Sermons

The Tiny Voice

Sun, Mar 22, 2020
Teacher: Mark Hull
Duration:28 mins 8 secs

Message text

The Tiny Voice
1 Kings 19: 1 - 8

Ever since there’s been a Post Office, it seems that children have written letters to God. Here are just a few of them:
One girl: “Thank you for the baby brother, but what I prayed for was a puppy.”
Nan observed: “I bet it is very hard for you to love everybody in the whole world. There are only four people in our family and I can never do it.”
Norma asked “Did you mean for giraffes to look like that or was it an accident?”
Mickey said: Dear God, if you watch in church on Sunday, I will show you my new shoes.”
Another child: “I read that Thomas Edison made light. But in Sunday School they said you did it. I bet he stole your idea.” Sincerely, Donna
Larry “Dear God, Maybe Cain and Abel would not kill each other so much if they had their own rooms. It works with my brother.”
And my favorite: “Dear God, I think about you sometimes even when I’m not praying”
When children write letters like that, they reveal what we call a “child-like” faith. They may not understand the things - about life – that goes on around them, but they never doubt that God is there and that He cares for them. But as we get older ... things change. Life can disappoint us, dreams get damaged. We experience pain and loss and rejection. And People... hurt us. When things like that happen, we tend to lose the innocence and trust we had as children. That’s why Peter wrote to adult Christians: “Cast all your anxieties upon Him because He cares for you.” I Peter 5:7
You see, as Christians we need to focus on the faith we had as children because – God hasn’t changed. He’s still the same God we knew as children, and He still cares for us.
Today we’re introduced to a man who was one of great men of faith in Bible: He performed miracles; brought the dead back to life; ascended into heaven in a fiery chariot; and to this day Jews speak of him with reverence as the most prominent prophet of the Old Testament era. But... he was also a man who struggled with this idea that God cared for him.
Just days before, Elijah had preached one of the greatest sermons of his life. He had confronted 400 prophets of Baal on the Mt. Carmel and exposed them as the false prophets they were. And because of Elijah’s faith and obedience, God sent fire down from heaven to consume the sacrifice Elijah had placed on the altar. Then a few hours later God sent a downpour of rain on a land that hadn’t had rain for 3 years because God had brought judgment on the land of Israel and upon the evil King and Queen who ruled it.
Those were exciting days for Elijah. But not everybody was pleased by what Elijah did that day. One of the people who was upset was the Queen... Jezebel. She was furious! Elijah had embarrassed her and, of course, he had also killed her favorite hand-picked pagan priests. So, she was out for blood – Elijah’s blood. And she sends Elijah a message that essentially said - by that time tomorrow he’d be dead. And everybody knows, Jezebel’s good for that because she’s killed off a lot of prophets of God before this.
So Elijah runs away - he runs away like a dog with its tail between its legs. He runs and he runs and he runs until he’s so exhausted that he just collapses under a broom tree. And he just lies there, so embarrassed by his cowardice that he wants to die.
Elijah... this great man of faith - this man of miracles and great deeds - lost his childlike faith that God cared for him.
Now, in the book of James we’re told that “Elijah was a man just like us.” (James 5:17) He was just like you. And he was just like me. Now, granted, he did things you and I could only dream of doing (the miracles, raising the dead, etc.), but he was still governed by the same kinds of passions and emotions as we are. And that’s something God wants us to remember. You see, God could have just told us the cool stuff in Elijah’s life – the miracles, the battles he waged, and the prayers God answered... but no. God also saw fit to include the story of this great man becoming so afraid that he ran for his life. But one of the reasons God included this part of Elijah’s story in the Bible is because we need to realize that God cared for him just like He cares for us.
Notice what God does first for Elijah: “And (Elijah) lay down and slept under a broom tree. And behold, an angel touched him and said to him, ‘Arise and eat.’ And he looked, and behold, there was at his head a cake baked on hot stones and a jar of water. And he ate and drank and lay down again. And the angel of the LORD came again a second time and touched him and said, ‘Arise and eat, for the journey is too great for you.’”
Think about this. Elijah has lost his faith and he’s very verbal about the idea that he doesn’t think God cares anymore and that God hasn’t lived up to His part of the bargain. Some might think that God would be upset with that and tell Elijah “What’s wrong with you? Where’s your faith? Get up on your feet and act like a man!!”
Is that what God did? No! Instead, God sends an angel to make sure he has food and drink... and then he lets Elijah sleep. Then the angel returns a 2nd time to feed him. What’s going on here? Why would God just step back... and do nothing? Why didn’t God try to reason with Elijah and give him a lesson in faith? Why just let him sleep? Well, God did that because that’s what Elijah needed. There’s times we don’t need answers; times we don’t need theology; times when explanations are worse than worthless. Sometimes what we need is to just to back off. We need to rest.
ILLUS: As I looked at this passage it seemed like Elijah ran because he’d panicked... so I did an internet search about panic and this is what I found: “Panic attacks are periods of extreme fear that cause physical symptoms such as a racing heart rate, sweating, or trembling. Panic attacks are often also accompanied by a feeling of an impending threat of harm or even death.”
How do you deal with panic? Well, according to the Mayo Clinic, one of the ways to deal is: “Make sleep a priority.”
Another source said that “Not getting enough sleep (is amongst the things that) can trigger or worsen anxiety.”
So God gave Elijah what he needed: time to rest, time to sleep. Why? Because God cared for Elijah
But sleep wasn’t going to be enough. Sleep alone was not going to take care of the fundamental problem that caused Elijah’s anxiety. Elijah desperately needed to know that God cared for him. Now that may seem odd for Elijah - this great man of faith and miracles – to have this crisis of faith. But we need to remember that he was a man just like us. Yes, he’d experienced God’s power and influence, but in the face of a very real threat... Elijah had forgotten all that God had done for him in the past, and now he was frozen in faithlessness that threated to destroy him. And what was causing this crisis of faith for Elijah were two lies. And these 2 lies had convinced him that God didn’t care anymore for him.
The 1st lie was this – God NEEDS me! Elijah had come to believe that he was indispensable to God.
In our text today God asks Elijah "What are you doing here, Elijah?" And Elijah replied "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.” I Kings 19:10
What was Elijah saying? He was saying “I’m the only one who stands in the gap! I’m important!! If something happens to me - well God, you’re going to be in trouble!!!! Essentially Elijah was telling God that he was indispensable!!!!
ILLUS: It kind of reminds me of the story of a preacher was teaching a children’s Sunday School class. He was teaching them about the 23rd Psalm and he’d spent a lot of time talking about sheep. What they were like, how they ate, how they interacted with the shepherd and so on. Then he pointed out that the kids in the class who were Christians were kind of like the “sheep of the flock.” Then he asked, "If you are the sheep then who is the shepherd?" Now, in that church, they referred to preachers as “Pastors” – which is another word for shepherd, and so he was expecting the kids to say that HE was the shepherd of the flock. But apparently he’d failed to set the question up properly, and one little boy answered his question: “Jesus Is The Shepherd.” Now that shocked the preacher (because it was true) and he was so flustered, he almost couldn’t help himself. He blurted out “Well then, who am I?” And the little boy said “Well, I guess you must be a sheepdog.”
You see, Elijah had come to the conclusion that he was an important man. God needed him!!! God didn’t have anybody else to rely on. But God set him straight: “I have reserved seven thousand in Israel, all whose knees have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.” I Kings 19:18
In other words – “Elijah, you’re not the one left, and I do have a backup plan. I’m the shepherd... you’re my sheepdog.” But Elijah had forgotten that. He’d forgotten who God was, and he’d forgotten who HE was.
And when WE forget that God is the shepherd and we’re the sheepdog, we can tend to get depressed, because we will begin to believe that everything depends upon us (in our lives/families/jobs/church). We forget to trust God and believe success is totally dependent upon our efforts.
And when things don’t go right...we can be overwhelmed because our faith has centered on ourselves. And when our focus is centered on us... we’ll be disappointed. We can’t do it all by ourselves and any effort based on that concept is doomed to lead us to anxiety, depression and even panic.
So, that was the first lie... that God needed Elijah. Any one of us can fall into the same trap. We just need to remember that God doesn’t need you or me to get things. He just allows us to come along for the ride so we can sense the thrill of His power in our lives.
But Elijah had bought into a 2nd lie that was just as bad. This 2nd lie is actually summed up in a popular saying. I’ll quote the first half and you complete it: “God helps those who (help themselves).” Now don’t ever quote that as if it were true – it’s not. It’s totally false, it’s unbiblical. God doesn’t help those who help themselves, He helps those who obey Him and follow Him.
But, in that false teaching (that God helps those who help themselves) is the deceptive implication that “If I do my part GOD HAS TO do His.” It’s kind of like an unwritten contract - I did my thing... now God owes me. But IF God doesn’t do what I want Him to do, when I want to do it, it’s obvious - that He doesn’t care, or doesn’t have the power to do so to protect me.
That’s what’s dogging Elijah’s thoughts here. He thought his victory against the prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel had been the knockout blow for King Ahab and Queen Jezebel. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen a boxing match, but every once in a while an inexperienced boxer can throw his best punch and drop his opponent to the mat... only to see the other boxer leap back to his feet and come back like he’d never been touched. That’s what had happened to Elijah. He’d thrown his best Sunday punch thinking this would end the conflict for all time... but apparently someone forgot to the Jezebel. Jezebel comes back at him with a serious threat.
She’s a scary woman and she’d put a number of God’s prophets to death, and now she’s threatened him. As a result, Elijah began to doubt God’s power.
So, God says “HEY Elijah ... let me show you something” and “The LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper.” I Kings 19:11-12
God’s saying two things here: First God was saying “Not only am I big enough to tear this mountain apart I’m big enough to take out Jezebel anytime I please. It’s just that your calendar and my calendar aren’t on same page. I can and I will take care of Jezebel when I’m ready... I’m just not ready yet. But when God is ready, you wouldn’t want to be on His bad side. Even Thomas Jefferson, not a particularly religious man, noted “I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, and that His justice cannot sleep forever.”
So, there was this massive wind, and an earthquake and fire followed by... the sound of a low whisper.” What’s that all about? Well... too often people view God as a harsh and unsympathetic to their needs. They see Him as swift, powerful and merciless in judgement, like what was symbolized by the wind, earthquake and fire. But notice, God wasn’t in those things. God WAS in the whisper. The whisper was God’s way of saying: I understand, and I care, and I will take care of you.

CLOSE: That whisper sort of reminds of the story of an incident back in 2003. There was a 13-year-old girl named Natalie Gilbert who was scheduled to perform the National Anthem at NBA basketball game. She had a beautiful voice and had sung the anthem at numerous other public events in the past... but as she began to sing the familiar words of The Star-Spangled Banner -- she froze. The words wouldn’t come.
So, she stood silent, shocked and facing the humiliation of being in front of a live TV audience not able to sing the familiar song.
Just then, the coach of the Portland Trail Blazers (Maurice Cheeks) walked up beside her. He put his arm around her shoulders and began to whisper the words into her ear. When that didn’t completely help, he began to sing along with her and used his right hand to invite the watching fans join her in the song. As one early morning news show noted: “A little girl, an off-key coach, and 20,000 people finished it together.”
What happened that night was a coach caring so much for a scared little girl, that he whispered the words she needed to hear in her ear. He later commented: "I just didn't want her to be out there all alone"
One last thing: we have something Elijah did not. We have the same still voice whispering in our ear from a God who cares deeply for us... but Elijah couldn’t look upon God. We can. When God took on flesh and died on the cross for us, and rose from the grave in victory, we can now look upon the face of Jesus and know He cared for us. As Hebrews 12:2 declares “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
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