Kimberley Reflections – Being faithful to God’s law – Archdeacon Thomas Mhuriro

Eucharist Service: 10 June 2020
1 Kings 18:20-39; Psalm 16:5-11; Matthew 5:17-19
In today’s homily, I would like to briefly share with you my reflections as influenced by the reading from 1 Kings and the passage from the Gospel of Matthew. My urgent concern here is to show how the two readings are dealing with the same theme from two different angles. For us to appreciate what is at stake, we need to look at what the prophet Elijah was dealing with in his own context and try to link this development to the Sermon on the Mount.
Many times, when we hear the word law, we obviously think of two things: how it is kept and how it is broken. Of course, what comes to mind are the civil laws that serve many societies we might be familiar with. Any country that has no laws of some sort runs the risk of anarchy, where citizens will do exactly as they wish. Their fancies and whims dictate their daily conduct. If we had such countries where anarchy was the order, the chances of their continued survival would be very minimal.
Though laws are the backbone of any civilisation, they are not always followed, hence we end up having to come up with rehabilitation centres such as our Correctional establishments, where character formation will have to be reworked for the benefit of society.
Let us look at the first reading in its proper context. The people involved are the Israelites under king Ahab and under the watchful eye of the famous prophet Elijah. What is clear is that the laws of God had been forgotten, people having a choice to go astray. In this case they were attracted by an imaginary pagan god by the name Baal. The popularity of this god could not be underestimated because we hear that present on Mount Carmel on the day our passage narrates, were about 450 prophets dedicated to the worship of Baal. In a liberal age such as our own, perhaps this could not be much to talk about. But we are talking about the Israelites here! The Law in this context was not just a civil affair.
Remember the Shema in the book of Deuteronomy which we must take for granted was known to all the Israelites of that time. Listen again to what it says:
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. Bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem on your forehead, and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates” (Deuteronomy 6:4-9).
It is clear that Elijah was faced with a king who had rebelled against God and was teaching his people to do the same. But in the spirit of the law before us, there was no room for this kind of behaviour and hence Elijah was taking the king, and all those who were lost, to task. Of course, the details of how the prophets of Baal were defeated are found in the passage. The conclusion of that passage states the following: “The Lord indeed is God; the Lord indeed is God” (1 Kings 18:39). This is clearly an affirmation of the Shema that we find in the book of Deuteronomy. We need however to be reminded that the term Law when looking at the scriptures, has a much wider application and hence refers to the first five books of the Bible. However, we must bear in mind that in those five books, i.e. Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy, the urgent theme is to affirm only one point, namely, The Lord indeed is God and he is One.
Our Lord Jesus is therefore affirming those books and saying that he did not come to edit them but to allow them to be understood in full. You could also appreciate the fact that by so saying, Christ agrees with Elijah, who confronts people of his own time with the same truth. Jesus asserts that the teachings in the Prophets, meaning the rest of the books after Deuteronomy are equally important. Those who want to be great before God must teach them and affirm them in their lives. Those who disregard their teachings and teach others to do the same would have no status before God. It challenges us to think of King Ahab, someone expected to be great before God by virtue of having been anointed for this purpose, choosing other gods and therefore misleading the people he was expected to guide.
Today we should submit ourselves before God asking him to be faithful to his law. If we all were to understand the lordship of God over the whole universe, we could order our lives in ways that are pleasing to him. We must note that reference to other gods simply means missing the point of this life. There are no other gods out there. To worship other gods could be likened to madness. When people have lost their minds, whatever they imagine will carry the day. The story of Elijah and the prophets of Baal is a good illustration of mad people who worshipped an imaginary god. Sometimes we do not seem to give much attention to these stories because we do not see how they address our contexts. Yet if we look around, you will agree with me that one big problem we have is that we no longer believe in one God but have managed to create many of our own. These gods could be power, money, social and economic status, popularity, and all those that encourage us to drift away from the God who created us. The relationship we have with the God revealed to us through Jesus Christ will never change or come to an end. Woe to all of us if we think that our various forms of rebellion will change the state of affairs. Jesus is warning us to remain steadfast in our understanding of the one and only God and to uphold everything else that has been taught by those inspired to do so over the years.
To God be the glory.