The Face of God
3rd Sunday after Pentecost
The Lord our God shine His face upon you in the Grace and Mercy of our risen Savior, Jesus Christ - Amen.
Let's face it; being a Christian isn't as easy as it used to be. One main reason could be that relatively less Christians exist in the world today. Yes, the population of our world is billions more than in the time of Jesus, or even 500 years ago, yet we see Christianity growing in some parts of the world and dying in others.
Relatively speaking there are more non-Christians than Christians; and we may even doubt the veracity of the Christians we meet. We hear so many different views about Christianity that it is no wonder why this generation is confused and unwilling to commit to the faith. Many people are Christian in name only; that is, they like to believe they are okay in Christ, yet they do not follow the commands of Christ.
The prophet Elijah had this problem in his world. God was still God, but many of God's people were Israelites in name only. They had fallen away from God and fallen into the worship of false gods and idols. Samaria was being ruled by King Ahabe and Jezebel. It was a time of violence, moral depravity, and flagrant idolatry. To avoid being killed by Ahab, Elijah escaped to Judah and was hiding in a cave, where he was brokenhearted over the unfaithfulness of the people, not to mention lonely.
God did not forget Elijah. He knew that he was faithful and zealous for his ministry. Elijah, sitting in the dark cave, waiting for God to come to him, may have wondered if he could give it all up and return to his previous livelihood. The Bible doesn't mention Elijah's genealogy but some think he may have been a priest from the order of Aaron. In any case, God was not to leave Elijah alone, nor was He letting him give up.
You may have felt the frustration that Elijah feels. You may have felt alone with no friends. You may have found yourself with no place to live and no bed to rest. You may have felt that God has abandoned you in your pain and you ask, "Why?"
Like Elijah, you may have been faithful and zealous for the Lord, yet you do not see God's strong hand providing for you in your life. By God's providence I mean every aspect be it physically, emotionally and spiritually. In my life I can never seem to get all three at the same time. For some of you it may be one, two or all three aspects of you being that are at a low point. This is where Elijah was. He felt his faith falter, his life in mortal danger and the feeling of being loveless and alone.
It is at this time when God comes to Elijah. "What are you doing in this cave, Elijah?" God asks. Elijah says, "As if you didn't know! I'm being hunted for death. Nobody has listened to me. I have no friends and no place to go." God shows Elijah that he is not alone. He commands Elijah to go and anoint a new prophet to help him do God's work.
This new man for God was Elisha. Elisha was faithful to God. When Elijah came to tell Elisha God had called him to be his prophet, Elisha did not question his word. Instead, he slaughtered his oxen, boiled them all and fed the people. This was the sign of his commitment to follow the Lord; he no longer had anything holding him back.
Now we see a repeat of God's calling to his people. Jesus is leaving Galilee in the north and heading to Jerusalem in the southern kingdom of Israel. The scripture says, "He steadfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem, and sent messengers before his face." You see, when God shows his face to someone or some place His will is made known. What follows is most definite and without doubt. Jesus was following his Father's will by going to Jerusalem to pay the debt of all sins for us all by crucifixion on the cross.
The disciples did not yet fully comprehend what their teacher and Lord was going to do. They were still reveling in the knowledge that God was among His people, or as Jesus would say, “The kingdom of heaven is in your midst.” But the disciples did know that Jesus had power given to him by God. This is why they asked Jesus to call down fire from heaven upon the Samaritans when they rejected them.
You see, they were thinking of the great prophet Elijah who called down fire to burn the altar and show the people the true face of the false God of Baal. Filled with zealousness, the disciples wished to be a part of the glory of God that had not been seen for almost a thousand years. They had also forgotten the struggle and pain that all prophets of God endured. They had also forgotten the true purpose of Jesus Christ; so he reminds them.
Luke 9:55–56 (NKJV): He turned and rebuked them, and said, “You do not know what manner of spirit you are of. For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them.” And they went to another village.
Others met Jesus wishing to follow him but were not able to commit themselves to the task. Like people of our time, there are those who wish to follow Jesus. They wish to be called Christians and disciples of Christ, but they cannot commit. They find excuses in their lives not to follow. One man was told that he would have to leave the comfort of his home to travel without any guarantee of a place to sleep and that even the foxes and birds will have a more sure home to lay their heads.
Another man asks to return home to say good-bye to his family before following Jesus. To this Jesus lets the man know, that if he returns to his home, he will not be able to follow. We see this today when people find worldly things to follow instead of Jesus. The grandkids sports tournament is on Sunday so they can’t be at church. Or, it’s opening day of hunting season. Or, Sunday is my only day off and I want to sleep in.
God knows our hearts minds. God knows those who follow him and those who are Christian in name only. This is why Jesus did not remain in towns and villages that rejected him. He knew they would not follow. He knew it would be too much for their false faith. Remember, when God shows His face to His people, His will is done. His will is to redeem his people, but those who reject him bring judgment on themselves.
Those who believe and confess Jesus Christ as Lord are true followers of Christ. Those who leave their old sinful man behind, those who give up the life of sin for the life in Christ Jesus are those who receive blessing from the face of God. As true Christians we follow Christ and his command to baptize all nations in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. As true Christians we eat his body and drink his blood as often as we come together in his name. As true Christians we proclaim the Living Word to all people. We are not Christians in name only but Christians through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
We face a big world out there. What was once far away and unknown is now up close and personal. Today we can speak face to face with people down the street across the country and across the world. We all are witness to the rising tide of the human race that is growing faster in the rejection of Christ Jesus than in the confessing of Christ Jesus. Do not be afraid. Do not reject Jesus. Set your face firmly to the will of God. Look into the face of the Lord and receive his great and abundant blessing.
Proclaim the Gospel of your salvation. For on the Day of the Lord you will be face to face with your God and King. In that day you will rejoice forevermore. In that day you will be in his happy home in his kingdom. In that day we will all be glad that we followed Jesus Christ and received the blessing of his name as his children.