October 15, 2023
Ancient Near Eastern histories were written by elites, for elites. With limited literacy and restricted access to writing resources and technologies, only royalty had the capabilities to write lengthy historical narratives. For this reason, ancient historiography served to support and legitimize royal rule. But biblical historiography is different in this respect.
This week we leave behind King David and move to hear more about Elijah. Elijah is well-known for many miracles as well as being a staunch defender of God. He always comes across as a bigger than usual personality which can sometimes get him into trouble. He was around in the reign of King Ahab in the 9th century BCE.
In the midst of the narratives of Israel’s kingship, the books of 1 and 2 Kings contain numerous accounts outside of the royal elite sphere. Such a chapter occurs in 1 Kings 17 about a disenfranchised prophet and a foreign widow in the midst of national calamity.
This passage centres on a few key themes of rain, drought, thirst, sustenance and no fear. As I write this, I cannot help but think that these words connect with what we fear we are looking at here in Australia over the coming summer months.
The main characters of a thirsty prophet Elijah, and a poor widow can allow us to think and reflect on our own experiences waiting on God amidst fears and unknowns. It invites us to understand the lack of rain, drought, thirst, and fear. This is a passage that helps us to reflect on our own journeys of faith, and think about the times when God called us to a wadi with no further instruction but to wait on him. Ultimately, God reveals that the wadi leads to an opportunity to serve the least among us.
I believe it is also interesting that the women Elijah is sent to help is not from his community, his people. She is an outsider, someone not expecting the interaction with this man from Israel, but when asked she responds and shares her last meal. We are not told how long Elijah stayed with the widow, we are told that her son dies that Elijah brings him back to life, and we are told that there was more than three years of drought, so I think we can assume that Elijah and this widow shared a special connection in which each were able to find sustenance and survive the drought.
My question is where are those people who need the presence of God in their lives offering sustenance and a lack of fear? What are we doing to help give that sustenance and the presence of God?