31 Maple Street
Bristol, Connecticut USA
January 22, 2023
1 Kings 17:1-16
Rev. Kristen J. Kleiman
Trust. Trusting God. It’s easy when everything seems to be going our way. It’s a little bit harder when you are seeing the costs for most everything double, like the cost of eggs and electricity. And trusting God can seem nearly impossible when you can’t get off the conveyor belt of COVID, flu, and respiratory illness, or when you get devastating medical news, or when a loved one is hospitalized or dies. Trusting God when everything seems right is so much easier than trusting God when you feel like everything is falling apart.
And it is especially in these moments that we ask, “Is God real? What is God doing? Where is God?” It is especially challenging in these moments to trust God.
Elijah knew what it was like to live through the challenging moments, a time when it felt like everything was falling apart around him. Fifty years before, the people of God had split into two kingdoms: Judah in the South and Israel in the North. And in the same way the people of God had separated in two, the rulers of Israel had also separated from God, choosing to worship foreign gods, building altars to worship foreign gods, living as if wealth and military alliances would keep them safe from all harm.
This was true of King Ahab, who married the infamous Queen Jezebel, infamous not because of her lack of moral values, infamous because her values were to worship Baal, the god of her people. And while many throughout time might want to blame Jezebel for Ahab worshiping Baal, it is unlikely Jezebel had that much power and influence, feminine wiles or not.
So here Elijah is, in a country divided. Divided between Israel and Judah; divided between those who wanted to trust in money, power, and foreign gods and those who trusted in God, God who had guided them and cared for them generation after generation.
Here Elijah is and God says to him, go and tell King Ahab, you know, the one who has no relationship with me, who ignores my still speaking voice to worship an object, who is more interested in accumulating wealth and power than in taking care of my people, go tell him some really bad news, that there is going to be a drought.
I don’t know too many people who would have been excited to have received that guidance from God. Most people shy away from giving bad news, from pointing out what is wrong. I doubt Elijah wanted to go to Ahab, and tell him this unwelcome truth.
Still, Elijah listened to God; Elijah trusted God; and Elijah followed. Elijah spoke his prophetic message to King Ahab; Elijah traveled into the wilderness and trusted God to nourish him with water from a stream and with food gathered from ravens. And when those sources of nourishment dried up, Elijah again listened to God and trusted that the widow would feed him.
We assume it was easy for Elijah to trust God. God was real in his life; God spoke to him, gave him clear guidance; took care of him in the midst of hardship. Maybe though Elijah questioned the wisdom of each thing God said? Speak bad news to a hostile, selfish king? Go out into the wilderness alone in the midst of a drought to a riverbed that has water only when it rains really hard? Be fed by birds? And perhaps most challenging of all, trust God that there would be enough when Elijah could see, when everyone could clearly see that there was very little.
There are times in our lives when we faithfully, willingly trust God. And there are times in our lives when we feel like we have no other chance but to trust God. There have even been times in my life when I have not wanted to trust God, not wanted to listen to God because like Elijah, I suspect I am being called to do the hard thing, to take the challenging journey, the path away from my wants and dreams. There have been times when I have let the voice of fear overwhelm the voice of God.
I am reading the memoir of an actress/ comedian who was invited to audition years ago for the lead in the movie Dreamgirls. She played out all of these worst case scenarios. She let her fears take over, and for three months, she made up all of these excuses for why she was not available to audition until they finally cast someone who did such an amazing job that she won an Oscar, despite having many of the same qualities that the actress/comedian had convinced herself would make her fail in the role.
It could have been her. She could have lived the dream and been a dreamgirl. She listened to the voice of fear though instead of the voice of God.
I don’t know if Elijah faithfully, willingly trusted God or if he felt like there was no other choice but to trust God. What I do believe is that Elijah knew God was real. Elijah expected God to be present in his life, speaking to him and guiding him. Even when the voice of fear was loud, even when Elijah did not want to hear what God was saying, still Elijah listened to the voice of God, listened for the voice of God, even when it came in the whisper of the Spirit.
Even when God’s plans seemed more than a bit upside down and crazy, Elijah listened to God and heard what we all need to hear, “Do not be afraid.” (1 Kings 17:13). Do not be afraid. He repeats it to the widow. And she trusts God. She trusts the word of God spoken through Elijah, and indeed, there are enough supplies to feed her household, including Elijah, until the drought is over.
God has a plan for us. I believe. I have faith. It might include times of great sorrow. The path might be uphill and arduous at times. There might be detours or sharp curves. More often than not, it will not be what I thought should happen, and yet, I trust.
I trust even when I have a hard time trusting God’s plan. I trust even when I do not want to hear God’s voice because it is calling me in a direction I am afraid to go. I trust even when all that is revealed is the tiny next step. I trust God because God is real in my life, because over and over again, God shows up, God speaks up, and tells me in subtle and obvious ways, do not be afraid, I am with you.
God is real. God is with us. God is still speaking. God is always speaking- even in the midst of the challenging moments. What is God saying to you? How is God leading you forward into a future of hope?