What does God sound like?
So, when God shows up and meets with discouraged, depressed people who love him, what does he sound like? Even that question, ‘what does God sound like?’ is kind of a weird question. I mean, the Bible quotes both God the Father and Jesus in both testaments. We have quotes of him, but we’re never really told what God sounds like.
After all, doesn’t it matter what someone sounds like to understand what they’re saying? Take this simple phrase, three words: “I love it.” How somebody says those three words really can make you think about what they really mean. So, put that in the context of Christmas morning with a 14-year-old boy. If you give that 14-year-old boy an Xbox 1, “I love it!” If you give him a Christmas sweater from his grandmother, “I love it.” How we say things really affects the meaning of it.
So again, what does God sound like in your head? We’re going to listen to a recording or voiceover artist read today’s Scripture passage. This guy is trained and talented to communicate literature. He’s not overly dramatic. He reads it pretty flat. But as you hear this guy quote Elijah and quote God and use his voice to communicate that, I want you to be thinking, “What is that like?” How does that affect how I receive that information? So, let’s listen to 1 Kings altogether here.
“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?’
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 a sword, and I, even I only, am left and they seek my life to take it away.’
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. And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper, and when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave.
And behold there came a voice to him and said, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’
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.’
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 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. And the one who escapes from the sword of Hazael, shall Jehu put to death, and the one who escapes from sword of Jehu shall Elisha put to death. 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.’”
Does God sound like that? Why does every audio-recording of the Bible have to be a bass-baritone male voice? I love when this guy reads. When he gets to God, he switches into a little bit of a raspy voice. For my comic book nerd friends, it’s like Bruce wing turning into Batman. “What are you doing here, Elijah?” But when we hear him talk, we get an image of God in our heads. The question is, “Is it accurate?”
When we read the Bible, we – and maybe I’m the only weird one that talks in his own head all day with myself and with others who may or may not exist and God and I are in here – but when we read the scriptures, we give Jesus and God a voice. Whether we realize it or not, when we read and listen to the Bible, especially the parts that quote God and Jesus, we subconsciously give God and Jesus a voice and that voice informs how we perceive the text. So, we always have to be going back to the text to inform us what God and Jesus will sound like.
Let’s use Jesus as a case study, and I’m going to warn you, I am going for the world record of the longest introduction to a sermon ever. We will get to Kings. Hang with me. We’re going to spend some time looking at Jesus and figuring out, do we hear him accurately? So, I’m going to tell you a couple of sections of scripture, we’re going to read them, and see what Jesus might have sounded like in those moments.
So, Matthew 23, Jesus is speaking to the religious leaders of his day. He’s describing how they’re so passionate about being right, but they’re missing out on being righteous. Then Jesus switches who he’s talking to. He goes from talking to the leaders and he starts talking to Jerusalem, which is a city which has been the capital of Israel, which are God’s people. So, he’s kind of talking to Jerusalem as if he’s talking to all of Israel. And when Jesus talks to Jerusalem, he says this in Matthew 23:37.
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!”
Boy, that last phrase is a hard one! When you get to the end there, does Jesus start getting a little bit of finger pointing going on?
“Jerusalem, I can’t believe you guys! You’re murderers! I would have helped you, but you didn’t want it.”
Is that how Jesus sounds? Or was Jesus weeping when he said those words? I think the text helps us because Jesus actually looks at Jerusalem and says,
“I’d like to be your mom. I’d like to be the chicken that takes her brood under her wings, but you’re like a teenage girl that wants to run away.”
How does Jesus sound when you read him? How about in the Gospel of John? The religious leaders here are trying to trap Jesus, and they bring a woman before Jesus who was caught in the act of adultery. I mean, these are pretty sick religious leaders to use that moment and that woman to try to trick Jesus because the penalty in the law for what she had done was death, so they were kind of setting him up to see what he was going to do. As they’re trying to trick Jesus, he stoops down and writes in the dirt and then looks at them and says,
“Hey, whichever one of you guys doesn’t have any sin, you obey the law and kill her.”
One by one, they kind of disappear. And then Jesus looks at the woman, who is still there – it’s him and her – he looks at her and asks her, “Where are your accusers? Who’s going to condemn you? Who’s left?” And this is what she says. She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go and from now on, sin no more.” How did Jesus sound?
I was talking to Brian Gilbert. He leads worship over at the Northwest campus. He’s actually doing that right now over at Northwest. And we were reading through this passage, and he said to me – and it blew me away – He said, “I can hear Jesus say, ‘I don’t condemn you.’ And then read the next phrase as if Jesus is condemning her.” “Neither do I condemn you. Now, don’t you sin anymore. Don’t you do that.” But what if Jesus, after he says, “I don’t condemn you.” was looking at a woman who was probably used by a man, used by religious leaders, and saying, “Go and sin no more. Don’t live that life. That’s not what you were made for.”
How do you hear Jesus? Matthew Chapter 14, and this is my favorite. Jesus miraculously walks on water. His friends, the disciples, are in a boat in a lake and Jesus is walking on water, and one of Jesus’ friends sees him and basically gets a little impulsive and says,
“Hey, if you’re Jesus, let me come out there, too, Jesus.”
Peter flips his legs over the edge of the boat and starts walking on water towards Jesus. This unbelievable moment! But when Peter gets out there, he’s watching Jesus; and then all of a sudden, he might see some waves over here, some white caps over here. He gets a little nervous and starts looking around, and as soon as he does, he starts sinking in the lake. And he says, “Jesus, save me!” And Jesus comes over there and saves him, and then Jesus says this: Matthew 14:31. I’m going to just leave this one up here. You read it in your heads. In your head, how does Jesus sound? How do you hear Jesus talking to Peter? Is Jesus disappointed in Peter?
“Peter, I invested all of this time in you, and this is as far as you can get? Oh, you of little faith. Why do you doubt?”
Then Jesus grabs a hold of his hand, pulls him across the water back to the boat as if he’s a 3-year-old at Walmart. Is that how we hear Jesus talk? The text is really clear. Jesus says that when he and Peter are still on the water. They’re on the water! There are 11 people still back in the boat, and yet you can read a heading in the Bible that says, “Jesus rebuked Peter.” Really? Is that really what happened? Or what if Jesus said that with a smile as he’s pulling Peter up out of the water?
“Peter, I got you, bro. You’re OK. You made it. You were so close. You acted just like me. I’m out here; you’re out here, and then you kind of got your eyes off. Let’s go back and check on the other 11. They’re probably freaking out.”
But we add so much like Jesus rebuking this man who just walked on water.
There’s a moment in the book of Luke when Jesus is in a huge crowd of people. And among that crowd, there was this woman. She had been sick all of her life and had used all of her savings with physicians to try to get better and it didn’t work out. But she had this crazy idea in her brain that if she could get close enough to Jesus, even to just touch his clothes, that she would be healed. So, she took a risk, got into this group of people, comes up to Jesus, and gets close enough. The text tells us, she touched the hem of His garment and she was healed, just like she thought would happen. And then Jesus says this out loud,
“Who was it that touched me?”
Now he’s in a big group of people. It’s a crowd. It’s like walking through the mall at Christmas and asking who bumped into you. Everybody bumped into you. Everyone in the crowd denies it. And so, Jesus speaks again and says,
“Someone touched me, for I perceived that power has gone out from me.”
So, what’s Jesus doing there? Is Jesus trying to make sure he has some bodyguards so that he has some personal space? He’s trying to make sure that nobody rips off his power? No one could soil his garments?
“All right. Who did it? Who touched me? Who took the power? Confess now, and I’m going to go easy on you.”
What if Jesus in asking that question, as he often did with his questions, was actually making an invitation to this woman instead of a condemnation? Jesus knew who she was and where she was at the time. But what if the question was he knew how much faith it took for that to happen. And,
“Hey, I want to actually meet you. I actually want to talk with you. Who did that? Who was it?”
It was an invitation,
“Hey come and talk to me. I’m right here. Come out of the shadows; come out of isolation; come out of your cave.”
How do you hear Jesus? And for us today, how are we going to hear our God talk to Elijah in his cave. I think in all of these passages, the key is going back to the text and looking for clues to inform us how do we hear God and Jesus talk in these moments.
So back to Elijah. Elijah, he’s weary. He is afraid. He’s gone from hiding out in a forest, and he’s taken the lease out on a cave in the middle of nowhere. He’s residing in a cave all by himself.
How we hear God, how we here Elijah is going to lead us to how we interpret this passage and get to the big idea, which I believe is: Weary servants don’t weary God. Weary servants don’t weary God. How does God talk and sound to weary servants? The majority of the text today is a dialogue back and forth. So, we’re going to begin with Elijah and look what he says. He says the same thing word for word twice.
This is in 1Kings 19:10. Elijah said in response to God’s question,
“What are you doing here, Elijah?”
Elijah 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 a sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life to take it away.”
So, we’re going to look at it. I built this chart to try to keep us all on the same page to hear the voice of Elijah because there are two Elijahs that we can hear. The first is “complaining, whining, crazy Elijah” or there’s “lamenting Elijah.” Elijah begins by describing his view of God. “I have been very jealous for the Lord, the God of hosts,” the God of the armies. If this is complaining Elijah, then he is, in a sense, accusing God and saying, “Hey, do you know what I’ve done? I’ve been very jealous for you down here. I’ve done my job.”
He’s defending who he is and what he’s done on behalf of God, or lamenting Elijah is just being honest. He’s saying, “I have lived my life for you.” Elijah was simply stating the fact that, while not a perfect man, he has lived his life knowing he is a servant of the God of the armies, and now Elijah was truly passionate about the God of the armies and telling him that face to face. After this initial statement, Elijah goes on to use several images to describe God’s people. Elijah says,
“Israel has forsaken God’s covenant, thrown down God’s altars, and killed God’s prophets.”
Well, if this is “whining Elijah,” he’s critically accusing God’s people. He’s telling God your people stink. Look at what they’ve done. They’ve done everything they’re not supposed to do. I’m going to list out the evidence and build the case against them. Lamenting Elijah is a heartbroken man over Israel. He’s telling God, Israel rejected their loving God. Elijah, it seems, truly cared about what Israel did in response to God’s revelation on Mount Carmel in the fire and God’s revelation in the law. Elijah was upset by the fact that some people didn’t love God or rejected God.
As Dale Davis writes, “Is Elijah depressed? Is he despondent? I think so. Over what? Over Yahweh’s interests – his covenant, his altars, his prophets. Such intensity and God-centeredness seem strange to us; Indeed, it exposes our frivolity by comparison,” our foolishness by comparison. Elijah is overwhelmed that people are rejecting the covenant of their God.
“But if we can construe Elijah as a semi-whacko ‘covenanter’” which means, if we can just turn Elijah into “crazy, whining, complaining Elijah” then we are allowed to “more easily justify ourselves” in our view when God’s people break covenant with God. Well, Elijah is just crazy. That’s just the way he is. “But if Elijah’s answer to Yahweh is not swept aside, you are left with unnerving questions. What is it that you get despondent about? Do you ever get depressed for God’s sake?”
So, we’re a pretty open family of God, I think, in the years that I’ve been here. You think about things that have happened to God’s people, or you’re in a life group and there’s someone out there who is just basically stiff-arming God and rejecting a relationship with God.
What happens to you? Do we want to run to a cave because people are rejecting God? Or is that just part of the Christian life? Now, I’m going to pray for them. Seems like Elijah was torn up over it. Elijah continues by describing himself as being alone. “I, even I only, am left.” Perhaps his most famous phrase, unfortunately. So how do we hear Elijah in this moment? Complaining Elijah seems to be saying, ” I am the only one down here who gives a care. God, it’s me. Me and You. I’m the last one on Team God. Everybody else has quit. It’s just me.”
The hard part with that is we know from the text earlier that Elijah knows he’s actually not alone. He met a guy named Obadiah, who feared the Lord greatly. Obadiah saved at least 100 prophets. So, there are at least 101 people he knows that are alive. So, is that really what he’s saying?
Or is lamenting Elijah sharing, “I feel alone and isolated.” Elijah’s living condition reveals his spiritual and mental condition. “I feel like I’m alone. I’m out here by myself.” When the Great Revival didn’t happen, Elijah ran to the alone zone, pulled in on himself, and started to believe I’m the only one out here.
Finally, Elijah reveals that he’s on Israel’s most wanted list and he will be shot on sight.
“They’re going to kill me. They seek my life.”
They’ve killed all the prophets and Elijah is next in line. If this is crazy Elijah, then he’s looking at God saying, “I don’t deserve this. They’re coming after me now. They’re going to kill me. What about me?” But lamenting Elijah is looking at his God and saying, “I am afraid.” If you knew you had a lot of people who 95-percent probability wanted you dead, would you be afraid? I would, and I think Elijah would be, too.
So how do we hear Elijah? Even more importantly, how do we hear God in this text? Remember the question that our voiceover artist began with. “What are you doing here, Elijah?” How do you hear God when he says that? Does God invade Elijah’s cave, get into his personal space, and speak with a deep bass, raspy voice?
In my brain, I thought of Elijah as a middle school boy or girl, not in maturity but in a sense in the situation – that you have this middle school boy or girl who’s coming home from school and something happened to them there. They come in the door. They drop their backpack. They go to their room. They close the door. They sit on their bed, and they’re all by themselves trying to figure out life. I have two girls in middle school actually. So, imagine one of them in that scenario. She’s come home. It’s obvious that something has happened. She’s bone weary. Maybe she was made fun of. Maybe she was bullied. Maybe there isn’t a very good teacher and the teacher is really unkind.
Whatever the scenario is, my kid is alone, scared, and tired. In your brain, see a girl like that walk to her room. Maybe there’s a tear on her cheek; maybe she’s doing that hugging thing that we humans do where we kind of hug ourselves to try to make ourselves feel better.
Now see me as Dad. I’m sitting on the sofa and I see this whole progression happen from the front door, down the hallway, hear the door. I stand up. That’s my kid. I stand up and I walk to our hallway, which in our house, we have to turn right and go down and her doors on the left, and I open that door, and I say the question, “What are you doing in here?”
So, if I can, as you all are sitting here listening to me, ask you to actively listen to one thing. It’s this moment right now. I am convinced that a lot of people hear God enter Elijah’s cave just like that. “What are you doing in here, Elijah?” And what makes me even more afraid is that you in your caves, wherever they are, whatever brings you about to want a runaway like Elijah, that when God visits you through his word, the Spirit, or God’s people, you hear him the exact same way. “Ryan, what are you doing in here? Ferguson, what’s your problem?”
Is that how God sounds? We have the same choice. We’re faced with looking at God in kind of two different directions. Just like Elijah: there’s “mad God” and there’s “tender God.” “What are you doing here, Elijah?” If we hear mad God speak to Elijah, then the voice sounds like he’s looking at Elijah and saying, “What are you doing here, you idiot? Why are you in here? What’s your problem?”
God has come to pull Elijah out of his cave, kicking and screaming, and he begins the process with an accu-question. Do you know what an accu-question is? It’s an accusation in the form of a question.
So, imagine me at home. I walk into our kitchen. There are dishes all over the counter. My three kids and Rebecca are sitting in our living room relaxing, and I ask the question, “Am I the only one who knows how to do dishes?” Am I really asking for a dialogue and an intellectual, “Do you have the ability to do dishes? Because I will teach you.” No. I’m making sure they all know that there are dishes to be done and more than likely I’m going to do them.
Mad God – that’s how he sounds. He’s not asking an honest question. What are you doing here? He’s making a point. However, if we read this as tender God, then God, like Jesus with the woman that was healed by faith, then God, Yahweh, the God of the armies is looking at Elijah and saying, “Tell me how you’re doing.”
If I return to my example of my middle school daughter and I go into that room, which father do you want me to be? Do you want me to look at my Kezziah, my 13-year-old and say, “What are you doing in here? Why are you so mopey? Get over it. Let’s go.” Or do you want to see me go to the end of her bed, sit down, and say, “Hey, kiddo, what are you doing in here? What’s going on? Tell me about it.” Guess what. God’s a way better dad than me. He’s a better dad than you or your dad. And I believe with all my heart that God was outside this cave, talking to Elijah, and he really, really wanted to hear from his servant, his prophet, and his son.
The next interaction we see between God and Elijah is primarily non-verbal though God says a couple of things. So, we’re going to call it “God’s visitation” I’m going to read this again, 1 Kings 19:11 through 13.
“And Yahweh said, ‘Go out and stand on the Mount before the Lord.’” [He was talking to Elijah.] “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 is not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper.
And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And behold there came a voice to him and said, [same question] ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’”
Sometimes dads asked the same question twice. God asked Elijah a question. And now God visits him. God invites Elijah, “Come out of your cave.” Come out of your cave, and then kind of all this crazy stuff starts happening. You know, winds strong enough to blow up rocks and earthquakes and fire, and God does sometimes show up to his people in those types of powerful displays.
We see it even in Elijah’s life a few chapters over where God sends down fire to consume a sacrifice. We see this in Israel’s history where at one point God’s people Israel were escaping from another nation, and God led them through the desert in this pillar of fire. So, there are times where God shows up in those types of displays, but in Kings, God’s presence was not in these miraculous moments.
God’s presence was a thin, small voice. If this is mad God, then all of this demonstration of power is nothing but an intimidation tactic. “Look at who I am Elijah and get out of the cave.”
This is the dad standing outside of his daughter’s bedroom saying, “Do you know who I am? You need to get out.” Or it’s God in the thin whisper, using the silent treatment against his son. Weary and afraid, Elijah apparently needed more than fire because immediately after the fire, there was that low whisper, or, as it has been translated, the sound of thin silence. Things got quiet; really, really quiet, and Elijah knew something was about to happen. He knew the presence of God in that moment.
So, if we hear a tender God, then this is a demonstration of intimacy. God paints a fully accurate picture of who he is in power and his presence can be there, but his presence was in this small whisper. The God of the armies, who sometimes shows up in judgment in these powerful displays, was not showing up in judgment at the entrance of Elijah’s cave.
He was showing up to talk to his weary and afraid son. God knows how to approach his sons and daughters at individual moments in their lives, sometimes in pillars of fire and sometimes in quiet. Elijah didn’t move a muscle during the powerful displays.
But as soon as that thin whisper showed up, he started moving towards the cave. He went to the entrance, and he kind of does this weird cloth-around- his-head thing, which you kind of have to know a little bit of the history of Israel because Elijah would have remembered this other guy who was a leader of Israel, who at one point in his life was also in a cave, and God passed by. And Moses was his name. Moses got to see God, in a sense, and was so affected by it that his face literally glowed so that the children of Israel threw a towel over his head.
So, Elijah was just in prep mode to see God. He was throwing that cloak SPF around his face. No God sunburn was going to happen, no glow. He covered up and just went because he knew, he knew he was about to interact with Yahweh himself. He knew it was coming. God got Elijah closer to leaving the cave through an intimate small voice. The God of the armies, the Lord of hosts is powerful, and he is personal.
A few weeks ago, we looked at a guy named Obadiah, who interacted with Elijah. Obadiah feared the Lord and, in a moment, where Obadiah was really afraid, the God of the armies is brought into the equation and Obadiah acts. When fear threatens obedience, the God of the armies encourages and comforts.
Elijah needed more than powerful demonstrations. He needed an intimate conversation. Once more, God was not worn out by a weary servant. He sat down and talked. So, after Elijah’s response, God replies with a plan. God tells Elijah a couple of things, kind of three different things. He wanted Elijah to do a couple of errands. He wanted Elijah to find his replacement.
And then he told Elijah that he wasn’t alone. So, if we hear the mad God in God’s plan, then basically God’s looking Elijah and saying, “Get back to work and you’re fired and you’re wrong. Get back to work. I’ve got a couple more things for you to do. Get out of the cave. Do these two things. After that, find your replacement. You’re out of here and let me correct you on your assumption about being alone. It’s not true. I have seven thousand.” If that’s mad God, then that’s what that text means.
But if it’s tender God talking to him in this moment, then God’s looking at him and saying, “It’s time for you to rest. I have a plan. I have your replacement because you care about my people, and I still have faithful people, Elijah.” Could it be possible that the God of the Army’s recognizes the condition of Elijah and is saying, “It’s time for you to retire. I get it, buddy. You’re worn out. I’ve got somebody else. Your work with God’s people, it’s going to continue to move forward.” God takes a moment here to comfort his son. He lets us him on a secret.
“Elijah, you’re not alone. I’ve actually got more than 101 that you know about. I have 7,000.”
This is the part where I wish we could have gotten a reaction from Elijah. Because if it’s true that Elijah was really passionate about God’s people following his covenant and not breaking down altars and not following the Baals, and the Asherahs, and the Molechs, and all of that stuff. If he was really passionate, what do you think? Remember, he’s still got the towel on his head. He’s still standing at the entrance of the cave with his face covered and God saying, “Listen you’re not alone. There are 7,000 who haven’t kissed Baal yet.”
What an intimate image! The intimate God, an intimate conversation, giving an intimate image to his boy. There are 7000 people who have kissed him yet. Certainly, inside his cloak, he was going crazy. There are 7,000 who are still following the covenant! There’re altars somewhere! I just haven’t seen them. There are some people who aren’t murderers!
How we hear God, I think, informs this entire conversation. It informs us how God hears his weary servants: mad God or tender God. Let me give you four reasons, real fast why I think it’s tender God.
Number 1) a mad God is inconsistent with the previous tender care. This is just the story of Elijah’s life. He’s been cared for at a brook that had water during drought and a raven brought him food. When that source dried up, no pun intended, he went to a widow, who didn’t have any food to give, but God miraculously prepared her to be able to help out Elijah. When Elijah freaks out and goes into the wilderness all by himself, just completely worn out, God sends an angel who appears to be a chef and actually bakes food on a hot rock and brings along a jug of water and sets it down and tells him to eat, nap, eat, nap, eat, nap. It makes no sense that all of a sudden, God energizes that food to let Elijah travel for 40 days on just those meals, but now God’s really ticked off and showing up. It’s inconsistent.
Number 2) God’s response to Elijah’s lament. God responds to Elijah’s lament with a plan, not correction. God’s plan of “Go to these people, anoint these people King,” is part of a plan to take care of Elijah’s lament about the people who broke covenant with God. God is saying, “I will take care of what you just spoke about. I will take care of that.” God in a sense agrees with Elijah’s lament. How can you do that in anger or be mad?
Number 3) God tells Elijah it’s time for him to stop. If the first two are true and then God steps in with a replacement, it’s time for him to rest. You’ve done your job.
And number 4) This is actually future in the story. But it lays out a consistent theme of who God is with Elijah, and I think this is hilarious. God never lets Elijah die. Ever!
Elijah is the guy who is in the forest, who looks at God, and in a sense, in a bit of a suicidal way saying, “I’m not going to do it, but I want you to take me now.” Like that’s how far, that was his dark pit. That’s how far. God preserves Elijah through all of that, and then at the end, the final story is “Oh yeah, you’re never going to die. I’m actually going to take you.” and God takes him in a fire. God’s presence and power were in the fire when Elijah went home.
As I look at God, especially in the person of Jesus, it’s impossible for me to hear the mad God storming into Elijah’s cave to reprimand him for being a horrible servant. I see a weary and faithful servant, afraid for his life and worn out, and I hear a tender God who wants to hear from his son and respond. Weary servants don’t weary God.
So, a few implications for us to walk out with. 1) How you hear God is evidence of what you believe about God. How you hear God is evidence of what you believe about God. I’ve tried in this message even to model looking at the scriptures, Kings, and Jesus in the Gospels, and saying to you as my brothers and sisters, when we read God’s Word, let’s remember that we do assign voice and tone to these quotes of people. So, let’s do the work to look at the text. What does it say? Is God really being angry here? what’s the story? What details did the Spirit give me that let me interpret how this stuff is being said? Because what I believe about God, will inform how I hear God.
Number 2) How do you hear God when it’s about your life? Hear, not only just how you read the scriptures, but how you hear him in your head, in your life, in your prayers, in the spirit, from other brothers and sisters. When you’re in a season of discouragement and depression, how do you hear God talk to you? Is God a disappointed, huffy, crotchety grandpa-like guy in your mind? Or is he a dad, sitting down, asking you, “Tell me about it.” What if you’re weary?
This world wears us down. It’s exhausting. So much coming at us, so much junk. Then, even with the realization we got from Ecclesiastes last spring that life is toil. It’s work. It’s exhausting. It’s hard. Throw into that mix suffering and sickness, and you can have a really, really tired Christian, who’s sitting in their cave exhausted. How do you hear God in that moment? Is God a football coach, screaming at you from the sideline. Do more! Work harder! Go faster! Let’s go!
Or does God give you a hug? “I know, you’re tired. I got you. I’m a refuge. I’m a shield. I’m a strong tower for people to run up into whenever they’re weary. How about if you’re in here and you are afraid and fearful? Is God’s method of dealing with fearful people to look at them and go, “Stop it!”
Functionally, as you think about God and you’re afraid of whatever’s going on in life, is that what you hear? Or does God say,
“I’m your protector. I go before you. I’m the God of the armies, the God of the multitude. The God of power.”
How does God deal with us as his servants, as people who love his covenant? How does God deal with us when we sin? I mean, that has to be where God pulls out the deep bass, raspy voice, right?
That’s when God drops the hammer is when we sin. That’s where God has a quiver full of lightning bolts up in heaven ready to throw them down at all those screwups at North Hills Church. Ferguson again. So sick and tired of this guy. Not sure that deserved a laugh.
I want us to wrestle with this. I know those of us who grew up in church, we’ve been forced into saying, “No, I don’t believe that.” I want to know if, functionally, when you sin, that’s the God you hear or you believe in. What if? What would happen to God’s voice if we believe what Paul wrote that it is God’s kindness that leads you to repentance.
So, when I sin and through the Spirit I see it, and I go, “I don’t want to live that way. I want to follow God’s way because I’m your kid!” I want to live that way! That in that moment, it is not God’s disappointment, his anger that leads me to repent. It’s God’s kindness. “Ryan, no, don’t live that way.” The woman caught in adultery, that’s not the life for you. It is God’s kindness that leads us to repentance.
Finally, how you hear God informs, does not control, but it informs how you will treat others. If you see God as the God who goes into discouraged, depressed, fearful, sinning people and rebukes them and goes after them, then more than likely you will act the same. We mirror what we worship. That’s why what we believe about God is so important. It’s so practical. What does God sound like? I hope to your ear, you hear a tender Father, who wants nothing more than to speak with his son or daughter and have you tell him how you’re doing, sitting in your cave. And through his power and presence, he will invite you to come out to him. My friends, remember God is not weary with you.