God’s in Control!
Text: 1 Kings 19:9b-21
Proper 8, C
Elijah had been on Mt. Carmel, defeating the prophets of Baal. Their failure infuriates Queen Jezebel, so Elijah runs for his life. Once he makes it to the desert he crawls under a tree and prays not for deliverance but for death. He feels dejected and alone, beaten up by the world. But God sends an angel to feed him and send him on his way to Mt. Horeb. Arriving, the greeting is, shall we say, pointed. The Word of Yahweh comes to him: “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
14 He said, “I have been very jealous for the Lord, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.” Elijah explains that he has been very zealous for Yahweh; that of the prophets he alone remains alive; and that the people of Israel seek to kill him. But Elijah is told to go and stand before Yahweh himself. As Yahweh approaches, the wind breaks rocks, the earth shakes, and a fire rages. But God was not in the wind, nor in the earthquake, nor in the fire. But when Yahweh himself arrives, he arrives in quietness ... in silence. Elijah recognizes this and covers his face.
Perhaps you know just how Elijah felt. Perhaps you have felt alone and dejected, beaten up by the cares and the craziness of the world around you. Maybe you’ve even found yourself wishing for it all to be over. For God to come and get you now, rather than later. We have all been beset by loneliness and frustration and grief ... wondering where God is, and why bad things continue to harass us and those we love. God is openly mocked, His church routinely attacked, Christians treated like they are full or hatred to be fought or a disease to be avoided. When will it all end? Why does God leave us alone to deal with all of this?
You are not alone. God is in Control and He is bringing about Justice! 15 And the Lord said to him, “Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus. And when you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael to be king over Syria. 16 And Jehu the son of Nimshi you shall anoint to be king over Israel, and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah you shall anoint to be prophet in your place. 17 And the one who escapes from the sword of Hazael shall Jehu put to death, and the one who escapes from the sword of Jehu shall Elisha put to death.
Yahweh, offers neither comfort nor support. It is not very often that you will find God coddling complainers. He nicely but firmly orders Elijah to return and get to work: “Go back from where you came, and anoint the men I am raising up to deal with the sin that is covering the land.” In other words, God has a plan. God is already putting it into action. And as hard as this may be to believe, neither Elijah, You or Me are the sum total of what He has going on. Indeed, God is so much in control that even the unfaithful secular leaders of this fallen world will serve His justice! We don’t have to change the whole world, just the parts that God gives to us to oversee. Our family and friends, our neighbourhoods and communities. God is working through us and countless others to make sure that His justice will answer the day.
And what is more you are never alone, even in the darkest hour of your need because God is in control and He Works through His Word! 18 Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.” Even in Israel’s darkest hours God’s Holy Word kept a small remnant in the one true faith. Despite evil rulers and false religions, worldly cares and selfish hearts, God’s Word spoke to the faithful, made them faithful, and kept them faithful through it all. God’s Word does the same for us today. That is why we spend so much time reading and praying and singing God’s Word. It is why we are always studying it, and holding family and personal devotions based upon it. God’s Word, and especially the Gospel, is the remedy of Truth in a sin-sick world. It is a call for joy and hope in times of grief and sorrow. It is a bright laser pointer to the Saviour Jesus Christ and His love for us that overcomes this dark world.
And that is why you are not alone. God is still in control and He is still providing for His Church! 19 So he departed from there and found Elisha the son of Shaphat, who was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen in front of him, and he was with the twelfth. Elijah passed by him and cast his cloak upon him ... Then he arose and went after Elijah and assisted him.The story continues with Elijah calling Elisha. God’s workers are never alone. His church grows with every generation. Elisha will follow in the footsteps of Elijah, taking up the mantle placed over his shoulders. Indeed, it is Elisha who will declare to Hazael that he would be king over Syria (2 Kgs 8 ) and who sends a prophet to anoint Jehu king over Israel (2 Kgs 9) thus fulfilling the task placed before Elijah. And so God does even to this day. Through the gifts of Holy Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, the generations of believers are born and fed and nourished, and new shepherds arise, and old Christians pass on their wisdom and faith. By the very hand of God His Bride the Church is maintained and extended by the working of the Holy Spirit, through the preaching of the Word and the delivery of His Holy Sacraments. We are not alone in the pressures we face as the Church, nor are we less favoured than others in the miraculous gifts God has bestowed on us to remain faithful in our stressful days.
The Old Testament lesson and the Gospel appointed for today both have something definite to teach about what it means to be a disciple. God’s abrupt dealings with Elijah, who has fled Israel and feared for his life, suggest that Elijah has been a man “of little faith,” as Jesus might have said. He should have known better than to run, and he now should know that God expects him to get back to his responsibilities right away. And so should we!
But as we do we must always recall God’s faithfulness in keeping His promises, both to Elijah, our fore-bearers in the faith, to us here today, and to all those who will follow after us. It will always matter whether God is in control, what he plans to do, and how God’s people should face their particular situations. Why? Because God has yet to fulfill his promise to establish his reign. As God’s people wait, we find all kinds of unfaithfulness and disobedience, even among those who identify with Jesus Christ and his Church.
Should we give up? Should we think our lives don’t matter? Should we despair and wonder what God is up to? No. Just as God appointed Hazael, Jehu, and Elisha to take care of things, so he has appointed Jesus as Lord to deal with all things. God has matters well in hand. His plan may be unfolding for you in a way that may seem excruciatingly slow, but Christians trust in God. We find that this means believing in His promises, especially in the face of threats and troubles, and living according to the offices to which called each of us. We wait and watch and listen for His still, small voice – speaking in His Word and Sacraments – and trust that we are never alone. God is with us in Jesus Christ, and He is in control!