Sunday, May 10, 2020


I realize that I have been very liberal with my definition of “self-quarantine” in these covid-19 sermons. I have applied this term to people who have separated themselves from society for reasons other than for protection from disease, as we are doing in these days.
Nevertheless, in each case it was a disruption in their daily manner of living. It was a time when each of these men were in situations abnormal to them and when they were compelled to cope with uncomfortable conditions. This aspect of their self-quarantine has similarities to today’s circumstances.
Each of these men were also in situations of stress when they were obligated to seek the word of God in a new way in their lives. They did not have their normal structure of lifestyle with their “regular” way of hearing the voice of God.

Each of us who are in self-quarantine can identify with this in one way or another. In the Log Church, attending our Sunday church service is part of our normal routine. Each week we come to church expecting to hear the word of God.
That now has been taken away from us. We are not able to meet together and worship as we normally do and as God actually intends for his church to do. In normal circumstances, we are to gather together as the church of Christ to worship him as one body.
But like these men about whom we have read in the Bible, we also have been forced into a new situation for a season of an unknown length. Also like these men, we must now seek the word of God in an unusual fashion.
This is especially the case with today’s Bible character—the Old Testament prophet Elijah.

You may remember some stories of this man. It was Elijah who stood before the evil king Ahab and proclaimed to him that there was to be a drought that would last for some years in length. It was Elijah who then went into hiding near a brook where God appointed ravens to bring him bread each day.
It was Elijah through whom God provided a jug of flour that never became empty and a jar of oil that never ran dry for the Widow of Zeraphath. It was also Elijah who then later raised her son from the dead.
It was Elijah who took on the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal and the four hundred prophets of Asherah in the well-known contest on Mount Carmel. This was where the false gods of these eight hundred and fifty men remained unresponsive to their many prayers, while God answered the prayers of Elijah by sending fire from heaven that consumed not only the sacrificial bull on the altar of stones, but even the stones themselves!
It was Elijah who then ordered that those false prophets of Baal be brought to the Kishon Valley where he then slaughtered them all with a sword.
It was Elijah who then predicted a rainfall after three years of drought. It was Elijah who, while the rain was falling, outran the chariot of Ahab all the way back to the city of Jezreel.
All of this was Elijah. Some would call him a mighty man who did mighty things. Some would call him a fearless man who would take on anyone, and whose prayers were always heard by God. Some would call him a man who knew also to hear the voice of God and to follow his instructions. Some would call him undefeatable.
But it was also Elijah who became afraid and ran for his life when he was threatened by Queen Jezebel. After hearing what Elijah had done to all the false prophets in the Valley of Kishon, the wicked queen sent word to him saying, “May the gods deal with me, and ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like the lives of those you killed!”
It may seem a bit puzzling why Elijah took this threat so seriously after he had withstood so many other seemingly more dangerous scenarios, but the prophet suddenly became afraid for his life. I believe he was suffering from severe fatigue. All of his previous experiences had taken their toll on his emotions, and when this latest threat on his life came to him, it all suddenly seemed too much to handle.
Whatever the reason, Elijah fled in fear for his life at the threat of Jezebel. He walked a day’s journey into the wilderness, sat down underneath a broom tree, and prayed that God would let him die.
“I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life, for I am no better than my fathers.”
He then laid down under the tree and slept—just slept. He must have slept for several hours when he was awakened by a light touch of an angel who said to him, “Sit up and eat.”
When Elijah turned his head, he saw a cake of bread that had been baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He sat up, ate the cake and drank the water. But sleep then again overcame him. He lay down a second time and fell into a deep slumber.
Some hours later, the angel returned and again and touched him. “Get up and eat, or the journey will be too much for you,” the angel said to him.
This time, after the prophet ate the bread and drank the water, he rose to his feet and walked for forty days until he arrived at Mount Horeb, the “Mountain of God.”
Like David when he also was fleeing for his life, when Elijah reached the mountain, he entered a cave. Again the prophet slept. He slept the night. It was either during the night or in the morning that the word of the Lord came to him, saying, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
“I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of Hosts,” he replied, “but the Israelites have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. I am the only one left, and they are seeking my life as well.”
In short, Elijah was depressed. He was fatigued and he was depressed.
God told Elijah to go out to the mouth of the cave, because He, the Lord was about to pass that way. In anticipation of hearing what God would tell him, Elijah went out to witness how he would hear from him.
Suddenly a great wind arose. So powerful was it that “tore into the mountains and shattered the rocks.”
Elijah perhaps thought to himself that surely the word of God will come to him in that powerful wind.
But he heard nothing. The word of the Lord was not in the wind.
Then a great and mighty earthquake, but neither was the word of the Lord in the earthquake.
After the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire.
At some point during these natural calamities, Elijah was driven back into the cave.
But then, after the fire, a restful sound arose outside. Perhaps a slight breeze. And with it, a gentle and quiet voice. When the prophet heard the small sound, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.
In the quiet sound, the voice of God came to him. “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
The voice of God came to Elijah in a quiet and calming voice. God then instructed Elijah what he should do.
Up to this point in his life, Elijah’s experiences had been demonstrations of power. His contest with the eight hundred and fifty prophets was a competition of power. Raising the widow’s son from the dead was a demonstration of power. It seemed like every event in his life was some sort of manifestation of power.
But God had also at one time directed this powerful prophet into the wilderness, where he was at the mercy of an unclean bird, a raven, to provide food for him.

Also, at the home of the widow and before God supplied unending flour and cooking oil, Elijah was first obliged to ask her to use the last of her flour and oil to prepare a piece of bread for him, the same flour and oil that the widow had just told him that she had intended to use for herself and her son so that they could have one last bit to eat before they lay down to die.
And now, God had forced Elijah into the wilderness to flee for his life where the prophet was once again forced to live in very humble conditions. God did not speak to Elijah with displays of power. God put Elijah in a place of humility and then came to him in quietness.
Likewise, God does not always come to us in the ways that we might expect. We may be accustomed to attending a church service to hear the word of God, but that has been taken away from us at this time. God had something that he wanted to say to Elijah in private, and he has something that he also wants to say to each one of us privately.
How will he speak? I cannot say, except that it very well could be in a way in which you are not accustomed to hearing him. If the story of Elijah can mean something to us, it is an indication that it requires that we listen. We will not hear the voice of God if we do not listen.
In the book of Psalms we read these words about our powerful God:
“Come, see the works of the LORD, who brings devastation upon the earth.
He makes wars to cease throughout the earth;
He breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
He burns the shields in the fire.”
These are the great winds and the earthquakes. These are the raging fires that Elijah witnessed. It is in these mighty events when we often expect to see the hand of the Lord. And yet the Palmist continues:
“Be still and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted over the earth.” (Psalm 46:8-10)
The book of Isaiah also has a phrase that is very meaningful to me personally.
“For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, ‘In withdrawal and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.’” (Isaiah 30:15)
Face it: all of our lives have become exceedingly busy. Perhaps too busy. God has given us this time when we have been forced to withdraw from those activities so that he can speak to us in silence.
Listen for him speaking to you in his quiet and calming voice.
I expect when we all again attend together our church service in our Log Church, it will be with a sense that during our absence from one another, each of us has spent many quiet moments with God. Each of us will have heard the voice of God in a new way.

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