“O Lord of hosts, how long wilt thou not have mercy upon Jerusalem? … And the Lord answered the angel … with good words and comfortable words.” - Zechariah 1:12,13
It is interesting to see the various places in the Bible where cries were lifted up to God and the answer is sent down in response. Of course, we all want, and pretty much do believe that God answers such cries when His children offer them up to Him. Now, we would never make such a bold claim as to state that God always answers the prayers of His people, but we are bold enough to proclaim that God’s answer to such cries are immediate and in such a fashion as to please of satisfy the ones making the cry. For instance, over in Exodus 2:23 we see mention of the cry of the Hebrew Slaves in Egypt to God:
23 Now it happened in the process of time that the king of Egypt died. Then the children of Israel groaned because of the bondage, and they cried out; and their cry came up to God because of the bondage.
They cried out in the midst of their terrible suffering and surely enough, God answered them by sending a deliverer in the person of Moses. In a very real and encouraging way, this stands as an example for us to take to heart even in this day and age.
The principle of crying out and being answered by God is also used in a negative fashion as well. Judges 10:14 speaks of yet another time when Israel, in the time of the Judges, was out “serving” the Baals and the Ashtoreths, the gods of Syria, the gods of Sidon, the gods of Moab, the gods of the people of Ammon, and the gods of the Philistines. They had been crying out to God for deliverance (something they had done before and received answers from God). But here God chooses to allow them to remain in the situation they were in:
14 Go and cry out to the gods which you have chosen; let them deliver you in your time of distress.”
It underscores the dramatic difference between crying out to the one true and living God and to all of those who are and do cry out to some other “rescuer”. God not only does not answer in any way that would be considered positive, but rather, He gives them over to the pursuit of their fascination with false and pagan gods. He tells them to go and pursue their false gods with the clear implication that this will show them that there is no “rescue” to be found in any of them or even in them all together!
In 2 Kings 4:38-40 we read the account of Elisha purifying the post ofstew to rescue Israel:
38 And Elisha returned to Gilgal, and there was a famine in the land. Now the sons of the prophets were sitting before him; and he said to his servant, “Put on the large pot, and boil stew for the sons of the prophets.” 39 So one went out into the field to gather herbs, and found a wild vine, and gathered from it a lapful of wild gourds, and came and sliced them into the pot of stew, though they did not know what they were. 40 Then they served it to the men to eat. Now it happened, as they were eating the stew, that they cried out and said, “Man of God, there is death in the pot!” And they could not eat it.
Elisha did what was necessary to make the food edible and thus demonstrated his office as a representative of God and a Prophet of God. The people had cried out to him (and thus to God) for help and through him God had. answered. Thus we can call his response as, in a very real way, a response from God.
In 1 Kings 17 we have the familiar account of the raising of the widow’s son by Elijah. God had sent Elijah to Zerephath to dwell for a while. He (God) said that a widow would provide for him while there. He went and introduced himself to this widow and found that she knew of the God of Israel and was in extremely poor situation-wise. Elijah told her to go and make provision for He and she and her son. He told her that her supplies would not fall short in the time that he was with them. As a result, they (all of the household) at for “many days” – v15-16). Just after that, God tells Elijah
The passage says that “after these things”, that is after the “many days” that the widow’s son became sick and the sickness was “so serious” -serious meaning “urgent” in the original language – that he stopped breathing, namely that he died of the illness.
The widow was, quite understandably, a bit stressed by the death of her son and she proclaims, in verse 18, “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?” It is very evident that her grief is profound.
Elijah’s response is for her to give him her son. He carries him to the upper room of the house “…where he was staying”. And laid him out on “his won bed” there. There, as we have been considering, the passages says;
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. (1 Kings 17:20–22)
He “cried out to the Lord” with his cry give to us in specific terms. We’re told further that “…the Lord “…heard the voice of Elijah; and the soul of the child came back to him…”
Thus, once again we see one of God’s people “calling out to the Lord” and God both receiving/hearing that calling and answering it. Now, as we have said, God does not ALWAYS answer in the dramatic and positive fashion we see here in 1 Kings 17. It sometimes is true that He hears and chooses to, for reasons of his own, NOT to answer at all, or not to answer in the positive. But He DOES hear.
There are many today that lay the ability for a positive answer on the back of the one making the petition. If you do not get the answer that is desired, the fault is yours! You have not had the faith to bring it to pass. You need to believe and it will occur. Additionally, there are many today that place themselves in a place over the people of God in the place being able to cause things to occur. You just have to contribute to the offing, (thus showing your faith and willingness to believe that God will answer – so they say). The sadness of such malarkey is that this is categorically NOT what God’s word tells or is the pattern demonstrated in the Word. It is a figment of the self-oriented imagination of people who want fame, money or the acclaim of men. That is so, so very sad.
On the other hand, what a sweet answer to an anxious enquiry! This night let us rejoice in it. O Zion, there are good things in store for thee; thy time of travail shall soon be over; thy children shall be brought forth; thy captivity shall end. Bear patiently the rod for a season, and under the darkness still trust in God, for his love burneth towards thee. God loves the church with a love too deep for human imagination: he loves her with all his infinite heart. Therefore, let her sons be of good courage; she cannot be far from prosperity to whom God speaketh “good words and comfortable words.” What these comfortable words are the prophet goes on to tell us: “I am jealous for Jerusalem and for Zion with a great jealousy.” The Lord loves his church so much that he cannot bear that she should go astray to others; and when she has done so, he cannot endure that she should suffer too much or too heavily. He will not have his enemies afflict her: he is displeased with them because they increase her misery. When God seems most to leave his church, his heart is warm towards her. History shows that whenever God uses a rod to chasten his servants, he always breaks it afterwards, as if he loathed the rod which gave his children pain. “Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him.” God hath not forgotten us because he smites—his blows are no evidences of want of love. If this is true of his church collectively, it is of necessity true also of each individual member. You may fear that the Lord has passed you by, but it is not so: he who counts the stars, and calls them by their names, is in no danger of forgetting his own children. He knows your case as thoroughly as if you were the only creature he ever made, or the only saint he ever loved. Approach him and be at peace.