Welcome Back: Listen When God Whispers and Have Your Faith Renewed

Dear BLCF Friends,

Effective October 17, 2021, Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church is now opened by reservation only for Sunday worship under the limitations and guidelines set by Public Health and the Board of BLCF. Please be advised that both the BLCF Café Community Dinner and the  BLCF Wednesday Prayer Service will continue to remain closed effective March 16, 2020, and until further notice. We pray with the administration of sufficient COVID-19 vaccinations, and following the determination of Health Canada and other Health Authorities, that the danger of the Pandemic will have subsided sufficiently, to allow BLCF to safely reopen more of our worship and outreach activities without any concern of infection to the vulnerable within our community.

– Pastor Steve

what_are_you_dong_here_Elijah

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Listen When God Whispers and Have Your Faith Renewed’

© October 17, 2021, by Steve Mickelson

Based on Messages shared at BLCF on March 3, 2019, February 28, 2016, and on February 23, 2014

BLCF Bulletin March 3, 2019

 BLCF Bulletin February 28, 2016

BLCF Bulletin February 23, 2014

BLCF:WhispersOfGod

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer

Opening Worship Special:

Cochren and Co. Church (Take me Back)  https://youtu.be/Z8AQQKwjNYY

Prayer and TithingPrayers

Worship Song by the Newsboys:  Something Beautiful:  https://youtu.be/EGes0O84VbA

Message by Steve Mickelson:

‘Listen When God Whispers and Have Your Faith Renewed’    

BLCF:Whispers-of-God-Emerson             

Let us pray…

Welcome back to Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church’s Sunday Praise and Worship Service. Today we celebrate a long-awaited opportunity to gather together and celebrate in word, in music, and in prayer our first live service in this place in 19 months! Though we are not the first followers of God to have to wait upon the Lord, you may recall that the Hebrews had to wait for generations for God to send a deliver, the prophet Moses, to bring them out of bondage in Egypt and more generations they wandered in the desert to be led to the Promised Land. Then more generations for God to send His Son, Jesus the Messiah, again they waited in the upper room praying, before the Holy Spirit raised the Saviour from the grave, only to return for a short time on the earth before His Ascension to be with the Father in Heaven. And just when who think they have waited enough, they waited some more for the Son to send His Holy Spirit to the believers in the Upper Room and later to all who confess Jesus as their Lord and Saviour,

That is a whole lot of waiting for a result that was prayed for, in some cases for hundreds of years and scores of generations. So when you look at how long the saints in the Bible trusted and waited on the Lord, waiting for over a year and a half for the COVID-19 Pandemic to subside may seem, by comparison, almost trivial. But, from my perspective, what we all have had endured since March 16 of last year, some 19 months ago, has been a challenge to Christian believers, who are admonished both in the Scriptures and by fellow believers to gather together to worship God, celebrate His sacrifice through the observance of Communion, to show our love and support to one another by a handshake, an embrace, or a Holy kiss of affection. But the Pandemic has caused believers to put social gatherings as a body of believers on hold. For the protection of those we love and ourselves, we have had to isolate ourselves at home, don masks, wash our hands, keep a social distance apart, avoid indoor gatherings.

Even with vaccination, we continue with precautions to protect those who we love and care for, which for Christian believers means everyone.  We prepared for today’s service by sanitizing the pulpit and pews, erecting plexiglass barriers, screening all worshippers, not distributing Bulletins, Bibles, or Hymnals, suspending choruses and songs during the service, setting up the social distance between worshipers, canceling coffee hour after the service, and providing communion in a pre-packaged sealed cup that contains both the bread and juice. These rules and restrictions apply whether we are vaccinated or not, and I believe all who are here today are vaccinated, sure beats sitting at home and perhaps watching a stream or broadcast of a service from a remote location or previously recorded at some church! There is something about hearing Scriptures, prayers, and praise in person that restores our faith, renews our spirit and heals the soul, And, sadly, there are some who believe that the church will never reopen, having fallen victim to the Pandemic. To those who believe that God’s Church is no more having fallen victim to the enemy of the COVID-19 virus, I say look around you here at BLCF and see that your fears are unfounded. Perhaps it is your faith that has fallen victim to another enemy who wants you separated from your brothers and sisters in the Lord! But do not be discouraged by this fear that all is lost to an enemy, for such fear is not new to believers, as it has happened before, even to great leaders, including the prophet Elijah, who we see is the subject of today’s lesson, Listen When God Whispers and Have Your Faith Renewed.

You may notice that we are smaller in number today than our usual small size. In time, this too should improve. During the Pandemic some of our members cannot attend because they have committed to visiting loved ones in nursing homes, while others have been called away by work, health issues, and other reasons. Some have felt safe being at home for so long, that going out to church or elsewhere is a scary proposition, even though Public Health assures us that it is safe if the recommended precautions are taken. So let us begin with today’s lesson.

When I was 6 years of age, I found that it was good to have parents of strength around, on those occasions where fear overcame the joys of childhood innocence. I recall well when my younger sister Rhona suffered a traumatic spinal injury at the age of 3 years and was not expected to survive the night. Because of her dismal prognosis, dad was allowed to bring me to my sister’s hospital room, for what was possibly a final visit. Though dad did not mention how critical her condition was, seeing a Rhona connected to tubes and monitors was a frightening specter, which she must have sensed, as upon seeing me, she told me to “Go Away”.

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Our family prayed to God and Rhona pulled through, though, for the next 39 years of her life, she would face a lifetime of many or death surgeries and health challenges. At those times, we would often pray to God with the hope that he would give the family, especially Rhona, the courage to face these challenges.

This brings us to today’s lesson, from 1 Kings 19. Some of you may recall reading from 1 Kings 18, where the prophet Elijah, a devout servant of God, was concerned about the waning faith of the people of Israel towards the one true God where some had begun to worship the pagan god Baal.

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This was where Elijah had proposed a challenge to the 450 priests of Baal, where both he and the priests would set up sacrificial altars to their respective god, asking him to light the altar. Elijah gave the priests of Baal a handicap by ordering a dozen urns of water to be poured on the altar he had built. The priests of Baal were unsuccessful, while Elijah prayed to God, acknowledging His authority and asking God to start the altar fires to help restore and renew the faith of His chosen people. God responded with a fire so fierce that it not only burned the wood and water but destroyed the very rocks upon which the altar sat. After the victory, Elijah had all of the priests of Baal put to death.

BLCF: Elijah_map

You would think, after this decided victory, Elijah would use the victory as an opportunity to promote God to those who had may still harbor any doubts about Who was the real God, and who wasn’t. Instead, Elijah fled upon learning that Jezebel had sought to give Elijah the same fate that was given to the priests of Baal. As we see in 1 Kings 19:

1 Kings 19 (ESV): Elijah Flees Jezebel

19 Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, “So may the gods do to me and more also, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by this time tomorrow.” Then he was afraid, and he arose and ran for his life and came to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there.

BLCF:Elijahunder_a_broom_tree

Elijah was so overcome with self-fear and loathing because he felt that by not convincing Jezebel of the one true God, that he had failed Him.

But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he asked that he might die, saying, “It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.” And he 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.” And he arose and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mount of God.

BLCF:elijah-and-the-angel

God had seen the faith of his servant Elijah, and in this case, denied Elijah’s request to be put to death. We see that God twice sent angels to attend to Elijah by giving him food and water. The first meal to restore Elijah’s strength, while the second to fortify Elijah for a forty-day journey to Mount Horeb, also known as Mount Sinai, the sacred place of God.  God had planned to not only converse with Elijah but to give His prophet a lesson in what matters most in restoring faith to those who have strayed from God. Let us continue in 1 Kings 19, at verse 9:

The Lord Speaks to Elijah

There he came to a cave and lodged in it. 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.[a] 13 And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave.

Footnotes: a. 1 Kings 19:12 Or a sound, a thin silence

BLCF:god-speaks-to-elijah

We see that God asks Elijah, “What are you doing here?” In other words, why have you fled to the wilderness? Elijah confesses that following God’s demonstration where He had started the sacrificial fire on the altar made in His honor, the people of Israel had destroyed God’s altar and killed all His prophets, save for Elijah And because he had failed to convince the people to keep their covenant with God, Elijah had failed God. To Elijah, it seems that the glass is not just half empty, but totally so.

BLCF:1kings19-12

God’s answer to Elijah, is quite interesting. The Lord instructs Elijah to go out of the cave and to stand on the mount before the Lord. Perhaps, Elijah expected God to cast him off the mount, as punishment for his perceived failure. It is also interesting to note, that God does not speak to Elijah in a voice that is great and thunderous as one might imagine. Thanks to the likes of Cecil B. Deville, we have God speaking to Moses in a mighty, booming voice and coming from a pillar of fire. There is no reason to believe that God spoke any differently to Moses than the way He conversed with Elijah, in a quiet whisper, like a Father to a beloved child.

BLCF:Cecil_B_DeMille_Ten_Commandments

We see that as the Lord passes by, three great natural events occur: first strong wind, then an earthquake, and finally a fire. In each of these events, God was not present. Then Elijah hears God speaking in a low whisper, which prompts Elijah to cover his face, as he recognized God’s presence. We see that, though extreme natural events such as earth-shattering winds, earthquakes, and fire or even four blood moons and eclipses of the sun may occur after God passes, they do not indicate the presence of God. Only when we hear God speak, even though in a whisper, can we know for certain that God is present. Otherwise, we may mistakenly believe any and all such extreme events are a sign from God. God is quite clear and explicit that He communicates to us by his word, not through natural events or disasters. God was not in the wind.

The destruction of the altars set by the priests of Baal, by wind, earthquake, and fire are just as meaningless signs if the Devine presence unless God whispers. And what did God whisper? Continuing at 1 Kings 19, verse 13:

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.”

First, Elijah gives the same refrain as an answer that we read beginning back in verse 9. This time God instructs Elijah to do what is likely what he should have done after the altar was lit instead of fleeing into the wilderness, which was: to anoint Hazael as king of Syria, anoint Jehu the son of Nimshi as king of Israel, and to anoint Elisha, the son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah in place of himself.  In other words, God tells Elijah to appoint new rulers and names Elisha to be His new prophet. God not only names a successor but informs Elijah that seven thousand people of Israel have not broken their covenant to God. So the glass is not as empty as Elijah had thought.

BLCF:1-Kings-19-19-Elijah-casting-his-mantle-on-Elisha

Elijah then departs to do as the Lord commanded, 1Kings 19, verse 19:

The Call of Elisha

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.

Just as God had provided food to restore Elijah, before whispering to and restoring his prophet, Elisha celebrates his calling, first by honoring and showing affection to his parents; then by making a sacrifice of the twelve oxen, which he shares as a feast with the people; and finally, Elisha leaves to follow Elijah.

BLCF:holy-yearnings-of-the-heart-a-god-johann-wolfgang-von-goethe

God had not only restored Elijah’s confidence and faith, but He raised Elijah to a more prominent place than before. And God had anointed those who kept His covenant. When we are afraid, God is our refuge and shelter, as we read in Psalm 91:

Psalm 91 (ESV): My Refuge and My Fortress

91 He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say[
a] to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.”

For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler
and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his pinions,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.
You will not fear the terror of the night,
nor the arrow that flies by day,
nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness,
nor the destruction that wastes at noonday.

Not shown in today’s bulletin are the last three verses from Psalm 91, which indicate that God not only provides refuge and protection to the faithful but abide by the faithful, giving honor and reward of salvation. Psalm 91, verse 14:

14 “Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him;
I will protect him, because he knows my name.
15 When he calls to me, I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble;
I will rescue him and honor him.
16 With long life I will satisfy him
and show him my salvation.”

Footnotes: a. Psalm 91:2 Septuagint He will say

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What is faith and how does God value it? Hebrews 11:

Hebrews 11 (ESV): By Faith

11 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation. By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.

BLCF:Hebrews11v1

By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks. By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was commended as having pleased God. And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God. 11 By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised. 12 Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born descendants as many as the stars of heaven and as many as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore.

13 These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. 14 For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. 15 If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.

17 By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, 18 of whom it was said, “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” 19 He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back. 20 By faith Isaac invoked future blessings on Jacob and Esau. 21 By faith Jacob, when dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, bowing in worship over the head of his staff. 22 By faith Joseph, at the end of his life, made mention of the exodus of the Israelites and gave directions concerning his bones.

23 By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw that the child was beautiful, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict. 24 By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, 25 choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. 26 He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward. 27 By faith he left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king, for he endured as seeing him who is invisible. 28 By faith he kept the Passover and sprinkled the blood, so that the Destroyer of the firstborn might not touch them.

BLCF: Exodus Numbers

29 By faith the people crossed the Red Sea as on dry land, but the Egyptians, when they attempted to do the same, were drowned. 30 By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they had been encircled for seven days. 31 By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had given a friendly welcome to the spies.

32 And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets— 33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. 35 Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. 36 Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two,[a] they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— 38 of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.

BLCF Church: sinner saved

39 And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, 40 since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.

Footnotes: a. Hebrews 11:37 Some manuscripts add they were tempted

We see God has acknowledged and commended the faith of His prophets, though many suffered dearly, some even paying with their lives. In verse 38 we read:

They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— 38 of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.

I can think of one such prophet who was destitute, afflicted, mistreated; who wandered in the deserts and mountain wilderness, in dens and caves of the earth. Sound familiar?

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A few years back, the Christian singing group, The Newsboys, gave a great lyrical expression of how the voice of God’s Holy Spirit whispers to us, in their song Something Beautiful, which begins with the lyrics:

I wanna start it over
I wanna start again
I want a new beginning
One without an end
I feel it inside
Calling out to me

It’s a voice that whispers my name

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And God’s love is the underlying emotion expressed in His whisper:

I’ve heard it in the silence
Seen it on a face
I’ve felt it in a long hour
Like a sweet embrace
I know this is true
It’s calling out to me

It’s a voice that whispers my name

Song by the Newsboys:  Something Beautiful:  https://youtu.be/EGes0O84VbA

 )

BLCF:Sometimes_you_need_silence_for_God_whispers

But God provided something better for us, than just His commendation. We received, through Christ Jesus, salvation, forgiveness, and a new covenant. Through Jesus, sacrifice, we are lifted up and restored to God, not in a cave or upon a remote mount, but everywhere we walk. For as believers in Christ, we walk with the gift of God’s eternal presence through his Holy Spirit:

BLCF:Deuteronomy_33-27

Deuteronomy 33:27a (ESV):

27 The eternal God is your dwelling place,[aand underneath are the everlasting arms.[b]

Footnotes: a. 1 Kings 19:12 Or a sound, a thin silence b. Deuteronomy 33:27 Or a dwelling place   c. Deuteronomy 33:27 Revocalization of verse 27 yields He subdues the ancient gods, and shatters the forces of old

Know His presence, when you hear His voice whisper your name through His Holy Spirit.

Remember, all believers can take heart and comfort expressed in Psalm 27, verse 1, which begins with the assurance us that:

27 The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold[
a] of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?

BLCF:Psalm27_14

And Psalm 27, verse 14, closes by urging us to not lose our faith, but to:

14 Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!

Footnotes: a. Deuteronomy 33:27 Or a dwelling place b. Deuteronomy 33:27 Revocalization of verse 27 yields He subdues the ancient gods, and shatters the forces of old  

 Let us pray…

Communion:1 Corinthians 11:17-34 (ESV)

17 But in the following instructions I do not commend you, because when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse. 18 For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you. And I believe it in part,[a] 19 for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized. 20 When you come together, it is not the Lord’s supper that you eat. 21 For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal. One goes hungry, another gets drunk. 22 What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I commend you in this? No, I will not.

23 For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body, which is for[b] you. Do this in remembrance of me.”[c] 25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

27 Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. 28 Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. 30 That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.[d] 31 But if we judged[e] ourselves truly, we would not be judged. 32 But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined[f] so that we may not be condemned along with the world.

33 So then, my brothers,[g] when you come together to eat, wait for[h] one another— 34 if anyone is hungry, let him eat at home—so that when you come together it will not be for judgment. About the other things I will give directions when I come.

Worship Special Lauren Daigle – Rescue https://youtu.be/iItpBpdjfZA

 Benediction – (Psalm 27:14):  Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!   

BLCF:God-whispersyou-are-Mine

Listen When God Whispers and Have Your Faith Renewed

BLCF: God-whispers-to-me

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Listen When God Whispers and Have Your Faith Renewed’

© February 28, 2016, by Steve Mickelson

 BLCF Bulletin February 28, 2016

Based on a message shared at BLCF on February 23, 2014

BLCF Bulletin February 23, 2014

 BLCF: God Whispers

Announcements & Call to Worship: Responsive Reading #611 (Comfort from God – Isaiah 40); Prayer

Opening Hymn #413: God Is My Strong Salvation; Choruses                                                                                                                                    

Prayer and Tithing: Hymn #572: Praise Gods; Prayers

Scripture Verses: 1 Kings 19:1-21 and Hebrews 11:1-3; 32-40

 

BLCF: Boy Praying

Let us pray…

When I was 6 years of age, I found that it was good to have parents of strength around, on those occasions where fear overcame the joys of childhood innocence. I recall well when my younger sister Rhona suffered a traumatic spinal injury at the age of 3 years and was not expected to survive the night. Because of her dismal prognosis, dad was allowed to bring me to my sister’s hospital room, for what was possibly a final visit. Though dad did not mention how critical her condition, seeing Rhona connected to tubes and monitors was a frightening specter, which she must have sensed, as upon seeing me, she told me to “Go Away”. Our family prayed to God and Rhona pulled through, though, for the next 39 years of her life, she would face a lifetime of many life or death surgeries and health challenges. At those times, we would often pray to God with the hope that He would give the family, especially Rhona, the courage to face these challenges.

Which brings us to today’s lesson, from the 1 Kings 19. Some of you may recall reading from 1 Kings 18, gives the account of the prophet, Elijah, a devout servant of God, who had a concern about the waning faith of the people of Israel towards the one true God as some had begun to worship the pagan god, Baal.

 

BLCF: Elijah calls on God

This where Elijah had proposed a challenge to the 450 priests of Baal, whereby both he and the priests would set up sacrificial altars to their respective god, asking him to light the altar. Elijah gave the priests of a Baal a handicap by ordering a dozen urns of water be poured on the altar he had built. The priests of Baal were unsuccessful, while Elijah prayed to God, acknowledging His authority and asking God to start the altar fires to help restore and renew the faith of His chosen people. God responded with a fire so fierce that it not only burned the wood and water but destroyed the very rocks upon which the altar sat. After the victory, Elijah had all of the priests of Baal put to death.

You would think, after this decided victory, Elijah would use the victory as an opportunity to promote God to those who may still harbor any doubts about Who was the real God, and who wasn’t. Instead, Elijah fled upon learning that Jezebel had sought to give Elijah the same fate that was given to the priests of Baal. As we see in 1 Kings 19 (ESV):

 Elijah Flees Jezebel

BLCF: Elijahs Flight

19 Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, “So may the gods do to me and more also, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by this time tomorrow.” Then he was afraid, and he arose and ran for his life and came to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there.

Elijah was so overcome with self-fear and loathing because he felt that by not convincing Jezebel of the one true God, that he had failed Him.

BLCF: Elijahs fear and self-loathing

But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he asked that he might die, saying, “It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.” And he 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.” And he arose and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mount of God.

BLCF: Elijah visited by angel

God had seen the faith of his servant Elijah, and in this case, denied Elijah’s request to be put to death. We see that God twice sent angels to attend to Elijah by giving him food and water. The first meal to restore Elijah’s strength, while the second to fortify Elijah for a forty-day journey to Mount Horeb, also known as Mount Sinai, the sacred place of God.  God had planned to not only converse with Elijah but to give His prophet a lesson in what matters most in restoring faith to those who have strayed from God. Let us continue in 1 Kings 19, at verse 9:

The Lord Speaks to Elijah

LCF: Where are you doing here Elijah

There he came to a cave and lodged in it. 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.[a] 13 And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave.

Footnotes: a. 1 Kings 19:12 Or a sound, a thin silence

 

BLCF: 1kings19-12

We see that God asks Elijah, “What are you doing here?” In other words, why have you fled to the wilderness? Elijah confesses that following God’s demonstration where He had started the sacrificial fire on the altar made in His honor, the people of Israel had destroyed God’s altar and killed all His prophets, save for Elijah And because he had failed to convince the people to keep their covenant with God, Elijah had failed God. To Elijah, it seems that the glass is not just half empty, but totally so.

BLCF: God-speaks-to-elijah

God’s answer to Elijah, is quite interesting. The Lord instructs Elijah to go out of the cave and to stand on the mount before the Lord. Perhaps, Elijah expected God to cast him off the mount, as punishment for his perceived failure. It is also interesting to note, that God does not speak to Elijah in a voice that is great and thunderous as one might imagine. Thanks to the likes of Cecil B. Demille, we have God speaking to Moses in a mighty, booming voice and coming from a pillar of fire. There is no reason to believe that God spoke any differently to Moses than the way He conversed with Elijah, in a quiet whisper, like a Father to a beloved child.

BLCF: cecil_b_demille_ten_commandments

We see that as the Lord passes by, three great natural events occur: first strong wind, then an earthquake, and finally a fire. In each of these events, God was not present. Then Elijah hears God speaking in a low whisper, which prompts Elijah to cover his face, as he recognized God’s presence. We see that, though extreme natural events such as earth-shattering winds, earthquakes, and fire or even four blood moons and eclipses of the sun may occur after God passes, they do not indicate the presence of God. Only when we hear God speak, even though in a whisper, can we know for certain that God is present. Otherwise, we may mistakenly believe any and all such extreme events are a sign from God. God is quite clear and explicit that He communicates to us by his word, not through natural events or disasters.

BLCF: Gods voice

The destruction of the altars set by the priests of Baal, by wind, earthquake, and fire are just as meaningless signs if the Devine presence unless God whispers. And what did God whisper? Continuing at 1 Kings 19, verse 13:

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.”

First, Elijah gives the same refrain as an answer that we read beginning back in verse 9. This time God instructs Elijah to do what is likely what he should have done after the altar was lit instead of fleeing into the wilderness, which was: to anoint Hazael as king of Syria, anoint Jehu the son of Nimshi as king of Israel, and to anoint Elisha, the son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah in place of himself.  In other words, God tells Elijah to appoint new rulers and names Elisha to be His new prophet. God not only names a successor but informs Elijah that seven thousand people of Israel have not broken their covenant to God. So the glass is not as empty as Elijah had thought.

Elijah then departs to do as the Lord commanded, 1Kings 19, verse 19:

 

The Call of Elisha

BLCF: The Call of Elijah

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.

Just as God had provided food to restore Elijah, before whispering to and restoring his prophet, Elisha celebrates his calling, first by honoring and showing affection to his parents; then by making a sacrifice of the twelve oxen, which he shares as a feast with the people; and finally, Elisha leaves to follow Elijah.

God had not only restored Elijah’s confidence and faith, but He raised Elijah to a more prominent place than before. And God had anointed those who kept His covenant. When we are afraid, God is our refuge and shelter, as we read in Psalm 91 (ESV):

 My Refuge and My Fortress

BLCF: Lord - light salvation and stronghold

91 He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say[a] to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.”

For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler
and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his pinions,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.
You will not fear the terror of the night,
nor the arrow that flies by day,
nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness,
nor the destruction that wastes at noonday.

Not shown in today’s bulletin are the last three verses from Psalm 91, which indicate that God not only provides refuge and protection to the faithful but abide by the faithful, giving honor and reward of salvation. Psalm 91, verse 14:

 

14 “Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him;
I will protect him, because he knows my name.
15 When he calls to me, I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble;
I will rescue him and honor him.
16 With long life I will satisfy him
and show him my salvation.”

Footnotes: a. Psalm 91:2 Septuagint He will say

What is faith and how does God value it? Hebrews 11 (ESV):

 By Faith

BLCF: hebrews11verse1

11 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation. By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.

By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks. By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was commended as having pleased God. And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God. 11 By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised. 12 Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born descendants as many as the stars of heaven and as many as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore.

13 These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. 14 For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. 15 If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.

17 By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, 18 of whom it was said, “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” 19 He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back. 20 By faith Isaac invoked future blessings on Jacob and Esau. 21 By faith Jacob, when dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, bowing in worship over the head of his staff. 22 By faith Joseph, at the end of his life, made mention of the exodus of the Israelites and gave directions concerning his bones.

23 By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw that the child was beautiful, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict. 24 By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, 25 choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. 26 He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward. 27 By faith he left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king, for he endured as seeing him who is invisible. 28 By faith he kept the Passover and sprinkled the blood, so that the Destroyer of the firstborn might not touch them.

exodus-numbers

29 By faith the people crossed the Red Sea as on dry land, but the Egyptians, when they attempted to do the same, were drowned. 30 By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they had been encircled for seven days. 31 By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had given a friendly welcome to the spies.

32 And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets— 33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. 35 Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. 36 Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two,[a] they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— 38 of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.

39 And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, 40 since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.

Footnotes: a. Hebrews 11:37 Some manuscripts add they were tempted

BLCF: God Whispers You are Mine

We see God has acknowledged and commended the faith of His prophets, though many suffered dearly, some even paying with their lives. In verses 37b – 38 we read:

They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— 38 of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.

I can think of one such prophet who was destitute, afflicted, mistreated; who wandered in the deserts and mountain wilderness, in dens and caves of the earth. Sound familiar?

BLCF: God_Whispers

A few years back, the Christian singing group, The Newsboys, gave a great lyrical expression of how the voice of God’s Holy Spirit whispers to us, in their song Something Beautiful, which begins with the lyrics:

I wanna start it over
I wanna start again
I want a new beginning
One without an end
I feel it inside
Calling out to me

It’s a voice that whispers my name

And God’s love is the underlying emotion expressed in His whisper:

I’ve heard it in the silence
Seen it on a face
I’ve felt it in a long hour
Like a sweet embrace
I know this is true
It’s calling out to me

It’s a voice that whispers my name

(Link to song Something Beautiful:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xukUTizrkTU )

BLCF: holy-yearnings-of-the-heart-a-god-johann-wolfgang-von-goethe

God provided something better for us than just His commendation. We received, through Christ Jesus, salvation, forgiveness and a new covenant. Through Jesus, sacrifice, we are lifted up and restored to God, not in a cave or upon a remote mount, but everywhere we walk. For as believers in Christ, we walk with the gift of God’s eternal presence through his Holy Spirit:

Deuteronomy 33:27a (ESV)

BLCF: when_i_wait

27 The eternal God is your dwelling place,[a] and underneath are the everlasting arms.[b]

Footnotes: a. 1 Kings 19:12 Or a sound, a thin silence b. Deuteronomy 33:27 Or a dwelling place   c. Deuteronomy 33:27 Revocalization of verse 27 yields He subdues the ancient gods, and shatters the forces of old

 

BLCF: Still-and-Quiet1

Know His presence, when you hear His voice whisper your name through His Holy Spirit.

Let us pray…

 

BLCF: whispershearingthevoiceofgod

Closing Hymn #417: What a Fellowship, What a Joy Devine

Benediction – (Psalm 27:1 and 14):

Remember all believers can take heart and comfort expressed in Psalm 27, which begins with the assurance us that:

27 The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold[a] of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?

And Psalm 27, (verse 14), closes by urging us to not lose our faith, but to:

14 Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!

Footnotes: a. Deuteronomy 33:27 Or a dwelling place b. Deuteronomy 33:27 Revocalization of verse 27 yields He subdues the ancient gods, and shatters the forces of old   

 

BLCF: Psalm27_14