Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Humor--Bible Style

This Saturday night, April Fools Day, is the Bob Nelson comedy show at the Little River high school gym. Free tickets are available by request at Congregational Church website.

For our book that is 2,000 years and older, God’s story in the Bible still offers plenty of laughs for the modern reader.

Consider Elijah. His confrontation with the prophets of Baal in 1 Kings 18 is the forerunner to Hollywood’s classic B&W country-western gun duels in the center of town.

I call it, “Showdown at the OK Carmel.”

The scene is this: God’s people Israel (the northern kingdom) has forsaken sole allegiance to YWHW and adopted into its religious life the worship of Baal, a neighboring alien god who was worshipped as the god of fire, rain, and fertility. So in order to reveal the true God who provides for earthly needs, YWHW appointed his prophet Elijah and had him declare that rain wouldn’t fall in the land of Israel. 3 ½ years later, it still hasn’t rained and Ahab—King of Israel—still has showed any signs of repenting for allowing Baal worship in the land.

Finally, Elijah declares to Ahab, “It’s time for a showdown!” Gather all the prophets of Baal and let’s have a face off on Baal’s home court—Mt. Carmel. At the mountain, Elijah challenges everyone: "How long will you waver between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him." The guilt of the people is revealed in the next sentence: “But the people said nothing” (20-21).

Elijah then lays down the rules of the duel: "You offer a sacrifice to Baal. I’ll offer a sacrifice to YHWH. Whichever God answers by fire, that is the true God."

What happens next at the OK Carmel battle is truly humorous:

450 priests represent Baal. 1 prophet represents God.

The priests of Baal cry out all day long. The prophet of God prays for only a minute or two.

The wailing, ranting, and cutting by the priest supposedly makes it easier for Baal to respond. Elijah makes it harder for YWHW to respond by soaking his altar with water—not once, but three times.

If you thought taunting in the sports world was a recent phenomenon, look at what Elijah says to the Baal priests in the middle of this duel: "Shout louder!" he said. "Surely he is a god! Perhaps he is deep in thought, or busy, or traveling. Maybe he is sleeping and must be awakened" (27).

Most importantly, Baal doesn’t answer. But God does—with emphatic fire!

God is serious about us putting Him first in our life. But when God sees us putting other gods alongside Him or ahead of Him, He finds that funny—as in, “You’ve got to be kidding Me.”

Putting other things ahead of God is “funny” because it’s futile and failing. Like Wily Coyote trying to nab the Road Runner. We can try all we like, but it'll never really work.

It's a funny story that makes a serious point.

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