“You shall drink from the brook, and I have commanded the ravens to feed you there.” So he went and did according to the word of the Lord …
Theologians have a reputation for using words with more syllables than are absolutely necessary. What happens in the Eucharist- is it transubstantiation or consubstantiation, or some other iteration of Christological presence? What happened in the transfiguration- were the disciples transported to angelic realms or did the heavenly places descend to earth?
Jeff Tweedy, Wilco’s lead singer and songwriter, summed up the popular sentiment regarding theologians simply: they don’t know nothing about my soul. Perhaps there is some truth to the stereotype, especially when the message gets lost in translation. Every now and again, however, theologians stumble upon a monosyllabic gem that serves as a reminder that no detail of divine communication is without consequence.
The best example of these bite-size surprises is Paul’s famous “but God” turn in his letter to the church at Ephesus. In that case, “but God” turned a dead-in-sin people to an alive-in-Christ, beloved nation of priests.
While an endless amount of ink has been spilled over this magnificent “but God” throughout the two millennia since its’ recording, the story of Elijah and the drought also contains a hidden pearl: “so he went.”
At this point in the narrative, Elijah the prophet is an unknown Tishbite who has just been assured by God that, in spite of the three-year drought he was predicting, there was a plan. On its surface, that seems like a fantastic promise. Elijah might be the only person in Israel who would have nourishment in the coming days. The plan, however, seems a bit precarious.
The plan was to drink from a brook- not a spring, not a river, not a lake. The plan to eat was even more dubious- the ravens have been commanded to bring the food. Perfect.
What comes next in the matter-of-fact retelling borders on astonishing and insane. “So he went … ”