August 10, 2017 – God in the Silence 1 Kings 19:9-18

Elijah-in-the-cave

At that place he (Elijah) came to a cave, and spent the night there.

Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” He answered, “I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away.”

 He said, “Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence.  When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. Then there came a voice to him that said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” He answered, “I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away.”  Then the Lord said to him, “Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus; when you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael as king over Aram.  Also you shall anoint Jehu son of Nimshi as king over Israel; and you shall anoint Elisha son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah as prophet in your place. Whoever escapes from the sword of Hazael, Jehu shall kill; and whoever escapes from the sword of Jehu, Elisha shall kill.  Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.” 1 Kings 19:9-18 (NRSV)

The Lord was not in the wind.

The Lord was not in the earthquake.

The Lord was not in the fire.

 

After the fire, a sound of sheer silence- then the Lord spoke.

Elijah was pretty depleted and worn out at this time- having just dealt with Ahab and Jezebel and the prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18:20-46 and 1 Kings 19:1-8) He was looking for God to come to him in a big and dramatic way, wrapped up in the whirlwind, but God waited to speak to Elijah in the calm after the storm.

Most of us have been in places where the storm around us is so intense that the breath is sucked right out of us, we fall to our knees, and we have no words with which to speak. God does not abandon us in those moments, but often He waits to speak to us until the storm is over- whether the storm is the shock of a physical injury or a sudden tragedy or the blow of a deep disappointment- or, like Elijah, when we are coming to the end of ourselves and what we can handle. He lets us rage and scream and bargain, and once we have completely emptied out our hearts and souls, God steps into that silent, empty space.  He speaks words of comfort and peace and healing, but after the storms, in the silence. He speaks through the silence so we can’t help but hear His words.

There is a strong theme of redemption and restoration and continuity in this passage as well. God reminds Elijah that he is not alone (even though he thinks he is the last man standing, he is not) and that God’s work will go on even after Elijah’s work is done.  In the silence after the storm, after God passes over Elijah’s fatigue and frustration and burnout, God spells out what Elijah has left to do, and who will carry on after he is gone.

Elisha will finish off and continue some of the projects that Elijah started. It’s encouraging to hear that, that the work we do for God’s kingdom is part of an ongoing endeavor.  We build on to the work of those who were before us, and God will ensure that there are people after us to build on the work we have done, even though sometimes when we are tired and burned out and overwhelmed by grief and sorrow , we think, “I am the only person doing anything for God.”

The truth is that God’s work will get done.  We as individuals aren’t called to do it all. The laborers might be few and the work intense, but God finds a way.  That doesn’t mean that we should just bow out and miss out on the joy of serving because “someone else will do it,” but it does mean that we are in this together.  Everyone has his or her purpose in God’s plan along with others.  Bringing about God’s kingdom here on earth is something we do together, not a solo effort.

Do we trust God that He does speak to us in the silence, and that we are not called to be-all and do-all, rather we are called to complete the purpose He created us for, to contribute a piece of an ongoing tapestry, to write a chapter in a never-ending story?

In the end, in the silence, God brings us rest. There will be a day when we will see Jesus and He will say to us:  “Well done, good and trustworthy servant; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.”-  Matthew 25:21

August 9, 2017- When the Truth is Difficult (or Hazardous)- 1 Kings 18:1-16

counting

A long time passed. Then God’s word came to Elijah. The drought was now in its third year. The message: “Go and present yourself to Ahab; I’m about to make it rain on the country.” Elijah set out to present himself to Ahab. The drought in Samaria at the time was most severe.

Ahab called for Obadiah, who was in charge of the palace. Obadiah feared God—he was very devout. Earlier, when Jezebel had tried to kill off all the prophets of God, Obadiah had hidden away a hundred of them in two caves, fifty in a cave, and then supplied them with food and water.

Ahab ordered Obadiah, “Go through the country; locate every spring and every stream. Let’s see if we can find enough grass to keep our horses and mules from dying.” So they divided the country between them for the search—Ahab went one way, Obadiah the other.

Obadiah went his way and suddenly there he was—Elijah! Obadiah fell on his knees, bowing in reverence, and exclaimed, “Is it really you—my master Elijah?”

 “Yes,” said Elijah, “the real me. Now go and tell your boss, ‘I’ve seen Elijah.’”

Obadiah said, “But what have I done to deserve this? Ahab will kill me. As surely as your God lives, there isn’t a country or kingdom where my master hasn’t sent out search parties looking for you. And if they said, ‘We can’t find him; we’ve looked high and low,’ he would make that country or kingdom swear that you were not to be found. And now you’re telling me, ‘Go and tell your master Elijah’s found!’ The minute I leave you the Spirit of God will whisk you away to who knows where. Then when I report to Ahab, you’ll have disappeared and Ahab will kill me. And I’ve served God devoutly since I was a boy! Hasn’t anyone told you what I did when Jezebel was out to kill the prophets of God, how I risked my life by hiding a hundred of them, fifty to a cave, and made sure they got food and water? And now you’re telling me to draw attention to myself by announcing to my master, ‘Elijah’s been found.’ Why, he’ll kill me for sure.”

 Elijah said, “As surely as God-of-the-Angel-Armies lives, and before whom I take my stand, I’ll meet with your master face-to-face this very day.”

So Obadiah went straight to Ahab and told him. And Ahab went out to meet Elijah. 1 Kings 18:1-16 (MSG)

Obadiah was a guy in a hard place. King Ahab, his boss, had been looking for Elijah for some time.  Obadiah didn’t want to be put in the position of announcing Elijah’s presence to Ahab, because it could very well mean his hide if Elijah didn’t show up.

difficult before easy

Elijah does call upon God (before whom I take my stand) to give Obadiah the confidence to go ahead and tell Ahab. It might not have made Obadiah’s job a whole lot more comfortable, but at least he could trust that God would be with him and that when Ahab came looking for Elijah he would be there.

How many times do we have to tell people truths or reveal things to people that we know are not going to be well received?

When we are in the position where know we have to tell the truth and bring something out into the open that won’t be received well- or that may end up to be proven wrong- it can be frightening. Nobody wants to be the messenger when the news is bad news.  Nobody wants to be proved a liar when we claim to have seen someone or something and then someone or something disappears.

Even when we are the bringers of bad news or we have to reveal a truth that won’t be well received, God is with us. The Holy Spirit is there for us to call upon to give us discretion and the right words for even the most difficult of situations.

God is always there for us, interceding on our behalf. We can stand because He gives us what we need to stand.  He might not let us get out of being the bad news messenger, or get us out of delivering difficult messages, but He will get us through doing what we need to do.

 

July 11, 2017 Hang in There – He Will Restore You- Psalm 23:1-3, 1 Kings 19:1-10, Hebrews 12:1-3

rest hereThe Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside still waters,  He restores my soul. Psalm 23:1-3 (NRSV)

Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, “So may the gods do to me, and more also, if I do not make your life like the life of one of them by this time tomorrow.”  Then he was afraid; he got up and fled for his life, and came to Beer-sheba, which belongs to Judah; he left his servant there.

But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a solitary broom tree. He asked that he might die: “It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my ancestors.”  Then he lay down under the broom tree and fell asleep. Suddenly an angel touched him and said to him, “Get up and eat.”  He looked, and there at his head was a cake baked on hot stones, and a jar of water. He ate and drank, and lay down again.  The angel of the Lord came a second time, touched him, and said, “Get up and eat, otherwise the journey will be too much for you.” He got up, and ate and drank; then he went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb the mount of God.  At that place he came to a cave, and spent the night there.

Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” He answered, “I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away.”- 1 Kings 19:1-10 (NRSV)

At the beginning of 1 Kings, Elijah had just been through an ordeal with Ahab, the evil king, Jezebel, his evil queen, and the prophets of Baal.  God had used Elijah for a mighty work, and at that point Elijah was quite worn out.  He feared for his life.  He was tired of running.  Elijah had come to the end of his own strength, which was why he was so stressed out, depleted, and desperate that he asked to die.

There are times when we can identify with Elijah in this text. We come to the end of our strength.  We are at points when we have done all we can do and the hits just keep coming. We may fear for our lives or for our livelihood, or for those of our family.  We cry out to God in desperation for relief, for an end to our weariness and suffering. God doesn’t just leave us hanging.  He provides for us and restores us.

When we are stressed or frustrated, suffering, or depleted, God says to us, “Take a break. Get some rest. Have a bite to eat. Let Me restore you and give you what you need to carry on.”

There are times, like Elijah, where we feel as if we are the only ones who are trying to do the right things and to live as Jesus followers. There are times when it seems as if life is one crisis and one meltdown after another.  It is in these times God reminds us through His Word, and through other believers that we are not alone.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such hostility against himself from sinners, so that you may not grow weary or lose heart.  Hebrews 12:1-3 (NRSV)

There is a great cloud of witnesses around us- both living here on this earth, and those who have gone to the heavenly kingdom before us. Every believer eventually comes to the end of him or herself, and to the point of knowing it is Christ or nothing. In Him we have light, hope and peace. God does give us rest and He restores us.  Better yet, we aren’t in this alone.