!
After Elijah ate and drank, he laid down again. For a second time, the angel brought bread and water and instructed Elijah to eat, because “the journey ahead will be too much for you.” (v.7)
“The journey ahead” was God’s reminder to Elijah that he must persevere to complete his journey and have the courage to face his own weaknesses by relying on the strength and grace from above!
God was teaching Elijah to see things from the perspective of the journey of faith and not focus on particular success or failure. If we are entangled in the success-failure mind set, then we will be trapped in a dead end with little prospect and an even dimmer future.
Do you feel that your ministry is ineffective or does not meet your expectations? Is the congregation weak and do not listen to you? Do you feel like a lone ranger fighting for a lost cause because little to no transformation is happening in the church?
Or, perhaps you feel that your faith no longer affords to you the excitement that you once expected? Do you sometimes feel that your faith seems to be divorced from the reality of life?
Do not give up! God knows that you are tired and need some rest. The grace of God is sufficient for you. He wants to lead you further in your journey!
And too, do not consider yourself to be indispensable to God’s kingdom. It will not grind to a halt just because you leave. On the contrary, you are the one who stand to lose if you give up. Do not focus on a particular success or failure because there is still quite a journey ahead. The final battle has not been fought. Press on toward the goal!
What Are You Doing Here?
So, Elijah continued on his journey for another forty days until he reached Mount Horeb. Mount Horeb was also known as Mount Sinai. It was here that Moses met God and received the law.
Moses led Israel out of Egypt through the Red Sea in a spectacular fashion so that they may enter into the Promised Land of Canaan. Moses wandered in the wilderness for forty years and spent forty days at Mount Sinai!
God wanted Elijah to follow in the footsteps of Moses’ journey. In the past, God called Moses at Mount Sinai. Now, He called Elijah at Mount Sinai so that Elijah may experience His presence and rediscover life’s meaning and direction.
When Elijah arrived at Mount Horeb (Sinai), he hid in a cave. Once again, he decided to isolate himself. So, God’s Word came to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” (v. 9)
After Elijah poured out his heart with lots of grievances in ministry, God revealed Himself to Elijah. God said, “Go out and stand on the mount before the LORD.” (v. 11)
There and then a great and strong wind tore the mountains, but God was not in the wind. After the wind an earthquake and after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in those either. But after the fire came the sound of a low whisper. This time, God was present and He said to the prophet, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” (v. 13)
Paradoxically, God revealed Himself in a hidden way – a low whisper! What does this mean?
Clearly, God wanted Elijah to submit to His sovereignty. Elijah expected to see God’s presence in the spectacular miracles but God did not reveal Himself in such manner. Rather, He revealed Himself with a low whisper. He wanted to correct Elijah’s mind set. Elijah was disappointed because he equated his own expectations with God’s.
Next, God helped Elijah by giving him a new mission. God sent Elijah to do three things.
First, Elijah was to anoint Hazael as king of Syria because God wanted to use this Gentile king to punish Israel for their sins. Second, Elijah was to anoint Jehu so that he may destroy the Baal worshipers from within Israel. Third, Elijah was to anoint Elisha as his partner and successor for the continued spreading of the fire of revival within Israel.
Finally, God assured Elijah that he was not alone and, therefore, should not think too highly of himself. God revealed that He had preserved 7000 people in Israel who had not bowed the knee to Baal (v. 18).
By entrusting this new mission to him, God showed Elijah that He was still at work! God was in control of the big picture! In addition, God was telling Elijah that He had not given up on him.
Thus, Elijah should not give up on himself. He should not be so short-sighted to just focus on his own failures and weaknesses. Rather, he should focus on being God’s servant commissioned to accomplish His mission.
Many people like Elijah, think that God only works through the spectacular. However, God often choose to reveal Himself in an unassuming and inconspicuous place through a low whisper.
Even in a seemingly uninspiring or uninteresting situation where nobody pays attention, God is at work and He is in control of the big picture!
Conclusion
Today, God is also challenging you to come out from your “cave” to face a world that is less than perfect. We need to come to terms with the real world and our real selves.
Faith and ministry may not always be very inspiring. After the Battle of Carmel, you return to ordinary daily life. But in the midst of the twists and turns of faith and ministry, God is still in charge of it all. God is whispering to you, “There is still a long journey to go; what are you doing here?”
Let’s take heart and persevere, continue to serve God faithfully.

2018年1月14日星期日

上山下乡

路加福音九28—43
耶稣山上变像
耶稣带着彼得、约翰、雅各上山祷告。正祷告的时候,他的面貌改变了,衣服洁白放光。忽然有摩西和以利亚两个人同耶稣说话。他们在荣光里显现,谈论耶稣去世(exodus)的事,就是他在耶路撒冷将要完成的事。彼得和他的同伴都打盹、但一清醒,就看见耶稣的荣光和与他一起站着的两个人。
耶稣的容貌改变,衣服洁白发光,彰显永恒里基督的荣光,或是复活后基督的荣光(29节)!耶稣不单是一位人间的精神导师。他是集荣耀、尊贵与权柄,我们生命的大主宰。
摩西代表律法传承,以利亚代表终末性大先知。这两大传统人物出现在耶稣身旁,显得耶稣尊贵的身份是无以伦比的!他们的谈论是关乎律法与先知书预言弥赛亚来复兴万国的救恩计划。他们是为耶稣打气,肯定和鼓励他去耶路撒冷完成救恩的使命。
摩西和以利亚二人要和耶稣分离的时候,彼得对耶稣说:『老师,我们在这里真好!我们来搭三座棚或会幕,一座为你,一座为摩西,一座为以利亚。』
圣经说,彼得却不知道自己在说些什么。他想把荣耀和光辉留住,不要下山。他或者想透过会幕里的献祭仪式,除去因神荣耀的临在而降下的灾祸。
彼得说这些话的时候,有一朵云彩来遮盖他们。他们一进入云彩就很惧怕,因为人瞥见神的面是会死的!有声音从云彩里出来,说:『这是我们的儿子,我所拣选的。你们要听从他!』
声音停止后,只见耶稣一人。摩西和以利亚突然间消失了,棚是建不成。三个门徒没有死去。
我们来上山,经历上帝荣耀的同在
耶稣在山上变像,衣服洁白发光,乃是肯定他永恒圣子的身份和位格,以及预示他死后复活,升天,得荣耀地位。耶稣是上帝荣耀的肉身人形。希伯来书如此形容:『耶稣是上帝荣耀所发的光辉,是上帝本体的真像。』(来一3
当耶稣接受约翰的洗礼时,圣灵像鸽子般降临在他身上,让他更加坚定地展开教导和医治的工作。如今天父的临在有包围环绕他光芒、云彩般的荣耀,以及说话的声音,都鼓励他走向等在前面更艰巨的考验,让他能坚决走向十字架的道路。
耶稣钉死在十字架上,牺牲自己的性命,借此救赎世人脱离罪和死亡,成就救恩,谓之『第二出埃及second exodus』。凡是接受耶稣救恩的人就在基督里,就能承受神应许的产业,就是宇宙万物得赎,更新的生命。我们将要与神面对面同在,看见他的荣光,得享永生。
当耀眼夺目的云彩消失了,惊诧不已的门徒,瞠目结舌站在昏暗的山顶。彼得、雅各和约翰刚刚经历的是敬拜。敬拜不只是相信。彼得、雅各和约翰在上山之前就已经相信耶稣,而且说出『你是基督』了。
敬拜,是预先尝到所有人心都渴望的永恒的安息。彼得、雅各和约翰现在亲身感受到上帝临在包围笼罩着他们。这是我们每个人都渴望的,亲眼看见上帝的面容,感受上帝的怀抱,肯定和医治伤痛。
总而言之,耶稣登山变象是一种高峰经验peak experience)。这次经历让耶稣获得力量,去走上十字架。这次经历也在装备门徒面对即将来临的考验就是他们的领袖被逮捕而离开他们。
你曾有过这种『高峰经历』吗?我们当渴慕这种高峰经验,它好像一道强心剂,复兴我们,更新我们。我们从中增添力量和坚固信心。
我们来退修到“山上”敬拜神和祷告。我们追求神的同在,渴慕圣灵的恩膏临到。我们主动来经历神迹奇事和上帝的医治大能。我们来沉浸在圣灵的洗,看见异象,作异梦,与主有超然的亲密契合。这是预先体验永恒里上帝荣耀、甜蜜、充满爱和大能的同在。我们要经历我们原本就相信是真实的事。这种预先体验是我们面对未来挑战的养分与力量。不要迟疑和胆却,我们一齐来经历神!
我们来下乡,服侍世人的需要
耶稣和门徒一行人第二天就下山去。有许多人迎见他们,其中一人喊叫:『老师!求你看看我的独生子,他被鬼抓住,抽风,口中留沫,受大伤害。你的门徒要把鬼赶出去,却是不能。』(39-40节)
山上门徒打盹,山下门徒无法赶鬼,门徒真的不济!耶稣这位神的独生子,斥责那污鬼,把那位父亲的独生子治好,然后交回给孩子的父亲。众人都诧异神的大能(42节)。
耶稣没有长期逗留在山上。他下山,下乡进入人群,为有需要的人做医治赶鬼。耶稣知道,他山上的高峰经历是装备他去成就律法和先知书所指示,下到平地与邪恶势力争斗,释放受压迫和捆绑的人,甚至将自己的性命摆上,为世人成就救赎。
耶稣下山不停的服事,并且一路走向耶路撒冷,直至到另一座山上,各各他山,被凌辱和钉死在十字架上。耶稣被钉十字架,摩西和以利亚没有出现,却是两位强盗一同被钉十字架。当时天父却不发一声。从上山到下乡、从这山到那山、从洁白光芒的荣耀到那羞辱的荣耀,耶稣都拥抱,毫不退却!
我们不要满足于『平原式』的忙碌服事,或沉闷重复的生活。我们『上山』经历神,追求圣灵充满的甜蜜和权能经验,譬如参加一场振奋人心的讲道或赞美敬拜等。然而,这些高峰经历是带来义务的,就是下乡服事人群的需要,叫自己的生命品格在服事路上得到改正和变化,降服在基督的掌权下。这就是成圣的工夫!
若不下乡服侍,所有的『高峰经历』只是追求无休止的感性经历,无法带来生命和世界的改变。我们下山服事人群,可以体验到邪恶横行、人的伤痛和无奈。我们在山下实践信仰的能力,让基督的全能和光辉战胜邪恶的黑暗势力。山下服侍提供更宽广的人生经历,带来挑战和惊喜连连!
一些人信主几十年后,还是讲同一个,几十年前经历的见证,就如多年前因感情受创而经历主、生病而经历主、考试受挫败经历主等等。这好像彼得要求流连在山上,总有一天我们会发现这些经验并不能盛载我们的生命。神要我们每天去经历他新的恩典。与神同行,每天都是新的一天,进入新的领域,新的视域,新的见证就层出不穷!忘记背后,努力面前。
你的『山下』在那里?在职场、在学习场所、在小组里、在服事岗位、在家里、或是纠缠不请的人际关系。你必须立刻去参与和适当处理。
一个人的我,还要继续
35节说,有云彩笼罩住门徒,有声音说:『这是我的儿子,是我所拣选的,你们要听从他。』那声音传出来的时候,只见耶稣一人在那里。
父神的声音静止,摩西和以利亚离开了,耶稣独自一人。这显出耶稣的重要和独特。只有耶稣介于上帝和人类之间的桥梁,给予人救恩。他终结一切献祭的牺牲。他就是圣殿与会幕,是一切圣殿与会幕的总结。难怪,彼得要建会幕却建不成。
对于耶稣而言,摩西和以利亚的鼓励,父神肯定的声音都消失了。耶稣的高峰经历是会过去的,现在他独自一人,还可以依靠谁呢?他面前是三个爱睡觉的门徒。耶稣还是坚忍地走向耶路撒冷,承受苦难,牺牲性命来击败魔鬼,成就救恩。
很多人无法忍受孤独,需要听到人声。如果身旁没有人,也要开电视机,听到电视机发出声音,心就释然。神要磨炼我们每个人忍受孤独,为了培养我们的韧度,叫我们能够承担抉择,挫败、承受沮丧。这样我们就能够盛载生命的真实,里头有血有泪,有欢笑和各种不定性。
现在你是否独自一人?是否感到孤单?感到无所适从?旁人不了解你?旁人帮不到你?
耶稣在许多重要时刻,也是独自一人去面对啊!旁人的肯定,掌声和披护都会过去。不少人信主多年,被喂养,调教多时,还不能够或不愿意担当领袖、组长或教师的岗位。有者甚至拒绝带领祷告,理由是,我不会。不要自怨自艾,一个人也可以继续走下去,是时候学习站起来!你独自一人,是因为神拣选你,要磨练你去完成使命。
无论是山上的高峰经历或是下乡的辛劳服侍,我们都会遇见瓶颈、困惑、不会或不明白。然而,神的话语发出,『这是我的儿子,是我所拣选的,你们要听从他』。我们来听从主的命令,跟从主的脚踪,纵然独自一人,也要站起来,服侍人、喂养人和领导人。不要再坐着等待别人来服侍自己!
耶稣从马利亚怀胎那一刻起就被圣灵充满。耶稣领受了圣灵的恩膏开始生平的服事。他传道、医治、赶鬼和收门徒,乃至顺服父神至死,完成他的使命。我们现在来『上山』,祈求圣灵来充满我们,加添力量给我们,好叫我们纵然是独自一人,面对缺乏情况下,也能站起来,『下乡』接受挑战,完成使命。 

There Can Be Miracles When You Believe

1 Kings 17:1-24
Elijah’s Ministry
When you see most people rebel against God, succumbing to sin and wickedness; when evil and violence prevail, causing chaos and moral decadence; when God’s people are lukewarm in their faith, unwilling to obey God; how then would you conduct yourself?
During the reign of King Ahab, the Northern Kingdom of Israel underwent a faith and morality crisis. The Israelites, though not totally forsaking Yahweh, were crippled in their faith. They were not able to go to worship in the temple in Jerusalem.
Coming from Phoenicia, Queen Jezebel propagated the worship of Baal (1 Kings 16:31-32). For the Canaanites, Baal was worshipped as a god of prosperity, rain, harvest, soil and human fertility. Israel turned to Baal because its form of idol worship encouraged unrestrained sensual living, promised abundant crop and material blessing.
Against this backdrop, Elijah called on his people—the Israelites, to stay away from Baal worship and be faithful to Yahweh alone. Courageously, though in grief, Elijah confronted the hostile crowd, or effectively the entire nation.
We will examine Elijah’s ministry, focusing at the dynamics of narrative plot and prophet’s characterization.
From the outset, Elijah was introduced as a Tishbite from Gilead, an insignificant epithet. Elijah was not mentioned as a prophet and there was no “thus said the LORD”. Elijah simply told King Ahab, “As the LORD, the God of Israel, lives, before whom I stand; there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word.” (v.1)
A hitherto unknown character making pronouncements; how could Ahab (and we readers) believe Elijah to be a prophet? Will his words come to pass? Will the LORD overcome Baal?
The LORD God commanded Elijah to go to the Jordan River and hide near the brook Cherith. Elijah obeyed and went. At the brook, Elijah had water but no food. Elijah experienced his first miracle when God sent ravens to deliver bread and meat, twice a day.
The world out there was experiencing a severe drought, poor harvest, and famine, yet Elijah was protected from all these. He stayed alone for some time, living a peaceful, stress-free, quiet life. It was also a passive and inaction situation because God supplied all he needed.
The LORD, God alone, confronted the Israelites— with judgment of drought, without the presence of His prophets and His words. What a tragic God!
Eventually the brook ran dry. The plot continues to unfold where God commanded Elijah to go into the Gentile territory of Sidon to look for a widow.
Ravens were unclean creatures and that corresponded with the Gentile widow – both were marginalized according to Israel’s tradition. Yet they obeyed Gods command and willingly became His messengers to aid Elijah.
Sidon was where Jezebel, the wicked queen, hailed from. Sidon was also the birthplace of Baal and the center of Canaanite culture. Elijah had ventured into the dragons lair! Could the LORD, God exercise His authority and power in the domain of the Gentile Canaanites?
Once again, Elijah obeyed God and went to Sidon. There later, he would not only proclaim God’s word, but appropriate and actualize God’s word himself.
Elijah met the widow while she was collecting wood. The widow did not say a word but Elijah believed God’s word and he convinced her to take a step of faith to partner with him to usher in a miracle.
Elijah took the initiative to ask her for water, and the widow gave some to him. He also wanted some bread, but she said that she only had a little flour and water left; barely enough for herself and her son. Both mother and son risked dying of hunger the following day.
Elijah took the next step to make Gods miracle happen. He promised the widow that if she let him eat the food first, the flour and oil would not be depleted. The widow obeyed just as Elijah obeyed the LORD God.
When Elijah visited the widow, he was passively accepting Gods command. But from then on, he became responsible for solving the problem of food and water. The outcome was God’s provision of unceasing supply of bread and oil not only for Elijah, but also for the widow and her son.
Charity and hospitality generate abundant supply because God’s grace is sufficient for His faithful people. By faith, we can rely on God to multiply what little we have for the benefit of others.
Now we are certain that Gods power and authority extended beyond the boundaries of Israel into Sidon, demolishing the citadel of Baal.
The plot continued to unfold with Elijah facing another crisis. The widows son died of illness and she put the blame on Elijah, saying to him, “What have you against me, O Man of God? You have come to me to bring my sin to remembrance and to cause the death of my son!”
The death of the boy was totally unexpected and Elijah panicked. The LORD God said nothing and did nothing. Facing the death of the boy, Elijah was in a daze.
Elijah had been obedient to Yahweh yet he now suffered failure. This is a trial on the maturity of faith! Like Elijah, we often ask, “What is Gods plan? Why do I have to encounter such a problem? Can God overthrow the domain of death?”
How did Elijah deal with this situation?
Elijah took the child from his mother and carried him to his own room. He took on the widows problem as his own, and her complaint as if it was his verbatim, pouring out his heart to God at the top of his voice, “O LORD my God, have you brought calamity even upon the widow with whom I sojourn, by killing her son?” O the LORD my God, let this childs soul come into him again.” (v.21)
Before this, Elijah told the widow what to do, and she obeyed him. Now he related her problem to God, and God answered him. Verse 22 says, “And the LORD listened to the voice of Elijah. And the soul of the child came into him again, and he revived.”
Here we see God is sovereign above all including the domain of life and death. By now Elijah’s prophetic ministry had matured and been accredited, as the widow testified; “Now I know that you are a man of God, and that the word of the LORD in your mouth is truth.” (v.24)
The widow’s comment echoed what the prophet had said earlier on, “… there shall be neither dew nor rain, except by my word.” (17:1)
Miracles of God Are For
Transformation of Lives
Elijah encountered one problem after another: from drought, no drinking water; to famine, no food, but God provided him all. Finally, through Elijah, God even performed the miracle of overcoming death.
So, we see the motifs of no water (drought), no food (famine), and no life (death). Interestingly, all these are perceived to be Baal’s domain, under his control.
As the plot unfolded, the narrator actually fore-grounded a fight between Baal and the LORD God, and he underscored that the Lord was the only true and living God whose power overcame Baal’s.
Additionally, the narrator employed an irony or parody: if even foreign ravens and widow submitted to the LORD God’s authority, then why did the people of God, the Israelites, waver in serving the LORD, having turned to the foreign idol Baal?
Chapter 17 underscores the overwhelming power of the LORD over Baal and foreshadows Chapter 18 – the tussle between Elijah and the priests of Baal to bring rain at Mt. Carmel where he would surely be victorious and Baal’s prophets would definitely be annihilated.
Also, we observe that the character of Elijah developed from being simple and passive to being proactive. He might not fully understand why crisis came his way, but as he cried to God, God answered him and revealed His will.
Elijah had learnt to always turn to God to make miracles happen, and not just waiting for miracles to happen. Soon Elijah would be alone to face the challenge of 450 Baal priests, where he should be mature in faith and proactive in overcoming the crisis by then.
This account of Elijah emphasizes that miracles are meant to manifest Gods power and authority, and then bring along transformation of lives. Since life changes, the adverse situation also changes. This is the only reason miracles are meaningful and important!
Many a time, we are not sure why certain events happened, like the case of the Sidon widow. She did not understand the cause of her sons death and believed that it was the punishment for her own sins.
But as we rise up to undertake the responsibility, be proactive, by the power of God, miracles will happen! Our lives will undergo transformation, shaping us to be more steadfast, more versatile to overcome challenges, and bring about changes to our surroundings.
Let’s Embark on the Prophetic Ministry
Elijah experienced “drought, famine, and death”. Through this process, he gained maturity. Elijah started from fulfilling his own needs, to fulfilling the widow’s needs, to propelling her to believe in the LORD God, and, finally, to bringing life to her son.
 “Fighting evil, upholding the name of God, helping others to gain life”—is a model of prophetic ministry and it is realized in Jesus’ ministry too.
To save sinners, the Eternal Logos incarnated. Jesus crossed the boundary between heaven and earth, overriding the dividing line between the clean and the unclean, and entered into the domain of the “Ruler of this World”.
With the anointing of the Holy Spirit, he overcame the temptations of Satan, and contained evil. He upheld the holy name of God, served the needs of people, and resurrected to conquer death so as to give life to those who turn to Him for salvation.
Jesus gathered in Israel an eschatological prophetic community, which includes us now, as Christians, to venture into this chaotic world with a mission to “fight evil, uphold God’s name, and give life to people”. Eventually this corrupted world will turn to God anew.
Today many Christians come to God for miracles for their continual enjoyment at the “brook of Gilead”, leaving God alone to face the disastrous world out there. The irony is “the ravens and widow of Sidon” are at God’s disposal and will be used by God.
As Disciples of Christ; let’s get out of our comfort zone to partner God to usher in miracles of life. We exalt God’s name through miracles, through gaining maturity in life, and through bringing to others faith and new life. This is our purpose of experiencing miracles and this is also our mission.