Bible Study 18th August

Bible Study: Sitting Beneath the Broom Tree

We are constantly risk-assessing at the moment, even if we are not filling out forms we are wondering if certain places are safe. Elijah the prophet has had a showdown with the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel (the subject of this week’s upcoming sermon) and the prophets of Baal have been slaughtered. Queen Jezebel vows ‘to make Elijah’s life like one of them by this time tomorrow’ so Elijah flees in fear. He is extra cautious- not only does he go to Beersheba in Judah (far away from the Queen’s jurisdiction) but then travels a day into the wilderness by which point the time-limit of the vow has expired. Despite the miracles Elijah has seen, he has had enough and sits beneath a broom tree. A broom tree is associated with mourning and distress in the Bible (Job 30:3-4, Psalm 120).

Read 1 Kings 19: 1-5a

Question 1: What emotions do you think Elijah is feeling? Are these surprising or unsurprising after the ‘victory’ on Mount Carmel (1 Kings 18)? Is he where he expected to be?

Question 2: Ever had a ‘broom tree’ moment when a sudden low-point followed a high or when you thought a tough time might be over and it just got worse.

Read 1 Kings 19: 5b-9a

Interestingly, it was not suddenly over. God did not magic Elijah’s inner or outer troubles away.

Question 3: What does God do to sustain Elijah? What might our modern equivalents be?

He still had a journey of forty days and forty nights through the wilderness (yes, spot the biblical echoes!)

Read 1 Kings 19: 9a-16

Elijah airs his grievances which are focussed on himself and are out-of-proportion. He is not the only prophet left (see 1 Kings 18:1-4). The people have now returned to Yahweh (see 1 Kings 18: 39) they are not all out to get him. How easy it is to think we are alone in our difficulties. God asks Elijah a question ‘What are you doing here?’ Elijah thinks the answer is obvious- he is fleeing for his life! I suspect Elijah would rather throw that question back at God ‘Where are you? Where have you been?’ God listens and doesn’t dismiss his worries. Sometimes words will not do it. Sometimes words will not convince anyone- only our presence counts. So, amazingly God will make God’s awesome presence known to Elijah to help relieve him of his fear. He is not in the earthquake or fire which are both attributes of the god Baal.

Question 4: How does your translation translate 1 Kings 19: 12b? Which translation do you prefer and why? What does it say about God?

The translation is very tricky and offers a paradox; ‘a voice, a thin silence’. It could mean a) a voice which is very close to silence e.g. a whisper or b) a voice followed by a time of silence. Question: Can you live with the paradox?

Question 6: God asks Elijah the same question and Elijah responds in the same way but this time God sends Elijah back the same way (his heart must have sank) but not to do the same things…there is a new direction for himself and the nation. Ever had to make big changes in order not to burn-out?

In the end Elijah moves on- the wilderness is not the place he stays in.

Prayer

When we cannot see how things really are,

Because we exhausted, fearful or depressed,

When we think we have failed and are alone in a dark world,

When we are sitting under our own broom tree,

Lord, please come to us.

We thank You for ministering angels,

Those that touch and feed,

Those who are firm in their gentleness- ‘Get up and eat’.

Those who allow us to rest and heal; however long it takes.

Lord, bless them.

Most of all we thank You for Your presence,

Not always big and dramatic- copying the gods of our age,

You are the paradox that holds voice and silence, substance and emptiness, together

Often, we find you in the stillness after speech or the pregnant pause before something is said.

You are the God who weaves through our daily discourse.

If we listen…….if we hear.

Lord, we are not always where we should be or want to be

Guide us to new beginnings and help us serve You.

Amen.

 

 

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