An Advent reflection for Monday, December 18th by Rev. Bronwyn Leigh Murphy
Lectionary reading for 12/18/2023: Psalm 125; 1 Kings 18:1-18; Ephesians 6:10-17
Selected passage for reflection: 1 Kings 18:1-18
1 Kings 18:1-18 NLT
Later on, in the third year of the drought, the Lord said to Elijah, “Go and present yourself to King Ahab. Tell him that I will soon send rain!” 2 So Elijah went to appear before Ahab.
Meanwhile, the famine had become very severe in Samaria. 3 So Ahab summoned Obadiah, who was in charge of the palace. (Obadiah was a devoted follower of the Lord. 4 Once when Jezebel had tried to kill all the Lord’s prophets, Obadiah had hidden 100 of them in two caves. He put fifty prophets in each cave and supplied them with food and water.) 5 Ahab said to Obadiah, “We must check every spring and valley in the land to see if we can find enough grass to save at least some of my horses and mules.” 6 So they divided the land between them. Ahab went one way by himself, and Obadiah went another way by himself.
7 As Obadiah was walking along, he suddenly saw Elijah coming toward him. Obadiah recognized him at once and bowed low to the ground before him. “Is it really you, my lord Elijah?” he asked.
8 “Yes, it is,” Elijah replied. “Now go and tell your master, ‘Elijah is here.’”
9 “Oh, sir,” Obadiah protested, “what harm have I done to you that you are sending me to my death at the hands of Ahab? 10 For I swear by the Lord your God that the king has searched every nation and kingdom on earth from end to end to find you. And each time he was told, ‘Elijah isn’t here,’ King Ahab forced the king of that nation to swear to the truth of his claim. 11 And now you say, ‘Go and tell your master, “Elijah is here.”’ 12 But as soon as I leave you, the Spirit of the Lord will carry you away to who knows where. When Ahab comes and cannot find you, he will kill me. Yet I have been a true servant of the Lord all my life. 13 Has no one told you, my lord, about the time when Jezebel was trying to kill the Lord’s prophets? I hid 100 of them in two caves and supplied them with food and water. 14 And now you say, ‘Go and tell your master, “Elijah is here.”’ Sir, if I do that, Ahab will certainly kill me.”
15 But Elijah said, “I swear by the Lord Almighty, in whose presence I stand, that I will present myself to Ahab this very day.”
16 So Obadiah went to tell Ahab that Elijah had come, and Ahab went out to meet Elijah. 17 When Ahab saw him, he exclaimed, “So, is it really you, you troublemaker of Israel?”
18 “I have made no trouble for Israel,” Elijah replied. “You and your family are the troublemakers, for you have refused to obey the commands of the Lord and have worshiped the images of Baal instead.
This passage appears to be a curious choice to be included in an Advent devotional. But the reality is, no matter the season, following God can be an exercise in perseverance, conviction, courage, and fortitude. In 1 Kings 18, Queen Jezebel has, in no uncertain terms, threatened death on the Lord’s prophets (in chapter 19, we see Elijah running for his life). This is surely not the only time in the Old Testament that a prophet has faced serious opposition for doing God-ordained work. Lives and livelihoods were threatened, challenges abounded, and warnings fell on hearts that had been silenced. The life of a prophet was far from sunshine and rainbows. Following God and speaking the truths of God was risky business in the land of Baal, just as it was risky business for the prophets Micah, Elijah, Jeremiah, and others.
So how then, does any of this intersect with Advent? Advent, the anticipation of the celebration of the birth of the Messiah and His coming again, gives us hope in the things to come. Obediah saw the hope of things to come as he acted to protect the prophets, whose lives were in danger. Elijah saw the hope of things to come as he prepared for a dramatic showdown against the prophets of Baal at Mount Carmel. Hope gives us boldness and courage to act on the promptings of the Spirit, regardless of the amount of opposition we may face. Even when speaking the truth of God is unpopular—when we are chastised, mocked or threatened—we can cling to hope of divine restoration to come. In Jesus, we have the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, fully human and fully divine, as our living hope. Even in our darkest, most challenging hour, that living hope remains.
Take a moment to assess your internal “hope meter”. Are you feeling more hopeful or hopeless?
From where are you deriving your hope? Give God thanks for your source of hope. If you are feeling more on the hopeless end of the spectrum, ask God to illuminate the flickers and flashes of hope that exist in the darkness.
God, thank you that amidst opposition and challenges, you are right there with me. You see me in the darkness, in my struggles, in my ultra-challenging circumstances, and will never leave me. Fix my eyes on the hope I have in Jesus, and let that be my strength in responding to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
About the Author
Bronwyn is an ordained pastor in the Evangelical Covenant Church, serving in the Greater Sacramento area. She loves building collaborative teams, developing leaders, and helping to provide meaningful opportunities for children, youth, and adults to serve the church and their communities. Bronwyn has zero camping skills but survived five days of camping this summer with 40 awesome high school students from youth group, all of whom were much smarter than her when it came to setting up a tent, turning on a camping stove, and remembering to stick to marked trails.