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Sunday 8 August 2021

Divine intervention in human affairs

1 Kings 19:4-8; John 6:35, 41-51

By Samuel A Thomas

Ordained bishop in the New Testament Church of God (UK) who has served in the pastoral ministry for 21 years; PhD student at the University of Roehampton (London)

Context: mixed-age congregation, largely Black British Caribbean, Pentecostal denomination

Aim: to acknowledge divine intervention in times of struggles

DIFFICULT VERSES

The background to 1 Kings 19:4–8 is warfare. Many of us this morning, when reading 1 Kings 19, may feel uncomfortable seeing verses in the Bible that speak of killing. Some of us may even avoid reading these difficult Old Testament passages.

In their book entitled ‘Did God Really Command Genocide? Coming to Terms with the Justice of God’, Paul Copan teams up with Matthew Flannagan to tackle some of these uncomfortable passages of Scripture. Together they help us to understand the biblical, theological, philosophical, and ethical implications of Old Testament warfare passages.

In this sermon, it is not my intention to deal with the theology around the killing/warfare in the text but rather to concentrate on a few verses from 1 Kings 19 and then conclude the sermon in the Gospel of John 6:35 and 41–51.

FEELING DEFEATED

Brethren: is God able? God is able! Can I get an Amen? Can I get an Amen? Can I get an Amen?

Elijah, after hearing what Jezebel intends to do to his life, which is end it, is thrown into a state of anxiety. Fear. Perhaps depression. How would you have felt if Jezebel’s army was after you to take your life? How would it make you feel if a number of people were hunting you down to murder you? The Bible lets us understand that Elijah reached ‘rock bottom’, and the Bible reminds us that he wanted to die. He prayed that he would die. My question is this: if he wanted to die, why did he run away from Jezebel? He knew that she wanted to kill him and therefore, if he really wanted to die, why did he not remain at Mount Carmel so he could be killed?

Brethren, I think most of us this morning can identify with Elijah. It is not that we really want to die when we reach ‘rock bottom’ and life seems to be at such a difficult point that we feel so helpless, deflated, useless, depressed and confused that we cry out to God, like Jesus on the Cross, ‘Why have you forsaken me? I want to die.’ There are cases where it is not that we want to die but that we are making an appeal for divine intervention. Hallelujah. Can I get an Amen?

DIVINE INTERVENTION

Elijah falls asleep under a broad tree that gives shade and allows him to rest. The Bible lets us know that an angel appears. ‘Angels’ in the Old Testament are usually members of the ‘heavenly host’ sent to deliver a message; but they can be human messengers, such as prophets.

Elijah has no human help. Church! Let me remind you all this morning that our help comes from the Lord. An angel sent from the Lord appeared to Elijah and touched him and then spoke to him. The Bible does not tell us that Elijah actually saw the angel with his natural eyes. But what he did see with his natural eyes was food and water to sustain him; and he heard the words, ‘Get up and eat for the journey is great.’ In our moment of despair, divine intervention is an intervention from the throne of God by the agency of his messengers and ministering servants. This is participation by God, engagement that means getting involved in human affairs.

I want to imagine that Elijah realised that he was not alone, and that God was with him, because food and water had been brought to him as an act and a visible sign of divine intervention.

In the Gospel of John 6:35 and 41-51 Jesus was speaking at Passover; he was to interpret the Passover bread and wine as being of himself. John is setting forth its true meaning.

This bread and wine that Jesus gives is divine intervention. We receive this bread and wine through Communion, the Eucharist, the Lord’s Supper – and the preaching of the word.

When you feel like giving up, like Elijah; perhaps when you hear sad stories like that of Sarah Everard, the marketing executive who went missing on March 3rd as she walked home from Clapham, London and was found dead a week later; I want to conclude by saying this:

Such evil in our world can inspire campaigners to become energised to seek justice. For me, this is also from the Spirit that comes via the bread and wine that God gives to us through his Son, Jesus Christ, to help us continue through life’s struggles. Amen. Hallelujah.

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