Ministry in Context: Elijah and Elisha
Every December, while students are busy studying for their exams, our staff team takes a week to receive training in ministry. This year we decided to take a seminary class with Erskine Theological Seminary. During the semester, we lead Bible studies and teach students how to study God’s Word, so we also need to receive training and grow in our understanding of Scripture. Knowing our propensity as young believers to focus on the New Testament, we decided we to take a class called The Elijah/Elisha Narratives, based on texts in 1 and 2 Kings. Personally, even though I believe the Old Testament is a part of God’s Word, I tend to dismiss it because I do not readily see the connections to Jesus, my Savior. Along with our reading of the biblical text, we read a book of stories about the god Baal and his relationship with humans and his fellow gods. Our professor then took a day of our class time to teach us more about Baal, the god the Israelites had chosen to worship instead of Yahweh, the One True God. After learning more about the culture of the day, so many of the details of the biblical text make much more since. For instance, in 1 and 2 Kings, many of the stories have similar themes: fire, storms, barren women given a child, raising of the dead, famines, and droughts. Baal is known to be the god of storms, fertility, and agriculture. Every story of the narratives is a direct attack against Baal and proves that Yahweh is the One True God. The stories repeatedly show the reader that Yahweh is the one who controls the earth; He is the one who can hold back the rains or let them loose, give life or bring death. Yahweh is the one the people should worship and obey; He is the one who loves His people and wants them to trust in Him alone.
I have been challenged to examine my own life and the idols to which I bow and serve. I desire to follow the One True God, but that means that I must turn from my idols and worship Yahweh. Another application I made for myself is to be a better learner of my culture. Which idols do my culture worship? How can I, like Elijah and Elisha, seek to show others that God is better than the idols they are worshiping?
Through this course, I was able to see very clearly that Scripture, while it applies to believers today, was written during a specific time to a specific people. I learned that it is necessary to take the time to better understand the author, setting, and audience in order to get to the meaning of the text.
Thank you, Dr. Schwab, for your patience with us! You gave us a new lens through which to view Scripture. We learned so much about ourselves, the world, and our amazing God who loves us and wants us to turn from the idols that are ultimately bringing us harm and toward Himself, the good Shepherd of our souls! Thank you for showing us how everything in Scripture points us to our precious Redeemer, the better Elijah, the better Elisha, the better King.
~ Abbye Epting