Bible Reading Plan – April 9-15
Bible Project Reading Plan (April 2-8):
1 Kings 17-22; 2 Kings 1-17; Psalm 99-105
We live in interesting times. Secularism isn’t precisely running rampant, but its forces are felt even among those who might be slightly religious. Most people are unwilling to give up on the idea of some sort of god full-stop, but they have certainly replaced a God who reveals himself through Scripture for one that reveals himself directly and unhindered to the human heart. By moving the locus of revelation from the open and public words of Scripture to the private and guarded feelings of the heart, our culture has removed any religious feelings from the public square. Your god is your business, not mine; after all, they are likely not even the same god. Thus, we fashion gods in our own images, after our own likenesses, for they are formed inside of us, and are inseparable from us.
Likely the most memorable event in 1 Kings is Elijah’s confrontation with the 450 prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel in chapter 18. The challenge is to see which God (god) can spark the wood under a sacrificed bull without any human help. The prophets dance, flail themselves, invoke all kinds of summons upon Baal, but the offering does not light and burn. It is as stone cold as the god that the prophets worship.
Elijah, on the other hand, all but submerges his offering under water (which, if he were not on a mountain top, one suspects he might have done), provides a small prayer, and the wood spontaneously combusts in an eruption of heat and fire, burning the wood, the offering, and in a wonderful turn of phrase, “licked up the water in the trench.” It is a magnificent demonstration of God’s power which Elijah honestly hoped would turn back the hearts of Israel to God:
Answer me, O LORD, answer me, that this people may know that you, O LORD, are God, and that you have turned their hearts back.
1 Kings 18:37 (ESV)
Alas, miracles are not enough, which is a thought for another day. However, what I’d like to draw your attention to this morning is the words that Elijah has for the prophets as they attempt to draw Baal’s attention to their plight. Elijah taunts them:
And at noon Elijah mocked them, saying, “Cry aloud, for he is a god. Either he is musing, or he is relieving himself, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened.” And they cried aloud and cut themselves after their custom with swords and lances, until the blood gushed out upon them. And as midday passed, they raved on until the time of the offering of the oblation, but there was no voice. No one answered; no one paid attention.
1 Kings 18:27-29 (ESV)
First, there is something to be said for mocking those who rely upon anything but the Creator of the universe and the Savior of the world for their aid and help. Indeed, Elijah’s mocking is bitter and biting – their god must be too busy to be able to answer them. He is not much different than a frustrated father trying to get work done at home, and is incapable of listening to the requests of his children. He is limited, feeble, weak, distracted, and utterly incapable of accomplishing the task set before him.
But the most important phrase is the narrator’s, not Elijah: No one answered; no one paid attention. Friends, if you rely upon yourself, and your god is only what you think he/she is in your heart and head, perhaps that is precisely what your god is: just in your head. Do not be surprised when that god has no answers for you, when it cannot help in your time of need, and when it does not deliver you from your difficulties. There is nothing there but the vapor of a thought, a mist that gathered for a second and blows away the next. It has no ears to hear, no heart to care, no arm to save. It is an idol and is idle.
But, the God of revelation, the God who has revealed himself fully as Father, Son, and Spirit, this God is a consuming fire; he hears the cries of his people and acts to demonstrate his greatness over their enemies. This is a God who will hear your cry, and has given something so precious to us in his Son that we have no doubt that he will freely give all things for our good. Pray to the God reveals himself through creation, through Scripture, and through his Son, for he will hear:
They shall not labor in vain or bear children for calamity, for they shall be the offspring of the blessed of the LORD, and their descendants with them. Before they call I will answer; while they are yet speaking I will hear.
Isaiah 65:23-24 (ESV)
This week, we will look at the Read Scripture video on the Psalms:
And, because the Psalms are a distinct type of literature, quite different from the narrative we have been reading, it might be helpful to review the importance of understanding of literary styles in the Bible: