Elijah is the most important prophet in the Jewish tradition, not so much for his words but as the events of his life. Though a “troubler” to those who sat on the throne, Jews consider him to be the consolor of Israel. A seat is kept for him at Jewish festivals and ceremonies. It is said that he visits those in distress, as he did during his life. Above all, he represents the hope of God’s people. In his life, this hope was born out in his faithfulness to God’s protection and providence.

Today’s Bible reading and a excerpt

Read I Kings 17:1-7

Now Elijah the Tishbite, of Tishbe in Gilead, said to 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.” The word of the Lord came to him, saying, “Go from here and turn eastward, and hide yourself by the Wadi Cherith, which is east of the Jordan. You shall drink from the wadi, and I have commanded the ravens to feed you there.” So he went and did according to the word of the Lord; he went and lived by the Wadi Cherith, which is east of the Jordan. The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning, and bread and meat in the evening; and he drank from the wadi. But after a while the wadi dried up, because there was no rain in the land.

More thoughts for meditation

This text introduces two main themes of Elijah’s life: his conflict with Ahab and his dependence on God for provision in danger and drought. Ahab’s evil is the context of Elijah’s career as a prophet, especially the national worship of Baal that was introduced through Ahab’s marriage to Jezebel. From the very beginning, there are portents of doom. First, an old curse against the city of Jericho comes to pass. Then, Elijah prophesies a drought upon the land. The central issue is the matter of worship. Baal was the god of fertility, rain, and storms. The logic of Baal worship was that sacrifices and offerings were given in exchange for Baal’s blessing on the land. Worshiping Baal is a way for Ahab to attempt to take matters into his own hands as far as providing for the fertility of the land and security of its people. Elijah, on the other hand, goes into the wilderness in obedience to God’s word, where he is fed by a raven. It is an act of trust that brings to mind the Lord’s provision for Israel while they wandered in the desert.

Today things are a bit different. We aren’t tempted to worship Baal (probably), but we have still appropriated for ourselves the power to make adjustments to the conditions of our existence to ensure that we have an abundant supply of food and water. This is a power not equally distributed in our culture. But make no mistake: we still worship the ones who make it rain. Gratitude is the fundamental witness against the tendency to worship power, whether it is our own, or others’. Whoever we are, whatever we have, we did not create ourselves nor did we create the food we eat or water we drink. The practice of giving thanks re-shapes our hearts to recognize our common humanity and vulnerability under the care and providence of God.

Suggestions for action

A discipline of gratitude can be a great help for the spiritual life. However, it isn’t easy. Personally, it always reminds me of my mom telling me to say I am sorry to someone – I’ll say it because I have to, but she really wants me to want to say it. Having something to say can be helpful when you don’t “feel” it, and let’s be honest, a lot of times we don’t. Here is one prayer you can use daily, or whenever it feels particularly difficult to give thanks for a certain situation:

“Give me grace, O God, to accept all that you give, for You are good and Your will for me in all things is good.”