1 Kings 19:9-18
God saves us, Even in a Whisper
Focus: God supports us in times of faith and doubt.
Function: That the hearers trust in God even in times of trouble.
Sermon Structure: Law Gospel (Four Pages)
Grace, mercy, and peace to you, from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
In our text for today Elijah is afraid. He is afraid even after he just called upon the Lord and witnessed as YHWH torched the meat of a bull on Mount Carmel before Elijah, the Israelites, and the prophets of Baal. Elijah is fearful even after seeing so many evidences of God’s power and might in his life. The Lord had just fed him cakes of bread to sustain him, brought life back to Zarephath’s son through his own hands, sent ravens to feed him in the middle of nowhere, and yet he doubts God’s ability to save him now. He is afraid and running to hide, perhaps to find YHWH, on Mount Horeb. This is a mountain of significance. It is called the Mount of God because this is where God had manifested His glory with Moses in Exodus. It is true to form that Elijah would “wander…in dens and caves of the earth” as Hebrews tells us prophets will do. But why is he running to hide in a cave on this mountain of God? This, just after he was with God and witnessed God’s decisive victory over His enemies. Through the prayer of Elijah God moved the elements and made His presence known in a mighty way on Mount Carmel. All of which resulted in the slaughter of the enemies of God and this prophet of God.
But that’s just it; Elijah is a prophet of God! He is one who speaks the truth about God and His salvation. He is the one who witnesses to others of the mighty power of YHWH. Yet there he is cowering in this cave. God asks him, “What are you doing here Elijah?” Elijah replies by trying to tell God that things aren’t working out so well. He tells God He has tried, but the people won’t listen. He tells God that he has been “very zealous for the Lord God Almighty,” but “the people have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword.” Wow…could he have been any more direct with God? Or…even accusatory? Is he telling God, that all that God has done is for nothing? Has he even answered God’s question? I suppose Elijah would know how things are working out; after all he is in the trenches. He is at the front lines. He is fighting the good fight. So…he must see more than God…, I don’t think so. Has he forgotten what God has promised to him, and those before him, all the way back to Abraham!? Has he forgotten all that God has done for his people, even before his very eyes!?
Don’t we have moments like Elijah is having in this text? I know I do. I look around and see the world and all its troubles and wonder if things are working out in our world today. There are times when I am afraid. All we have to do is read the headlines these days and we are reminded that things seem to be bad all over. I watch the news with my wife and truly become depressed some nights. I am frightened for my children because of the way the world has clearly rejected God. We have become a world bent on turning away from God, much like the world of Ahab and Jezebel. Many people in our own country have rejected everything that has anything to do with God and this makes me fearful at times. I find myself doubting God’s power to work through all of this hostility toward Him. I seem to forget His promises. I forget that He claims victory over sin and the devil. I even run and hide at times.
Like Elijah, we sometimes don’t hear God when we hide. We close ourselves off. We make our explanations of; how we tried but there is too much evil out there, and that we can’t make a difference. I think we start to believe that the world is lost and that there is nothing we can do so we just want to save ourselves. We hide in places that we think are close to God, but, He doesn’t seem to be there when we are shutting ourselves off to the world. We even go as far as to stop going to His house. We walk away from church. Because we are struggling with sin and weakness, we fear that people might condemn us and we flee and hide. We fear being called hypocrites so much that we can shut our own family and loved ones out of our lives. This is exactly what the devil wants us to do! The devil knows that faith is strengthened through the Word and Sacraments that are made available to us in God’s house. God wants us going to church, gathering around God’s Word and worshiping with our fellow believers. We forget that God wants us out there going to church and doing His will!
We see catastrophic things happen in the world like the tsunami that hit Asia and Africa and ask, “What is God doing?” We ask, “Where is God in this?” We look for God at these times of major events or catastrophes, but we can’t see Him. He is not to be found in a tidal wave. He was not to be found by Elijah in the earthquake, or the wind that tore the mountains apart, or the fire. He is in the gentle whisper that is intended for us to hear. He is in what God chooses to reveal Himself to us in.
[MWA1] God didn’t abandon Elijah when he had given up on God. When Elijah veered off the path that God evidently[MWA2] wanted Elijah to be walking on…God came to him. Just as God had come to the Israelites throughout the Old Testament when they had strayed from His will, God came to Elijah and spoke to him. He continued to speak to Elijah even when Elijah had implied that God was a failure. Isn’t it amazing what God will put up with?! God actually told Elijah that He would come closer to Him after Elijah told God he had tried, but the Israelites didn’t want anything to do with God’s covenant or Him. Instead of smoting Elijah, which one might expect at this point, God tells him He will reveal Himself to Elijah by “passing by!” He continued to talk to Elijah and be with Him even after he didn’t obey God and stand up and come out of the cave as he was told. He even gave Elijah another chance to answer God’s question and then… Elijah repeated the exact same weak answer. In spite of Elijah’s inability to see his error, He came closer and whispered to Elijah and then gave him another chance to go and do His will.
These are the actions of a patient and loving Father. Not of a human father. These are the actions of a perfect heavenly Father! As a father we might imitate these actions but God is far more patient and loving than we could ever be. This is the Father that was equally as patient [MWA3] with Peter in our Gospel lesson today[MWA4] . Jesus didn’t leave Peter to drown when he lacked faith. This is the Father that came and rescued both Elijah and Peter when they lacked faith in His omnipotent power to overcome all things. God doesn’t leave His people twisting in the wind (unless they need a little of that). [MWA5] When our faith is faltering this is when we see the compassionate father that Elijah encountered. He goes on to give Elijah a helper in Elisha and reveals to Elijah that he, in fact, is not alone but God has reserved seven thousand Israelites whose knees have not bowed to Baal. Elijah had asked for a “second” and lamented that he was alone and God answered him. This is not a God that leaves us alone in our panic. He is a God that comes along side of us and reveals to us that He has a plan for us. He whispers to us, proving He is near, and speaks to us about His will for our lives.[MWA6]
We have a savior today that comes near to us as He did for Elijah. He is the Savior that continued to keep coming closer when Elijah was not listening. This is the same Savior that “reached out His hand” to save Peter. Jesus is that saving hand to you. He has saved you through His suffering and death on the cross. He is the way that God has revealed himself to you as He revealed Himself to Elijah. He revealed himself by coming to this earth and by going all the way to the cross where He suffered and died for your sins. He reveals himself to you through His word, which is the whisper of truth to us all. He reveals Himself through His sacraments which He welcomes you to take part in each week.
This savior, Jesus Christ, tells you in Corinthians that, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” He proclaims victory over sin and death in your weakness. He comes to you through your baptism. He comes to you through the celebration of His sacrifice for us. In this sacrifice He paid the price for your sinfulness…even your lack of faith in Him! His grace is sufficient for you! He has enough mercy to cover all of your sins! Even your desire to hide from this world, or your friends, or your loved ones. Even in this weakness, He penetrates the fear and your unwillingness to listen and obey…and washes you clean. He renews your faith and your hope through His word and sends you back on the path of righteousness, which eventually leads to His feast of celebration in heaven. Now, may the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and minds in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen[MWA7]
[MWA1]This is one of the moves I was worried about. Is this applicable in your estimation? I thought it worked well but I am just a seminarian.
[MWA2]How might I say this better. God does make it clear He has something else in mind for Elijah to do, but.
[MWA3]Is this Father analogy appropriate?
[MWA4]Is this proper use of this reading?
[MWA5]Well, it’s true.
[MWA6]How does he reveal Himself to us?
[MWA7]I feel as though this is a weak Gospel proclamation. I am interested in your comments.