The Silence is Deafening
Girdwood Chapel Abbreviated Sermon, 11/5/2016
Financial Stewardship Sunday
The Silence is Deafening
1 Kings 19: 11-14
Story of Elijah the Prophet in its Entirety: 1 Kings - 2 Kings 2
Sometimes we wait for something important to occur. How often have you sat by the phone waiting to hear from a loved one to tell you they have arrived safely, or a potential employer’s decision, or a doctor’s diagnosis following a battery of tests? You, likely, sit patiently at first. In this beginning phase it is possible to occupy yourself with other things; you can make yourself some coffee and read a book or you can watch some T.V. Maybe, you can get some things done around the house or even get a quick workout in, if you like that sort of thing. But, slowly, you lose focus. Waiting and not knowing the information you desire so badly to know starts to make you ponder the poorest of results. You may start to play through what happens when the call from the other end does not have the news you want. You work through the steps of how you will handle the disappointment. Maybe, you are the eternal optimist and you have already started to consider how wonderful you will feel when you receive the good news from the other end, and you are giddy over the thought of what it will be like to share the news with others. But, now, you are consumed. There is nothing to do but to wait on the news to come through. Whether it be good or bad, the time has come and you simply just need to know because the silence is deafening.
Elijah in the Cave
Elijah found himself in a cave having one of the moments we just described. He was a wanted man because through him, God had just shown the worshippers of Baal that the god was a no-show and that God was the real deal. The only one that had the faith to do this was Elijah and he did it in quite the spectacle, just as we discussed a bit earlier. Through Elijah’s faith in God, Israel was able to find God once again and destroyed the prophets of Baal. Of course, King Ahab and Queen Jezebel did not like this revolt by the people, and sought to restore order by removing this one person with faith and obedience to Israel’s God. So, Jezebel sends him a message to Elijah telling him that he will be dead by the next day. He runs away and desires death to overcome him because he had failed to restore God’s covenant. A messenger from God gives Elijah some food that miraculously satisfies him for 40 days as he makes a journey to Mount Horeb. Once there, he enters a cave to spend the night. He receives a message to be prepared for the Lord is going to pass by. Now, he is waiting for the phone to ring.
I have always imagined that the night Elijah spent in the cave was as restless as they come. How could it of been anything, but agonizing? Could you imagine that you were literally going to come face to face with your maker? Don’t you think there is the small chance that you are going to be running things through in your head about your entire life and recalling the things you could have done differently. The prospect of meeting God in the wilderness has come with awesome responsibility in the past, perhaps that weighed on Elijah’s mind as well. But, for a time, Elijah was meant to consider these things and to let them resonate in his heart and soul.
I may be wrong in my assumption about Elijah though. I may be projected my own anxieties and worries on him. Because according to scripture he does something extraordinary. Let me explain by giving you three simple words; Prayer, Patience, Response.
Elijah talks to God upon entering the cave and tells him why he has run away. Basically, he tells God that he fears for his life because he is the only one who is left that is loyal to the covenant between God and Israel. He knows that in the human world, now full of power and greed, that he is a thorn in the side of the rulers and they will not stop pursuing him until he is dead.
Think about this prayer. I tend to think that Elijah is telling God this so that God will act on his behalf and that all of these rulers will be taken down immediately. I tend to think he thought God might demonstrate the power that he demonstrated on the altar 41 days before when fire burned from the heavens, consuming the sacrifice covered in water. But, God asks Elijah to wait.
The patience that Elijah demonstrates is something truly remarkable. I think if I were expecting to see God, then the first strong wind would have brought me out the door. But, Elijah sits and waits. He then feels the shake and rattle of an earthquake. God, right? Nope. He sits and he waits. After the earthquake was a fire, a fire just like the one Elijah had witnessed. But, God was not in it. Elijah, sat and waited. But, then there was quiet. There was stillness. There was peace. That is where Elijah found God.
Making his way to the cave entrance he goes to meet God. God gives him very specific instructions on what to do next. The path is dangerous and it involves the anointed of new Kings and a new prophet. If it was rest that Elijah was after, that was not what he was given. He was given great responsibility by God to restore the covenant with God’s people.
What does this mean for us?
As Christians we have the opportunity every day to be like Elijah. What do I mean by that? Well, we pray. We pray to God for multiple things. Some might find it easier to talk to God than others, but, we are all able to pray and to be in conversation with God. Occasionally, in our prayers, there is that one thing that comes up. The thing that weighs deep in our heart. It causes us discomfort in its presence and we want God to do something about it. So, we pray to God to be at work in the resolution of this thing.
But, now we must sit in patience. This patience is not really about us though. It is about God. It is about letting our thoughts and ideas pass by with the understanding that God is not in them. It is understanding that the quick decisions, the knee-jerk reactions, and the choices that will consume us are not the ones that God has in mind for us. Eventually, we will find peace and in that peace. In that silence, we will hear the response of God. But, when we hear it, we must respond in full.
We must surrender our own thoughts, our own notions about what God should do, we must truly listen to God and allow our prayers to reflect that obedience. If we do that, then we no longer have to sit in deafening silence, we will be sitting in the presence of God.