August 9, 2022

The Path to Recovery 19-06-2022

19th June 2022 (Pentecost 2)

Sermon Title: The Path to Recovery  

(1 Kings 19:1-15 & Luke 8:33–39) 

                                                                                  By Heeyoung Lim

In 1 Kings 19:1-15, the prophet Elijah conflicts with the prophets of the rain god, Baal. A drought holds Israel, but the fake god, Baal is not able to bring rain. Elijah and Baal’s prophets hold a public test of strength. Elijah shows God’s power over creation, calling down fire on the sacrificial altar and then killing the prophets of Baal. 

Ahab told Jezebel everything Elijah had done. The fact that Ahab’s report was not about what God had done but about the deeds of Elijah. He had been impressed by God’s presence, but he had not been changed. Ahab the king was no closer to the Lord than before. He remained blind to spiritual reality.

Elijah’s victory on Mount Carmel was one of the glorious moments in Israel’s history. The Lord had revealed Himself in a dramatic way, in fire and in rain, and the people had responded in a massive confession, returning to their faith and covenant loyalty to God. However, king Ahab and his wife, Jezebel, hold Elijah responsible, and Jezebel threatens to kill him. 

Elijah tries to escape as far away as he can from Jezebel’s anger. In despair, he questions God’s call. Victory in one battle does not mean that the war is over. Even the strongest people can be driven by fear rather than being sustained by faith. There are challenges in being faithful and answering God’s call.

In despair, Elijah prays to God that he may die. When Elijah sat down in an isolated spot and exhausted in despair, he expressed his brokenness to God and wanted to resign from life itself and ministry. He was in despair at his failure even after a huge victory, and his perspective was distorted. However, God did not rebuke His despairing servant but allowed him to sleep and provided refreshment. The Lord was reminding Elijah of his past faithfulness and his mighty power through the special treatment and foods and then permitted further sleep and another provision of food.

God’s angel feeds Elijah twice, encouraging him to sleep and eat to be strengthened for the journey. He travels 40 days and nights to Horeb (Sinai), the mountain where God gave Israel the law and the covenant. 

The Lord was giving him time to himself before a significant encounter at Sinai. Elijah returns to the place where Moses encountered God, and God is with Elijah on the journey. 

God asks Elijah, “What are you doing here?” Elijah pours out his frustrations. “I’ve tried my best. I am the only one of your prophets left. Now they want to kill me.” In Elijah’s “deep down” frustrated moment, God is present and hears him. As Elijah watches from the cave, there is great rock-splitting wind, an earthquake, and fire. But God is not in any of these. After these dramatic signs there came a gentle whisper. God’s power is shown in “a sound of sheer silence” which is translated in some Bibles as “a still, small voice.” Elijah covers his face at this holy experience. It showed that he knew God was in this voice.

God asks the question again, “Elijah, what are you doing here?” “Go,” God says, “Return.” God tells Elijah to take up the work again. He had not moved forward in his emotions or his understanding. He seemed to be stuck in his gloom. But this time the Lord sent him back into the fight against Baal. The Lord cared for him, giving sleeping, refreshments, and strength, but sent him back into the battle instead of coddling Elijah’s fear or discouragement. Sometimes the only way to overcome our discouragement is to get back into the work to which the Lord has called us.

God nourishes and sustains Elijah and speaks to him in the depths of his solitude, in the sound of silence. God cares for us and supports us even in the lowest points of our lives. May we remind ourselves that God is often much more patient with us than we are with ourselves. When Elijah was in despair, God strengthened Elijah for the work God called him to do. God is present in our times of despair. God calls and sustains us in our ministry. We need to find opportunities to listen to God in the silence.

There are times when life overwhelms us, and we despair. What questions come to us in such deep-down moments? God nourishes and sustains us when we allow quiet moments in God’s presence to heal and restore us. God sends us back to continue our discipleship in our daily lives. In God’s love, we find truth, promise, and hope. 

Mount Carmel may be a place of retreat, but the path to recovery always takes us back into the mission and ministry God has given us. Our greatest need is a new understanding of God’s purpose. The road to recovery is the way of obedience. When times of discouragement and burnout overwhelm us, the path to recovery involves a new and deeper understanding of God’s purpose. May we renew our sense of God’s person and purpose and engage again in ministry.

God was not always present in the powerful and the dramatic. He did not always work through the sensational or the overpowering. This was not to minimize his presence on Mount Carmel, but it was not God’s only way of working. There was much more to God than wind and fire. Even Elijah needed to realize God’s unlimited ways. Sometimes people want to meet God who works through a visible and noisy miracle when they are weak, but God meets us even in silence, gives us healing and strength, and makes us live by the gospel and do ministry.

In Luke 8:26–39, Jesus visits a gentile region and meets a person possessed by demons. On the way there, Jesus calmed the lake storm. Now he calms the troubled man. The crowds reacted differently than others. People who saw a healing or miracle usually gathered to see Jesus and brought more people to be healed and helped by Jesus. However, this crowd demanded that Jesus leave their region immediately due to their material losses and worldly values. They were interested in the world’s cares and riches more than human need. They expelled the most powerful and caring existence without seeking his help for any of their friends and neighbours.

The man is healed, and God is found again in the silence. The man would like to go with Jesus, but Jesus sends him to take up his discipleship in everyday life. For this man, following meant going back home and telling the fearful friends and neighbours what Jesus had done for him. The man obeyed instantly. He took the good news to a town that had expelled Jesus, telling everyone exactly what Jesus had done for him. The call to faith is a call to commitment to the mission Jesus defines for us, not a call to a task we want to do. Have we heard or experienced the mission Jesus has for us? Are we committed to testify and obey wherever Jesus leads us?

The place of solitude with God during difficulties will be the place of recovery. To follow Jesus is to testify to what he has done for us so people can see who he is and have faith in him. May we make big decisions and commitments to listen, obey, testify, and believe. Our physical and emotional condition impacts our spiritual life, but may we experience God’s touching and helping hands in the seat of restoration, gain strength again, and become people who can carry out the missions that Christ has entrusted to us.

Thanks be to God! Amen.
(Ref. Bible, commentaries, theological books, UCA materials)