August 23, 2020

Rev. Bernt P. Tweit



Psalm of the Day; Psalm 73

Epistle Lesson; Romans 9:1-5

Gospel Lesson; Matthew 14:22-33                          

Sermon Text; 1 Kings 19:9-18


The portion of God's Word we look at for today is taken from 1st Kings, chapter nineteen.


Here is God's Word.  The LORD assures Elijah.


He came to a cave and spent the night there.  Then the Word of the LORD suddenly came to him, saying, “Why are you here, Elijah?”

He said, “I have been very zealous for the LORD, and the God of Armies, but the people of Israel have abandoned your covenant.  They have torn down your altars and killed your prophets with the sword.  I alone am left, and they are seeking to take my life.”

Then the LORD said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is passing by.”  Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains and shattered rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind.  After the wind came an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. 

After the earthquake there was a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire.  After the fire there was a soft, whispering voice.

When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak, and he went out and stood at the entrance to the cave.  Then a voice came to him and said, “Why are you here, Elijah?”

He said, “I have been very zealous for the LORD, the God of Armies, but the people of Israel have abandoned your covenant.  They have torn down your altars and killed your prophets with the sword.  I alone am left, and they are seeking to take my life.

Then the LORD said to him, “Go back the way you came and go to the Wilderness of Damascus.  When you get there, you are to anoint Hazael as king over Aram.  You will also anoint Jehu son of Nimshi as king over Israel and Elisha son of Shaphat from Abel Meholah as prophet in your place.  Whoever escapes the sword of Hazael, Jehu will kill, and whoever escapes the sword of Jehu, Elisha will kill.  But I have preserved in Israel seven thousand whose knees have not bent to Baal and whose lips have not kissed him.”


These are your words, Heavenly Father.  Lead us in the way of truth.  Your Word is truth.



As is the case with many of you, there was a family who was sitting down for supper.  The father said a prayer, thanking God for the food they were about to receive.  He said the prayer off of the top of his head.  It was not a memorized prayer.  The prayer was done, and his young daughter said, “Dad, why did you just pray for wobbly knees?”

A big smile came over his face, and he said, “Honey, I didn't pray for wobbly knees.  I prayed for our bodily needs.”
You see, he was asking God that the food they were about to receive would be good for their bodily needs.  But later on, it did get him to think, “You know there are times when we do have wobbly knees, and God is there to provide, not only for us physically to strengthen our wobbly knees, but He is also there to assure us, spiritually.”  

We are going to see that today.  Elijah, in a sense, has wobbly knees.  Sometimes in life, we have wobbly knees.  The LORD is going to come to Elijah, and assure him.  And, God is going to do the same thing for you, and for me, today.

There once was a grandma.  (She had just been widowed for the second time, and it was devastating to her.)  She was taking her five year old grandson in a car.  She strapped him in the car, and got his seat-belt on.  She put the key in the ignition, and off she went. 

Her grandson said, “Grandma, how come you didn't put your seat-belt on?”  

She said, “Well, I am not concerned about my safety.  I want to be with Jesus, and I want to be with your grandpa.”

Then, a little while later, the five year old said, “But, Grandma, then you would leave me.”
You see that grandma needed to hear those words.

In our text for today, Elijah thought he was the only one left.  That was the point he had come to.  He had come to the wrong conclusion.  In the example I just gave you, that grandma thought she was alone, but her five year old grandson was there to remind her, “Then, you would leave me.”

Sometimes in life we come to that same point, where we come to the wrong conclusions in life.  God, in our text for today, is going to help us see that, as well.

You see, right before our text for today Elijah had just come down from a mountain top experience, and I want to tell you about that, today.  This is what happened, when he was up on Mount Carmel. 

Things in Israel were not good.  The king at the time was wicked.  His name was Ahab.  The queen at the time was even more wicked.  Her name was Jezebel.  

There were four hundred and fifty false prophets of Baal.  And so, Elijah said to those four hundred and fifty false prophets, “Let's gather together on Mount Carmel.  Here is what we are going to do.  You are going to build an altar, and I am going to build an altar.  We are going to call to God, and whoever answers by fire, He is God.”
So, those four hundred and fifty false prophets of Baal got busy.  They built an altar.  They put wood on that altar, and sacrificed a bull.  They placed it on the altar.  Then, in the morning they began calling out to their false gods.  They called all morning long, and nobody answered. 

Elijah began to taunt them, just a little bit.  He said, “Maybe your god is sleeping.  I think you need to have your requests be a little bit louder.”
And so, in the afternoon, they began to be in a frantic frenzy, even cutting themselves.  The blood was dripping all over the place, as they were dancing around their altar, and calling out to their false gods.  But, there was no answer.

In the evening, Elijah built an altar.  Actually, he rebuilt the altar that had been torn down, that was dedicated to the LORD.  He rebuilt the altar of the LORD.  He put wood on it, sacrificed a bull, and dug a trench around that altar.  He told those false prophets to dump a whole bunch of water on that sacrifice.  Not once, not twice, but three times, until that trench was filled with water. 

Here is the prayer Elijah prayed. 

“LORD God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel,

Let it be known today that you are God in Israel, and I am your servant, and have done all of these things at your command.  Answer me O LORD, answer me so these people will know you, O LORD, are God, and you are turning their hearts back again.”

Immediately fire came from Heaven.  It licked up the sacrifice.  It licked up the wood.  It licked up the stones of the altar.  It licked up all of the water in the trench.  There was nothing left. 

Everybody got down on their knees, and said,

“The LORD is God.”

All four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal were put to death that day.  What a mountaintop experience Elijah just had, as the LORD answered his prayer with fire!

But, he came down off of that mountaintop, and heard Jezebel wanted to put him to death.  And so, in fear and in doubt, he fled for his life.  He traveled one hundred and twenty-five miles from Mt. Carmel down to Beersheba.  Then, he traveled three hundred miles from Beersheba to Mt. Horeb.  That was four hundred and twenty-five miles.

Now, I just got back from vacation last week.  It happens to be four hundred and twenty-five miles from my parent's cabin, to my house.  I have the interstate.  I have a vehicle.  I have air conditioning.  It takes less than eight hours.  How long would it have taken Elijah to make this journey? 

Where does he go?  He goes to Mt. Horeb.  Now, that may not mean anything to you, when I say that, but here is where I want to give you the other name for Mt. Horeb.  The other name for Mt. Horeb is Mt. Sinai!  Six hundred years before this, God had given Moses the Ten Commandments on Mt. Sinai.  That is what Elijah is talking about in our text for today.  He said, “God, the people of Israel have abandoned your covenant.  Lord, I have had enough.  Take my life.”

As Elijah is standing on Mt. Sinai, Mt. Horeb, the LORD says to Elijah, “Why are you here, Elijah?”  Why are you here? 

Then, He told him to go, and stand out on the mountain. 

-There was a violent wind, but our text tells us “the LORD was not in the wind.” 

There was an earthquake, “but the LORD was not in the earthquake.” 

-There was a fire, “but the LORD was not in the fire.” 

-But, the LORD was in a gentle, whispering voice. 


Far different than Mt. Carmel, when God had answered his prayer, immediately, and directly, through fire that came down from Heaven.  The LORD came to Elijah in a very gentle whisper.

Have you ever had a mountaintop experience in life, and you have come down from that mountaintop experience?  Maybe you have felt depressed.  Maybe you have felt lonely, and you have wondered to yourself, “What is my purpose?  What should I be doing?”

God asks Elijah, “Why are you here, Elijah?”

The LORD was there to assure Elijah that day.  “Elijah I have a purpose for you.   I have preserved seven thousand people in Israel who have not bowed down their knees to Baal, who have not kissed him.  I have a purpose for you, and I want you to go, and minister to the needs of those people.”

I love how scripture ties itself together.  Our Epistle Lesson for today was from Romans, chapter nine.  But, just a few chapters after that, Paul, as he was talking to the Christians in Rome, references this event that we are talking about today, with Elijah.  Here is what Paul says to the Christians in Rome.   “Don't you know what the scripture says in the passage about Elijah, how he appealed to God against Israel?  For they have killed your prophets, and torn down your altars.  I am the only one left, and they are trying to kill me.”

What was God's answer to him?  God's answer was, “I have reserved for myself seven thousand who have not bowed down their knee to Baal.”

In keeping with this section of scripture, here is what Martin Luther once wrote.  He simply said, “The Law is a hammer that crushes rocks. It is like a fire.  It is like a wind.  It is like an earthquake that overturns mountains.  When Elijah could not bare the terrors of the Law that were signified by these events, he wrapped his head in his mantle.  After the storm that he had seen was over, there was a still, small voice in which the LORD was present.  But, the violence of the fire, the storm, and the earthquake had to come first, before the LORD, Himself, followed in a still, small voice.”

That is why, here at Holy Cross, with every sermon you hear, you are going to hear The Law in all of its terror.  You are going to hear the sweet, soothing salve of The Gospel.  The Law is always going to be there, to show our sin.  The Law is always going to be uncomfortable to hear.  It is always going to expose.  And, it is always going to prick our heart.  The Law is going to come to you and to me today, and it says, “Why do you doubt?  Why do we doubt the promises of God?” 

God is there to assure us.  God comes to us in His Word, and He says,

“Be still and know I am God.”

I think it was about ten years ago, (maybe give, or take a little bit), when we were at Holy Cross on Milwaukee Street.  It was during the Lenten Season, and it was an evening Lenten Service that I was officiating for.  During the course of the day, I knew my voice was going.  As, the service started, I still had my voice, a little bit.  But, it was going, and going.  So, I stopped singing.  I started to sip on water.  I put a lozenge in my throat.  When the time of the sermon came, I stepped in to the pulpit, and this is what I said in a whisper, “Can you hear me?”  I asked the people in the front, in the middle, in the back, and up in the balcony, “Can you hear me?” 

Even people that were in the balcony said, “Yes, we can hear you.”

So then I said, “Well then, I am going to preach my sermon this way, with a whisper.” 

There are people, still today, who come to me and say, “Do you remember that sermon you preached when you whispered?  We had to really pay attention to what you said.  In that sermon you pointed us to Jesus.”
God, in His Word today, didn't come to Elijah in that violent wind.  He didn't come to him in the earthquake.  He didn't come to him in a fire.  But, he came to him in a gentle whisper.

Isn't it awesome God doesn't come to us in amazing things?  God comes to us in simple things.  You know, it would have been amazing to be with Moses, or at least the Children of Israel, when The Ten Commandments were given on Mt. Sinai.  Man, to see that thunder and lightning.  That would have been awesome, and amazing!  Or, to be with Elijah on Mt. Carmel, when God answered his prayers, and that fire came down out of Heaven.

But, it would have been equally amazing to be on Mt. Calvary, where Jesus was crucified.  Darkness came over the land from noon 'till three.  There was an earthquake, when Jesus died.  But, those were not the important events.  The important event was in the words of Jesus, when He spoke,

“It is finished”.

When Jesus spoke those words, our sins were forgiven, even our sins when we doubt His promises.  Then, three days later, Jesus rose from the grave, and gave us the assurance that because He rose, we also will rise!

God, today, continues to come to you, and me.  He doesn't come in amazing things.  He comes in simple things. 

-Ink on a page.  Ink on a page!  God, that is so simple.  But, God comes to us through His Word.

-Water.  Very simple, but God comes to us through the waters of holy Baptism.

-Bread and wine.  Two very simple, earthly elements. 

God comes to us in simple things.  But, through those simple things, He is always pointing us to Jesus, and always reminding us of what He has done for us.  Through His life, through His death, and through His resurrection, He has forgiven our sin, so we would have everlasting life with Him in Heaven.

Elijah needed assurance.  He got assurance.  He came to God and said, “God, I am the only one left.  Take my life.”
But, God assured him, and said, “Elijah, I have preserved seven thousand people in Israel, who have not bowed their knees to Baal and not kissed him.  Go, and minister to their needs.”
And when Elijah was making that three hundred mile journey back to Israel, I wonder if he wondered to himself, “Why did I doubt?  Why did I doubt?”

Well, the Lord comes to us today, and He assures us, as well.  Maybe in life you feel like you are standing alone, and you are in a situation where you feel you are the only one left.  God comes to you today, and He assures you.

“I will never leave you. 

I will never forsake you.”

-You may feel that way at work, at your job.  “God, I am the only one left.”  I want you to know there are people who are surrounding you who are in the same situation you are.  God provides people for you.

-You may be in a school situation.  I am especially thinking of our college students who are going off to school.  You may feel alone.  -You may feel like you are the only one left.  Know that God has people surrounding you to remind you, “God will never leave you.  God will never forsake you.”
-For those serving our country in the armed forces, you may feel you are the only one left in the barrack.  God is there to assure you today, “He will never leave you, and He will never forsake you.”

God comes to you today.  

He came to Elijah.  He assured him. 

God came to that grandma, who through her five year old grandson, assured her she had a purpose. 

You also have a purpose.  God assures you that you are not alone.



Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.  As it was in the beginning, shall be now and forever more.



Now, may the peace of God that passes all understanding, guard your hearts and your minds, through faith in Christ Jesus, our Lord.