Bible reading for October 16.
1 Kings 19.
"And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And behold, there came a voice to him and said, 'What are you doing here, Elijah?'" (1 Kings 19:13)
FROM FAITH TO FEAR. Elijah goes from a mountain-top experience of great success, down to the pit of fear and despair, because of Jezebel's threat. And the threat was real. Who knew that God's prophets could go through such ups and downs? So Elijah flees to Mount Sinai, many miles to the south in the wilderness. The Lord sustains him through the journey. He is going back to the place where God gave his law and promises, where God's power and glory had been manifested centuries before, and where the nation was founded. Twice the Lord will ask him, "what are you doing here, Elijah?" In other words, why have you come? This is not an indictment, but an invitation to speak and to plainly state his problem. Elijah has come to petition the covenant Lord and to lament what he perceives as failure in fulfilling God's promises. The Lord meets with Elijah, and he sends him back to anoint two powerful successors, Jehu (to be king of Syria) and Elisha (to be the next prophet). The Lord makes it clear that things are not as desperate as Elijah sees them and that the Lord has preserved a strong remnant of faithful followers (v 18; Rom 11:4). These are encouraging words for God's people today!
THE STILL SMALL VOICE. Before he meets with God there is a demonstration of divine power and glory on Sinai. Afterwards, Elijah hears a sound (the word can also be translated, "voice") of gentle blowing (or possibly, "whisper") and this signals to Elijah that he may come meet with the Lord. Some have used this passage as a template for "hearing God" in their devotions, which becomes a kind of contemplative practice. This, I believe, goes beyond the intent of the biblical text. The point is that after the great demonstration of God's power, Elijah knows the gentle breeze is God's invitation to come and meet. So he wraps his face, much like Moses was hidden in the cleft of the rock, lest he look directly upon God's glory (see Ex 33:20-23). Elijah, like Moses centuries before, wants to know God in his glory. Ultimately, both Moses and Elijah would see God's glory in the face of Jesus, while upon the mount of transfiguration (Matt 17:1-7). With unveiled faces we too now see the glory of God in Jesus through the Spirit (2 Cor 3:18; 4:6), and one day we will see him fully and directly (Rev 22:4).
REFLECT. Have you ever experienced these kinds of ups and downs, having times of confidence being followed by panic and doubt? As you read this chapter, what lessons do you draw for dealing with your own fears or despair?
1 Thessalonians 2.
"And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers." (1 Thessalonians 2:13)
SELF-AUTHENTICATING WORD. Verse 13 recalls a statement from chapter one... "...our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction" (1:5). An important principle here is that God authenticates his own word. There is, of course, much evidence for the trustworthiness of God's word, such as, the many fulfilled prophecies, the historical accuracy of the narratives, the supporting archaeological evidence, its internal consistency, and the high moral standards that are promoted. But one thing needs to be remembered, it is God who ultimately authenticates, that is, confirms and makes known the divine origin of his revealed word. Part of our salvation is the internal witness he gives (and we feel) of the authority of God's holy Word.
MODEL FOR MINISTRY. In much of this chapter Paul writes about how he, along with Silas and Timothy, served the young Thessalonian believers. He writes about such things as affection, truthfulness, labor, gentleness, courage, etc. What attitudes and actions from this chapter can you adopt for your own approach to ministry? Why not make a list of traits that you'd like to demonstrate toward others: your spouse, children, younger Christians, and people you are sharing the gospel with? Which traits do you especially need to emulate now?
Image credit. Photo of St. Catherine's Monastery at the base of Mount Sinai, photographer unknown. We are following the Robert Murray M'Cheyne (RMM) two-year reading schedule, as arranged by D. A. Carson. Scripture quotations, unless otherwise noted, are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. One recommended resource is NETBible.org, a ministry of bible.org.