Summary: Number one in a series looking at the imagery in the modern Hymn These are the days of Elijah, looking at Elijah and being faithful to the word of God.
These are the days of Elijah. It’s a popular modern hymn. Sorry, but I refuse to call a song a chorus when it has two verses and a chorus just because it was written later than the 18th century. But anyway its quite a popular modern hymn. However, as with so many of our hymns and choruses it is often not the words which make it popular but the nice catchy tune. But before we point the finger is is not only the more modern songs that fall prey to this, while the words to Charles Wesley’s great hymn “And Can It Be” are great it is not mostly those great words which are responsible for its popularity, there are many many Charles Wesley hymns with words every bit as good, rather it is the catchy tune we now sing it to. But any way, These are the days of Elijah. It always amuses me that this song is has been so popular among young people and sung at young people’s events all over the place. Why? Because it is completely incomprehensible to someone who has not been brought up in the church and studied the Bible for years. It makes use of a great deal of Biblical imagery but if you’re not familiar with the imagery then the song is completely meaningless. Who was Elijah? What so special about the way he proclaimed the word of the Lord that it is like now? While we might be experiencing a great heat wave, it’s hardly a time of famine for us. And while our military are involved in Iraq is this really a time of the sword? What is the year of jubilee? Wasn’t that the other year, when we had all those royal occasions? What about Ezekiel and dry bones becoming as flesh? Now some of you will know some of these things but maybe you won’t recognise others. Not only that but the author of this song actually gets bit wrong. As far as I was aware Moses gave the people the law of God, so how could he be restoring anything, if it originated with him? Or David rebuilding the temple of praise. As I remember it God told David he was not to build the temple and that it was his son, Solomon who build the temple never mind rebuilding it. Picky? Perhaps but when I point this stuff out even to other pastors, most of them have never thought of it before. It makes me wonder whether we do really pay attention to the words we are singing or whether we just get carried away with music we enjoy.
So we are going to look at some of the imagery involved with this song over the next few weeks. We are going to start with of course “These are the days of Elijah, declaring the word of the Lord”.
But before we do that lets look at the overall context of the song. Is there a theme running through the song or is it just a hodgepodge of Biblical imagery that really has nothing to do with each other stuck together. Well there is a theme that is supposed to be running through the whole of the song. However, it appears that the writer got a bit mixed up between the verse and the chorus or was trying to do different things, to be generous. The verses talk about restoration and the working of God in our life and in our world even in the face of opposition. The chorus wants to talk about the return of Christ and the final setting up of God’s kingdom only he doesn’t get all of that imagery right either. When we finish this series you’ll have an idea about what is going on, what the imagery means and hopefully we’ll pick up some ideas about how to get restoration, revival and the kingdom of God established here and now.
But as I said, let’s start at the beginning and see what we can learn about Elijah and declaring the word of the Lord.
Who was Elijah?
Let’s start by asking who was Elijah? Well to be honest we don’t really know. Oh, there are a few stories about him in 1st and 2nd Kings but we know nothing of his background, where he came from, who he was other than a prophet of God. Was he rich or poor? A farmer of a priest? Was he related to the royal family that he criticised so often? We just don’t know. He makes his first appearance by stalking into the presence of the notoriously wicked King Ahad and announcing that God’s judgement is about to fall in the form of a drought. Then he confronts the prophets of Baal in a showdown to see which god can produce fire from heaven to light a sacrifice. Elijah wins and has the prophets of Baal killed. Then he has a crisis of faith and flees from Jezebel, the wife of Ahab. Then God comforts him and Elijah is sent to find his successor Elisha, it would have made things much easier for us if he had found a successor with a more different name, like Bob, but hey God told Elijah to choose Elisha. Next we find Elijah confronting the Ahab over the murder of Naboth, which Ahab orchestrated to get his hands on Naboth’s vineyard. Ahab repents and Elijah announces God’s forgiveness. Then Elijah is given a message of judgement against King Ahaziah, where he again calls down fire from heaven this time to destroy armies sent against him. Finally he is taken bodily into heaven in a whirlwind.