5/31/2013

Palimpsest "And All the People Saw It"

And All the People Saw It
1 Kings 18:20-39

Readings
What is there about the Land of Israel in particular for it to be made the homeland of the chosen people? The Bible sings the praises of the land's abundance and its beauty, but there is nothing religious in that. A theological dimension appears in Deuteronomy, where a point is made about the difference between Egypt, which drinks river water, and the land of Israel, which drinks rainwater. 

Rainfall is a symbol of divine providence. Furthermore, according to the biblical stories, in the great riverine countries a nation's sense of ownership of its land and mastery of its destiny is reinforced, leading to the development of tyrannical regimes and slavery. In land that drink rainwater, on the other hand, man constantly senses his dependence on God and for that reason such a land will sustain a regime of justice, free of subjugation. 

Rainfall is perceived in the Bible as a means for the edification of the people. This is most pronounced in the early prophets, and above all in the story of Elijah and the prophets of Baal. We learn from that story that the dependence on rain is a form of trial. There is a great temptation to use pagan magic to ensure that rain falls, but that defiles the land and it then vomits up its inhabitants; it was, in fact, the source of the Canaanites' sin. The people of Israel must learn that only by observing God's commandments can they dwell in their land and enjoy its bounty.
– Jewish Heritage Online Magazine

When Elijah began his part of the contest, everything was taking longer than he expected – building the altar, stacking the wood, and so on. In order to complete the contest the same day it began, he asked God to make the sun stand still as it had for Joshua. It did, and the contest went on as planned. – Ginzberg IV

In front of the main chapel on the campus of Seattle University, there is a large pool and in the pool, a large rock. On that rock, pieces of wood that will serve for the “new fire” for the Easter Vigil are placed and lit. In the dark, the water and rock blend as the fire soars, ever brighter. To the eyes of those who come to celebrate this liturgical “night of nights” for many Christians, the fire is a miraculous sight, its brilliant light duplicated on the water below. The people gathered in the night have long waited for this fire, which kindles their delight: the long dark winter will give way to the dawn of a new day.
Fire from out the water. Or so it seems.
– Glaucia Vasconcelos Wilkey, Feasting on the Word


Questions:

  • What do these miracle stories in the Old Testament say to you today?
  • What great things have you witnessed God doing? 
  • Is anything different after seeing something amazing? Or do you go back to the way things were before? Why?

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