The Hebrew Eliyahu (Elijah) means “My God is Yahweh.” During Elijah’s time, the nation of Israel had turned from following Yahweh to Baal, one of the Canaanite gods. Meaning “lord, owner or husband,” the term described a number of gods and many believed Baal brought rain and fertility. Because the Israelites left Egypt with little and weren’t experienced farmers, they were attracted to this idea of Baal.
Then Elijah appeared and claimed Yahweh, who was His God, as the one and only God of Israel, This proclamation was the point of Elijah’s prayer in 1 Kings 18:36-37:
“Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things by your command. Answer me, Lord! Answer me, that this people may know that you, Lord, are God and that you have brought them back to their senses.”
Elijah said there would be no rain until the Israelites decided on one God or the other. Whenever people saw or thought of Eliyahu, they were faced with the message of his name, “My God is Yahweh.” The prophets name itself said something of his faith and declared his mission in life.
We can ask ourselves:
Who is my God? Have we gone on auto-pilot about our religion, going about our day-to-day business without checking in with God? We might try to think of God as a member of our family. Would we be able to get away without talking to our parents or siblings or spouse? Have we checked whether our image of God has changed as we’ve moved through transitions in our life? From childhood to adulthood, marriage, family, births, deaths? How have we invited God along — or been aware of God’s presence in these important times? Who do we think God is now?
Who am I? Elijah’s name was also his mission. Our vocation is not always as clear, but each of us — whatever our state in life — was baptized for God. We have a mission. Where are we on our journey — on the mountaintop or in the desert? Are we the Elijah on fire with purpose or the Elijah despairing of God’s presence? What time do we allow to hear the gentle whisper of God in our lives?