INI + AMEN.
Today is the dawning of a new day. The Lord has gifted and burdened. He’s done this for you and for me. He’s given me to be your pastor. He’s given you to be my sheep. The flock here now has two under shepherds. Two to lead you to the one true Shepherd. I’ve been given to proclaim God’s Word to you. You’ve been given to hear that Word. But that’s not all. That’s the gifting, the giving of the Lord. The next is too, but it’s a bit more weighty. Still a gift, but more profound. I’ve been given to bear the burden of caring for you, and part of that care that I give to you starting today is preaching to you, and you’re burdened with listening to me.
But in me you see something profound in the Lord’s gracious working for your good. You see something that echoes in our text. Consider Elisha. He was some guy who was a farmer, and we was called by the Lord to be a prophet after Elijah, and while Elijah was still on earth, this farm-boy turned prophet ministered to Elijah. A simple man to be a prophet. A prophet is none other than a man who was called by God to proclaim His Word to His people. Sometimes there were miracles that accompanied the prophets, but really being a prophet was nothing flashy.
Yes, it just as me standing here speaking to you. Some young pup right out of seminary who doesn’t know two-cents about much, but the Lord called me to you. A simple guy to be a simple pastor to proclaim God’s Word to you. And you are simple people given to hear it. It’s just as it has always been with the Lord. And in our text today you see it more than in just the calling of Elisha. We see in our text that
GOD’S WORD COMES TO HIS PEOPLE—TO YOU—SIMPLY.
(I. Power and visibility are not necessarily related.)
This was Elijah’s problem. He had trouble with this, as we all do. Before this was the encounter with the prophets of Baal. There was fire from heaven. The Lord was victorious and the prophets of Baal were destroyed. Elijah put the Lord to the test, and the Lord acted. But there was a problem. Even though the Lord was victorious on Carmel, the enemies of God still sought Elijah’s life. There was no swift victory. He complains to the Lord, “I have been exceedingly zealous for the LORD, God of Hosts, because the sons of Israel have abandoned your covenant, they have destroyed your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they seek to take my life.”
We can sympathize with such a feeling. You see, we, like Elijah, think that a Word without power is ignored. That a Word needs to have visible power to have effect on people. But the people of Israel ultimately ignored fire from heaven. God’s Word doesn’t have visible power. It can be ignored, and often is. We saw it again this week with what happen with the Supreme Court’s rulings on DOMA and Proposition 8. It should come as no surprise that the world is going the way that it’s going. The world is Satan’s kingdom, and it’s in league with him. We like to think, how can this be!? As if this sin were any worse than our own! The world wants to live in its sin, as the Psalmist says, the sinner “flatters himself in his own eyes that his iniquity cannot be found out and hated.”
We doubt the power of God’s Word when we see this. We think, “If it only had more power to overcome…” Or maybe we think, “I have to work to make God’s Word more powerful in my life, in the lives of those around me.” If it doesn’t have some sort of visible power, some feeling, some sort of excitement, we think it won’t work. Word without power is ignored, after all.
But God’s Word does have power. Just not the power we want or think we need to see so that we know it’s God’s Word. Look at what He says to Elijah, “I have preserved in Israel 7,000 who have not bended knees to Baal, nor kissed him.” The Lord’s Word has power to preserve people from unbelief. What sort of Word is that? Is a thundering Word from Sinai? A word which causes the mountains to shake and break with its thundering? A word of “thou shalt” and “thou shalt not”? As if such a Word could preserve anyone alive! It’s not the ten commandments carved in tablets of stone that turns men’s hearts to love God. Such a Word only kills.
That’s not the sort of Word God speaks to preserve His people. It’s not even God’s primary Word. The Church of the Old Testament saints, the New Testament Church of saints, that is the Church of saints from all ages always believed in God not for a message of “get-your-act-together” or “they need to get THEIR act together.” That’s what Elijah expected, and—Lord, have mercy!—we do to. No the preserving Word of God, the simple, powerful Word of God is “Your sins are forgiven.”
(II. God’s Word is simple and it simply says, “You’re forgiven.”)
God indeed comes simply. Look at our text, “Behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke 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 a still small voice. And it happened that when Elijah heard it, he covered his face with his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. Not in wind, earthquake, or fire, but in that still small voice.
The Lord is known, His glory is shown, He comes in simple, humble, and lowly means. The Lord comes as a baby, born of the Virgin. He’s a man who bears our sin. He becomes the curse of the Law, He became sin for us. That’s not exalted by our standards. But God’s glory, the glory of the Father is shown in His Son, Jesus. Jesus’ glory is not that He’s God—the eternal Son of the Father. The glory of Jesus is that He dies for you. That’s when Christ is exalted, that’s His true glory. The glory of God is Jesus hanging, bleeding, dying for your sins on the cross. Your sins of doubting the power of God’s Word, changing the true power of God’s Word. And all your sins when you ignore His Word…yep, even that one.
And the Word comes to you as the Lord does—simply. In a simple way the Lord comes to you with His Word. He comes. You don’t have to go for Him. Jesus came and found you when He splashed water on your forehead, but not just water—His Word! By His Word Jesus comes to you again, and again and places into your mouth, sets one your very tongue His body and blood with the bread and wine. His Word comes to you, well, in His Word proclaimed from the pulpit, absolved over you, and read in the service, not as just some quaint Bible reading, but as the Word which the Holy Spirit Himself caused to be written for you. The very words of God Himself.
Yes, the Lord’s Word comes to you audibly, visibly. All of that Word: the water, bread, and wine, words on a page bear to you all the same thing! It’s the Lord’s abundant favor to you, to preserve you as He did the 7,000 in Elijah’s day. They bear to you Christ’s righteousness, the forgiveness of sins. That’s what the Lord’s Word does. It’s what He wants it to do for you. And He does it over and over your whole life through. Yes, GOD’S WORD COMES TO HIS PEOPLE—TO YOU—SIMPLY, and it simple says, “I forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.” AMEN.