Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Daily Bible Reading: 1 Kings 19 and Luke 2:21-52

1 Kings 19 – When Ahab tells Jezebel what Elijah did to all the prophets of Baal, she sends a threatening note to Elijah, and he becomes afraid.  He flees to Beersheba, goes past there and into the wilderness. He asks God to let him die: “O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my ancestors” (19:4). An angel appears and encourages him to eat—leaves him a cake and some water.  A second time the angel comes and tells him to eat again “otherwise the journey will be too much for you” (19:7).

He does and travels to Mt. Horeb [likely another name for Mt. Sinai] to a cave there. He is in the wilderness 40 days and nights. “Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’” (19:9) He answers, “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 our prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away” (19:10).
The Lord sends Elijah up to the top of the mountain to “stand before[the Lord]”: “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; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence.  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?’” (19:11-13)

Elijah tells the soundless voice, “Lord God Almighty, I have always served you – you alone. But the people of Israel have broken their covenant with you, torn down your altars, and killed all your prophets. I am the only one left – and they are trying to kill me” (19:14). The Lord tells him to return and anoint Hazael king over Aram; Jehu, king over Israel and Elisha as prophet in his place. “Whoever escapes from the sword of Hazael, Jehu shall kill; and whoever escapes from the sword of Jehu, Elisha shall kill” (19:17). He will leave 7,000 in Israel that have not “bowed to Baal” (19:18). Elijah does what he is supposed to do.  When he meets Elisha and throws his mantel over him, Elisha asks to be able to kiss his father and mother before he follows Elijah.  Elijah says, “’Go back again; for what have I done to you?’” (19:20) He goes back and offers sacrifice, shares it with the people and then leaves to follow Elijah.

Luke 2:21-52 - Jesus is circumcised at eight days old and named Jesus. When the time of purification arrives, they take Jesus up to Jerusalem “to present him to the Lord” as “first fruits” of their marriage and they offer a sacrifice.

Simeon, a “righteous and devout” man, experiences the Holy Spirit as well and recognizes in Jesus the “Lord’s Messiah” (2:26). My “eyes have seen your salvation which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel” (2:30-32).  Mary and Joseph are “amazed” and Mary learns the “child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too” (2:34-35). In addition to Simeon, the prophetess Anna (of Asher) who stayed at the temple also “began to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem” (2:38).

In a sense these people also fulfill the prophecy of Joel—about men and women prophesying at the messiah’s coming. But the thing most noticeably different here from Mark is the public and early revelation of Jesus’ identity and mission.
The child grows and is “filled with wisdom” (2:40).  When he is twelve, he is left accidentally behind when his parents leave for home after coming to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover.  They seek him for three days and find him “sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions” (2:46). When his mother expresses anxiety over what he has put them through, he asks “Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (2:49)

At the end it says of Mary, “His mother treasured all these things in her heart” (2:51). A similar passage follows his birth at 2:19.

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