Remember when Queen Jezebel told Elijah, “This time tomorrow you’re a dead man.”?11 Kings 19:2 So Elijah took off for the Negev and hiked all the way out to Mt. Horeb, right?
He hid in a cave, and the Lord asked, “What are you doing here?” When he answered “Lord, my people have rejected your covenant,” what did you think he meant?
I assumed he had in mind the way his people were giving their babies to the priest of Moloch to throw them into the furnace and how they were copulating with the temple slaves of Asherah. Of course, you remember how the Lord grabbed him by the ear and what He told him.
Listen up, Elijah. You’re not the only one serving me, you hear? I’ve got reserve forces you never dreamed of — a complete company who never bent a knee or puckered up a kiss for that nasty Asherah stone.
So I was surprised to learn that 800 years later, a rabbi took a different slant. He read Elijah’s complaint about “rejecting your covenant” and connected it to the Lord telling Abraham, “circumcision will be the sign of the covenant between me and you2Do notice the Lord’s English grammar. Instead of falling into the modern subjective case “you and I” trap, He uses the objective case “me and you.” (Genesis 17:11).”
This fellow figured the Lord wanted to show Elijah just how wrong he was — that Abraham’s descendants have not rejected the sign of the covenant. So he decided the Lord would require Elijah to attend every single brit (circumcision) from here on out.3http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/5636-elijah-s-chair
I kid you not. He began a fun custom — on the eighth day of their infant boy’s life, parents reserve an empty bench or chair for Elijah. And when the mohel (circumciser) walks in, the parents declare in a loud voice, “This is the chair of Elijah!” Everyone then gets to imagine the ancient prophet sitting in to watch as another family maintains the sign of the covenant.
The morals of this story are at least two. One, if you want to focus on a sign or symbol — even make a fun ceremony of it — you’ll have lots of company. Two, (a cautionary note) when you are complaining to the Lord, think about how others might interpret what they hear.