THAT WAS THEN, THIS IS NOW
*Last Friday we looked at Elijah fleeing from Jezebel. Elijah was on his way to Mt. Horeb/Sinai. When he arrived at the mountain he spent the night in a cave. If you recall Sinai/Horeb was where the commandments were handed down to Moses and then to the people. Elijah traveled forty days and forty nights, which reminds us of the people's forty year journey in the wilderness and Moses' forty days and forty nights at the mountain. Elijah is retracing the footsteps back to the holy place where Moses met God. Now, the interesting thing here is; God now resides in the temple. God came off the mountain a long time ago. Even before Yahweh filled the temple with his presence He filled the tabernacle.
"The Lord said, 'Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by." (I Kings 19:11)
This passage lets us know that God is not confined to the temple. The Lord is going to pass by. Does Elijah know what to expect? Well, from what we are going to be told Elijah has in his mind what God is like. But, he is about to learn a very important lesson.
"Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire." ( I Kings 19:11b-12)
These were all three powerful natural phenomena. Elijah expected God to be in any of them. Why? Well, for one thing God and power go hand in hand. God should be expected to show up in power. Right? And second, it's how God has shown up before. When Moses received the revelation from God on this same mountain he received it through wind, earthquake and fire. Elijah expects God to appear to him in the same manner as he appeared to Moses. Hmmm...Do we not do that same thing? We have a preconceived idea of how God is supposed to appear unto us. The way God always did things is the way God is supposed to still do things. If it worked before it should work now. If the way Grandpa and Grandma worshipped was good enough for them and worked for them, then it should be good enough for us. Right? Well, not necessarily.
Have you ever heard someone speak of how church used to be? "Oh we used to have shouting and people used to pray for hours and, oh my, the people would get so caught up in the Spirit...." Yes, it happens all the time. Everyone has their favorite memory of church and how it used to be. This passage is for all those who "still remember the glory days of the church." It is also for those who put God in a box and say, "This is God This is how you worship God! This is...." Elijah is about to learn a very valuable lesson.
There comes a time when we look back at life behind us and then turn to confront what lies ahead of us. Sometimes that which is behind us looked so much better than what we can see before us. We know how it has been, but we do not know what it will be like. Therefore, we want to think of God as being just like he was before. *I know what the Bible says about Jesus Christ being the same yesterday, today and forever... But, that doesn't mean that God is stuck being one way, and doing things one way, etc. There are times when we have to learn that yesterday's manna has become stale, too stale for tomorrow's journey. Yesterday has given way to today and yesterday's game plan may not work for today's fight. Elijah expected God to show up the same way he showed up before, and in the same way he appeared to Moses. But, God was not in the wind, the earthquake, nor the fire.
"And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave." (I Kings 19:12)
The KJV says "a still small voice," while the NRSV says that there was "sheer silence." God appeared in the "sheer silence." God appeared in the opposite manner in which He appeared before. Have you ever noticed that people don't always like silence. People can't handle it. I've been to revivals before and someone will get up to sing and the equipment won't work. There is down time; there is silence. About that time someone will yell out: "Somebody testify!" In other words what they are saying is: "Somebody break the silence!" Have you ever stopped to think that we may hear God better without all the noise? No, just because things are loud and powerful, doesn't mean that God is in it. The problem with the silence is: when it's quiet, you can hear better. Elijah needed to hear God, not receive the commandment, or revelation. No, he is asked the question: "What are you doing here Elijah?" (I Kings 19:13b) Yes, it is here that God confronts Elijah. Perhaps it is in the silence that God confronts us. I had a friend whom I worked with. Whenever we would go somewhere together he refused to play the radio because "If I play the radio I can't hear the motor." I, on the other hand, play the radio so I can't hear the motor. Perhaps Elijah is hoping that God will have a new plan for him. After all, things have gotten rough down in Israel.
Not too long ago I had the privilege of having lunch with a state trooper friend of mine. Every so often he and I get together to eat and confide in one another about work, family and life in general. He said to me, 'I'd really like to be a pastor again." (He had been before going into the academy) I looked at him and said, "Isn't that funny? I'd like to be a state trooper." ( I sometimes kick myself for not returning to the academy for another try) We both agreed that we would trade places then and there if we could. But, at the end of our time together he went the way of his calling and I went the way of mine. (Please know that I love what I do, and he does too, and he is super good at what he does) The fact is, we were both recharged after just being able to confide in one another. Afterwards we returned the way we came. Guess what God tells Elijah? Yep, "Go back the way you came..."( I Kings 19:15) One of Elijah's problems was that he felt he was the only one who was true to God. Now, God promises him that there are more in Israel "whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and all whose mouths have not kissed him." (I Kings 19:18b)
So, God does make Elijah a promise. God also gives Elijah an order. He is to anoint Jehu king over Israel, and he is to anoint his successor. The story of Elijah is not quite over. For now, Elijah returns knowing two things: One, God can no longer be conceived in traditional terms. God is who God is, and no human being can dictate that. Two, Elijah will oversee the demise of the house of Ahab. We will read more about Elijah and Elisha over the next few days. We will also read an interesting story about a vineyard. Join me tomorrow. Have a great day! -Pastor Rick