Return to Sermons | Home

“Elijah and the 7,000”
Elijah and the 7,000


Pastor Kevin Vogts
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Dakota Dunes, South Dakota
Fifth Sunday after Pentecost—June 27, 2010

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

“Mom Sentenced in Daughter’s Death”

“Toddler Beaten into Unconsciousness”

“Wife Accused in Husband’s Death”

“Man Kills Co-Worker, Commits Suicide”

“Congressman Charged with Bribery”

“Man Confesses to Molestations”

As I sat at the breakfast table, reading those terrible headlines, all from just one page of the newspaper, it seemed unreal to me.  The thought actually entered my mind, “Am I still asleep and having a nightmare?”  I felt completely overwhelmed by it all, and it seems I feel that way a lot lately as I read the newspaper or watch the news on television.

Completely overwhelmed; that is how Elijah feels in today’s Old Testament Reading.  Elijah was called by the Lord to a very great and sometimes difficult task: to remain faithful in an unfaithful world.  All across the land of Israel, the people were rejecting the true God, forsaking his holy ways, abandoning the Lord’s altar, bowing down instead before idols of the false god Baal.

Like Elijah, you are called by the Lord to a very great and sometimes difficult task: to remain faithful in an unfaithful world.  All across our land, people are rejecting the true God, forsaking his holy ways, abandoning the Lord’s altar, bowing down instead before our own false gods and idols.  Maybe sometimes you feel like Elijah: “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty . . . I am the only one left.”

A farmer once told me he thought he was the only one left in his county who didn’t cheat on farm subsidy programs.  A woman once said that among their circle of friends she and her husband were the only ones left who hadn’t gotten divorced.  Peer pressure might lead a high school or college student to think that he or she is the only one left who isn’t involved in illicit sex, alcohol, or drugs.  “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty . . . I am the only one left.”

One time in human history there was indeed only one man left on earth faithful to God: Christ on the cross at Calvary.  At the cross, Christ alone believed God’s plan: that by his death he would pay the ransom for the sins of all humankind.  Everyone else rejected or doubted Christ the Messiah, forsaking and abandoning him.  All alone on the cross, Jesus bore our sins in his body.  By his faithfulness, by his suffering and death, we receive forgiveness, salvation, the promise of eternal life.  On his account, for his sake, God forgives you all your sins.  As Peter says in Acts, “Everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” 

Elijah thought God had abandoned him.  And that is how we feel too when things go wrong in our world, in our lives.  “I am with you always,” Jesus promises, “to the very end of the age.”  The book of Hebrews puts it this way: “God has said, ‘Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you; so we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid.” 

Today’s opening psalm says, “I will lift up my eyes to the hills—where does my help come from?  My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.”  Jesus your Savior will walk with you, day by day, along life’s way.  “I will fear no evil,” Psalm 23 says, “for you are with me.”  And when your life in this world is ended, Jesus will take you to dwell with him in the house of the Lord forever. 

Until he takes you to the blessedness of heaven, while you remain here on earth, Jesus gives you a purpose for your life, a very great and sometimes difficult task: to remain faithful in an unfaithful world.

“I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty . . . I am the only one left.”  Elijah, great prophet though he was, is suffering from what we call the “majority mentality.”  The majority is against the Lord and his ways, what good is it for Elijah to hold out?

Perhaps the majority does cheat on such things as taxes and farm subsidy programs; what good is it for you to hold out, struggling to make ends meet?  Perhaps the majority does treat marriage lightly; what good is it for you and your spouse to hold out, struggling to keep your marriage vows?  Perhaps the majority of your peers are involved in illicit sex, alcohol, or drugs; what good is it for you to hold out, struggling to “honor God with your body” as Paul says in 1st Corinthians?

“I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty . . . I am the only one left.”  So, what good is it for you to hold out?  But that’s the “majority mentality.”  You are not called by God to join the majority; you are not called by God to go with the flow of this world; you are not called by God to follow the herd.  No, you are called by God for precisely this: remain faithful in an unfaithful world.

There is an old saying, “Are you a thermometer, or a thermostat?”  A thermometer simply registers the temperature, and changes with the environment around it.  But, a thermostat is set to a certain temperature; it does not change with the prevailing environment, it makes changes to the environment around it.

You are called by God not simply to fluctuate with the prevailing environment like a thermometer, but to remain set, like a thermostat.  Set to God’s ways, not changing with your environment, but making changes to your environment.

“I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty . . . I am the only one left.”  You are not alone in your struggle to remain faithful in an unfaithful world.  The Lord God Almighty is with you. 

Note that the Lord did not come to Elijah in the mighty wind, or in the earthquake, or the fire, but in the gentle whisper of a still, small voice.  The Lord God Almighty still comes to you in the gentle whisper of his Word and Sacraments.  The Lord God Almighty still comes to you in the still, small voice of prayer.  The Lord God Almighty comes to you with a promise to be with you always, to never leave you or forsake you.  As our opening psalm says, “He will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.”

You are not alone in your struggle to remain faithful in an unfaithful world.  The Lord God Almighty walks with you, day by day, along life’s way.  And also walking with you is a mighty multitude, your brothers and sisters in Christ.  As the Lord says to Elijah, “Yet I reserve 7,000 in Israel, all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal . . .”

Peter says, “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. . .  because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.”  Christian brothers and sisters all over this land and throughout the world are with you in the struggle.

Turn Elijah’s quandary into a question:  “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty . . . am I the only one left?”  “No,” says the Lord God Almighty, “I am with you; and even in the midst of this unfaithful world, I reserve a multitude for myself who have not bowed down to this worlds false gods.”

When you feel like you are the only one left struggling to remain faithful in an unfaithful world, when you ponder the question, “Am I the only one left?”, take comfort and strength from God’s answer, the story of “Elijah and the 7,000.”

Amen.

  Return to Top | Return to Sermons | Home | Email Pastor Vogts