June 20, 2004: Would You Call Elijah To Be Your Pastor?

Let us pray: Dear Savior, on this Father’s Day in our land, we thank You for giving us loving fathers, Christian gentlemen, who take the spiritual leadership in their families seriously. We also thank You for providing us, Your holy church, with faithful pastors who stand in Your place and proclaim and apply Your saving truths to our lives. May we never take either group for granted. Amen

TEXT: I Kings 17: 17-24

Fellow Redeemed Sinners:
Let’s flash back to 1976. That fall I joined about 30 other men ranging in age from 20 to almost 60 in beginning pre-theological studies at Bethany Lutheran College in Mankato, Mn. We all had the goal of being a pastor. We all felt an inner yearning to do formal work for our Lord. Some would say: “We all had ‘the call.’” However, subsequent events clearly showed that one dare never confuse an inner, personal desire with God’s holy will.

After one year of study at the college—and a year of Latin behind me, I began my 1st year Greek class—the language of the New Testament. That class began with about 30 “pre-thes” in attendance. Again, all felt that someday they would be pastors. However, by the end of the year only about 8 of us remained in the class. The others, for whatever reason, didn’t have what it took. Their inner desires were obviously different than God’s will. The next year many of us enrolled in our 1st year Hebrew class. Likewise, this class began with about 20 students all hoping to be pastors someday, but by year’s end about 15 of us remained. Slowly but surely God was making His will known. And we were learning what a high calling the public ministry really is.

In 1980 I was accepted for enrollment in the seminary. During those four years of study, I can recall others who dropped out because again, the Lord made it clear to them that He had a different future in mind for their lives. And then in 1984 I graduated from the seminary and received my 1st call to a parish in central Iowa.

Through those 8 years of study it was told to us and shown to us by the winnowing process that no one is in the ministry or called to the ministry unless and until they have a formal call from God’s people in their hands. That call to be a pastor comes from God. But, God uses congregations, groups of saints, to issue such a call. A few of you can still remember when you met as a church to discuss candidates for the ministry here, proposed by the synod, the church at large. You can remember how you rejected the 1st list of pastoral candidates after prayer and discussion and later when the synod president proposed my name, you prayed about it, and finally accepted his advice. And after I received that formal call to be your pastor I, too, prayed about it, invoked the Holy Spirit, and in the end He lead me to accept the position I hold today here at Pinewood.

Today as we consider this familiar lesson about the prophet Elijah and his work, I want you to ponder this question:


Now there is a difference between Elijah and pastors today in regard to their calls from God. That difference being: Elijah was called directly by God, whereas we are called by Him indirectly through a group of saints, or the congregation. However, in both cases we work for God. Yes, your offerings pay my salary. Yes, I’m here to serve you with God’s truth. However, my boss is actually God, not the congregation per se. That’s an important point too, since sometimes I have to tell some of you things you don’t want to hear. If I don’t announce God’s truths to you, I’m sinning. So, like Elijah, that puts me in the middle an occasionally makes my life difficult.

Elijah was given the hard task of telling the King of the nation, Ahab, that he was guilty of great sin and that because of his sins God was going to punish the entire nation. The punishment was no rain in the land for 3 years. In dry, dusty Palestine that was literally a death sentence to many. No rain meant no food. It meant a collapse of the economy. It meant anguish and death. Ahab and his evil queen Jezebel knew that, too. Yet, neither one repented. Neither one listened to God’s prophet. Instead, they sought to kill him. And so God had him hide out in the wilderness for a year where Elijah was fed by the ravens and supplied with water from a little brook. But then the water dried up.

At that point, “the word of the Lord came to him. ‘Go at once to Zarephath of Sidon and stay there. I have commanded a widow in that place to supply you with food.’ So he went to Zarephath. When he came to the town gate, a widow was there gathering sticks. He called to her and asked, ‘Would you bring me a little water in a jar so I may have a drink?’ As she was going to get it, he called, ‘And bring me, please, a piece of bread.’ ‘As surely as the Lord your God lives,’ she replied, ‘I don’t have any bread—only a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a jug. I am gathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for myself and my son, that we may eat it—and die.’”

The famine had struck. This woman was beaten by the dire situation that Elijah had been the bearer of. She was a gentile, a non-Jew, who knew of Elijah’s God and accepted her fate at His hand. In fact, she was a resident of the area where the evil queen Jezebel, who sought Elijah’s life, had come from! And yet, God sent Elijah to minister to her, didn’t He? Yes, God has compassion on all people and desires all to be saved and to come to the knowledge of His truth.

“Elijah said to her, ‘Don’t be afraid. Go home and do as you have said.” Make some bread, use your flour. “For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel says: ‘The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the Lord gives rain on the land.’”

Think of the faith it took for this woman to accept this message! It must have seemed impossible. And humanly speaking, it was! And yet, with God all things are possible. And for the next 2 years Elijah lived with her and her son and miraculously the oil and flour never ran out!

Would you call Elijah to be your pastor? Think about it. For two years he lived with a widow and her son. How the others in the community must have talked! He was a wanted man with a price on his head. Everyone blamed him for their troubles. Certainly Elijah didn’t fit the modern mold of a pastor. He wasn’t concerned with keeping up appearances for appearance sake. He wasn’t full of happy talk or pious platitudes.


And then one day her son dies! After an illness her only son dies! The woman is frustrated, angry, hurt, and confused. And so she blurts out: “What do you have against me, man of God? Did you come to remind me of my sin and kill my son?”

Like all people, her immediate reaction to trouble was to get angry both with God and His representative. Pastors have to get used to that. In fact, we never do. It hurts when others fail to see that their argument is really with God and not with you. But, since you’re there and God isn’t visible, the pastor gets the brunt of the harshness.

And then, out of this volatile situation comes relief! In this case Elijah asks for her son. He carries him upstairs and prays to God to restore him to life. The boy’s body and soul are separate at that point. But after praying and stretching himself out over the boy three times saying, “O Lord my God, let this boy’s life return to him.’—The soul is reunited with the body and the boy is resurrected. Elijah then carries the boy downstairs (he must have been a little guy for him to do that) and exclaims: “Look, your son is alive!” And then this woman gives that wonderful confession of faith: “Now I know that you are a man of God, and that the word of the Lord from your mouth is the truth.”

What does this lesson teach us today? It teaches us that God works wonderful things through the ministry of His Word and that He uses humans, pastors, to do so. It teaches us that out of anguish comes healing and joy, if we but listen to God’s Word and obey Him. It shows us that a guilty conscience (the woman’s) can be overcome by the truth of the resurrection. In this case, Elijah is a type of Christ. Jesus was and is our mediator between God and human beings. Jesus laid down His life so that we might be cleansed by His sacrifice and then was raised from the dead so that you and I might live in the newness of a resurrected life.

You are not called by God to the public ministry of His word. But you are the direct recipients of all the blessings that His ministry brings. For even today, God heals your hurting souls through the ministry, the service, of this humble preacher.
Would you call Elijah to be your pastor? Would you look past mere outward appearance and focus on his message of eternal salvation through obedience and faith in Christ alone? Well, I hope so! For I know I would! Amen