Summary: God will get our attention and force us to make choices, despite our desire to avoid decisions or our wish to be secular. When the lightning strikes it may be painful but it will be about grace.
You can most certainly expect God to attract your attention.
I cannot tell you exactly how He will do it, but I do know that He will do it. He will attract your attention.
Many of us face a spiritual issue called inattention. Distraction. Inattention. We are not paying attention to what God is telling us. We are asleep, drifting, blundering through life. But God is at work attracting our attention.
Now He may do it gently or He may do it vigorously. He may speak in that still, small voice that Elijah heard. Or he may knock you out of your seat like He did to Saul on the road to Damascus. He may tap you on the shoulder and whisper in your heart. Or He may use a lightning strike to shake you down to your boots.
He may be, as the hymn writer put it, "the silence of eternity, interpreted by love." Or He may be something like the old farmer who insisted that he could control his mule with nothing but gentle commands … said he never had any trouble getting old Bessie to follow. But somebody saw old Bessie and the farmer out in the field one day, and saw the farmer pick up a steel pipe and whap that mule up side the head. "Why, I thought you said you could control your mule without whips or violence; I thought you said you could command this critter with just a few words. What’s with this steel pipe?" To which the farmer answered, "Oh, well, yes. But first I have to get her attention!"
God is about the business of getting our attention. Sometimes it’s quiet. Something we are ready for and we just receive His word when it comes.
But much of the time, God has to use the steel pipe. God uses the crisis moments of our lives to get our attention. God will use a defining moment, a filled-up moment, to challenge us to make a choice. God will, when He must, use a lightning strike to get hold of us.
I expect you’ve had moments like that. Moments in which all of a sudden something flashed a warning signal on your radar screen, and you realized that God was getting your attention.
Maybe it came through the stern warning of a friend. Maybe it came when somebody just dumped all over you and told you how badly you had messed up. You really already knew that, but someone had the courage to tell you that what you had done was truly awful. That was God, getting your attention. Don’t blame the friend who had the courage of his convictions; blame God, if you must, for sending the lightning strike. The steel pipe. The attention-getter.
Those of us who are married know how our spouses get our attention. If you are in a marriage of true minds and of equal partners, then you can expect a few attention-getters along the way. I well remember how, years ago, when my work habits were keeping me away from home, night after night after night, and then when I would get home, I would take my bulging brief case to my desk and work some more. My attention-getter came in the form of a complaint from Margaret, who said, "You are missing the entire childhood of these kids. And if you don’t change now, you’ll never be able to recover those years." That was not very gentle. Not very nice. That was a steel pipe up side the head of this old mule. But it was also God’s attention-getter.
Incidentally, because of what is happening today, up the road in Camden Yards, it might be worth saying that if the pope had a wife maybe he wouldn’t be so sure he was infallible!
How is God working to get your attention? What kind of lightning is striking close to where you stand?
Elijah, God’s prophet, had seen that a defining moment had come in the life of Israel. Elijah had seen God trying to get King Ahab’s attention. Ahab and his queen, Jezebel, had brought into the worship life of Israel some major corruption. Not only had they promoted the worship of the Canaanite Baals; but also they had imported Jezebel’s Astarte worship from Sidon. And with these pagan worship practices came all sorts of moral corruption and destructive foolishness.
But the Lord had been trying very hard to get King Ahab’s attention. Three years without rain had left the land parched and the crops barren. Three years without food had left the people starved and rebellious. Still there was no action; still Ahab did not seem to understand the connection between his idolatry and the suffering of his people. It just did not dawn on the big galoot that what he was doing was the cause of this disaster.