Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Pentecost 11 - mid-week

1 Kings 19:9-19
"What are you doing here?" is the question that God asks the prophet Elijah. It is a question that God asks of us today. "What are you doing here?" Twice God asked Elijah what he was doing here in a cave away from his work.
The story is an interesting one. Elijah was just upon the top of Mt. Carmel, on the mountain of success, he was God's spokesman, His champion. But now he is in the valley of despair. What is a prophet doing away from the job and hiding in a cave? He fled there because he was afraid of wicked Queen Jezebel's revenge. She was out to kill him. Now, we might not have had our lives threatened but the feelings which Elijah experienced are universal. We each have our highs and lows. In this situation Elijah is feeling discouragement, despair, and failure. When we get down where do we turn? We turn to the Lord, who helps and supports us.
As God finds Elijah in his condition and restores him to positive action likewise God is able to sustain each of us. In our lesson for this morning we see how God can lift us out of our despair. When we feel like giving up because of discouragement God asks us three basic questions.
[1] Question number one. Are you jealous for God?
Twice God asks Elijah the basic question "What are you doing here?" Elijah explains to the Lord that he is jealous fro God. Enemies have destroyed God's altars and killed His prophets. The people have forsaken God. Elijah is jealous for God. He wants God to be adored, obeyed and followed. Apparently Elijah felt as it he had failed to bring his nation to that point. He feels as if he had failed God. Consequently Elijah runs away as a defeated warrior.
These feelings can be ours when we feel as if we have let God down. We try to live moral and upright lives. We want out light to shine before men. But what do we do when we get the feeling that we have not done enough, or that our stand for God and His Word has been waning?
God did not condemn Elijah for being jealous, but instead He brought Elijah out of his discouragement resulting from his zeal for God. God knows you are faithful. God knows your heart. God knows your faithfulness. Do not give us! Rather remain faithful to Him as He remains faithful to you.
[2] Question number two. "Are you afraid?"
Elijah had fled to a cave in a wilderness, because he was afraid. Wicked Queen Jezebel had pledged her revenge against Elijah and had threatened to kill him. Yet, there is no hiding place from God.
No one but God knew where Elijah was. Likewise, for you and for me God knows where we are. Wherever we go God is there. David asks "Where can I go from Your presence?" In Psalm 139 he writes: "O Lord, thou hast searched me and known me! Thou knowest when I sit down and when I rise up; thou discernest my thoughts from afar. Thou searchest out my path and my lying down and art acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, lo, O Lord, thou knowest it altogether...where can I go from thy Spirit? Or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend to heaven, thou are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, thou are there!
If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there thy hand shall lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me. If I say, "Let only darkness cover me, and the light about me be night", even the darkness is not dark to thee, the night is bright as the day; for darkness is as light with thee." (Psalm 139:1-4; 7-12)
Elijah learned of the grace of God. God came to Elijah who was frightened. He was in need of encouragement and assurance. Elijah needed to be sent back into the fray. Such is the grace of God. The Savior takes the initiative and comes to us who are in trouble and sets us free. He did that when He sent His Son Jesus to the cross and He continues to come to you and to me through Word and Sacrament to comfort us in every time of need.
[3] Question number three. Are you the only true follower of God?
Elijah felt as it God had left him. The cure for such despondence is to know God and to realize that He is constantly with us. How can we know God? He is not known in the spectacular, majestic feats of nature; of wind, earthquake, and fire. God reveals Himself in the quiet, intimate "small voice". God's Word, the Bible is God's primary way of revealing Himself; of making Himself known to us. If we are to hear God's still small voice, we must get quiet and listen. And in that stillness He simply says "I am with you always, even unto the end of the age" (Matthew 28:20)
After coming to Elijah and assuring him the Lord sent him back to the place where he belonged. So often, the cure for despondency is action - the Lord simply says to His prophet "Go!"
God tells Elijah to return to society and to resume his service to God by anointing both political and religious leadership. When we find ourselves in despair, the cure is often found by getting out and doing something for God and for people. As you leave this house of prayer this morning out into the world which is often cruel and hostile know that you do not walk alone. The Savior will attend to your every need. He will uplift, support and direct you. Yes, friend, the Savior will accompany you. Walk with Jesus, He walks with you. Amen.

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