“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” (Psalm 19:14)
Elijah and Peter are two people in the Bible you may not think to compare often. But we meet Elijah after a gigantic spiritual battle on Mount Carmel. He has a spiritual pow-wow with false prophets. Nothing happens on the altar of the false prophets. But on Elijah’s altar, the LORD shows up, burns the altar despite water having poured over the altar! After he then follows God’s order to demolish the false prophets, he flees. He is exhausted spiritually, physically, and emotionally. He fled for his life to Mount Horeb, leaving his servant to his safety. In this place, Elijah asks God to take his life, stating that he is no better than his fathers: “4 But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a solitary broom tree. He asked that he might die: “It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my ancestors.”” (1 Kings 19:4).
But God does not grant his wish. God sends angels to bring Elijah food, and allows him to rest. “5 Then he lay down under the broom tree and fell asleep. Suddenly an angel touched him and said to him, “Get up and eat.” 6 He looked, and there at his head was a cake baked on hot stones, and a jar of water. He ate and drank, and lay down again.” (1 Kings 19:5). We can see from this that God meets us where we are, not where we think we are or where we want to be. God meets us where we actually are spiritually, physically, and emotionally. God meets Elijah, not only by giving him the material things he needs, but also by being present! Last week, we saw that Jacob came face to face with God in the form of a divine being, and wrestled with him. This week we meet Elijah and Peter encountering God.
How does God encounter Elijah? He meets us where we are bringing us rest, food, and being patient with us. Then he asks us as he asks Elijah: “Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”” (1 Kings 19:9). Of course, God knows. Why is God asking? God wants to hear from Elijah. God wants to hear from us. This is why prayer is necessary. Prayers are not necessary to inform God of the situation, but for us to have the opportunity to tell God what is on our mind, heart, and soul. Then God tells Elijah that God is going to meet Elijah, in person! “11 He said, “Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.”” (1 Kings 19:11). And how does God meet Elijah? Let us turn to the passage:
11 He said, “Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces 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 a sound of sheer silence. 13 When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. Then there came a voice to him that said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” (1 Kings 19:11-13).
God does not meet Elijah in ways we might expect: Not in the great wind that split mountains and broke rocks in pieces. Not in the earthquake. And not even in the fire. But in the sound of a sheer silence. There came a still small voice of the LORD. This shows that no matter where we are, no matter how tired, or how much in despair we are, God will still speak to us, and that God’s presence alone has power to rescue us. And there when God gives us rest, and prepares us to meet God, God also gives us a new commission. But not in places that would seem obvious that God would speak to us. But God will speak in a voice, still, small voice, in sheer silence which we could only hear if we were listening for it, and if we were prepared for it, and if we were looking for it!
How does God meet Peter? After Jesus feeds the multitude with five loaves bread and two fish which he blessed, “immediately” he instructs his disciples to go on a boat. Jesus retreats to pray, alone: “22Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. 23And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone,” (Matthew 14:22-23). See how after a great accomplishment, Elijah facing the false prophets on Mount Carmel or Jesus feeding the multitude, there is solitude, being alone, and praying to God. In the solitude, God meets us.
Later that night, early in the morning, the disciples meet Jesus on the water. Encountering Jesus on the water, the think they might be seeing a ghost! But it is Jesus. Only Peter has boldness and audacity to ask Jesus, ““Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.”” (Matthew 14:28). He is the only one who has faith that allows him to even imagine, dream, and to ask Jesus to let him come towards him on the water! Jesus says to Peter, “Come.” And Peter does, walking on the water just like Jesus, and he approaches Jesus…that is, until he realizes what a miraculous event it is to be walking towards Jesus on the water. Little did he realize it was faith in Jesus that was allowing him to walk on water. And the more miraculous fact wasn’t that he was walking on water, but that he was walking towards a man who was also God! He was walking towards God, and he happened to be on the water. Even when we doubt our faith while walking on water, we can still cry out to God like Peter. He cried out to Jesus, “Lord, save me” (Matthew 14:30). And Jesus reached out his hand immediately and caught Peter, saving him.
Are we ever doing something and then we catch a glimpse of what we are doing, only to be surprised we are actually doing it? And then we start doubting, causing ourselves to sink into the depths of the ocean? I am experiencing something like that these days. I am working on a doctorate degree. It is a miracle in itself, I think, that I have gotten accepted into this program, and that I have come as far as I did. But about a month ago, I felt I could imagine and picture myself actually finishing my dissertation. And then somehow, I froze. I was surprised I have come so far. But I forgot that it is not my doing. Just like Peter, I caught a glimpse of myself walking on water, quite a miraculous event. But I focused on myself. I thought, how could I possibly keep going and actually finish my dissertation? Peter thought to himself, probably something like, how are my legs carrying me to walk on water? How is my faith big enough and strong enough that I can walk on water following Jesus’ command? But you see, it is God using our faith, allowing our faith to bring us closer to God. Of course, we can believe in anything we want to, and we can have the “faith” of a mustard seed, but nothing needs to happen if that belief/faith is in anything but God. If that belief/faith is in anything but Jesus, nothing might happen. So, when you happen to catch a glimpse of yourself acting in ways that is beyond yourself, believe that it is God using you for God’s kingdom, then you won’t sink into the ocean, but you will keep walking on water towards Jesus.
What is it that during these days of pandemic that God is calling you to do? Is it to overcome your spiritual, physical, and emotional exhaustion? Let God take care of you. Ask God to give you rest and sustenance the way he did to prophet Elijah on Mount Horeb. Is it to reach out to others who are even more isolated and lonelier than you? Reach out to them, be there for them that they might not feel so isolated and alone. Is it to continue to read bible and pray faithfully as you have all other times in your life? Keep up the faith, and keep up your daily spiritual practices! Is it to keep walking on water in whatever action God is allowing you to do that is beyond your own powers to walk towards Jesus in some way? Whatever it is, we must pay attention. Listen and look for God’s still small voice in things that are not obviously the ways we might expect God to speak to us. Just like it was for Elijah, there may be a fire, an earthquake, and great winds as we had the other day in the tropical storm, but God may not speak to us there. But in a quiet place, in a still small voice, perhaps in a verse in the Bible, perhaps through a child, perhaps through someone you had considered isn’t such a “Godly” person, in the least expected places, God may be speaking to you. Listen, Look, Feel, and experience the encounter with God.
If you are like Peter and can imagine God using your gifts beyond your imagination, ask God to call you to Godself, and walk on water towards Jesus, doing the work of God’s kingdom. If it is bringing grocery to someone, or calling someone on the phone to check up on them, or sending someone a letter, whatever it may be, a small act is not a small act in ways God wants to use you. Your actions may have abundant blessing in someone else’s life. And at the same time, answering God’s calling will be an experience of your life, doing greater things for God than you ever thought possible. Let our faith be in God, not in our selves. Let us not be limited by our own powers, but believe and trust that God is good and that in God we can. We can do all things in God, for God’s glory.
Last but not least, as it is stated in Romans 10:15, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” We often think of sharing the good news, the Christian gospel, using words and concepts we think will explain our faith. But we can bring the good news through the way we live our lives and through actions we take, and by things we don’t say as well as things we explicitly say. Bring good news to yourself, and to others this week. Whether it be through sharing a Bible verse, or telling someone God loves them, or reminding yourself that you yourself are not alone. God is asking you, as God asked Elijah, what are you doing in this place at this time? God knows what brought you there, but what is in your heart that brings you to the place you are spiritually and emotionally in such a time as this? Pray to God, hear God’s still small voice, and answer the calling of your life. Because in the midst of a pandemic, in days such as these, many people feel hopeless and feel anxious and fearful of the future. Hope is hard to find. But we have hope in God. We can indeed be the salt and light of the world at such a time as this. Let us shine our hope on the world. Let us keep people from going “bad” or rotting away as food does without salt. Let us be agents of change, agents of hope, agents of love sent by God doing God’s will here on earth.
Let us Pray – God of awe, from whom we flee in holy terror: your silence burns like ice; your whisper cuts through fear; we long to hear your faithful word of righteousness and peace. Bless us with bold belief even in the darkness of the night and the assault of life’s storms, that we may be messengers of your justice, in the name of the One whom wind and waves obey. Amen.