God’s what next for his people

So what does God want from his people?  We started with that question and I wonder after look at 1 Kings 19, how that’s changed?

We’ve seen that God is passionate for his people, his glory and his gospel and he wants his people to be passionate for that too.  But we’ve also seen that passion can get out of kilter as it did for Elijah.  That God doesn’t call us to do more than we can.  He cares for his people and provides rest and food and spiritual refreshment for his prophet on the run.  We can’t minister, we can’t serve, just on passion.  God has made us finite, dependent and we need rest, food and closeness to him.  We can only ever serve him out of an experience of and enjoyment of him. I wonder if that idea seems strange to you?  Enjoying God?  What does it mean to enjoy God? 

One of the dangers we face in serving in a local church, especially in Yorkshire where less than 1% of the population go to church, where so many are sleepwalking to a lost eternity, is in thinking that we care more about God’s glory than God does.

In v14 God speaks to Elijah again, and repeats his question “What are you doing here, Elijah?”  And Elijah speaks again of Israel’s covenant breaking and his zeal.  His passion for God’s glory is tangible isn’t it?  He’s almost burning up with his passion for God, and yet Israel aren’t, they’re indifferent to their sin, indifferent to God, indifferent to the covenant and their breaking it and are trying to kill Elijah!

So what’s next for Elijah?  A hermit-cy in the cave on Mount Horeb?  A new location – greener spiritual pastures?  Should he be scrolling the FIEC jobs board looking for somewhere where people will actually listen to God and respond?  Where his ministry actually produces fruit?  What is God’s what next for his passionate prophet?

Here’s God’s what next(15-21).  Elijah’s to appoint Hazael King of Aram, Jehu King of Israel, and Elijah as his successor as prophet.  God sees and God has a plan, in fact God had that plan all along, he doesn’t start scribbling it down as Elijah sat under the broom tree or even when things didn’t go to plan post Carmel.  Elijah’s assessment of Israel’s spiritual state isn’t wrong.  And God is going to act; Hazael and Jehu will be God’s means of judgement, God’s discipline of his covenant breaking people, designed to bring them back to him.  And Elisha will be the one who brings God’s word to those people.

Elijah, trust me, I’m not done with my people.  I’m not finished with them.  They may not have turned at Carmel but trust me and my plans and purposes.  But notice something else, Elijah is told to go back to where it’s hard and continue his ministry.  He’s to keep going because Elijah is just one link in the chain of God’s gospel purposes.  Elijah is to prepare the way and pass on the truth to Elisha – whose name means God saves.

Don’t despair, don’t think you care more about the lost God’s glory than God does.  And we mustn’t think that we know better what our role in God’s kingdom should be better than he does.  God has placed us where he has put us to serve him there.  No one else can reach your colleagues at work.  No one else can disciple your children like you can.  No one else can live a gospel life out in front of your neighbours like you can.  Don’t mortgage God’s plans for you right here and right now, the places he’s put you to be his light in the darkness, by longing to be somewhere else.

But we also need to realise it’s not all on us!  Elijah was just one link in the chain.  God graciously shows Elijah some more of the links in the chain of his kingdom purposes.  God has others in Israel who’ve not bowed the knee to Baal.  That’s so helpful for us to realise isn’t it?  Your church family is God’s gift to you, a weekly reminder that you’re not alone – you need them, they need you.  They remind you it doesn’t all rest on your shoulders.  You’re not solely responsible for whether those around you come to trust Jesus.  Yes, you need to live out the gospel and speak the gospel to those around you, but so do others who are in their lives.  We’re free to just play the part God calls us to, to be our link in the chain.

Don’t mortgage the present opportunities because you imagined they would look different.  Don’t give up because it is hard and slow.  Just like Elijah go back and keep labouring, keep speaking the gospel to each other, keeping listening to God’s word and putting it to work, keep praying, keep playing your part, being the link in the building of God’s kingdom you can be.

Our society loves the fast, the instant, the spectacular, the silver bullet.  And that means we’re tempted to despair of the unspectacular, slow, steady, and opposed.  But God knows what he’s doing.  God cares passionately for his people, his glory and his gospel and that takes time.  That’s why the images we get of growth in the Bible are of vines, and fields, and harvest, and trees, and flocks which all take time to grow.

What is God’s what next for you?  Go back and be passionate for his glory in the ordinary and everyday acts of faithfulness.  In your parenting, in your marriages, in your care for elderly parents, your love for your neighbours, your service of the community, your work, your listening to and applying his word.  Be the link in the gospel chain he calls you to be as you live as disciples of Jesus who make disciples of Jesus teaching them everything he has commanded us.

Do you know one of the most wonderful liberating truths I’ve been realising more and more recently.  I know only a tiny fraction of what God is doing at any time in me, through me, in my family, my church family, and in our community.  That’s what Elijah is shown here.  God is building his kingdom and trusting him to do so as he knows is best liberates us from burdens to live enjoying him.

And as we go back to our ordinary and everyday we can go back full of hope and faith because God isn’t finished yet.  Elijah lived his whole life longing to see God’s salvation, longing to see God’s gospel promises of a Messiah restoring a people to relationship with God free from sin and blessing the nations but he never did.  That brief conflagration on the top of Mount Carmel was a good as it got in terms of spiritual revival.  And when he was taken into heaven in a whirlwind it still hadn’t happened.  

But years later, in Luke 9v28-33, finally Elijah got to see what his ministry was about, where in God’s sovereign goodness and wisdom everything was leading, what his ministry was a link in the chain of.  As he and Moses stand on the mountain and talk to God the Son in all his glory what do they talk to Jesus about?  “They spoke about his departure, which he was about to bring to fulfilment at Jerusalem.”  Don’t rush passed that.  So often we major on the glory, or Peter and his mistaken blurted out building plan, in this passage.  But what is it they speak of?  They spoke together about Jesus Exodus.  Jesus is about to lead his people out of slavery to sin into a new world flowing with milk and honey where they will be free to worship and enjoy God Father, Son and Spirit.

All of Elijah’s hopes and dreams are going to be fulfilled beyond his wildest expectations, in Jesus.  And its only centuries after he’s gone back and played his part does he fully understand where it was all leading, what God was really doing.  And it was all worth it.  His everyday ordinary obedience was ultimately, In God’s sovereign immutable plan leading to God made man who would be the offering for sin, not burnt but crucified on a hill, rejected by God’s people just like Elijah, but actually killed by God’s people, but through that death and rejection and judgement opening up the way to God and freeing his people from the enslaving power of sin.

Elijah and Moses see a glimpse of Jesus coming kingdom.  A kingdom that is certain.  A Kingdom that cannot be conquered, that he is building and giving everything for it is worth it.

How are you feeling about serving God where you are?  Will we share God’s passion for his glory, his people and his gospel?  Will we go back trusting in his love and provision and goodness in food and rest and every other evidence of his goodness and love and develop healthy routines?  Will we go back setting aside time to enjoy God?  Not burdened thinking it all depends on us but trusting that we are called to play our part in making Jesus known but that God is working out his purposes and plans that are far bigger than we can imagine?  And will we go back trusting in Jesus and his power to change the world one life at a time certain in his promise that his kingdom will come?

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