Sunday, June 20, 2010

Where Is God Asking You to Go?

God called to Elijah and instructed him to go to Ahab and then he would send rain. I don’t think we heard everything that God told Elijah to do. When he met Ahab he told him to call all the people of Israel and meet him on Mount Carmel. Oh yeah, also invite all 450 of the prophets of Baal and Asherah to come too.

This is after Jezebel had all the prophets killed except the ones Obadiah hid in the caves. Elijah was the lone prophet left to confront the atrocities of Ahab and Jezebel.

Elijah goes into competition against 450 prophets and allows them to go first. All they had to do was get their god to light the fire on the altar where they had laid the slaughtered bull. They danced and called and cut themselves, all to no avail. Nothing happened.

Elijah rebuilt the altar of the Lord with twelve stones symbolizing the twelve tribes of Israel. The wood was arranged on the altar and then the slaughtered bull. Then Elijah had the people fill four jars with water and pour them on the meat, the wood, and the altar. They did this three times until the whole thing was drenched and the trench around the altar was filled with water.

Elijah stepped forward and prayed to God to let it be known that he was God in Israel and that he, Elijah, was his servant and had done all the things God had commanded him to do. He prayed that God would answer him so that the people would know that God was Lord and then they would turn their hearts back to God.

The fire of the Lord fell and burned up everything, the meat, the wood, the stones, the soil, and also evaporated all the water in the trench.

The people fell to the ground and worshipped God. They knew who their God was. Then Elijah commanded the people to seize the prophets of Baal and Asherah and bring them down to the Kishon Valley and slaughter them there. This they did and Jezebel was not happy. She issued her ultimatum to Elijah and so he fled into the wilderness where he was cared for by an angel of the Lord.

Elijah had really had enough and just wanted to die and get it all over with. Maybe some of us have felt that way at one time or another. We can maybe understand what Elijah desired. But God wasn’t done with him yet. And so he was fed with the food God’s angels provided for him.

He was energized by this food and so he was able to travel for 40 days and nights to Mount Horeb where he found a cave and went inside to spend the night. I think he thought he might be able to get some much needed rest. God had other plans for Elijah.

Rest wasn’t part of the plans God had for Elijah. God woke him and asked him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” Elijah gave him the whole spiel. He told him how hard he had been working for the Lord. But now he was the only one left and Jezebel was trying to do him in too.

Maybe Elijah thought then he might be able to go back and lie down and get some rest, but no, God had something else for him. He wanted him to go out on the mountain and wait for the Lord to pass by.

A hurricane wind came up and moved boulders, an earthquake came and shook the mountain, and then fire came down but God wasn’t in any of these. And Elijah hadn’t come out of the cave either.

But then there was that gentle whisper and Elijah heard it. He pulled his cloak over his face and came out of the cave. Again God asked him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

Again Elijah listed all that he had been doing for the Lord. After all this where does God ask him to go? He tells him to go back the way he came and go to the desert of Damascus.

What questions has God been asking you? Has he asked you the question he asked Elijah, “What are you doing here?” Did you answer like Elijah telling Him how zealous you had been in doing the work of the Lord? Were you hiding in a cave hoping to escape from the world but God found you there? Did he ask you to come out on the mountain to be in His presence because that’s where he was?

Were you afraid to step out of the cave for fear of where God might be asking you to go or were you afraid of all the noise outside and you were just waiting for it to calm down? And when it got still did you hear him whisper your name and so then you came out. Is that what you did?

Where has God asked you to go? Where is he asking us to go? Where is God asking his Church to go? These are questions people struggle with every day. I wonder every day where God is sending me. I wonder if I am doing what he wants me to do.

I ask myself the question why has God sent me here to do this? Why am I here in this place at this particular time? Where is he going to ask me to go next? Sometimes the uncertainty of it all worries me.

The man of Gerasene who had the host of demons removed from him wanted to go with Jesus. But that wasn’t what God had planned for him. Jesus told him to stay at home. Jesus told him to stay and evangelize his friends. He was to tell them what God had done for him. God asked him to stay home. That’s not what he wanted but it’s where God wanted him.

God doesn’t put us where we want but where he needs us. We don’t get to choose. And sometimes, in fact most times, that can be pretty frightening.

So good friends, where is God asking you to go today? Are you expecting fanfare and trumpets? Are you expecting fire and wind? Fire and wind scares us and it’s usually not until it’s quiet that we come out of our caves to listen to God.

We are so very fortunate that our God is patient and waits for us to come to Him. If we would only take time to go to our quiet places on the mountain then we would hear God’s voice speaking to us. And then, friends, we would know where God is asking to go and what he desires for us to be doing. And sometimes we have to go back the way we came. And sometimes we are asked to stay home and tell our story of what God has done in our lives to our friends. Even when we would rather go to a more exotic and exciting place.

So my friends, my message for you today is to pay attention to what God is doing around you. Listen for his voice to speak to you not as you expect but as you least expect. And friends be prepared to go back the way you came, maybe doing the same things you’ve always done but this time doing them for the Lord.

Isn’t God’s grace amazing? Thanks be to God for his forgiving grace. Amen.

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