Oh goody goody hurrah. One of my favourite and, I may dare suggest, one of the silliest passages in the OT. Yes, Elijah was a great prophet, the foreshadow of John the Baptist and yes we see a powerful God at work but come on: a fire competition? A barbecue show-down? A ram bake-off? I can never imagine this scene without finding the comedy in it. Can you imagine, all those Baal worshippers… Sneaking a look at Elijah’s damp bonfire and hoping theirs will break forth in flames sometime soon…?
Or being on Elijah’s team – would you have had the complete faith that the dousing of the bonfire implies? I’m not sure I would. And did the fire of the Lord take people by surprise? I bet there were a few singed robes, if not beards.
But… seriously… As well as the comedy, this passage has the drama. It shows Elijah fully confident that God is God. And I wonder how many times we doubt that?
As with last Wednesday’s reading the interesting part for me was the new idea: that actually, calling down fire from heaven isn’t the best way to demonstrate to onlookers that God is God and in control. (Although…am I the only one that’s ever wished for a tiny bit of fiery smiting of our enemies?)
If we are secure in our faith, goes the argument, we don’t need to engage with those who would loudly criticise and ask for proof. We do not need to have our apologetics governed by ‘media fads.’ I think this idea is ever more true in our world of social media. Our book was written before Twitter was invented, so the kind of argument, abuse and controversy that can be tweeted could only be imagined. I suspect a discussion about religion and social media could take us until the end of Advent, so let’s not focus too much on that.
How do we engage with our critics? What are good, loving ways to tell people the good news? What makes a good herald in the 21st century?