Monthly Archives: May 2023

Digital Worship May 28, 2023

The online contemporary service and the sermon from this service are embedded at the bottom of the post.

Sixth Sunday in Easter Sunday, May 28, 2023

If we say we have no sin we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. Let us confess our sin to God who is faithful and just and who has promised to forgive our sin and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Silence for reflection and self-examination

Most merciful God, have mercy on us. We confess to you that we have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done and by what we have left undone. We have not trusted you with our whole heart; we have not loved one another in deed and in truth. In your compassion forgive our sin and uphold us by your Spirit that we may live and serve you in newness of life through Jesus Christ our light and our truth. Amen.

With joy, I proclaim to you that Almighty God, rich in mercy, abundant in love, forgives you all your sin and grants you newness of life in Jesus Christ.

Thanks be to God!


The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all.   And also with you.

Prayer of the Day

O God, on this day you open the hearts of your faithful people by sending into us your Holy Spirit. Direct us by the light of that Spirit, that we may have a right judgment in all things and rejoice at all times in your peace, through Jesus Christ, your Son and our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

First Reading: Numbers 11: 24-30

24Moses went out and told the people the words of the Lord; and he gathered seventy elders of the people, and placed them all around the tent. 25Then the Lord came down in the cloud and spoke to him, and took some of the spirit that was on him and put it on the seventy elders; and when the spirit rested upon them, they prophesied. But they did not do so again.
26Two men remained in the camp, one named Eldad, and the other named Medad, and the spirit rested on them; they were among those registered, but they had not gone out to the tent, and so they prophesied in the camp. 27And a young man ran and told Moses, “Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.” 28And Joshua son of Nun, the assistant of Moses, one of his chosen men, said, “My lord Moses, stop them!” 29But Moses said to him, “Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his spirit on them!” 30And Moses and the elders of Israel returned to the camp.

Psalm: Psalm 104: 24-34, 35b

 24O LORD, how manifold are your works!
 In wisdom you have made them all;
 the earth is full of your creatures.
 25Yonder is the sea, great and wide,
 creeping things innumerable are there,
 living things both small and great.
 26There go the ships,
 and Leviathan that you formed to sport in it.
 27These all look to you
 to give them their food in due season;
 28when you give to them, they gather it up;
 when you open your hand, they are filled with good things.
 29When you hide your face, they are dismayed;
 when you take away their breath, they die
 and return to their dust.
 30When you send forth your spirit, they are created;
 and you renew the face of the ground.
 31May the glory of the LORD endure forever;
 may the LORD rejoice in his works —
 32who looks on the earth and it trembles,
 who touches the mountains and they smoke.
 33I will sing to the LORD as long as I live;
 I will sing praise to my God while I have being.
 34May my meditation be pleasing to him,
 for I rejoice in the LORD.
 35b Bless the LORD, O my soul.
 Praise the LORD!

  Second Reading: Acts 2: 1-21

1When the day of Pentecost had come, [the apostles] were all together in one place. 2And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. 4All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.
5Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. 6And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. 7Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? 9Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.” 12All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13But others sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine.”
14But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, “Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. 15Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. 16No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:
17‘In the last days it will be, God declares,
 that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh,
  and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
 and your young men shall see visions,
  and your old men shall dream dreams.
18Even upon my slaves, both men and women,
  in those days I will pour out my Spirit;
   and they shall prophesy.
19And I will show portents in the heaven above
  and signs on the earth below,
   blood, and fire, and smoky mist.
20The sun shall be turned to darkness
  and the moon to blood,
   before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day.
21Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’                      

Gospel: John 7: 37-39

37On the last day of the festival [of Booths], the great day, while Jesus was standing [in the temple], he cried out, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, 38and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, ‘Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.’ ” 39Now he said this about the Spirit, which believers in him were to receive; for as yet there was no Spirit, because Jesus was not yet glorified.


Sermon: Pastor Neil White

Apostles’ Creed

I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.

I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord. He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended to the dead. On the third day he rose again. He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.

Assisting Minister

Let us pray:

You call your church to witness to your salvation. We give thanks for preachers, and teachers who proclaim your gospel. Equip all the baptized to share the joy of the resurrection in all we say and do. Risen Lord, in your mercy,

hear our prayer.

You bring abundant life throughout creation. The green blade rises, and all creation greets the resurrection dawn. Preserve vineyards and orchards and those who tend to them. Feed us with the fruits of creation. Risen Lord, in your mercy,

hear our prayer.

You show your steadfast love without regard to borders, barriers, or human-made divisions. Infuse your justice in every nation of the world that all experience the peace that only you can give. Protect and bless all who sacrifice to guard our freedoms, including: Ben, Brycen, Clayton, Daniel, Dillan, Ethan, Evan, Luke, Michael, Ryan, Spencer, Sydney, Tyler B. and Tyler G. Risen Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

You anointed your Son with the Holy Spirit and with power. Encourage us by his example in our ministries of healing, care, and outreach. We pray for all who are sick or hospitalized especially Aubrey, Betsy, Billie, Brandi, Brenda, Carol, Dan, Emily, Eliza, Iver, Jamie, Janet, Johanna, Judy, Karen, Karson,  Laurie, Lisa, Maureen, Patrick, Sandy, Steve, Tom, and Zak and for all health care workers who care for them. And the friends and family of Wayne Werner

Risen Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Lord, we pray for the ministries of the ELCA and the Northern Texas – Northern Louisiana Synod, we also lift up in prayer today: Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, Shreveport, Redeemer Lutheran Church, Greenville and Conference Out West.

Risen Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Leader: In trust and hope, we commend to you, O Lord, all for whom we pray. Amen.

Sharing of the Peace


Offering Offering may be given in the offering plate or electronically through the app. If you want to honor your electronic gift during the offering there are cards on the usher’s table for that purpose.

Words of Institution

Lord’s Prayer

 Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.

Post Communion Prayer

A: Let us pray. Lord Jesus, in this sacrament you strengthen us with the saving power of your death and resurrection. May these gifts of your body and blood create in us the fruits of your redemption and grace in our lives, for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.



L:    As God has claimed us as his own in Christ,

       we seek to follow Christ with these marks of DiscipleLife:

§Praying Daily

§Worshiping Weekly

§Studying the Bible

§Serving Others

§Building Spiritual Friendships

§Giving to God and our Neighbors in Need

§Engaging God’s Mission

Dismissal: “Go in peace, serve the Lord. Thanks be to God” Alleluia

Review of Babel: An Archane History by R.F.Kuang

R. F. Kuang, Babel: An Archane History

For me a five-star book is something that either I want to read again or something that is so profound it makes an immediate impact. There are lots of ways that books can be compelling: a unique idea, an interesting set of characters, a complex plot, an artistic use of the English language and more. Reading is also a subjective experience, so what appeals to me as a reader may be very different for you. I read a lot for both pleasure and work but these short reviews are a way for me to show my appreciation for the work and the craft of the author of the reviewed work.

Babel is a book that is going to evoke a strong reaction from its reader. I love languages and have done a lot of work in translating and so a magical system which is built upon the distortion in meaning between languages when they are engraved on a silver bar was a fascinating concept. The attention to translation and understanding languages as systems of value and meaning may be boring to some readers, but for me this discussion resonated strongly. It is a story which can celebrate both the magic of the university but also the dark side of academia when it becomes tangled with the goals of the empire. The book deals with the difficult reality of colonialism and the difficult choice that the non-white students at Babel must make as they discover the ways in which their work is being used to exploit the countries of their birth. This is a smart, well written story set in a nineteenth century world modified by the advantages of enchanted silver working.

Robin Swift loses his family to sickness in China and is given a chance to come to England to be prepared for Babel, the Royal Institute of Translation at Oxford University. Robin Swift and his classmates Ramy, Victoire, and Letty become incredibly close as students at Babel, and as either non-white students or women they must navigate the wealthy, white, and male world of Oxford. They live a privileged life as Babel students who receive a full scholarship and a generous stipend, but they are also asked to commit themselves wholeheartedly to their studies. All of them are gifted students who have been trained for much of their life for this course of study. When Robin meets a person who looks like an older version of himself, he finds himself entangled with a secret society called Hermes. The Hermes society opposes the work Babel does to further the colonialism of the British Empire. Robin later sees the impact of the Royal Institute of Translation on his motherland of China and how it is allied with the trading companies who want to export opium to his home. This experience initiates a chain of events that sets Robin and some of his friends in opposition to the work of not only Babel but the empire itself.

R. F. Kuang does an excellent job of helping the reader see the world through the eyes of Robin, and to a lesser extent Victoire and Letty. It portrays the world of a brilliant young man who is often viewed as both important to the work of the Institute and by extension the empire, but who also is never fully accepted as a person who belongs at Oxford or in England. The characters are caught in the tension between the magic of the place and the devilish manipulation of the world using language. It is a sharp book both in its intelligence and its cutting and sometimes painful perspective on the abuse of both knowledge and people.

1 Kings 19 Elijah Encounters the LORD at Mount Horeb and the Appointment of Elisha

Elijah in the Wilderness By Frederic Leighton (1877-78) – uQG9WGfbc10kDw at Google Cultural Institute maximum zoom level, Public Domain,

1 Kings 19: 1-18

1 Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. 2 Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, “So may the gods do to me, and more also, if I do not make your life like the life of one of them by this time tomorrow.” 3 Then he was afraid; he got up and fled for his life, and came to Beer-sheba, which belongs to Judah; he left his servant there.

4 But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a solitary broom tree. He asked that he might die: “It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life, for I am no better than my ancestors.” 5 Then he lay down under the broom tree and fell asleep. Suddenly an angel touched him and said to him, “Get up and eat.” 6 He looked, and there at his head was a cake baked on hot stones, and a jar of water. He ate and drank, and lay down again. 7 The angel of the LORD came a second time, touched him, and said, “Get up and eat, otherwise the journey will be too much for you.” 8 He got up, and ate and drank; then he went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb the mount of God. 9 At that place he came to a cave, and spent the night there.

Then the word of the LORD came to him, saying, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 10 He answered, “I have been very zealous for the LORD, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away.”

11 He said, “Go out and stand on the mountain before the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by.” Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake; 12 and after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence. 13 When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. Then there came a voice to him that said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 14 He answered, “I have been very zealous for the LORD, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away.” 15 Then the LORD said to him, “Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus; when you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael as king over Aram. 16 Also you shall anoint Jehu son of Nimshi as king over Israel; and you shall anoint Elisha son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah as prophet in your place. 17 Whoever escapes from the sword of Hazael, Jehu shall kill; and whoever escapes from the sword of Jehu, Elisha shall kill. 18 Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.”

Elijah’s triumph over the prophets of Baal and triumphal run before King Ahab quickly dissolves before the vengeful fury of Jezebel. Jezebel becomes the primary opponent of Elijah, not King Ahab, and although she may be unable to act openly on the day of Elijah’s triumph when the rains have returned and the memory of the fire of the LORD consuming the altar and the sacrifice still is fresh on Ahab and the crowd’s memory, she acts through a messenger.[1] The messenger relays Jezebel’s promise of death. Her threat has already eliminated many prophets of the LORD and has sent many others into hiding.[2] Ultimately Jezebel’s warning enables Elijah’s escape, but as Alex Israel points out, “She need not actually kill him; she is happy to see him disappear for another three years!” (Israel, 2013, p. 260) Jezebel views Elijah as a singular threat to the values she represents.

Jezebel as she is represented in the narrative of 1 Kings is the antithesis of the values of the covenantal way of the Torah (the law of Israel). Some have speculated that the canonical portrayal of Jezebel is another example of a patriarchal silencing of a powerful woman, but the issue for the author of 1 Kings is not the power Jezebel wields but how her use of it leads people away from the ways of covenantal faithfulness. Jezebel’s name will become a symbol for all that leads away from faithful adherence to the way of God in both Jewish and Christian thought. For example, Jezebel’s name will later be used in the book of Revelation for a figure who is leading the faithful astray. [3] For the narrative of 1 Kings, Jezebel and Elijah represent the opposing poles which Israel continues to ‘limp’ between. Jezebel represents faithfulness to the Phoenician gods and values of her family while Elijah represents fidelity to the worship and covenantal values of the LORD the God of Israel. Israel often attempted to combine elements of both into their communal life but both Elijah and Jezebel are violently opposed to this accommodation.

There have been many who have speculated on Elijah’s mental state as he flees the threat of Jezebel and heads into the wilderness outside the territory of Israel. He passes over the border into Jerusalem and then leaves behind his servant and heads alone on his journey. In Brueggemann’s words,

He arrives in the wilderness completely spent. He has mustered enormous energy for the dispute at Carmel. And though he has won, he is permitted no chance of exultation. His wish-prayer of v.4 is for death. He is distressed and dismayed. And then he sleeps. He has no energy for anything else. (Brueggemann, 2000, p. 234)

It is possible that after the contest with the prophets of Baal and the run to Jezreel that Elijah is physically, emotionally, and spiritually exhausted but the scriptures rarely share these details in their narration of the story. Others have speculated that Elijah is in a deep bout of depression as he asks God to end his life, and that is possible although ancient people would not have thought of depression as a clinical issue but merely as a state of melancholia. I would suggest another alternative, one that does not rule out exhaustion or depression, Elijah’s heart is broken. Elijah presided over the defeat and destruction of the prophets of Baal, rallied the people, ran before the king, and still, no one in Israel seems to be able to protect him from Queen Jezebel. Israel’s turn back towards the LORD the God of Israel seems to Elijah to have been washed away by the returning rains and forgotten once they left Mount Carmel. Three years of drought and hiding, the people’s suffering, the prophets’ death all seems to count for nothing and Elijah, for all his zeal, has not managed to change the course of the people. In his words he is no better than those who came before him and failed to change things.

The journey[4] of Elijah has been difficult. The journey that takes him into the wilderness is merely one part of this exhausting journey, but now alone he is content to leave the people behind and appeal to his God for death. Finding a solitary tree in the wilderness, Elijah is ready to renounce his vocation and his life. A messenger set him on this flight, and now another messenger replies to his plea for his journey and his life to end. One messenger threatens death, the second brings nourishment and comfort that brings the prophet back from his wish for death. This angelic messenger from God meets him as he sleeps. Sleep is often a time where God or God’s messengers interact with the faithful. We often discount this space of sleep and dreams but in the scriptures it is often a place where the divine draws close. Yet, this angelic messenger does not bring just guidance but brings tangible food and drink to help restore the prophet’s strength. This passage uses a number of uncommon Hebrew words to talk about the cake, ‘hot stones,’ and jar of water that link us to other critical scenes in the scriptures. The words for ‘cake’ and ‘jar’[5] are the same words that are used when Elijah asks the widow for water and a cake of bread in 1 Kings 17: 8-16, and now Elijah is like the widow and her son nearing the point of death and needing divine provision in a place where no food grows. ‘Hot coals’ or ‘hot stones’[6] is only used here and in Isaiah 6:6 when the seraphs bring a hot stone to purify Isaiah’s lips. (NIB III: 140) Food, drink, and rest are the divine answers to the prophets who has been worn out on the way. The second time the angel awakens Elijah he encourages him to eat again “or the way will be too much for you.” The NRSV’s translation indicates that the food is for the journey ahead to Mount Horeb, but the Hebrew is more ambiguous.[7] It may refer to the forty day and forty-night journey to and sojourn on Mount Horeb[8] but it also may refer more broadly to the way that Elijah will be called to walk as the prophet of God.

Mount Horeb is a sacred space in the imagination of Israel. Mount Horeb and Mount Sinai refer to the same mountain, the mountain where God first spoke to Moses, where the people receive the commandments of the LORD, and critically where Moses goes to appeal to God after the people worshipped the golden calf. The cave that Elijah journeys to is likely the same cleft where Moses hid while God passed by (Exodus 33:22). Elijah is coming to a place where he can encounter God directly. God is bringing Elijah to a place where he can be reoriented to the way of Moses.

In the commandments, the explanation for making not making an idol is, “for I the LORD your God am a jealous God,” and the words[9] translated ‘zealous’ when referring to Elijah is the same word in the commandment for God’s ‘jealousy.’ A close reader might begin to question if Elijah is taking too much responsibility on his shoulders, attempting to be ‘jealous’ in God’s stead. As mentioned above I do believe that Elijah is heartbroken over the seeming inability of Israel to maintain faithfulness to God his own seeming ineffectiveness as a prophet. Elijah is jealous on behalf of God and perhaps angry at feeling left alone to complete this work. Although we know that there are at least one hundred prophets who were rescued by Obadiah, Elijah’s complaint that he is alone to bear the burden of Israel’s unfaithfulness and it is a burden he can no longer bear.

The LORD grants Elijah’s wish for an audience, but it does not transpire as Elijah probably hoped. Baal is a storm god in Canaanite mythology and so the approach of a great wind would be associated with a god of storms, but the LORD was not in this wind which breaks rocks apart. The earthquake and the fire are also forces of immense power and places where God’s presence may be expected but God appears in none of these destructive forces. These things are driven before the LORD as the LORD approaches[10] but when they have passed the LORD is present in the ‘sound of sheer silence.’ The ‘sound of sheer silence’ comes from three Hebrew words: kol -voice or sound, demama- silence, and daka-thin, withered, or granular. The voice can be emerging from the silence or present in the silence, but it is not the terrifying, destructive thing that preceded it. Elijah wraps his mantle around his face and walks into the sound and silence.

Twice Elijah is asked “What are you doing here?” and twice he responds, “I have been zealous for the LORD, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life to take it away.” Unlike Moses who goes up the mountain to plead for the people, Elijah goes up the mountain to accuse the people. Elijah had earlier mocked the prophets of Baal for their god’s inactivity, now Elijah is frustrated with the LORD’s response to the unfaithfulness among the people.

He cannot stand that God will sit by and watch as the nation adopts Baal as its deity… God wishes to function in the world via the “still, small voice”; Elijah wants fire, thunder, and earthquake. He cannot accommodate a world in which Jezebel can rule with a free hand, and does not understand why god will not bring the world to order. (Israel, 2013, pp. 266-267)

Elijah is brokenhearted with both the LORD and with Israel and stands caught between both. The world no longer makes sense to this prophet who sees his work on behalf of God met with threats of violence. Elijah is seeking a world where either the LORD acts against Jezebel and those who oppose the prophets or he no longer bears this burden.

The LORD will act and will grant what Elijah wishes, but not in the way that Elijah expects. Elijah does receive a mandate to return to his way, but it is a journey where he will be setting in motion the forces that end the reign of Ahab and Jezebel. The LORD is not going to act through wind, earthquake and fire, nor will the LORD summon the heavenly host, instead the LORD is going to work through the movement of forces within and external to Israel. God will work behind the scenes of history in the transitions of power. Elijah has perhaps in his jealousy overestimated his own significance in feeling that he is the only faithful one left, while God discloses a remnant of seven thousand and has designated another to bear his mantle. Elijah’s wish for his service and life to be at an end will be granted by God, but he is given three final tasks to prepare the way for the future. Ironically, the prophet who has complained about the unfaithfulness of Israel will not fulfill his final directive in the way the LORD directs.

1 Kings 19: 19-21

19 So he set out from there, and found Elisha son of Shaphat, who was plowing. There were twelve yoke of oxen ahead of him, and he was with the twelfth. Elijah passed by him and threw his mantle over him. 20 He left the oxen, ran after Elijah, and said, “Let me kiss my father and my mother, and then I will follow you.” Then Elijah said to him, “Go back again; for what have I done to you?” 21 He returned from following him, took the yoke of oxen, and slaughtered them; using the equipment from the oxen, he boiled their flesh, and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he set out and followed Elijah, and became his servant.

Elijah never makes it to Damascus. Instead he approaches his replacement first and casts his mantle upon him. Abel-meholah is closer to Mount Horeb than Damascus and it may reflect an exhausted and broken-hearted prophet ready to pass the mantle of prophecy to another. Elisha, whose name means ‘God is my salvation’, is presumably coming from a wealthy household since he has twelve yoke of oxen to plow with. Yet, when Elijah throws the mantle over him Elisha is willing to leave this life behind, he only asks Elijah’s permission to say farewell. Although Jesus will later say to a disciple who wishes to bury his father, “let the dead bury their own dead.” (Matthew 8:21), there is no judgment expressed by Elijah. There may be a note of regret as Elijah says to Elisha, “Go back again; for what have I done to you?” The brokenhearted prophet may not wish for another to leave behind a life of prosperity for a life of deprivation and hardship, a life hunted by those in power. Yet, Elisha in saying farewell not only to his parents, but also the community, sacrifices the oxen and sets out to join Elijah on the way.

[1] The Hebrew mal’ak is used for both the messenger of Jezebel and the angel of the LORD in this passage.

[2] Notably the 100 prophets hidden by Obadiah in the previous chapter.

[3] Revelation 2:20

[4] Journey and way throughout this passage are the Hebrew derek which generally means way, road, distance, or journey.

[5] Hebrew ‘uga and shappahat

[6] Hebrew reshapim

[7] Hebrew mimmeka haddarek (NIB III: 140)

[8] The forty-day journey can be literal, but forty days is also frequently a way that the scriptures refer to a long and complete time. The number forty in Jewish thought often designates completeness, hence forty years in the wilderness, forty days Moses spends on Mount Sinai receiving the law, forty days of temptation, and many other examples.

[9] Quanno qunneti

[10] This imagery is common in scriptures, for example Judges 5: 4-5, Psalm 18:7-10, and Isaiah 29:6

Review of Uprooted by Naomi Novik

Naomi Novik, Uprooted

For me a five-star book is something that either I want to read again or something that is so profound it makes an immediate impact. There are lots of ways that books can be compelling: a unique idea, an interesting set of characters, a complex plot, an artistic use of the English language and more. Reading is also a subjective experience, so what appeals to me as a reader may be very different for you. I read a lot for both pleasure and work but these short reviews are a way for me to show my appreciation for the work and the craft of the author of the reviewed work.

I read Uprooted when it came out in 2015 and loved it, and a part of my reading habit is including books that I enjoyed previously and rereading them. I’ve read most of what Naomi Novik has written and this is my favorite of her books. Uprooted is set within a fantasy kingdom where a corrupted and malicious forest yearns to destroy the people who find themselves planted near its boundaries. The region is protected by a wizard named Sarkan, but who is commonly known as the Dragon. Every ten years the dragon selects a seventeen-year-old woman to come to his tower for the next ten years. Agnieszka is the protagonist of the story who is the surprise choice of this immortal wizard to spend the next ten years of her life in the Dragon’s tower. Agnieszka soon proves to be a difficult student but a gifted witch with her own relationship to magic which is more intuitive than Sarkan’s more precise and rigid approach. Despite their different gifts and approaches to magic their gifts weave together to allow them to do magic neither would be able to do alone.

The malicious wood plants devious seeds to attempt to entrap Sarkan and Agnieszka and to provoke confusion and conflict in the surrounding kingdoms. The wood makes an intriguing antagonist with its inhuman and corrupted drive to consume, and its ability to corrupt animals, humans, and objects. The story maintains an air of continual tension where the stakes are the destruction of the two kingdoms surrounding the wood. The wood’s manipulation of the vain Prince Marek springs a devilish trap which threatens to destroy Sarkan and Agnieszka as well as the kingdom. Naomi Novik does an impressive job of articulating a beautiful vision of magic within her world that can move between the elitist and rigid abilities of Sarkan and the folkish and musical abilities of Agnieszka.

Uprooted is both a fantasy story but also a coming-of-age story. Agnieszka as a young woman discovers her talents as a magic wielder and her voice within the political struggles of the kingdom but she is also a young woman discovering attraction. The intertwining of Sarkan’s and Agnieszka’s magical abilities unlocks feelings for both but there is also a vast gap between them to be overcome. It is a dangerous but beautiful world with well written characters, a constant threat of destruction by the environment which seeks revenge on all humanity, and a compelling vision of magic. The book invites you to walk barefoot into these dark woods and stay rooted in the magic of the place.

1 Kings 18 Elijah’s Showdown with the Prophets of Baal

1 Kings 18

Elijah Stained Glass Window By Cadetgray – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

1 After many days the word of the LORD came to Elijah, in the third year of the drought, saying, “Go, present yourself to Ahab; I will send rain on the earth.” 2 So Elijah went to present himself to Ahab. The famine was severe in Samaria. 3 Ahab summoned Obadiah, who was in charge of the palace. (Now Obadiah revered the LORD greatly; 4 when Jezebel was killing off the prophets of the LORD, Obadiah took a hundred prophets, hid them fifty to a cave, and provided them with bread and water.) 5 Then Ahab said to Obadiah, “Go through the land to all the springs of water and to all the wadis; perhaps we may find grass to keep the horses and mules alive, and not lose some of the animals.” 6 So they divided the land between them to pass through it; Ahab went in one direction by himself, and Obadiah went in another direction by himself.

7 As Obadiah was on the way, Elijah met him; Obadiah recognized him, fell on his face, and said, “Is it you, my lord Elijah?” 8 He answered him, “It is I. Go, tell your lord that Elijah is here.” 9 And he said, “How have I sinned, that you would hand your servant over to Ahab, to kill me? 10 As the LORD your God lives, there is no nation or kingdom to which my lord has not sent to seek you; and when they would say, ‘He is not here,’ he would require an oath of the kingdom or nation, that they had not found you. 11 But now you say, ‘Go, tell your lord that Elijah is here.’ 12 As soon as I have gone from you, the spirit of the LORD will carry you I know not where; so, when I come and tell Ahab and he cannot find you, he will kill me, although I your servant have revered the LORD from my youth. 13 Has it not been told my lord what I did when Jezebel killed the prophets of the LORD, how I hid a hundred of the LORD’s prophets fifty to a cave, and provided them with bread and water? 14 Yet now you say, ‘Go, tell your lord that Elijah is here’; he will surely kill me.” 15 Elijah said, “As the LORD of hosts lives, before whom I stand, I will surely show myself to him today.” 16 So Obadiah went to meet Ahab, and told him; and Ahab went to meet Elijah.

17 When Ahab saw Elijah, Ahab said to him, “Is it you, you troubler of Israel?” 18 He answered, “I have not troubled Israel; but you have, and your father’s house, because you have forsaken the commandments of the LORD and followed the Baals. 19 Now therefore have all Israel assemble for me at Mount Carmel, with the four hundred fifty prophets of Baal and the four hundred prophets of Asherah, who eat at Jezebel’s table.”

20 So Ahab sent to all the Israelites, and assembled the prophets at Mount Carmel. 21 Elijah then came near to all the people, and said, “How long will you go limping with two different opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.” The people did not answer him a word. 22 Then Elijah said to the people, “I, even I only, am left a prophet of the LORD; but Baal’s prophets number four hundred fifty. 23 Let two bulls be given to us; let them choose one bull for themselves, cut it in pieces, and lay it on the wood, but put no fire to it; I will prepare the other bull and lay it on the wood, but put no fire to it. 24 Then you call on the name of your god and I will call on the name of the LORD; the god who answers by fire is indeed God.” All the people answered, “Well spoken!” 25 Then Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, “Choose for yourselves one bull and prepare it first, for you are many; then call on the name of your god, but put no fire to it.” 26 So they took the bull that was given them, prepared it, and called on the name of Baal from morning until noon, crying, “O Baal, answer us!” But there was no voice, and no answer. They limped about the altar that they had made. 27 At noon Elijah mocked them, saying, “Cry aloud! Surely he is a god; either he is meditating, or he has wandered away, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened.” 28 Then they cried aloud and, as was their custom, they cut themselves with swords and lances until the blood gushed out over them. 29 As midday passed, they raved on until the time of the offering of the oblation, but there was no voice, no answer, and no response.

30 Then Elijah said to all the people, “Come closer to me”; and all the people came closer to him. First he repaired the altar of the LORD that had been thrown down; 31 Elijah took twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, to whom the word of the LORD came, saying, “Israel shall be your name”; 32 with the stones he built an altar in the name of the LORD. Then he made a trench around the altar, large enough to contain two measures of seed. 33 Next he put the wood in order, cut the bull in pieces, and laid it on the wood. He said, “Fill four jars with water and pour it on the burnt offering and on the wood.” 34 Then he said, “Do it a second time”; and they did it a second time. Again he said, “Do it a third time”; and they did it a third time, 35 so that the water ran all around the altar, and filled the trench also with water.

36 At the time of the offering of the oblation, the prophet Elijah came near and said, “O LORD, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel, that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your bidding. 37 Answer me, O LORD, answer me, so that this people may know that you, O LORD, are God, and that you have turned their hearts back.” 38 Then the fire of the LORD fell and consumed the burnt offering, the wood, the stones, and the dust, and even licked up the water that was in the trench. 39 When all the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, “The LORD indeed is God; the LORD indeed is God.” 40 Elijah said to them, “Seize the prophets of Baal; do not let one of them escape.” Then they seized them; and Elijah brought them down to the Wadi Kishon, and killed them there.

41 Elijah said to Ahab, “Go up, eat and drink; for there is a sound of rushing rain.” 42 So Ahab went up to eat and to drink. Elijah went up to the top of Carmel; there he bowed himself down upon the earth and put his face between his knees. 43 He said to his servant, “Go up now, look toward the sea.” He went up and looked, and said, “There is nothing.” Then he said, “Go again seven times.” 44 At the seventh time he said, “Look, a little cloud no bigger than a person’s hand is rising out of the sea.” Then he said, “Go say to Ahab, ‘Harness your chariot and go down before the rain stops you.'” 45 In a little while the heavens grew black with clouds and wind; there was a heavy rain. Ahab rode off and went to Jezreel. 46 But the hand of the LORD was on Elijah; he girded up his loins and ran in front of Ahab to the entrance of Jezreel.

Elijah’s well-known confrontation with the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel portrays a public demonstration of the LORD the God of Israel’s power over Baal or any other deity. King Ahab’s policies prior to the drought seemed to be leading Israel to a new time of prosperity: they were oriented on trade with Tyre and Sidon, we know from extra-biblical sources that he built up a large stables and chariot force, and Israel seems to be a force among the local kingdoms. Yet, the three years of drought have reduced Ahab and his palace steward to searching for forage for the animals he has collected. There seems to be little concern for the suffering of the population, at least as 1 Kings narrates the story. The horses and donkeys of the royal stables would have been both symbolic of the wealth of the king and instrumental in the military of Israel. Yet, for all their former strength, now these two men are reduced to seeking the last remnants of water and grass to attempt to keep some of their animals alive.

Obadiah is caught between competing loyalties. Obadiah reveres the LORD and has saved one hundred of the prophets of the God of Israel from those loyal to Queen Jezebel. Yet, Obadiah serves in a position of great responsibility and privilege as the steward of the palace. Obadiah is caught between his overt loyalty to the king, and his covert actions to attempt to care for the servants of the LORD. The appearance of Elijah troubles the delicate balance of his life between the LORD and his lord Ahab.

After three years of drought, and the near death of the widow’s son in the previous chapter providing a human face for the suffering of the years, God declares to Elijah that it is now the time to act and to declare that rain is returning to the region. Elijah will no longer hide in the wadi or in foreign territory. Now he is to go directly to Ahab and to bring the challenge directly to the king of Israel. Elijah’s absence from the public scene has allowed Ahab and Jezebel to eliminate many other prophetic voices that would trouble their reign. Now the king who built an altar to Baal and the prophet of the LORD of Israel are finally going to meet for the first time since Elijah declared an end to the rain and the dew.

Obadiah’s encounter with Elijah foreshadows the challenge Israel faces as it ‘limps between two opinions.’ Obadiah reveres the LORD and bows down before Elijah upon seeing him, and yet he is fearful of reaction of Ahab who has set out to destroy Elijah. The initial response of Elijah to “Go tell your lord the Elijah is here” can also mean “Go tell your lord Lo, the LORD is God.”[1] (NIB III: 132) Obadiah, whose name means ‘worshipper of the LORD,’ now has to choose between his loyalty to God and his prophet and the king who seeks the prophet’s life. Obadiah has danced between the two, saving prophets and serving the king, for years and he fears the potential of the king’s wrath. Elijah has been absent for three years as the king sought him and Obadiah fears that the LORD will whisk him away on the wind once he goes to alert the king. Yet, Elijah assures Obadiah that he will be present when the king returns. Obadiah, once the servant to the king, now goes forth as the messenger of Elijah and by extension Elijah’s LORD.

Ahab, on arrival, declares that Elijah is the ‘troubler of Israel.’ From Ahab’s point of view, Elijah declared the drought which has caused great suffering among the people and animals of the kingdom and has unsettled the land. Yet Elijah declares that it is Ahab and his household that have brought this trouble upon Israel by turning their back on the LORD the God of Israel and worshipping Baal. Elijah proposes a prophetic showdown on Mount Carmel so that the people can stop wavering in their loyalties and choose either the LORD or Baal as the focus of their worship.

Elijah’s challenge to the people is met with silence. Without some demonstration the people seem content with their dual loyalties, but when presented with a demonstration they believe that Elijah’s proposal is well spoken. The numerous prophets of Baal are allowed to begin the show by preparing their altar and bull and calling repeatedly upon the name of Baal. Yet there is no voice and no answer. Like the nation of Israel ‘limping’ between different opinions, the prophets of Baal ‘limp’ around the altar.[2] Elijah mocks their ineffectual cries and actions, declaring they should try harder to summon their god’s attention. Finally, the action of drawing blood is added to their cries and ‘limping’ to attempt to draw the attention of Baal but again there is no voice, no answer, and no response.

Elijah calls the crowd to himself after they have observed the priests of Baal in their wailing and limping and bleeding. Elijah build an altar with twelve stones, summoning the people back to their origin as twelve tribes. It is possible that Elijah is rebuilding a previously existing altar that existed on the site, but the construction of the altar with twelve stones harkens back to the actions to their forefathers. The dimensions of the trench around the altar is disputed, but the action of soaking the altar and the offering with water by the people makes the demonstration of the LORD’s power more impressive. Elijah’s brief appeal to the LORD brings about an instant response as the fire of the LORD consumes the offering, the water, the stones, the wood, and even the dust. The people, upon seeing this demonstration, immediately fall on their faces and reaffirm their loyalty to the LORD.

Elijah demands that the prophets of Baal be seized, and he executes them at the Wadi Kishon. Some view Elijah’s actions as similar to Jezebel’s action of killing the prophets of the LORD.  Jezebel and Ahab probably viewed the killing of the prophets of the LORD as a way of eliminating opponents to their reign. Yet, Elijah probably views this execution of the prophets of Baal as essential to cleansing the land from its idolatry and removing a temptation from the people to return to their divided loyalties. The text does not indicate that the prophets of Asherah are present at this event, but the death of these prophets of Baal in the dry streambed Deborah and Barak battled the forces of King Jabin of Canaan (Judges 4) reasserts the dominion of the LORD over Israel.

In the aftermath of the prophetic challenge, Elijah speaks to Ahab in a very civil manner telling him to go eat and drink. Ahab obeys. Elijah returns to Carmel to await the rain, bowing down and presumably praying for the rain to come. Elijah’s servant is told to look for rain clouds and report back, and after seven trips to the pinnacle to look toward the sea the initial rain cloud is seen. Elijah then sends the message to Ahab to return home before the rain makes the journey impossible by chariot. The action of Elijah girding up his loins and running before the chariot of Ahab can be seen as both a demonstration of the hand of the LORD on Elijah in granting him speed and Elijah serving as one who runs before the king and may indicate a second chance for Ahab.

For the moment, Elijah is safe as he enters Jezreel before the king. The rain comes and washes away the blood that was spilled. The crops and animals languishing in the drought finally have a chance of renewal. And Israel has an opportunity to stop limping between its loyalty to the LORD the God of Israel and the gods of the surrounding nations. Yet, Elijah who here runs before the king will soon run away from a vengeful queen and the way of life represented by Baal has not been uprooted. Miracles rarely seem to produce a lasting change in behavior.

The struggles of Obadiah and Israel as they attempt to limp through life with divided loyalties is a struggle that is relevant to the faithful as they attempt to remain true to their faith in the midst of the demands and constraints of the world. There are times where the faithful will have to reassert that they will follow the LORD and reclaim the obedience to the covenant way of life that the LORD expects. Even through the three years of drought where the prophets have been silenced, God has not abandoned the people and will not let Elijah remain in isolation. God continues to call the king and the people back to the way of the commandments. Yet, even Elijah will struggle with the forces that oppose the prophetic call of faithfulness to the LORD the God of Israel.

[1] Because Elijah’s name means the LORD is God there is this double meaning.

[2] Both are using the Hebrew verb psh. All Hebrew verbs are based on three letters and then conjugated into their form.