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4501 Waller Rd E
Tacoma, Washington
INI
Third Sunday after Pentecost
June 5, 2016
Ascension Lutheran Church, Tacoma WA
Paul Naumann, Pastor

WHAT DOES GOD HAVE AGAINST ME?
I Kings 17:17-24

To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and has made us kings and priests to God and His Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever, Amen. This morning's text is found in the Old Testament Book of I Kings, chapter 17, beginning with the 17th verse, as follows:

Now it happened after these things that the son of the woman who owned the house became sick. And his sickness was so serious that there was no breath left in him. 18 So she said to Elijah, "What have I to do with you, O man of God? Have you come to me to bring my sin to remembrance, and to kill my son?" 19 And he said to her, "Give me your son." So he took him out of her arms and carried him to the upper room where he was staying, and laid him on his own bed. 20 Then he cried out to the LORD and said, "O LORD my God, have You also brought tragedy on the widow with whom I lodge, by killing her son?" 21 And he stretched himself out on the child three times, and cried out to the LORD and said, "O LORD my God, I pray, let this child's soul come back to him." 22 Then the LORD heard the voice of Elijah; and the soul of the child came back to him, and he revived. 23 And Elijah took the child and brought him down from the upper room into the house, and gave him to his mother. And Elijah said, "See, your son lives!" 24 Then the woman said to Elijah, "Now by this I know that you are a man of God, and that the word of the LORD in your mouth is the truth." These are the Words.

In the Name of Jesus Christ, Who has said, "My thoughts toward you are thoughts of peace, not of evil," Dear Fellow Redeemed,

"Why me, Lord?" -People often say that in a humorous way. Usually they say it on those bad Mondays when Murphy's Law comes true: when everything that could possibly go wrong, does. Imagine a mother, for instance, who has spent all day managing her kids, wiping up spills, bandaging skinned knees and frantically trying to keep the house from turning into a shambles. To top it all off, suppertime arrives and she discovers that the roast she thought was cooking at 350 all afternoon was actually cooking at 550, and has now become a blackened cinder. It's easy to picture her rolling her eyes toward the heavens and saying with a sigh, "Why me, Lord?"

Such a person probably isn't really blaming God for her problems. Just giving vent to a little weariness and frustration. But there are much more serious situations that come up in life - times of real tragedy or severe hardship. And when you've suddenly lost a loved one; or when the doctor tells you your worst fears are true; or when you're faced with impending bankruptcy -- then that question isn't a joke anymore. These are times when anybody - even devout believers - could be tempted to seriously question God's wisdom and the way He governs our life. The Holy Ghost has given us a timeless example of this in our text for today. It's the account of the widow of Zeraphath, her son, and the prophet Elijah. Pay attention - there's a lesson here that, if you don't need now, you will definitely need some day! Our theme is a question that I hope you'll never ask:

WHAT DOES GOD HAVE AGAINST ME?
I It's a question that makes too much of yourself.
II. It's a question that makes too little of God.

Our text begins with the words: "Now it happened after these things...," and you may ask, "After what things?" Our account for this morning follows an important miracle that the Lord performed through the prophet Elijah. God had sent Elijah to the home of the widow and her son during a period of famine, when they were down to their last bit of food. But, miraculously, the Lord caused their barrel of flour never to go empty, and their vessel of oil never to go dry. You might remember the account - we had a sermon on it a while back.

Well, just when the widow might have thought she was out of the woods -- more trouble. Now it happened after these things that the son of the woman who owned the house became sick. And his sickness was so serious that there was no breath left in him.. It was every mother's nightmare come true. You parents, especially, can imagine the growing fear and helplessness she must have felt as the child's condition got worse and worse. Finally, the boy died. Naturally, the mother was wild - beside herself with grief and pain. In her agony, she turned on Elijah: "What have I to do with you, O man of God? Have you come to me to bring my sin to remembrance, and to kill my son?" "Elijah," she said, "what do you have against me??"

Her question was spoken to God's prophet, but you don't have to read much between the lines to see that she was actually questioning God Himself. Faced with this horrible tragedy, she asked the question that all of us have been - or will one day be - tempted to ask ourselves: "WHAT DOES GOD HAVE AGAINST ME??" And that's a question that a believer should never ask, for at least two important reasons. In the first place, it's a question that makes too much of yourself.

I wonder if you're like me - when you hear an unexpected sound in your house, do you drop whatever you're doing and go investigate? I do that. No matter how faint or brief the sound, if I can't explain it I just have to go check it out. And that's natural, because we human beings are creatures of reason. We don't like mysteries. We like to have explanations for the things that happen in our lives. That's why it's so hard for us to accept when something goes wrong and there doesn't seem to be any logical explanation. When the doctor tells you you've contracted a deadly disease, you want to know why. When you've been scrimping and saving to make your family finances work, and then the bottom suddenly falls out, you want an explanation. When a loved one dies, you search for a reason. And if you can't find one, it's very tempting to make one up.

That's what the widow did. She made up an explanation for the tragedy that had befallen her. She automatically jumped to the conclusion that God must be angry with her for her sin, and that's why He killed her son. In doing so, she was making way too much of herself. She was, in effect, saying, "I'm wise enough to know why this happened. And not only that, I'm wise enough to know that, in my case, God has made a mistake!"

Think about that - what towering presumption it takes for a mere human being to place himself or herself above the almighty God! And yet that's what the widow of Zeraphath did. And it's not such an uncommon occurrence, either. You remember that the same thing happened to the patriarch Job; when he was struck with tragedy, he complained that God was punishing him unfairly for his sins. He said, If I called and He answered me, I would not believe that He was listening to my voice. For He crushes me with a tempest, And multiplies my wounds without cause. He will not allow me to catch my breath, But fills me with bitterness. -- Job 9:16-18. It was the same agonized cry - "WHAT DOES GOD HAVE AGAINST ME?"

Do you recall how God answered Job? The Lord appeared to Him out of a whirlwind and said, "Who is this who darkens counsel By words without knowledge? 3 Now prepare yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer Me. 4 "Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding. -- Job 38:2-4. In other words - don't talk about things you don't understand, and don't tell God how to run the world He created!

And don't think that you are never guilty of doing it. If God hasn't revealed to you the reason for what happens in your life, don't make one up. I once knew a man who was absolutely convinced that a specific sin he'd committed was the reason his daughter contracted cancer. Such explanations are not only wrong, they're presumptuous. Can you claim to understand what God has in mind for your life - or anyone else's, for that matter? Don't make too much of yourself! One day a building in Jerusalem collapsed and killed eighteen people. Jesus asked his followers, "Those eighteen on whom the tower of Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish." Lk 13:4-5 (NKJV).

Face it - if the Lord really punished us for our sins, we'd all of us have constant agony here on earth, and an eternity of pain to follow in the next life! The wages of sin is not occasional trouble or hardship. The Bible says that "the wages of sin is death." You might well ask, "Then why aren't we all dead? We're certainly all sinners!" And that brings us to the next point. The question, "WHAT DOES GOD HAVE AGAINST ME?" not only makes too much of yourself - it also makes too little of God!

You know, I'm constantly amazed at the number of Christians who can overlook a thousand yesterdays in their worrying and fretting over a single tomorrow. We have a number of retirement-aged members in our congregation - ask them, sometime, whether the Lord has ever failed them in time of need. I've been your pastor for twenty-one years, and I know a lot of your stories. I've heard many of you speak of God's healing, of His goodness and blessing in your lives. If I ask you to think, right now, of the most devastating crisis that you've ever gone through in your life, none of you would have any trouble identifying what that was, would you? Now let me ask you another question: did the Lord sustain you and carry you through that crisis? Did He continue to provide for you and pour His love into your life? I KNOW He did, because that's what He ALWAYS does! As the Psalmist says, The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears, And delivers them out of all their troubles. 18 The LORD is near to those who have a broken heart, And saves such as have a contrite spirit. 19 Many are the afflictions of the righteous, But the LORD delivers him out of them all. " - Psalm 34:17-19 Given the history, can you doubt the future? Can you really think that the Lord won't continue to stand by you in any and all the troubles that lie ahead in your life? If the widow of Zeraphath needed reassurance about God's goodness, all she had to do was go look at that bottomless flour barrel -- and yet she questioned God. In the case of her son, she doubted God's wisdom. She belittled His grace.

It's true that we are sometimes faithless. But God remains faithful. He has His plan for your life, even if you can't see what it is. Look at Elijah -- he himself didn't understand why the boy had died, but that didn't make him fold up in a heap of anger and self-pity, like the widow did. Rather, what did he do? He took his doubts and confusion to the Lord, and placed the whole situation into His hands. Elijah cried out to the LORD and said, "O LORD my God, have You also brought tragedy on the widow with whom I lodge, by killing her son?" 21 And he stretched himself out on the child three times, and cried out to the LORD and said, "O LORD my God, I pray, let this child's soul come back to him." 22 Then the LORD heard the voice of Elijah; and the soul of the child came back to him, and he revived. 23 And Elijah took the child and brought him down from the upper room into the house, and gave him to his mother. And Elijah said, "See, your son lives!" God has never failed His people. He didn't fail that poor widow woman -- and He will not fail you!

Do you want to see the indisputable proof of God's love for you? Then you need look no farther than this cross on our altar. It's a symbol of the blood sacrifice that our Savior made for us. John says, "By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us." I Jn 3:16. For your sake, Jesus Christ, the King of all creation, bowed His head and accepted a crown -- not of jewels, but of thorns. For your sake, His hands and feet were pierced by nails. His wounded shoulders felt the rough, wooden surface of the cross for your sake. His body was wracked by the grinding, gasping agony of the cross for your sake. For your sake, His blood flowed. All this to atone for sinners like you and me. All this to save not worthy people, not noble and loveable people, but people like us - people as corrupt and rotten and stubborn and rebellious as you and I have been! All this, so that you and I can stand justified, so that we can claim complete innocence in God's eyes. We are forgiven! We are free from the curse of sin, as Paul says, Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangs on a tree. Gal 3:13.

You see that now the question "What does God have against me?" becomes meaningless. He can't be punishing me for my sin - Jesus bore the punishment for my sin! For His' sake, God has only love for us, not anger. Does that mean that we Christians won't continue to run into trouble in life? Does it mean that the Lord will never allow hurt to come, or tragedy to strike? No. Like a loving parent, our Heavenly Father will sometimes allow chastisement to come into our lives to discipline us and bring us closer to Him. And don't make too little of God! He is more than powerful enough to bring triumph even out of tragedy. "Weeping may endure for a night," says the Psalmist, "but joy comes in the morning." Also, don't forget the promise God makes to us in Romans 8:28, a promise that afflicted Christians of all ages have relied upon with confidence: We know that all things work together for good to those who love God, who are the called according to his purpose. That means you, dear Christian, so rejoice! Like all the other promises our Lord makes, this is a promise He will never break!

In an old country and western song, Chris Kristofferson sings, "Why me, Lord? What have I ever done to deserve...?" -and up to that point you might think he was going to complain about his hard lot in life. But he goes on, "What have I ever done to deserve even one of the blessings I've known?" I hope you'll join me today in thanking the Lord for the manifold blessings that He's showered on us, for Jesus' sake. I pray that, when the hard times come, we'll remember with confidence our Lord's great love for us, love He displayed by sending His Son to the cross. And I know that we'll never need to ask that (after all meaningless) question, "What does God have against me?" Rather, let us say with Paul, "If God is for us, who can be against us?" AMEN.