1 Kgs 19:9a, 11-16; Ps 27:7-8a, 8b-9abc, 13-14; Mt 5:27-32
With the Psalmist and with all the saints we cry out, “LORD, hide not your face from me; do not in anger repel your servant.” Indeed, we believe with all the saints in glory that we shall see the bounty of the LORD in the land of the living. We shall find our true value only when we are hidden with Christ in the Father. It is by the power and presence of the Holy Spirit that we are able to wait, to wait for the LORD. Indeed, we are patient, courageous, and stouthearted as we wait for the LORD.
Like all the prophets and saints after him, Elijah climbed the mountain of God and entered the cave. In this hiding place, as he was taking shelter from the Queen Jezebel, the Word of the LORD came to Elijah. Saints of every age seek out that place of safety wherein the unapproachable God can approach us. Without a life-changing encounter with the LORD God Almighty one can not preach or pray like Elijah. The Hidden One reveals himself as he passes by. The LORD is not in the strong driving wind. He is in the tiny whispering sound. The LORD is not in the earthquake. He is in the small quiet voice. The LORD is not in the fire. He is in the cool gentle breeze. The severe mercy of God approaches us to speak a word almost too dangerous. A word is spoken that changes everything. It begins with a question: “Elijah, why are you here?” A divine inquiry every saint must hear and to which he must respond. Elijah was honest enough to admit that he was afraid because his zeal for the LORD God has made him the enemy. Everyone has turned against God and is taking out their anger on his prophet. Not a surprise. Still this is the status quo; people lash out in self-righteous anger at anyone who seeks to serve the LORD God. In response to the Prophet’s fear the LORD God commands him to go forth from this moment of intimacy and comfort to continue challenging the faithless monarch and provide for the continuation of his ministry by appointing Elisha to succeed him as prophet. The only response that the Word of God provides for the fearful prophet is implied, yet, so clear: “Do not be afraid! I AM with you.” Nothing else matters, and only this good news is enough to enable the prophet and the saint to proclaim universal truth, in season and out of season.
Many times we marvel at the love that motivates the prophets and saints to seek the face of the LORD, but even more wondrous is the love with which the LORD seeks us. The LORD loves us with a passionate heart. He cannot love us more, and he will not love us less. He loves us whole-heartedly and without regret. It is this love that changes everything. We begin to love, Love. Indeed as the beloved disciple writes, “God is love.” We begin to have a new heart. We begin to love with the very love of God. In this kind of loving there is no room for lust. Indeed, we do not even want to gaze upon the beauty of another with any kind of distorted or even mixed motivation. Indeed, lust in the heart is as deadly as adultery. This is the sever gospel of Jesus Christ. The Lord Jesus is teaching us that lust and sin begin in the depths of our hearts and bears fruit in our actions. We must turn away from lust and sin as soon as it begins, or it will bear fruit in our lives, poisonous fruit of the deadly kind. So clear is the Lord Jesus about this teaching that he uses a startling and violent image to attract our attention. The Lord Jesus is not commanding us to inflict harm upon our bodies. He never would command such a thing. Rather he is summoning us to a radically new way of understanding and respecting human sexuality. We are to use sexuality not let sexuality use us. Indeed sexuality is a part of our human nature not our human nature a part of our sexuality. We are to love and honor ourselves and others because God loves us and wants to reveal his love in the human family to attract all his sons and daughters into the glory of the Kingdom.