Sweetwater Presbyterian

Small in size, Big in Faith and Love

Elijah is Affirmed

Elijah Is Affirmed

As you all know, Chick-Fil-A is not open on Sundays. They have never opened on Sundays. Their statement about opening on Sundays says that they close on Sundays so that their employees can spend their day with their families. However, last weekend the Chick-Fil-A restaurants in Orlando broke their time honored tradition. There were two restaurants close to the location of the shooting and to the facility which was processing and collecting blood donations for the many who were injured. The managers of the local stores saw the number of 1st responders still working the scene, saw the long lines of people waiting to give blood and they knew these people had to eat. So they opened the Chick-Fil-A’s, prepared as much food as they could and gave it to the people waiting in lines and working the crime scenes. Of course they were descended upon by the media and both restaurant managers asked the media not to print anything about what they were doing. Their statement was: “We are not doing this to bring attention to ourselves, but simply to meet a need and give glory to God.” And for all of us here today, that should be the theme of our lives - We are not here to to bring attention to ourselves, but to give glory to God.”
There is a really interesting story in the ministry of Jesus. He and the disciples are walking down the road and they see a blind man - a man who was blind since birth. The disciples asked Jesus: “Why is this man blind? Did he sin or did his parens sin?” This was a common belief during the time of the Jesus - all tragedy, all illness, all birth defects were caused by the sins of someone. Jews even believed that babies could sin in the womb and therefore cause physical problems for themselves. But Jesus tells the disciples, “No one sinned. Watch and see how God is glorified through this man.” In other words, Jesus is going to use this mans blindness to glorify God and to affirm that he truly is the Messiah.
Jesus walked over to this blind man, stooped down, spit into the dirt and made some mud, spread the mud over the mans eyes and told him to go and wash it off - and if he would do this he would be able to see. The blind man did exactly as Jesus had asked and he was able to see. Now this created a great stir in town. Everyone knew this man had been blind since birth; everyone had watched him grow up; everyone knew his parents - there was no doubt in anyone’s mind that this man had always been blind. So their first reaction was that there was a new person in town who looked just like the blind man but he could see. The blind man quickly corrected everyone and said, “No. I really am the man who was blind.” And he proceeds to tell the story of how he was able to see.
This then came to the attention of the religious leaders and the blind man who could now see was brought before the religious officials along with his parents. The religious leaders questioned the parents to make sure the former blind man was telling the truth and yes they affirmed this was their son. But they were afraid of the religious leaders and wouldn’t answer any other questions - they just simply said, “We don’t know anything except he is our son. Ask him what happened.” The religious leaders asked the former blind fella what had happened and he told his story once again. The religious leaders then asked, “Who was this guy?” “I don’t know” said the former blind guy. “All I know is that I was blind and now I can see. All I know is that I am glorifying God for what he has done for me.” Just as Jesus has said, “This man was healed to bring glory to God.” And that is what he did. But in the eyes of many, he also affirmed the suspicion of many that Jesus just might be the Messiah!
Which brings us to the Elijah story for today - because we are spending the summer with the prophet Elijah. Elijah is a prophet sent by God to the king of God’s people - King Ahab. Ahab had led God’s people away from the worship of God to the worship of the pagan god Baal. God had Elijah tell Ahab that until the Israelite people returned to the true worship of God, there would be no rain and the country would suffer a great drought. And it did. Elijah is now staying with a widow and her son in

Zarapeth and because of her generosity to Elijah, God is supplying her with enough bread and water and oil to sustain them throughout the drought.
Now, in our way of thinking this generous widow who is doing what God has called her to do; who is sharing the little she has with Elijah, who up to this point was a complete stranger…. we would think that God would protect her from anything bad happening to her. Surely that is how we would like things to work… we do what God wants and nothing bad will happen. But we know that is not true - and this is another of the many accounts in the Bible where “Bad things happen to good people.” Something we struggle with as well.
The widow’s son becomes ill and after some time, dies. The widow’s first reaction is a pretty typical one - God is punishing me for my sin. So let’s clear this up right now - God does not send tragedy to punish you for you sin. We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. God does not take away a loved one to punish us. End of story. We can love God with all our heart and our soul and our mind and tragedy still happens. The whys are beyond our understanding and that is just something we have to accept.
Even Elijah, a prophet of God, a man who is suppose to have a special connection to the words of God, doesn’t understand. Such a human moment we see in this story as Elijah takes the boy in his arms and goes into the boys room and lays him on his bed and looks up at God and says “Why?” “Why God?” “This doesn’t make any sense? This woman has given all she has to help me out. How can such a thing happen?”
Elijah is as confused as we are!
So he prays. Now I want to caution you. This is not a story about if you only pray hard enough things will turn out the way you want. This is not a story that teaches that if things don’t happen the way you want it is because you haven’t prayed hard enough. We are not in the manipulating God business. Outcomes are not up to us. God hears our prayers - inadequate as they are. But God does what God does and we don’t understand most of the time. But don’t thinki it is because of our inadequacies that bad things happen - or that God doesn’t reverse the tragedy.
Yes, in this case he did. In this case, Elijah cries out to God and the widow’s son comes back to life. He has been healed.
And then we learn the purpose of this story - the same purpose the boy born blind’s sight was restored - this is an opportunity for God to affirm who Elijah was just as the boy affirmed Jesus as his healer - this is proof Elijah was truly God’s prophet; was truly sent by God. It gave God an opportunity for the widow - and for Elijah - to understand that Elijah was really a prophet for God. And then Elijah gave glory go God.
Elijah often suffered from a lack of confidence in who he was. Elijah often felt like he wasn’t really called by God; he often felt like he wasn’t doing what he was suppose to; he often felt like he he was a failure. Here was God assuring Elijah, that yes he was doing what God wanted him to do. And it gave Elijah an opportunity to glorify God.
We have to understand who we are. We are children of God. All of us. We belong to God. We are to have confidence in that. We are to never question our relationship with God. That’s hard because we are infamously hard on ourselves. We don’t think we measure up. We are always hearing we could do more and we probably could. We make mistakes. We sin. We question God. We admittedly don’t understand.
But none of that disqualifies us from knowing for certain that we belong to God. We belong to God. And if we pay attention, God is forever affirming that for us. A word we hear in our mind during prayer - or maybe just out of the blue; a word from someone else; a feeling of peace that comes over us in an unusual time; a realization of what God has done for us. All affirmations from God that we do belong to him regardless of the fact that we know we don’t always do what we should. Doesn’t matter - we belong to God.
Just knowing that, then, should make us praise God throughout our day; throughout our life.
Just like the boy born blind, just like the widow at Zarepath, just like the prophet Elijah - we hear God’s affirmation - and we praise God!