1 Kings 19:9-
9 There he went into a cave and spent the night.
And the word of the Lord came to him: “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
10 He replied, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”
11 The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.”
Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake.12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.13 When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.
Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
14 He replied, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”
In our last study we suggested that we could place different emphases on each of the words in God’s question. Now we’ll look at it as a whole, but try to imagine the tone of voice that God used.
I believe that the time has come for Elijah to face the facts, and the tone God used was a stern one. “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
Elijah’s reply was a politician’s one – rehearsed, full of detail, but not answering the question.
By asking the question “What are you doing here, Elijah?” it suggests that Elijah should have been doing something else, somewhere else.
He was God’s servant, chosen and trained to do his will. If ever he was needed it was now. The mood of the people had changed, they were ready to give up their old ways and return to the one true God. Effectively he asks: ‘Why have you deserted me now? Who gave you permission to come here?’
What should Elijah’s answer have been?
‘I’m sorry, please forgive me.’
If he had replied like that, what might have happened next?
The forgiveness and restoration of Elijah, his momentary failure overlooked, and the reformation continued.
When we are confronted with the facts that we have done wrong, there are always two ways that we can respond. One is to justify our actions, the other is to admit our error. (Often having admitted we are wrong, we still try to justify our actions!)
If we start drifting away from the Lord, missing our Bible reading, or prayer, or maybe skipping the odd Sunday service, we can always find justification for our actions. We can come up with any number of excuses which sound good to us but which would look very lame if we wrote them down and then took them to a fellow-
And Elijah was in no mood to repent. So he ignored God’s question and didn’t explain why he was there or what he was doing. Instead he tried to justify himself:
V10 “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”
Of course, God knew all that, and Elijah wouldn’t have bothered to mention it if he hadn’t found it so hard to explain his actions. He was full of zeal for the Lord God Almighty. He was deeply saddened that the people of Israel had turned their backs on God and had followed the Baals. He was isolated and felt desperately lonely.
But that didn’t explain why at that moment he was in a foreign land, hiding in a cave. And it didn’t answer the question ‘What are you doing here Elijah?’
How is God going to deal with his wayward servant? Will he send his angel again to minister to him until he is feeling more able to continue the battle? No – if he did that, Elijah might never have left the mountain. The trouble was that Elijah had taken his eyes off the one who was well able to solve all those problems, and not surprisingly found he couldn’t cope alone. He literally needed a fresh vision.
v11 The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord”
If you take that literally it’s a simple command to obey, just a few steps was all that was asked. But we know how hard that can be when we are hiding in some dark cave when there is a problem or fear in our life as big as a mountain. But the solution is always the same: we must exercise our faith and stand on the very thing that looms frighteningly over us – and do it always ‘in the presence of the Lord’ Go out and stand on the mountain
Romans 8:38,39 says:
38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
But Elijah didn’t move. So is that going to be a problem for God? No – not at all. What did David say in Psalm 139:7-
7 Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?
8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,”
12 even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.
God needed to remind Elijah of his power, and hiding in a cave was as ineffective as a child putting it’s hands over it’s eyes and hoping it can’t be seen.
V11 . . . for behold the Lord is about to pass by
Behold! We so easily gloss over these things – but it was a major event for the Lord God himself to visit the earth – let alone for the sake of one of his wayward children. Where else in scripture do we specifically read that God visited the earth just to remind a servant of his power?
V11 . . . Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord.
Look at the words: ‘great’ ‘powerful’ ‘tore the mountains apart’ ‘shattered the rocks’. This was no natural gale. Not even a hurricane or tornado could tear the mountains apart. It simply demonstrates that God’s power cannot be limited. But why wind?
You don’t know where it’s come from and you don’t know where it’s going next.
You cannot control it.
It’s more powerful than us.
It speaks of the Spirit of God.
It was also a demonstration to Elijah that the Lord was well able to sweep away all those who rebelled against him – if he so chose. But the Lord was not in the wind.
After the wind there was an earthquake
Now, even the mountain that had stood since creation, and the very cave Elijah was hiding in were threatened. Again by something so much more powerful than Elijah, and over which he had absolutely no control. Invisible and unpredictable, nothing could stand in its way – but the Lord was not in the earthquake.
v12 After the earthquake came a fire.
What sort of fire? What was burning? Was it the same as the fire that fell on Carmel? Where, instead of the people, it was the sacrifice that was consumed; and the very people who had rejected God’s covenant, broken down his altars, and put his prophets to death with the sword, had repented, turned back to God, and had been forgiven.
V12 . . . . but the Lord was not in the fire.
Odd, because Elijah might have expected God to reveal himself with a demonstration of his almighty power. Instead:
V12 . . . And after the fire came a gentle whisper.
The best schoolteachers never have to shout at their children. In fact the quieter they speak, the quicker they get attention. So it was with Elijah. The sound of the Lord’s voice was what finally drew him out of hiding.
Do we ever pray that the Lord would work a miracle in someone’s life to draw their attention to him?
Does this passage suggest that God’s word might speak louder than a miracle?
How could we apply that to our witness to that person?
(SGM Lifewords produce a series of tracts / booklets where the words are all taken from scripture) http://www.sgmlifewords.com/uk/resources
V13 When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.
This brings back a memory from my first school, of being told to go to the Headmaster’s Study. I had never faced the headmaster before, never had to explain what I had done which was so bad that it required this ultimate punishment. I remember the feeling of awe, and dread, as I stood outside the door.
Finally a gentle voice beckoned me in and asked what the problem was. I remember the tears as I told him how sorry I was, that I would never, ever, be naughty again, and how I was then restored to my class with no punishment, but as a very chastened and changed little boy.
V13 behold a voice said to him
And now, God himself speaks audibly, man to man with Elijah; and we might hope that Elijah is now anxious to put things right between himself and awesome almighty God.
But for Elijah, as he was given a second chance, and the Lord again asked him ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’ he simply repeated his practised statement:
V14 He replied, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”
There way well come a time in our lives when a problem creeps up on us, or hits us suddenly, and we are not prepared for it, it catches us out, and before we realise it we are running. Had we been able to look at it, to pray about it, to share it with other believers, we may well have been able to face up to it – maybe in fear and trepidation – but in the certain knowledge that the Lord will see us through.
But we didn’t. And we acted on impulse. Maybe we said something, or did something, and we know it was wrong but it’s too late, maybe we’ve then had to go on and try to cover that error, but only made it worse.
But why do we run in the first place? Because we know that in our own strength we can’t cope, and we don’t believe, or simply forget, that the Lord is always bigger than our problem.
The only solution is to stop running. Give it to the Lord, and ask him to show us his way. And then, quite likely he will tell us to go back and face the problem again, but this time in his strength.
We need to remember that Elijah really did face possible death – the other prophets of the Lord had already been killed on Jezebel’s instruction. But the tables had turned, and Elijah himself had overseen the murder of the 450 prophets of Baal. Because of this it is certain that Jezebel would want revenge.
How serious are the problems or worries we are likely to face?
How does God view them from his Eternal perspective?
How do we face the prospect of certain death? Do we believe that the God who raised Jesus from the grave will raise us too into life everlasting? If our faith on that point is unshakeable then why do we doubt him when faced with what are in his eyes ‘light and momentary troubles’ Look at :
2 Corinthians 4:7-
7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-
13 It is written: “I believed; therefore I have spoken.” With that same spirit of faith we also believe and therefore speak, 14 because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you in his presence. 15 All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.
16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
Elijah had presented his accounts to God, and they showed a disastrous loss. Why was that?
He’d made the same mistake that people still make today – he thought that what he had on the credit side amounted to something.
Isaiah recognised the problem: Isaiah 64:6
All of us have become like one who is unclean,
and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags;
In God’s eyes our accounts are very one sided – the debit side! We make many withdrawals, but there is nothing that amounts to anything that we can pay in. We are overdrawn.
So what can we put on the Credit side?
What is the one asset which is worth far more than everything else that we need to include that will balance the books, wiping out the debit side entirely?
The faith that we received as a gift from God (Ephesians 2:8)
Remember Abram: Genesis 15:6
Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.
There is never a lack of resources, only an error in the way they are reported.
I think that Elijah was by now realising that his own confidence had been misplaced, and was in a position to begin again to trust in his God.
If you would like to PRINT or copy this study, click HERE for the PDF version, then Rt Click, and select ‘Print’, or ‘Save as’