by Dave Skipper
Story Summary: 08 Superhuman Sinews
[1 Kings 18:46]
After Elijah tells Ahab to go swiftly in his chariot before the heavy rains stops him, he is endowed with astonishing power from God to run ahead of Ahab’s chariot all the way to Jezreel (the location of Ahab’s royal residence), around 50km away! That’s about the distance of a marathon! A remarkable ending to part 1 of the album.
Sounds & Structure
For this track I used extracts from my recordings of a night walk and some traffic, i.e. travelling sounds to mirror Ahab’s chariot and Elijah’s running. I then had the Make Noise Morphagene module playing back segments of these recordings, with the loop set to a constant length so that the rhythmic repetition depicts Elijah’s running, consistently-paced over the dusty terrain. Changes in texture and density were then caused by shifting around the location of this fixed-length loop within the longer sample, along with whatever other distortion and processing I had set up for this patch. The block of silence at the end of the track marks the interval separating Part 1 from Part 2 of the album, bringing a close to the Mount Carmel half of the story.
How fast can a human possibly run? Various analyses and calculations have been made over the years to try and guesstimate what the fastest 100m sprint time could ever be. Following Usain Bolt’s phenomenal 9.58s world record, a lot of those conjectures had to be scrapped! If you Google this topic you will find several different proposed limits, but they all seem to stay above 9 seconds. One of the most surprising facts to emerge from these biomechanical studies is that, “Faster top speeds are achieved with greater ground forces, not more rapid leg movements.” (Source: https://journals.physiology.org/doi/pdf/10.1152/jappl.2000.89.5.1991) What this means is that, “At top speed, every runner takes around a third of a second to pick their foot up and put it down again. ‘It’s the same from Usain Bolt to Grandma. She can’t run as fast as him but at her top speed, she’s repositioning her foot at the same speed.” (Source https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20120712-will-we-ever-run-100m-in-9-secs) Crazy!
We don’t know how fast Elijah needed to run to keep ahead of Ahab’s chariot, but at least as remarkable as the speed itself would have been the stamina required to maintain his pace for around 50km. This story is easily dismissed as baloney by modern minds, but Christians committed to the truth of Scripture have no problem believing the historical details of Biblical narrative. The world does not operate autonomously but is constantly sustained and governed by its Creator, second-by-second and atom-by-atom. Miracles are God’s way of acting in a way that is different to normal. This is how the New Testament describes the sustaining power of Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God:
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
But what do we learn from Elijah’s particular one-off endowment that is of use to us today? I am reminded of a classic passage from the prophet Isaiah who makes a vital connection between God’s inherent lack of tiredness and the renewable strength that he gives to those who lean on him. In surrender to his goodness and sovereignty, we can know the strength of his Spirit, giving spiritual strength, emotional strength, and at times even physical strength.
Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
his understanding is unsearchable.
He gives power to the faint,
and to him who has no might he increases strength.
Even youths shall faint and be weary,
and young men shall fall exhausted;
but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
they shall walk and not faint.
For Elijah’s journey, super speed and super stamina were absolutely physical and eminently practical. Yet while a historically unique event, it also points to the future resurrection body that Christians will receive in the new creation at the end of history. We will still be human, still finite, still physical – yet somehow enhanced and transformed out of the current decaying bodies we experience now. We cannot know exactly what this will mean, but the promise in Christ is of eternal life that is free from pain, frustration, suffering, and death.
For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:
“Death is swallowed up in victory.
O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Corinthians 15:53-57
This is the Christian hope, despite all the experiences and appearances and setbacks of life in this broken world:
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
2 Corinthians 4:16-18