Do U Ever Feel God is Absent From Your Life?

Posted on : Aug 8th, 2013 | By | Category: This Sunday's Service

Everyone who has ever felt the presence of God in their life has also felt the absence of God.  I know it’s strange, but it’s true.  And sometimes, those who have felt the absence of God more profoundly than others also go on to experience the presence of God more profoundly.  That’s strange also.  But what is even stranger to me is that most of us have been taught that when we experience the absence of God in our lives, it’s because we’re bad, or we don’t have strong enough faith.  Is that really true?

Let’s take a look at the life and faith experience of one of the most faithful people in the entire bible, the prophet Elijah [E lié-juh].  If we were in a Jewish synagogue and the Rabbi mentioned the name of Elijah, everyone would “listen up.”  In the Jewish tradition, Elijah is the greatest prophet.

Elijah’s name in Hebrew means “My God is Yahweh” – the Hebrew name given for the Holy One, the God of Abraham.  Another rendering is “the one true God” which automatically tells you that Elijah lived in a time where there was fierce “competition” among gods!

Elijah lived in the 9th century BC [800 BC]. He was a famous prophet and a wonder-worker in the northern kingdom of Israel during the reign of King Ahab (Israel’s King).  Ahab and Elijah were constantly “at each other’s throat.”  According to the Biblical books of I & II Kings, Elijah was a fierce defender of the worship of only “Yahweh” (the God of Abraham).  Elijah condemned King Ahab for allowing the Israelites to worship the gods of Baal [some pronounce this as “bail;” and others pronounce it “bah’-ahl”].  One of the great stories about Elijah is his “test of fire” between the god of Baal and the God of Israel.  Here’s the story.  Imagine what Steven Spielberg could do with this material!

Elijah berates both the people of Israel and Ahab for their acquiescence in the worship of the gods of Baal. “How long will you go limping with two different opinions? If “Yahweh” is God, follow “Yahweh;” but if Baal is god, then follow Baal!” (1 Kings 18:21). The people were silent.

Then Elijah proposes a direct test of the powers of Baal and Yahweh. The people of Israel and 450 prophets of Baal are summoned to Mount Carmel. Two altars are built, one for Baal and one for Yahweh. Wood is laid on the altars. Two oxen are slaughtered and cut into pieces; the pieces are laid on the wood. Elijah then invites the priests of Baal to pray for fire to light the sacrifice. They pray from morning to noon without success. Elijah ridicules their efforts. They respond by cutting themselves and adding their own blood to the sacrifice (such mutilation of the body was strictly forbidden in the law of Moses). They continue praying until evening without success.

Elijah orders that the altar of Yahweh be drenched with water from “four large jars” poured three times (1 Kings 18:33–34). He asks God to accept the sacrifice. Fire falls from the sky, consuming the water, the sacrifice and the stones of the altar itself as well. Elijah seizes the moment and orders the death of the prophets of Baal.

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elijah#Challenge_to_Baal)

This “test of faith” set off a revolution among the remaining worshipers of the gods of Baal and they set out to kill Elijah.  After many instances where Elijah barely escapes death, he finally reaches the point of absolute exhaustion – both physically and spiritually, and he cries out to God, “ENOUGH!  ENOUGH!!!  I’ve been your true defender, O God, and you have abandoned me!  Leave me alone and let me die in peace!”  Elijah takes shelter in a cave and falls asleep, despondent and exhausted.  In his weakened state, and angel of God appears to him and, in good Jewish fashions, says, “Rise and eat a little something!”  Isn’t that what every Jewish mother does in times of crisis?

After a little rest and food, the angel tells Elijah to go outside and listen for God.

And the word of God came to him: “What are you doing here, Elijah?” Elijah replied, “I have been very zealous for you, O God. [But] the people of Israel have abandoned your covenant, broken down your altars, and put to death your prophets by sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me, too.”

God said, “Go out and stand on the mountain, for I, your God, am about to pass by.”

Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks by God’s power – but God was not in the whirlwind. After the wind there was an earthquake – but God was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire – but God was not in the fire.  And after the fire came “a still silence” [a gentle silence or soft-spoken voice].

In the still small voice (quiet, silence) Elijah hears God.

This story is important for two reasons.  First, it shows us that the times when we feel God is absent in our lives is not because our faith is not strong enough.  No one has stronger faith than Elijah, and Elijah experiences the real absence of God in his life.

The second reason this story is so important is oftentimes we want God to be big and bold in our lives – when in reality God is just quietly there.  In my faith, I find more and more often that when I sense the absence of God, it’s because I’m trying to find God in the wrong places.  Sometimes it’s in the “stillness,” the hushed silence that we can find and hear God.  This Sunday, we’ll look at how these two experiences in Elijah’s life are similar to ours.

Blessings,

Dan

~ This Sunday’s Scriptures ~

I Kings 19:  9-20

Full of fear, Elijah fled for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his attendant there, while he himself went a day’s journey into the desert. He came to a broom tree, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. He said to God, “I have had enough. Take my life; for I am no better than my ancestors.” Then Elijah lay down under the tree and fell asleep.

Suddenly an angel of God touched him and said, “Get up and eat.”

Elijah looked around, and there near his head was a cake of bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate the bread and drank the water and then lay down again.

The angel of God came back a second time and touched him and said, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.” So Elijah got up and ate and drank some more.

Strengthen by that food; Elijah traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God. There he went into a cave and spent the night.

And the word of God came to him: “What are you doing here, Elijah?” Elijah replied, “I have been very zealous for you, O God. [But] the people of Israel have abandoned your covenant, broken down your altars, and put to death your prophets by sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me, too.”

God said, “Go out and stand on the mountain, for I, your God, am about to pass by.”

Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks by God’s power – but God was not in the whirlwind. After the wind there was an earthquake – but God was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire – but God was not in the fire.  And after the fire came a soft-spoken voice.

When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

Elijah replied, “I have been very zealous for you, O God. [But] the people of Israel have abandoned your covenant, broken down your altars, and put to death your prophets by sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me, too.”

God said to Elijah, “Go back the way you came, to the Desert of Damascus. When you get there, anoint Hazael as ruler of Aram. Also anoint Jehu as ruler over Israel, and anoint Elisha, to succeed you as prophet.”

So Elijah went from there, and found Elisha. He was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen, and he himself was driving the twelfth pair. Elijah went up to him and threw his cloak around him. Elisha immediately left his oxen and ran after Elijah.

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