On July 20, the Church commemorates the prophet Elijah. Today's reading is from The Old Testament Collection: Preaching Christ in the Old Testament during the Church Year.
Like Elijah, we may often struggle to see or understand God’s plan and purpose during difficult times. Though we may be tempted to despair, it is during these uncertain times when we cling to the Lord’s promise to never forsake nor desert us.
Elijah had grown disappointed and severely disillusioned. The angel of the Lord gave him food and drink in the wilderness. He told the burned-out prophet to keep going. Elijah may have thought he had gone out into the middle of nowhere to die, but the Lord still had plans for him. The Lord was not yet finished with Elijah.
Over the next forty days, Elijah made his way some two hundred miles, all the way down to Mount Sinai. This, of course, was the mountain where the Lord had revealed himself to Israel after the exodus from Egypt. Here God had given the Ten Commandments. The Lord guided Elijah to a particular cave on the mountain, quite probably the very place where he had put Moses in the cleft of a rock. At that time he showed Moses his back, for no one could look upon the Lord God’s face and live. He had let all his goodness pass before his servant Moses at that cave as he proclaimed his name and his undeserved love (Exodus 33:18–23). Now the Lord was showing that he was not finished with Elijah, any more than he had been finished with Moses there on Mount Sinai.
Twice the Lord asked Elijah what he was doing. Both times Elijah answered with a litany of complaints about Israel forsaking the Lord’s covenant, throwing down his altars, and killing his prophets. Now, Elijah added, I’m the only one left—and they are coming after me!
You can imagine the kinds of questions Elijah might have been asking himself for the past forty days and more: Where did I go wrong? What more could I have done? How do I possibly put the pieces together after all of this? In what way can I meet this challenge of unbelief that looms so large? Elijah wanted to pack it all in and go home to heaven. He found it hard to imagine that the Lord would have any more use for him in this desperately wicked situation. Even if the Lord still had a role for Elijah to play, he no longer wished to play it.
You and I have experienced various times and situations in which we have extended ourselves greatly, above and beyond the call, only to end up disappointed. Perhaps we did everything we thought we could, seemingly to little or no avail. After a while we got an opportunity to disengage a bit and look back. Then what did we see? While aspects of the situation stood frustratingly outside the realm of our control, we have to admit that our own sins and flaws messed things up too. We certainly did not completely trust the Lord to take care of the matter. We may have thought our own planning and perspiration would bring success, even though the success remains God’s to grant and his alone. We can be left sort of like Elijah stewing in our juices: indignant with the Lord, even as guilt comes crashing upon us for presuming that he must dance to the tunes that we choose. . . .
You can never go wrong clinging to the Lord and his Word. Even if he does not seem to bring decisive victories in this world, the fact remains that he has overcome the world (John 16:33). God’s Word yields the victory for all eternity. “Whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s” (Romans 14:8). God isn’t finished with us yet.
Devotional reading is from The Old Testament Collection: Preaching Christ in the Old Testament during the Church Year, pages 1–3, 5 of “God Isn't Finished with Us Yet” © 2010 Concordia Publishing House. All rights reserved.
Lord, because of our sins, we are in “exile” from our true home. But we give You thanks daily that You send ministers to preach the Gospel of Christ’s death and resurrection, to absolve us of our sins in His name, and thus lead us to our spiritual home, now and in eternity. Amen.
Prayer is from The Lutheran Study Bible, page 1309 © 2009 Concordia Publishing House. All rights reserved.