From the retreat with John Roche at Stella Maris, Haifa, Saturday, 25 January 2014
Prayer in the room… wonderful to sit on the floor. Not far from where Elijah used to sit, perhaps: and he certainly did not have a chair.
Elijah: What are you doing here Elijah? – I have been jealous for the Lord of hosts; your people have forsaken you, they have torn down your altars, they have killed your prophets; and I, only I, am left, and they seek to take my life.
And God’s answer is surprising: go anoint Haza’el and Jehu, and Elisha. Those who escape Haza’el, Jehu will slay; and those who escape Jehu, Elisha will slay. Surprising answer not merely to my modern sensibility which is offended by any thought of God ordering prophets to kill. But also because Elijah has complained, he is alone, he is fearful of his life; and God says, okay, enough, pass on your mandate, it’s time for you.
So Elijah does all that, and goes up in a chariot of fire. Wonderful ending. He is assumed into heaven. And he is awaited expected still by the Jews.
So what’s wonderful about Elijah? Perhaps just that, that he was jealous for the Lord of hosts. He spent all his life in that. The Lord was the centre of his life, his dominant passion. No other. The demonic aspects are there in all religions. Certainly the religion of Ba’al was not exemplary in its practices.
Elijah throwing light on Jesus. Jesus spending time praying. Not far from here, early in the morning. The Father does not ask, what are you doing here. When we do hear his voice, he says: This is my Beloved, my Son; listen to him. Elijah covers his face when he goes out to meet God; Moses speaks to God with face uncovered, as a man with his friend; Jesus does not cover his face; he does not speak to God as with a friend; he is Son. He is the Face of the Father. There is another level of communion here.
Elijah has no display of compassion, only zeal. Moses has compassion; he pleads for the people, a stiff-necked obstinate people. Jesus has compassion. He is the Compassion of God.
So what does all this say to me?
What are you doing here?
And what do I answer. Can I answer, I have been jealous for the Lord of hosts?