I want to begin with a
quote from the book we’ve been reading for Wednesday’s Bible Study, A More
Christlike Word. The author Bradley Jersak begins the book with he calls, a
reliable one-liner. Here it goes: “The Word of God is inspired, inerrant, and
infallible. And when he was about eighteen years old, he grew a beard.”
This quote gets at the
heart of the book’s thesis – that we must read the Bible through the lens of Jesus,
which the Bible itself declares to be the Word of God. Christ and his Spirit,
the primary Word of God, are the reading glasses we need to read the Bible and
get to the heart of the Bible’s truths. The Bible points to Jesus and so he is
the lens through which we decipher each text.
This morning I want to
give a working example of reading scripture through the lens of Christ as we
focus on our reading from the Old Testament, also known as the Tanakh or the
Our story from I Kings
17 is a wonderful one. It resonates on its own, doesn’t it?
The context of the
story is that a severe drought is happening and effecting a famine. The people
of Yahweh understand this to be of divine consequence, as the karmic effect of
King Ahab’s horrible, calloused leadership of Israel. The Prophet Elijah is not
hesitant to declare this to be the case. Nonetheless, everyone is suffering
amid the famine.
Our reading this
morning is a vignette that shows this suffering and how God provides somehow.
The vignette involves
two people. Our heroic prophet Elijah and a widowed young mother in the town of
Sidon. The widowed mother is a Gentile with a son who are starving amid the
famine. Elijah comes into town, and there at the gates of Sidon, he sits thirsty
and hungry just like everyone else is. He sees the woman, the young widowed
mother. She is picking up sticks. He asks her first for a recepticle of water.
A heroic sage-prophet
coming into town and at a central location of that town asking for a drink of
water from a woman down on her luck… familiar story. Think Jesus at Jacob’s
Well and a Samaritan woman whom Jesus asks for a drink of water, a story told
in John 10. Anyway, we’ll get to that later.
So, Elijah doesn’t stop
with water. He asks for bread as well. In fact, he pleads for the young woman
to make him bread. Don’t forget, Elijah is starving along with everyone else.
The widowed mother is
in a bind. She only has a bit of flour and a bit of oil left, enough for just
one more small loaf for herself and her son, after which, she fears, they’ll
likely starve to death. That’s what she tells Elijah as she says, I can’t.
promising her that if she takes that leap of faith in making and giving him
some bread, she will not run out of flour and oil through the drought, until it
ends and rain comes.
And this is what
happens, the famous miracle of an evergiving bowl of flour and jar of oil amid
a vicious drought.
What does this lovely
vignette tell us?
Yes, there is the
easily ascertained lesson that we can trust God to provide for all we need and
that showing good faith and being hospitable are things that God rewards.
But there’s something
deeper going on when we put on those reading glasses of Christ as the Word of
We have water which
Elijah first asks for. Hmm… in the story I mentioned from the gospel of John,
the one with Jesus and the Samaritan woman. Remember that story. Well, Jesus in
that vignette declares himself to Living Water, ever-giving water which will
never allow us to go thirsty, spiritually speaking of course.
I I Kings 17, we also have
bread. The gospel of John also has Jesus saying something else profound. John 6
shows Jesus declaring himself to be the Bread of Life.
We see metaphors for Christ in our story.
Here’s another example. Our story from I Kings begins with verse 8, “the word
of the Lord came to Elijah. It ends in verse 16 with these words: according to
the the Word of the Lord which spoke through Elijah.” Jesus is the Word, John 1
Jesus is that word of
the Lord, present and speaking in our story.
Let’s look a little
closer at the bread, which is a key part of our story.
It is simple bread of three
ingredients – flour, water, and oil. This is where it gets interesting.
Who is Jesus? The
Christ, the Anointed One, the One anointed with oil to be the new Messiah.
That bread, even the
bread of life, requires the anointing of oil is no coincidence to our
Oil, cooking oil… we
shoudn’t read past this. In the Jewish tradition, oil is a symbol, a metaphor
for the Holy Spirit.
When oil is infused
into water and flour and warmed with a kindled fire of sticks – a fiery bush if
you will – bread is the result.
My final point relates
to the source of our reading from I Kings, the Bible.
Too often we Christians
read the Bible like a text book, using our right side of the brain primarily,
the discursive side, the logical side. And Christians who sort of don’t take
the Bible too seriously, who don’t really delve into it, too often see it as a
kind of lifeless textbook that can be rather boring and hard to understand.
In this case, we are
reading the Bible as flour alone. Indeed, what good is flour without water and
When Corey was maybe 5
years-old, he somehow got a hold of flour and decided to play with it in the
guest bedroom of the parsonage. It made a complete mess, a mess that is
probably still faintly evidenced in that room to this day. Reading the Bible as
just flour, as just words void of the oil of the Spirit, indeed can make a mess
of a lot of things. See holy wars, inquisitions, witch burnings, racial
violence… the list goes on and on.
When we read the Bible
infused by the the Spirit of Love and Christ who embodied love, we avoid these
Flour infused with oil and
water and heated by fire means bread. The Bible infused with the Holy Spirit and
Christ and baked in the fire of God’s love means Christ.
What does this mean?
What does this mean for us as we come to a close?
bread in I Kings points to the Bread of Life that is Christ. Likewise, the
Bible, the word of God, points to Jesus, the living and breathing word of God.
The heart, the heartbeat of what we call the word of God is the ultimate Word
of God, Christ himself!
And this bread is something
we are met to ingest and nourish us!
So, let us see and
take-in the Bible as not just a lifeless textbook. Instead let us see and
internalize its heartbeat and the life
that heartbeat sustains! Let us add the Holy Spirit’s presence and compassion
into the mix. Let us and internalize into our minds and hearts the life of
Christ and the Spirit of Christ still with us. And in taking in the story of
Jesus into our own spirits may we have our spiritual hunger fulfilled. Amen.