Zeal #AtoZChallenge

This year for the Blogging from A to Z in April Challenge I have chosen a single word for each letter of the alphabet. Each of these words is important in the Bible. I am including a story in each post. Links from biblical references go to Bible Gateway.

#AtoZChallenge 2021 April Blogging from A to Z Challenge letter Z

Zeal appears in the Bible fewer than 40 times depending on the translation searched. This includes zealous and Zealot. Zeal is defined in the Collins Scrabble Dictionary as great enthusiasm or eagerness. Zealot is a political enthusiast (in the New Testament it refers to a member of a particular political group). Zeal is a word connected both with God, whose zeal for justice and righteousness leads to anger, and with his enthusiastic (zealous) servants. It is perhaps worth mentioning that the word enthusiasm is derived from Greek words meaning inspired by or possessed by a god. In the case of believers in the God of the Bible, this is the Holy Spirit.

Two people, who stand out for their zeal have appeared previously in these posts for the A to Z challenge. Elijah, whose story is told in this post and the post for Letter Q and Paul, Letter E and Letter Y.

To jump to the story Elijah’s Zeal for the Lord click here.

Phinehas, a priest who was the great-nephew of Moses, was zealous for God’s honour. Numbers 25:11 This led to a promise from God that his descendants would have a lasting priesthood. Numbers 25:13

In Deuteronomy 29, when the covenant was renewed, verse 20 states that God’s wrath and zeal will burn against anyone, who worships foreign gods (idols of wood, stone or metal). He will not forgive them.

King Saul’s zeal for eradicating the Gibeonites led to trouble, which King David had to deal with. 2 Samuel 21:1-14

Isaiah prophesied to King Hezekiah that the zeal of the Lord would accomplish the prophecies regarding Sennacherib’s fall.

The zeal of the Lord is a recurring theme in the books of Isaiah and Ezekiel.

Baruch zealously repaired a section of the wall of Jerusalem Nehemiah 3: 20

Psalm 69:9 was quoted in John 2:17 when Jesus cleared the temple because of zeal for God’s house.

Advice from Proverbs is to have zeal for the fear of the Lord. Proverbs 23:17 Fear is more like awe and respect in this context.

In the New Testament zeal is mentioned in the context of being zealous for a good reason (the fear of the Lord) or for bad motives.

Elijah’s zeal for the Lord

Elijah lived in the time of the wicked King Ahab of Israel, who served Baal, a foreign god worshipped by Ahab’s foreign wife, Jezebel.

Elijah, a prophet of the Lord, told Ahab that there would be no rain and no dew for the next few years except at Elijah’s word.

The Lord told Elijah what he must do next. Elijah obeyed, going to hide in the Kerith Ravine, where ravens brought him bread and meat twice a day and he drank from the brook.

When the brook dried up, because of the drought, The Lord spoke to Elijah again. Again Elijah obeyed, going to Zarephath of Sidon and staying with a widow, who had obeyed Elijah’s instructions, gaining a miraculous supply of food.

Some time later the widow’s son became ill and died. She was angry with Elijah, but he took her son, laid him on his own bed and prayed to the Lord that the boy would live. The Lord heard Elijah’s cry and restored the boy to life. Elijah restored him to his mother, who said, ‘Now I know that you are a man of God and that the word of God from your mouth is the truth.’ (Letter Y tells a similar story from the New Testament.)

After more than two years the Lord told Elijah to present himself to Ahab, and the Lord would send rain on the land.

Ahab’s wife Jezebel had been killing the prophets of the Lord, but Obadiah, who was in charge of the palace, had hidden one hundred of them in two groups of fifty in separate caves. He had supplied them with food and water.

Ahab had been sending people everywhere to look for Elijah in order to kill him.

Obadiah reluctantly took Elijah to Ahab. What happened next is a very well-known story involving a show of strength between one prophet of the Lord (Elijah) and 450 prophets of Baal. The people were convinced by what happened that Elijah’s God was Lord. Elijah had the prophets of Baal killed. The Lord sent rain as Elijah foretold.

Jezebel was furious that her prophets had been killed. She wanted Elijah dead.

Elijah had already very energetically run faster than Ahab’s chariot to avoid the rainstorm. Now he fled with a servant to Beersheba in Judah. Then he went on alone into the desert. He had lost the will to live, but an angel visited him twice with bread and water. After eating and drinking this he travelled for forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mountain of God.

The Lord asked him, ‘What are you doing here Elisha?’

Elisha claimed to have been very zealous for the Lord. The Lord told Elijah to stand on the mountain, while the presence of the Lord passed by. Then there was a destructive wind, next an earthquake followed by a fire. The Lord was not in any of those. After the fire there was a gentle whisper. ‘What are you doing here Elisha?’

Elijah came to the mouth of the cave and again told the Lord how zealous he had been and how his life was in danger. The Lord commissioned him to go back to the Desert of Damascus and anoint a king of Israel, a king of Aram and Elisha as a prophet to succeed Elijah. Elijah felt that he was alone, but God had seven thousand in Israel, who had not worshipped Baal. The next part of the story can be found in Letter Q: Elijah and Elisha.

The story abridged here may be found in 1 Kings 17-19:18


Quiet #AtoZChallenge

#AtoZChallenge 2021 April Blogging from A to Z Challenge letter Q

This year for the Blogging from A to Z in April Challenge I have chosen a single word for each letter of the alphabet. Each of these words is important in the Bible. I am including a story in each post. Links from biblical references go to Bible Gateway.

Quiet is used in the Bible in various ways: silent, not talkative, calm and peaceable. It is used as a noun and as a verb. A search produced more than 50 results for quiet, including quieted, quietness, quietly and quiets. Quiet is required for people to be able to hear important messages. Plans may be thwarted if people do not keep quiet. The sea may be stormy or quiet.

David recognises his limitations and has quieted his soul. Psalm 131:1-2 

The result of righteousness is quietness and trust. (Righteousness is similar to obedience to God.) Isaiah 32:17

The crowd in Jerusalem became quiet when Paul addressed them in their own language. Acts 22:2

Paul advised people to live quietly. 1 Thessalonians 4:11, 2 Thessalonians 3:12, 1 Timothy 2:1-2

Elijah and Elisha

Child: If Elijah and Elisha were two of the most important prophets, why are their names not on any of the books in the Bible?

Teacher: Elijah and Elisha were two of the most important prophets. In fact Elijah represents all the prophets and was present at Jesus’ transfiguration. The stories of Elijah and Elisha are told in the history books of the Bible, because their actions affected what happened in the time of the kings of Israel. Not many of their words have been written down.

Be quiet and I’ll tell you a story about Elijah and Elisha.

Elijah was easily recognised because of the clothes he wore. His garment was of hair and he tied a belt around his waist. His cloak was a sign of his power as a prophet.

God told Elijah to anoint Elisha as a prophet to follow him. Elijah found Elisha ploughing a field. There were no tractors in those days. The only sort of power available for work in the fields was manpower and the power of animals. Elisha had twelve ploughs pulled by cattle (oxen, they were called) yoked together in pairs. There were eleven other people working with him and Elisha was driving the twelfth pair.

When Elijah saw Elisha in the field he went to him and threw his cloak around him. Elisha went to say goodbye to his parents. Then he returned to the field where Elijah was waiting for him. Elisha killed his pair of oxen, chopped up the yoke and made a fire with it cooking the oxen. The people ate with him, before he set off with Elijah to be his helper. He had made a complete break with his previous way of life.

There are other stories about Elijah before and after Elisha joined him, but the one that is perhaps best known about Elijah and Elisha together is from much later. At the time Elijah anointed Elisha by throwing his cloak around him, the King of Israel was Ahab. Before the well-known story Ahab had died and there had been two other kings, first Ahaziah and then Joram.

Elijah was a prophet, who often knew what God was going to do. He knew that God was going to take him up into heaven in a whirlwind. Other prophets also knew this. Elijah and Elisha had left Gilgal. God had told Elijah to go to Bethel. Elisha argued with Elijah, when Elijah told him to stay where he was. He did not want to be parted from him. Elijah allowed him to accompany him to Bethel.

At Bethel there were a number of prophets. They asked Elisha, ‘Do you know the Lord is going to take Elijah from you today?’

‘I know; be quiet!’

Then Elijah told Elisha to stay there as the Lord was sending him to Jericho. Again Elisha refused to obey Elijah. There were prophets at Jericho. They asked Elisha, ‘Do you know the Lord is going to take Elijah from you today?’

‘I know; be quiet!’

Then Elijah said, ‘Stay here. The Lord has sent me to Jordan.’

Again Elisha refused to obey Elijah. They walked on together.

Fifty of the prophets went and stood at a distance looking towards the place where Elijah and Elisha had stopped by the river Jordan. Elijah took his cloak, rolled it up and struck the water with it. The water divided on each side of them and they walked across the river on dry ground.

When they had crossed the Jordan, Elijah asked Elisha, ‘What can I do for you before I am taken from you?’

Elisha replied, ‘Let me inherit a double portion of your spirit’.

‘You have asked a difficult thing. If you see me when I am taken from you, it will be yours, but not otherwise’.

They were walking along and talking to each other, when suddenly a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and separated them. Elijah went up into heaven in a whirlwind.

Elisha saw this and cried out, ‘My father! My father! The chariots and horsemen of Israel!’

Then he could no longer see Elijah. He tore his clothes, which was the custom for grieving people and picked up Elijah’s cloak, which had fallen to the ground. He went back and stood on the bank of the river Jordan.

He rolled up Elijah’s cloak and called out, ‘Where is the God of Elijah now?’

He struck the water with the cloak and the waters parted just as they had done before.

He crossed back over to the fifty prophets, who had been watching. They acknowledged that the spirit of Elijah was resting on Elisha. They were not convinced that Elijah had really left.

They offered to go looking for him. Elisha told them not to go, but they went anyway. When they returned to Elisha to say that they hadn’t found Elijah, Elisha’s reply could be translated into modern English as, ‘I told you so!’

Child: So Elisha told the other prophets to shut up at first and, ‘I told you so’ later! I’d be disciplined if I spoke like that!

The story may be found in the Books of Kings: 1 Kings 19:15-211 Kings 22:29-53 and 2 Kings 1-2:18


U is for Unchanging

This April on Sue’s Trifles the theme is the names of God.  There may be more than one name for some of the letters.  There may be others I have omitted.  I hope that by going through the alphabet together we may learn more about the nature of God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Letter U

As for the letter Q, I have not found a recognised name for God beginning with U.  However there are some characteristics of God, which do.

 Unchanging – God does not change.  He remains loving, faithful, forgiving, slow to anger, generous.  What have I missed out? Malachi 3:6-7 James 1:17

 Understanding – no-one understands us better than God does.  He made us and experienced life on earth in the person of Jesus Christ.  Isaiah 11:2

 Unsleeping – God does not sleep.  The prophet Elijah pointed this out to everyone, when the prophets of Baal were trying to prove that Baal was greater than God.  Elijah suggested that Baal was asleep, when he did not answer their prayers.  It is an exciting story and can be found in 1 Kings 18

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