1 Kings 19:11-14
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 mighty windstorm 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. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.
We may run to obscure places in times of trouble, but we are never out of God’s reach. He will visit us at the ‘ends of the earth’, both physically and emotionally, just as He does here for Elijah.
With Israel in political and spiritual turmoil, this was the last place God needed Elijah to be. He had given up and gone into mourning, but this divine visitation highlights the relentless nature of God and what's necessary for us when we simply want to shut out the world. Read on and may God bless His word to us today.
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?”
He replied, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelite's have rejected your covenant, torn 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.”
The circumstances of life may bring mighty windstorms, rock falls, quakes and fire to our door, but in the cleft of the rock we are hidden and sheltered. With the natural elements seemingly out of control it was suddenly and ironically a life threatening environment.
Elijah had run a long way to escape Jezebel's threats to end his life; now the mountain drops a hint that trouble can follow us anywhere, yet the hand of God (like a cleft in the rock) is our shelter. So while Elijah had lamented, 'and now they are trying to kill me', the Lord in part may have been saying, 'Son, it's not your time to go... and when it's time, I'll be the one to bring you home'. And when that time did arrive, the Lord took Elijah in absolutely spectacular one off fashion. Let's face it, Jesus ascended on a cloud, but Elijah went up in a chariot of fire!
With every other prophet killed, Elijah believed the tide had turned irreversibly against God. But the Lord's relentless nature was unfolding before Elijah like crocus in the desert.
The sound of a gentle whisper followed the calamity, drawing Elijah closer to the conversation and the outside world that had so disappointed him. But the whisper didn't change the subject. This heavenly voice addressed the issue in deafening stillness, 'What are you doing here Elijah?'
If I was asked the same question twice, I would probably elaborate the second time, making my case stronger. Groan my lament with more words, just in case God didn't understand my hurt the first time. Thankfully, Elijah sets a beautiful precedent by giving exactly the same reply; because that's all he had. Elijah's pain was expressed truthfully, offered to God as plainly as a child.
So though the answers were the same the first and second time, perhaps the second rendering was more like a surrender of burden, not simply an expression of pain. Elijah needed both to get through this crisis of faith and the Lord allowed for both.
And so it is with us, that we are able to express our pain before the Lord. But we are invited to, and sooner or later need to, surrender our burden to Him.
Hand it over. Give it up. Leave it behind. Lighten our load and re-saddle.
After making his personal pain clear to the Lord... and knowing he was heard... Elijah continued in a fierce ministry... leaving his burden on the mountain of God beside the gentle whisper.