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Burlap as a Fashion Statement
As you watch the fashion runways of Paris, New York, London or Milan, I doubt that you will see burlap as a prominent fabric regardless of the season! But if you have a farming background, burlap (often made from jute) was the fabric of choice for feed bags, often called “gunny sacks”. And, coffee beans are transported around the globe in burlap sacks to your favourite coffee roaster.
In ancient cultures burlap was woven from goat or camel’s hair and often referred to as sackcloth associating with its prominent use. Sackcloth came to mean a garment, too, made from such cloth, which was worn as a token of mourning by the Israelites. It was also a sign of submission (1 Kings 20:31-32), or of grief and self-humiliation (2 Kings 19:1), and was occasionally worn by the Prophets.
Elijah was one such prophet whose clothing is described, “They answered him, “He wore a garment of haircloth, with a girdle of leather about his loins.” And he said, “It is Elijah the Tishbite.” (2 Kings 1:8)
Elijah was, a prophet and a miracle worker who lived in the northern kingdom of Israel during the reign of King Ahab (9th century BCE). His message was one of challenging the people of Israel to return to faithfulness in Yahweh.
“Elijah is first mentioned in Scripture when he declares to King Ahab that a severe drought would begin immediately to test Israel and its leadership. “Elijah … said to Ahab, ‘As the LORD God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, except at my word’” (1 Kings 17:1).
Withholding rain for 3½ years was the first miracle God did through the prophet. (I Kings 17, 18) This would bring severe famine throughout the kingdom. The purpose of this punishment was to bring the nation to repentance of its idolatry. Although unpleasant at the time, Elijah likely understood the potentially good effects of such punishment if Israel would repent and turn from its sins. God always determines the magnitude and duration of punishment that He brings; and in this case, He moved Elijah to pray for an end of the rain and later for it to begin again.”
The epic confrontation between the prophets of Baal and Elijah on Mount Carmel is worth reading and studying for its sheer chutztah. (See: 1 Kings 18) Then sit back and relax as you. listen to the oratorio which Felix Mendelssohn wrote on this very confrontation:
After Elijah is removed from the earthly scene via a dramatic whirlwind – aka Divine horse drawn Uber, he garners mention some four centuries later through the prophet, Malachi. “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the land with a curse” (Malachi 4:5).
But it is Matthew and Mark, another five centuries later who introduce us to John the Baptist with reference to his clothing. Matthew 3:4, “Now John wore a garment of camel’s hair, and a leather girdle around his waist; and his food was locusts and wild honey.” Mark 1:6, “Now John was clothed with camel's hair and wore a leather belt around his waist and ate locusts and wild honey.”
In addition to similarity in clothing, Elijah and John shared a similar message to the Israelites. Elijah had a call to repentance for Israel.
Some 800 years later, John the Baptist shared, “John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” (Mark 1:6)
When we combine Malachi’s prophecy with two statements by Jesus/Yeshua we are faced with an interesting insight.. One during the mountain top experience we refer to as the Transfiguration,
“He replied, “Elijah does indeed come first, and he restores all things. Why then is it written that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected? But I tell you (Peter, James, John) that Elijah has indeed come, and they have done to him whatever they wished, just as it is written about him.” (Mark 9:12, 13).
The second statement,
“Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force. For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John, and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” (Matthew 11:11-15)
Notice what is said in Malachi’s verse about Elijah being sent before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes. If we couple that with the statements by Jesus that Elijah has come in the person of John the Baptizer, are we not faced with a probing question?
Malachi’s prophecy states that Elijah comes before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes. Jesus states that Elijah has come in the person of John. Would God have sent the last prophet, John, millennia before the great and terrible day of the Lord or would that day have had to be in close proximity to the second Elijah - John’s life?
I would posit with strong biblical and. historical backing, that the great and terrible day of the Lord to which many of the Prophets pointed, arrived when the “heaven and earth of the Israelites Temple and city, Jerusalem” were totally destroyed by Roman General Titus and chronicled by the Jewish historian Josephus, in 70 AD. If you need to refresh your memory of that part of history, please make it a priority project, it may transform your view of how Scripture is understood!
Paul writes in Romans 15:4, “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.”
May the Encouragement of Scripture bring you Hope!