Lectionary Reflection for the Second Sunday after Pentecost

This excerpt comes from 1 & 2 Kings (BTCB) by Peter J. Leithart, commenting on 1 Kings 18:20-39:

When Ahab arrives, Elijah proposes a contest on Mount Carmel, in the north of Israel toward the Mediteranean Sea. Elijah takes charge of the whole contest, and Ahab complies with Elijah’s every instructions (1 Kgs. 18:19-20).

After he calls Elijah a “troubler,” Ahab disappears from the narrative until 18:41, and after 18:17 Ahab never speak again. Ahab, like Baal his god (18:29), falls silent.

The prophets of Baal also submissively, even comically, follow Elijah’s orders. He tells them to choose an ox, prepare it, and call on Baal, and they do (18:25-26). Even when he mockingly instructs them to cry out more loudly; they follow his instructions (18:27-28).

They continue their antics throughout the day, but the day of Baal is nearly over. At evening, a new day begins, the day of Yahweh.

Yahweh shows mercy to demonstrate that he is God. This is a common theme in the prophets, who claim that Yahweh forgives Israel, restores it, brings it back to the land, for the sake of his own name. Repentance is a gift of God, and if God gives a gift of repentance it is because he has already decided to show mercy to his people.

In explaining why he does not destroy Israel when they rebel against him, Yahweh says through Ezekiel: “I acted for the sake of my name, that it should not be profaned in the sight of the nations among whom they lived, in whose sight I made myself known to them by bringing them out of the land of Egypt” (20:9; cf. 20:14, 22).

Israel’s continuing existence does not ultimately depend on Israel’s faithfulness, but on Yahweh. He displays his glory, the glory of his name, before the nations, and he saves Israel, sends renewal and resurrection to Israel, time and again, for the sake of his name.

Yahweh, as Elijah confesses, “turns the heart” (1 Kgs. 18:37). Israel cannot turn to Yahweh unless he turns to them first. When Israel begins to pray toward Jerusalem, confess their sins, and turn away from them, they realize that God is always already there first.


©2006 by Peter J. Leithart. Published by Brazos Press. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.