Where Are You God

August 13, 2023

Pastor John Hering

1 Kings 19:9-18

1 Kings 19:9-18

He came to a cave and spent the night there.

Then the word of the Lord suddenly came to him, saying, “Why are you here, Elijah?”

10 He said, “I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of Armies, but the people of Israel have abandoned your covenant. They have torn down your altars and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking to take my life.”

11 Then the Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is passing by.” Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains and shattered rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind.

After the wind came an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake.

12 After the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire.

After the fire there was a soft, whispering voice.

13 When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak, and he went out and stood at the entrance to the cave. Then a voice came to him and said, “Why are you here, Elijah?”

14 He said, “I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of Armies, but the people of Israel have abandoned your covenant. They have torn down your altars and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking to take my life.”

15 Then the Lord said to him, “Go back the way you came and go to the Wilderness of Damascus. When you get there, you are to anoint Hazael as king over Aram. 16 You will also anoint Jehu son of Nimshi as king over Israel and Elisha son of Shaphat from Abel Meholah as prophet in your place. 17 Whoever escapes the sword of Hazael, Jehu will kill, and whoever escapes the sword of Jehu, Elisha will kill. 18 But I have preserved in Israel seven thousand whose knees have not bent to Baal and whose lips have not kissed him.”

Let’s say you had a question and wanted an answer from me. To get your attention I make my voice louder and you might listen more carefully, or you might start to retreat and cover up your ears.  Or I could talk very softly and you might strain to listen more carefully to the words I’m saying.  I suppose there is a balance between the two when trying to share information.

Likewise, when people are trying to find meaning for their life they might pursue the big, loud, bright and fancy method, or they might pursue the small, quiet, and soft method.  This also applies to our relationship with God.  How would you like to have your soul fed the truths of God’s Word?  Some might prefer the loud and contemporary method of communication.  Others might prefer the soft and meditative approach to communication.  The danger is that WE might think our method of having God influence our faith and life is best, but it may not seem like he’s meeting us there. How about times when we call on God to help us but when we look and listen there is no immediate, emergency response that we can detect. We can even seek God in the church and end up disappointed because what we thought would be an enriching experience ended up taking too long and accomplishing too little. We might end up asking the same question Elijah asked.  He knew God was out there somewhere, but ended up asking:

Where Are You, God?

When We Have More Questions and Answers

Elijah had a great track record of God showing him power and authority. Last week we heard God stopped the rain and fed Elijah with ravens and a widow’s jar of oil and flour. Then in a direct confrontation with 450 prophets of Baal who couldn’t pray loud or long enough for Baal to hear and answer, Elijah prayed to God and fire blasted from heaven and burned up a water-soaked sacrifice as well as the wood, stones, soil, water in and around the altar. Finally, God told Elijah to command it to rain and it did. Talk about being on a roll!  Don’t you think Elijah felt that God was really hanging around with all that drama!

But then King Ahab’s wicked wife, Queen Jezebel, issued a death threat to Elijah and he was scared. Then Elijah didn’t notice any kind of spiritual renewal in the land like he figured there would be and he was disillusioned. It was then that Elijah wondered, “Where Are You, God?” What happened to the God who made himself known through such powerful circumstances? Why was Elijah experiencing opposition from a wicked woman spitting in God’s face and bowing her knee to Baal? And where were all the people lining up to worship the true God who proved his power over Baal? Now Elijah had more questions than answers and this is what happened.

He came to a cave and spent the night there. Then the word of the Lord suddenly came to him, saying, “Why are you here, Elijah?”  10 He said, “I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of Armies, but the people of Israel have abandoned your covenant. They have torn down your altars and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking to take my life.”

We can relate with Elijah, can’t we? We’ve been there, too. We witness God’s power one day only to fizzle out like a deflated balloon the next day and leave you wondering if God is impotent or just not interested. “Where Are You, God?” You’ve experienced opposition from bad people who behave with such disregard for Christian living that you wonder if God is really paying attention. “Where Are You, God?” You’ve made a commitment to God in prayer pledging to change your ways and be a better person but when you’ve needed God to give you a boost there’s only you lying on your back and your broken resolve. “Where Are You, God?”

God responds to Elijah’s cry and makes an appearance but the way that he does it seems a little strange.

11 Then the Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is passing by.” Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains and shattered rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind came an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire.” 

I love thinking about what was going through Elijah’s head as he witnessed these powerful acts of God.  Was he afraid?  Was he excited that God was finally answering?  Then Elijah was gently taught the answer by God:

“After the fire there was a soft, whispering voice. 13 When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak, and he went out and stood at the entrance to the cave. Then a voice came to him and said, “Why are you here, Elijah? 14 He said, “I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of Armies, but the people of Israel have abandoned your covenant. They have torn down your altars and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking to take my life.” 15 Then the Lord said to him, “Go back the way you came and go to the Wilderness of Damascus.”

Finally, a gentle whisper gives Elijah marching orders and informs him that there are many others who have remained faithful.

Let’s think about this a second.  Why did God answer first with a powerful wind, earthquake and fire?  Certainly God wasn’t playing games with Elijah!  He could have yelled from each event, “I’m here, Elijah!  Everything is just fine!” No, that would be too easy. And when things are too easy we don’t learn anything. And when we don’t learn anything we don’t grow in wisdom and character and faith. And when we don’t grow in wisdom and character and faith we don’t improve our ability to handle more stress and temptation and confusion. “Where Are You, God?”  When Elijah Has More Questions Than Answers, God doesn’t simply spoon-feed Elijah with an answer.  Rather during these difficult times the Lord God was causing Elijah to grow in wisdom and character and faith.  Elijah had More Questions Than Answers and asked, “Where are You, Lord?”  And just like the Lord God gave Elijah the opportunity, so the Lord also says something very important today.  Did you hear it?  The Lord God said….

We Get to Look A Little Longer

Dear Christian friends, when you think God isn’t around, trust in his promises that he really is.  I understand that often our problem is our sin-blinded heart that isn’t looking in the right places.  Just like Peter, who was doing just fine walking on the water until he looked away from Jesus and paid attention to how stormy it was and began to doubt and be afraid and sink. Jesus was right there the whole time. It’s just that Peter wasn’t looking past the wind and the waves. Like Peter and Elijah, we sinfully forget that our God hides in order to make himself known.  God doesn’t promise to give us a quick appearance out of thin air like a genie every time we feel lonely or afraid. He wants us to look more carefully. He wants us to consider how near he really is to us. He wants us to remember that there is confidence not in what we see (such as an earthquake or wind or fire) but in what he says (even a gentle whisper). And he has spoken most clearly to us in his Son, Jesus Christ. Here is God’s promise: In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son (Hebrews 1:1).

 Forgive me for using this little illustration that I’ve used before.  A wife says, “Honey, would you mind getting the pickles from the fridge?” “Sure, dear,” the husband replies as he walks over to the frig, opens it up and hollers, “Where are they? I don’t think we have any!” In this situation there are two possible explanations: the woman is right and the man, who has taken one quick glance at the contents of the refrigerator, is wrong – or the woman is wrong and the man, who has taken one quick glance at the contents of the refrigerator, is right. We all know he is wrong because he’s not looking behind the milk, the juice and the mayo bottle. If she really loves him, she’ll let him look a little longer.

Likewise our gracious God often gives us the privilege of looking a little longer when tempted to ask, “Where Are You, God?”  You know he is there, but sometimes you feel like you’re sinking.  Maybe you’re sinking at changes at work to the point of fear and frustration.  Maybe you’re sinking in a relationship to the point of loneliness and anger.  Maybe you’re sinking financially to the point of panic and alarm.  In those times you may be asking, “Where Are You, God?”  Then remember the Spirit of God is giving you time to look a little longer.  What do you want to see?  Power and glory?  Where? At the cross where Jesus Christ bore all your responsibility for your fears and frustration, your loneliness and anger, your panic and alarm; along with all the guilt that comes along with it.  There at the cross Jesus took it away by his suffering and death so that you don’t have to pay God anything to care for you.  You don’t have to suffer something bad for your sins.  Calmly Look A Little Longer at the Savior who redeemed you and made you God’s own dear child.

“Where is God?”  He is with us.  He said so in his Word!  He is there even when there are airplane disasters, terrorist bombings, cancer, deaths of loved ones, and financial breakdowns. God is in the pain of broken relationships, denied applications, and constant loneliness. He is there and it is the perfect time to look a little longer at the cross, the empty tomb where Jesus Christ rose from the dead and conquered our powerful enemies that oppose our wellbeing, fight against our faith, and give us new strength and energy every day to live a better life just like he did for Elijah.  Listen to God assure Elijah that he is complete control of the situation:

15 Then the Lord said to him, “Go back the way you came and go to the Wilderness of Damascus. When you get there, you are to anoint Hazael as king over Aram. 16 You will also anoint Jehu son of Nimshi as king over Israel and Elisha son of Shaphat from Abel Meholah as prophet in your place. 17 Whoever escapes the sword of Hazael, Jehu will kill, and whoever escapes the sword of Jehu, Elisha will kill. 18 But I have preserved in Israel seven thousand whose knees have not bent to Baal and whose lips have not kissed him.” 

The Lord God renewed Elijah’s faith to trust his powerful Word.  We may not be able to recognize what all is going on, but God does.  It isn’t our business to be counting the number of people in God’s kingdom.  He knows.  The Lord wants us to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ. Therefore, God renews our faith to trust in him and know that he has the best plan in store for us all—to deliver us from evil and take us to heaven.

Communication experts say that the best way to get another person to listen to you in a heated argument or emotional discussion is to speak softly in almost a whisper. Not only does it have a calming influence, but in order to hear you the person will have to give you his or her attention and make an effort to understand. The world around us is certainly noisy!  It wants your attention and may even claim we are fools by asking us, “Where is Your God?”  Today we have learned the answer.  When we have More Questions Than Answers, Our God Allows Us To us to Look a Little Longer so we can grow in wisdom, faith and character.  “Where Are You, God?”  Well, he certainly isn’t going to show up to get into a shouting match!  But, he is here.  He is always here.  So, listen to God’s eternally saving power in the promises of Jesus Christ!  Amen!

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