Tumbling in the Sand
“Now when the LORD was about to take Elijah up to heaven by a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were on their way from Gilgal.” – 2 Kings 2:1
You would think that a biblical book entitled “Kings” might well be about, well, kings. And, sure, there is certainly an accounting of the kings of the Northern and Southern kingdoms of Israel. But, the preponderance of these books seems to be focused not on kings at all, but these two prophets.
The first book of Kings is lit ablaze by the fiery prophet Elijah and the second book of Kings is predominantly about the equally enigmatic but far more social Elisha. The kings seem to serve a foils for these two prophet’s ministries. So, I suppose there are two ways you could ask the question. Either, why didn’t the authors of these books write more about the kings? or why didn’t they name these books “Prophets” instead of “Kings”?
I have no idea
Seriously, I don’t. But, it makes me think.
It makes me think about the way that the people of Israel had wanted a King and expected to be able to see God in the rule of their kings, but instead God spoke through the prophets—often (though not always) at opposition to the kings. Which makes me think about the way that God often speaks from the edges of power, rather than at the center. And that makes me think about where we should be listening and looking for God at work.
This also makes me think about the difference between kings and prophets in terms of structures, stability, and order. Kings tend to be all about all of those things — a king’s power rests upon the structure, stability, and order of a kingdom. Chaos and change lead to the destabilizing of kingdoms and the fall of kings. But prophets, not so much. Elijah, carried away in fire and wind, has been a prophet well acquainted with the uncontainable wildness of God and holds no respect for order and structure. It’s like chaos and change give room for the prophets to speak the Word of God, which, of course, dances over the waters creating new things (Genesis 1).
Also, this (and the story itself at the beginning 2 Kings 2) makes me think about authority. The authority of Kings is held by one, often over and against others. A king’s glory is his own story, his personal experiences of valor and might. The authority that Elijah passes to Elisha in the story is about relationship, about newness, and about shared story (which is told in the places that they go to and from in this narrative) — a story that ends and starts at the crossing of the waters to freedom and promise (Exodus and Joshua) — a story rooted and belonging to the whole people.
So, what does all this thinking mean? I’m not entirely sure, but maybe, if we’re looking for renewal in the Church and our lives, it might be wise to take our cues from the prophets and listen to God calling from the edges, creating new things in the midst of our messes, and making our collective stories new again.
Featured Image: “Chariot of Fire” by Shlomo Katz. See and purchase more of his work here: Strictly Limited Editions One day, when I get my car paid off, I think I’m going to go buy some of this gorgeous art work!!