Third Sunday after Pentecost [c] June 30, 2019
1 Kings 19:9b-21
9 … And behold, the word of the LORD came to him, and he said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 10 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.” 11 And he said, “Go out and stand on the mount before the LORD.” And behold, 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. 12 And after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper. 13 And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And behold, there came a voice to him and said, “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.” 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. 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.” 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. 20 And he left the oxen and ran after Elijah and said, “Let me kiss my father and my mother, and then I will follow you.” And he said to him, “Go back again, for what have I done to you?” 21 And he returned from following him and took the yoke of oxen and sacrificed them and boiled their flesh with the yokes of the oxen and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he arose and went after Elijah and assisted him.
In the Name of Jesus.
How should a Christian find God’s will for his or her life? So many decisions, so many different paths to follow, so many problems and dangers from which one would hope to have God’s protection, so many different opportunities, how to know which is God’s will, which isn’t?
If it is God’s will that you do one thing, but you don’t, but you instead do the other, then, by definition, in doing the opposite of God’s will, you must be doing the will of Satan.
If a man has an offer to work for Smith Electrical company and an offer to work for Jones Plumbing company, shouldn’t he want to know if it’s God’s will to work for Smith Electrical, so that he won’t sin by going against God’s will and working for Jones Plumbing?
For anything in life that a Christian is deciding on, how to find God’s will?
Elijah is out in the desert looking for God’s will. He’s a prophet, and he’s just had the most glorious day of victory in his life. Elijah was atop of Mt. Carmel standing opposite 450 prophets of the false god Baal. Baal was the god of power, of thunder and lightning, of fire out of the sky. Elijah took a sturdy stand against these 450 false prophets and made fun of their god Baal.
“Build an altar here on top of Mt. Carmel,” Elijah told them. “Build an altar to Baal, and I will build an altar to the true God, the God of Israel, Yahweh.”
“Then, put a bull on your altar, and call down fire from Heaven to come onto your altar and your sacrifice.”
Fire from Heaven shouldn’t be too hard for the prophets of Baal, since Baal was supposed to be the god of lightening and fire.
We know the story. No fire from Heaven for the altar of Baal when the 450 false prophets cried out and danced and even cut themselves, but then Elijah, the prophet standing alone, called on the true God, and God consumed his sacrifice in fire. The God of Israel, rains down fire. It seems we can know God’s will for Elijah: it is to be a man of power and strength, of glory and victory, a man proving with his own life who is the real God.
So why is Elijah out in the desert alone and hiding? 1 Kings 19:10:
[Elijah 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.”
The power and strength, the glory and the victorious life, where is it? And how will Elijah know God’s will for his life now?
The word of the Lord came to Elijah and said, “Go out and stand on the mount before the Lord.” As Elijah stood, waiting to find God’s will for his life, a great and strong wind tore apart the rocks of the mountain, but the Lord was not in the wind.
Then an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. Then fire, but the Lord was not in the fire.
How will Elijah know God’s will for his life? Not by signs in this world, not by God sending coded signals through wind or fire or anything other things of creation. 1 Kings 19:12:
And after the fire the sound of a low whisper. And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And behold, there came a voice to him and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
The Lord makes his will known in a voice, a spoken Word. Not in secretive signals in our world that we must decode, but in a gently spoken Word.
Elijah was a prophet. The Lord came to him directly, in conversation and argument. We are not prophets. The Lord does not come to us directly. The last and final prophet is Jesus. Elijah testifies to this when Jesus has him standing beside him on the Mt. of Transfiguration along with Moses, and the voice from Heaven says of Jesus, “This is my beloved Son, hear him.” Hear not Elijah, nor Moses, they have done their job. Now the prophet—the last, full, final prophet is Jesus, hear him.
We are not prophets. Jesus is our prophet. We will know God’s will for our lives by hearing the voice of Jesus.
Where does Jesus speak for us? In his Word. In his Gospel. In his Church, where he gathers sinners to speak forgiveness to them, where he stands us before his Father justified. In his Sacraments he speaks, as he binds his word to the element of water, and to the elements of bread and wine, and comes to us in his Word to declare us holy and make us his own.
What is God’s will for your life? We don’t look for it in some secret signal sent through the wind or the storm, or some billboard we pass on the road, or some song we hear on the radio, or some secret sign we think is plopped down before us.
God’s promise is not to come to us or to make his will known to us in that kind of nonsense. God’s will for your life? Galatians 5:13:
For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery …13 For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
God’s will is that we love our neighbor. That we do it in freedom. It is not that we search out some secret, coded plan God has for our life, like Indiana Jones searching for the Holy Grail. God never promised anything like a hidden map for our lives that we are supposed to figure out.
His will? “Love the Lord you God with all your heart, and love your neighbor as yourself.”
This is enough for us. The man wondering if to work for Smith Electrical or for Jones Plumbing? He needs not look for a coded message from God. He only needs to ask, How can I best serve my family? Best serve my neighbor?
Then, whichever he does, whether work for Smith Electrical or for Jones Plumbing, he does it in freedom, standing firm in that freedom, not submitting to some yoke of slavery as if he has to figure out a will of God’s which God never promised to give.
God’s will for our lives? God’s will for Elijah was no deep, hidden thing. It was just to do the job a prophet is given to do—go, anoint Hazael king over Syria, Jehu king over Israel, and Elisha as prophet in your place. Elijah, simply do what you are given to do.
God’s will for our lives? We’re not prophets. That’s Jesus. Simply do what you are given to do. This is love of neighbor, to do what we are given to do, and not to make up some big task the Lord has secretly squirreled away for us to figure out.
God gives us to be neighbor.
Some he gives to be father, some mother, some son or daughter.
Some he gives to be single. Some to serve neighbor by providing housing and things of the home, others to provide food, others health care, others safety from violent enemies, others he gives to be homebound, but this is a great gift, for as Paul tells the widows, they are given a vocation of spending their time at home praying for the Church and interceding for their brothers and sisters in the faith.
God gives us callings, vocations, by which we serve our neighbor. This is his good and gracious will for our lives.
And his good and gracious will is that we hear the voice of his Son. We hear the Gospel of Jesus, for by this Gospel the Holy Spirit is calling and gathering us into the Church. To be gathered into the Church, this is God’s good and gracious will for our lives.
To see Jesus clothe a little child in his own righteousness by the Water and Word of Baptism, this is God’s good and gracious will for our lives. To hear Jesus gather us his Name and speak his Word, Take and eat, Take and drink, your sin is forgiven, this is God’s good and gracious will for our lives.
To hear the voice of Jesus forgiving sinners, cleansing consciences, reconciling with the Father in Heaven, this is the path of life God makes known, this is God’s good and gracious will for us, and this is to be released from the Law’s yoke of slavery in order to live in the freedom of the Gospel.
In the Name of Jesus.