CHRISTOPHER J. SUTTON
OLD TESTEMENT SERMON
1 KINGS 19: 9-18
FOCUS: God remains with His people through the whisper of faith.
FUNCTION: That the hearers may not doubt their faith.
STRUCTURE: Law & Gospel
When I was a new Christian, about the age that some of you are now. I remember a conversation that I had with a non- Christian friend over coffee. This particular conversation stays with me because it went into the topic of faith, namely Christian faith. This was not a hero moment for me as a Christian. It was a time when I fell, face down and totally defeated in debate. The stumbling block for me was why does God not come down. My friend said she would believe if only God would come down and show her that He was truly God, until then she would remain indifferent toward organized religion.
The reason I tell you this memory is the text for this sermon deals with this topic, God coming down. In the reading Elijah is in a cave on Mt. Horeb, the mountain of the Lord, a.k.a. Mt. Sinai. If there was ever to be a place where God would appear it is here. On this mountain's slopes God, the Lord, appeared to Moses, and the elders of Israel. Here the Law, the Ten Commandments were written, not once but twice. This is the Lords Mountain, and Elijah is on it.
What got Elijah to this point in the text was a confrontation with the prophets of Baal, which resulted in their defeat, and slaughter, because of it Elijah, as well as all of Gods Prophets are placed under a death sentence by Queen Jezebel. Because of this sentence of death, Elijah runs. His faith failed him in the most critical time. Early in chapter 19 the text tells of Elijah in the desert pleading with God to take his life. His friends, and colleges were all murdered, thus Elijah was in distress, and depressed.
The prophet ran, and it can be said that he doubted in God. What’s going on? Prophets can’t, they shouldn’t doubt, they definitely don’t run for their lives, and plead with God to them die. That is simply unacceptable behavior from The Lords Prophets. After all, unlike us ordinary people they hear Gods voice, they do His wonders. This is simply not right!
True, it is not right. These actions are the result of sin. Elijah, like us is a sinner. I know it sounds funny to compare Elijah to us. He is the prophet that was taken to heaven with out dying. A prestigious gift. Moses did not get that type of five star treatment, nor did the greatest of all Old Testament Prophets, John the Baptist. We expect Jonah to be a sinner, but this is Elijah the man Peter saw with Jesus on the mountain when He transfigured. How can he be a sinner like us?
Yes, Elijah did the wonders of God; he was the crème de la crème prophet in his time. And yes, like us he is a sinner. Here in the chapter 19 he runs from the King and Queen of Israel, the very people he is to stand up to. Like us, like me in the coffee shop, Elijah doesn’t stand up for God. Often we are taken down by a word, a good sounding argument, and we are left doubting, pondering our faith. “Can this be true?”
In the Nichole Nordeman song, Help me believe, she is crying out to God to help her believe in the light of all the opposing views she is faced with. From evolution, to why crappy things happen to good and upright people. Like Ms. Nordeman we ask why, and ask God to help us believe.
Many former Christians say that the Churches lack of answering these questions to their liking is a reason for their non-belief. However as much as we would like God to come to us in a mighty wind, an earthquake, in a fire, or simply a new revelation, He will not. My friend did not receive the sign she wanted, nor did I get a physical sign to know that the faith I cling to is real.
It is unclear to why Elijah went to Mt. Sinai. It is clear from Gods question in verse 9 that God did not send Elijah to His Mountain. But I suppose if Elijah wanted a sign, if he wanted to be near God then this would be the place. We, like Elijah, are weak, we are rebellious, and we like Elijah seek a real time sign from God. We want Him here with us in this present darkness, and suffering of life. But the truth is- He is.
Another time when God came down was in Jesus’ ministry. Here, Jesus is God incarnate in human flesh and came near to us. It is in Jesus that God reveals himself to us. Like in the gentle whisper Jesus came to Earth, and saved us from all sin by his death as a simple criminal on the cross.
He does not come in violent winds, in Earthquakes, or in fire. No God comes to us the same way He came to Elijah, in the gentle whisper, in our faith, in our baptisms. It is there we learn of Gods strength and love for us in faith. Through this simple child-like faith provided by the Holy Spirit, He comes bringing salvation, and calls us by name.
Unlike Elijah our whisper is our faith calling us to turn from sin, and come to repentance. Jesus, Immanuel, God with us, He comes down to us, forgives us, and leads us.
Jesus is the revelation of God to us, by His faithfulness on the cross, dying so you will not. There (pointing to a cross) he is revealed for us, there his strength becomes ours in faith. And there you are forgiven of all you sins. The sacrificial lamb slain for the world’s sins, for yours, and for mine.
We do not need to clime a mountain to see God; we don’t need to see a pillar of fire to know that He is with us. All we need is faith in Jesus. It is in Jesus that God reveals Himself to the world. Thus my sign did not come via Earthquake, it came via the cross. The faith provided to me by God to believe, this was my sign, and it is yours as well. Sadly, it was this sign that my friend was not willing to see.
Like Elijah we know we are weak, but God is stronger, and even though we doubt God does not. He is our rock when the rains come; He is our firm foundation, our mighty fortress. By our faith, and in our baptism we can take refuge in Jesus. For He has been here and saves us, and is victorious over sin, death, and the Devil! So when weakness’ come take refuse in Jesus strength it is yours by your faith.