What you think the Bible is has a strong influence on what you think the Bible says
Week 9, Day 5
I Kings 19. 1-18
For my Day 5 post this week I am giving you part of a recent article by the Old Testament scholar Er. Peter Enns titled “The Bible Invites Us on a Quest". Your assignment for today (if you were looking for one, that is) is to read this article paying special attention to the 3 points he makes: that the the Bible is—“ambiguous, ancient and diverse”. Then read (again) from the text for this week—I Kings 18.20 through I Kings 19.18 looking not for the facts contained in the story, but for the wisdom that can be gleaned from it. Ask this, for instance: How might this story inform the way I relate to neighbors whose culture or religion or politics are different from mine?
The Bible text for this week can be found below. The entire article by Dr. Enns can be found online here: https://peteenns.com/bible-invites-us-quest-quick-preview-next-book/
Here is the excerpt:
“As I see it, rather than a book designed primarily to provide answers, the Bible is a book designed to cultivate Wisdom—which is a lifelong process of maturing us into disciples who wander well along the unscripted path of faith, in-tuned to the presence of God along the way.
Expecting the Bible to be an answer book distorts the Bible’s purpose. And I say this because of how the Bible presents itself (so to speak)—which for the time being (I’m in the very early stages of writing the book) I express under 3 headings:
1.The Bible is ambiguous. The Bible is really not all that clear about what we should actually do and think. When it comes to the details of our lives, we need to work it out, which is a Wisdom task.
2. The Bible is ancient. We cannot simply, as a reflex, “follow the Bible,” because so much of it is so deeply embedded in a world we do not recognize or understand. It takes creative imagination to bring the ancient and modern horizons together.
3. The Bible is diverse. The Bible does not speak with one voice on most subjects. The various biblical writers lived at different times, in different places, and under different circumstances. The Bible’s diverse views of many matters reflect those realities, and we do a disservice the Bible and faith when we focus on neutralizing those differences.
These three things are not problems to be overcome; they tell us something of the character of the Bible.
And if we take the character of Scripture seriously, we will find our expectations challenged and instead come to see that the Bible presents us with an “invitation we can’t refuse”—to join an ancient and sacred quest to follow the path of Wisdom, with no accompanying check list of timeless and predictable solutions, no safety net of pre-scripted responses, and no fear of God bringing down the hammer on us for accepting this challenge.”
I Kings 18.20-19.18
20 So Ahab sent to all the Israelites, and assembled the prophets at Mount Carmel. 21 Elijah then came near to all the people, and said, ‘How long will you go limping with two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.’ The people did not answer him a word. 22 Then Elijah said to the people, ‘I, even I only, am left a prophet of the Lord; but Baal’s prophets number four hundred and fifty. 23 Let two bulls be given to us; let them choose one bull for themselves, cut it in pieces, and lay it on the wood, but put no fire to it; I will prepare the other bull and lay it on the wood, but put no fire to it. 24 Then you call on the name of your god and I will call on the name of the Lord; the god who answers by fire is indeed God.’ All the people answered, ‘Well spoken!’ 25 Then Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, ‘Choose for yourselves one bull and prepare it first, for you are many; then call on the name of your god, but put no fire to it.’
26 So they took the bull that was given them, prepared it, and called on the name of Baal from morning until noon, crying, ‘O Baal, answer us!’ But there was no voice, and no answer. They limped about the altar that they had made. 27 At noon Elijah mocked them, saying, ‘Cry aloud! Surely he is a god; either he is meditating, or he has wandered away, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened.’ 28 Then they cried aloud and, as was their custom, they cut themselves with swords and lances until the blood gushed out over them. 29 As midday passed, they raved on until the time of the offering of the oblation, but there was no voice, no answer, and no response.
30 Then Elijah said to all the people, ‘Come closer to me’; and all the people came closer to him. First he repaired the altar of the Lord that had been thrown down; 31 Elijah took twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, to whom the word of the Lord came, saying, ‘Israel shall be your name’; 32 with the stones he built an altar in the name of the Lord. Then he made a trench around the altar, large enough to contain two measures of seed. 33 Next he put the wood in order, cut the bull in pieces, and laid it on the wood. He said, ‘Fill four jars with water and pour it on the burnt-offering and on the wood.’ 34 Then he said, ‘Do it a second time’; and they did it a second time. Again he said, ‘Do it a third time’; and they did it a third time, 35 so that the water ran all round the altar, and filled the trench also with water.
36 At the time of the offering of the oblation, the prophet Elijah came near and said, ‘O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel, that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your bidding. 3 7Answer me, O Lord, answer me, so that this people may know that you, O Lord, are God, and that you have turned their hearts back.’ 38 Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt-offering, the wood, the stones, and the dust, and even licked up the water that was in the trench. 39 When all the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, ‘The Lord indeed is God; the Lord indeed is God.’ 40 Elijah said to them, ‘Seize the prophets of Baal; do not let one of them escape.’ Then they seized them; and Elijah brought them down to the Wadi Kishon, and killed them there.
41 Elijah said to Ahab, ‘Go up, eat and drink; for there is a sound of rushing rain.’ 4 2So Ahab went up to eat and to drink. Elijah went up to the top of Carmel; there he bowed himself down upon the earth and put his face between his knees. 43 He said to his servant, ‘Go up now, look towards the sea.’ He went up and looked, and said, ‘There is nothing.’ Then he said, ‘Go again seven times.’ 44 At the seventh time he said, ‘Look, a little cloud no bigger than a person’s hand is rising out of the sea.’ Then he said, ‘Go and say to Ahab, “Harness your chariot and go down before the rain stops you.” ’ 45 In a little while the heavens grew black with clouds and wind; there was heavy rain. Ahab rode off and went to Jezreel. 46 But the hand of the Lord was on Elijah; he girded up his loins and ran in front of Ahab to the entrance of Jezreel.
Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. 2 Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, ‘So may the gods do to me, and more also, if I do not make your life like the life of one of them by this time tomorrow.’ 3 Then he was afraid; he got up and fled for his life, and came to Beer-sheba, which belongs to Judah; he left his servant there.
4 But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a solitary broom tree. He asked that he might die: ‘It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my ancestors.’ 5 Then he lay down under the broom tree and fell asleep. Suddenly an angel touched him and said to him, ‘Get up and eat.’ 6 He looked, and there at his head was a cake baked on hot stones, and a jar of water. He ate and drank, and lay down again. 7 The angel of the Lord came a second time, touched him, and said, ‘Get up and eat, otherwise the journey will be too much for you.’ 8 He got up, and ate and drank; then he went in the strength of that food for forty days and forty nights to Horeb the mount of God. 9 At that place he came to a cave, and spent the night there.
Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’ 10 He answered, ‘I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away.’
11 He said, ‘Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.’ Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; 12 and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence.
13 When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. Then there came a voice to him that said, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’ 14 He answered, ‘I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away.’
15 Then the Lord said to him, ‘Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus; when you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael as king over Aram. 16 Also you shall anoint Jehu son of Nimshi as king over Israel; and you shall anoint Elisha son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah as prophet in your place. 17 Whoever escapes from the sword of Hazael, Jehu shall kill; and whoever escapes from the sword of Jehu, Elisha shall kill. 18 Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.’