Dec 18 - The Good, Bad News


After many days the word of the Lord came to Elijah, in the third year of the drought, saying, ‘Go, present yourself to Ahab; I will send rain on the earth.’ So Elijah went to present himself to Ahab. The famine was severe in Samaria. Ahab summoned Obadiah, who was in charge of the palace. (Now Obadiah revered the Lord greatly; when Jezebel was killing off the prophets of the Lord, Obadiah took a hundred prophets, hid them fifty to a cave, and provided them with bread and water.) Then Ahab said to Obadiah, ‘Go through the land to all the springs of water and to all the wadis; perhaps we may find grass to keep the horses and mules alive, and not lose some of the animals.’ So they divided the land between them to pass through it; Ahab went in one direction by himself, and Obadiah went in another direction by himself.

As Obadiah was on the way, Elijah met him; Obadiah recognized him, fell on his face, and said, ‘Is it you, my lord Elijah?’ He answered him, ‘It is I. Go, tell your lord that Elijah is here.’ And he said, ‘How have I sinned, that you would hand your servant over to Ahab, to kill me? As the Lord your God lives, there is no nation or kingdom to which my lord has not sent to seek you; and when they would say, “He is not here”, he would require an oath of the kingdom or nation, that they had not found you. But now you say, “Go, tell your lord that Elijah is here.” As soon as I have gone from you, the spirit of the Lord will carry you I know not where; so, when I come and tell Ahab and he cannot find you, he will kill me, although I your servant have revered the Lord from my youth. Has it not been told my lord what I did when Jezebel killed the prophets of the Lord, how I hid a hundred of the Lord’s prophets fifty to a cave, and provided them with bread and water? Yet now you say, “Go, tell your lord that Elijah is here”; he will surely kill me.’ Elijah said, ‘As the Lord of hosts lives, before whom I stand, I will surely show myself to him today.’ So Obadiah went to meet Ahab, and told him; and Ahab went to meet Elijah.

When Ahab saw Elijah, Ahab said to him, ‘Is it you, you troubler of Israel?’ He answered, ‘I have not troubled Israel; but you have, and your father’s house, because you have forsaken the commandments of the Lord and followed the Baals.
— 1 Kings 18:1-18


Psalm 125, 1 Kings 18:1-18, Ephesians 6:10-17


When long-awaited rescue arrives, we typically call this good news. But when rescuers arrive in the Bible, this good news often signals trouble for the ones who first hear about it.

Moses is born under the threat of infanticide.

Elijah’s return sounds like a death sentence to Obadiah.

Even Mary, the mother of Jesus, is told that her soul will be pierced as with a sword.

Much like a surgeon’s scalpel, the healing good news of God often disguises itself in the surprising infliction of affliction: conflict, pain, and even suffering.

The good news works because the good news does work that needs to be done. At times, this good work of the good news looms like a scepter swayed over us by our enemies. At other times, it does its work from the inside out. But, always, the comfort is in the cure.

During this Christmas season, it is comforting to await and anticipate a time when the violence that fractures our sin-scarred world will be overcome. The good news is that this good work has already begun.

The bad (good) news is that this good work will require something of us. Something uncomfortable. Something sacrificial. Something we might otherwise wish to avoid.

Something like taking the risk of bringing new life into a world in the throes of death.

Something like speaking difficult truths to those who hold power over us.

Something like daring to believe that a refugee on the run might be the key to peace on earth.


God, we thank You for the gift of good news, even when it comes with a cost. Help us to be people courageous enough to receive and respond to Your life-altering message this season, that the good news might do its good work in and through us.


Dave McNeely wears many hats at Carson-Newman University. He is the Coordinator of the Faith & Justice Scholars program, Adjunct Professor of Religion and a Student Success Counselor. "During this season of Advent, I am most looking forward to another tender, Tennessee Christmas, the only Christmas for me."