“At that place he came to a cave, and spent the night there. Then the word of the LORD came to him, saying, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” (I Kings 19:9)
Elijah was running away. He had gone up against Ahab and now Jezebel was out to get him. So he journeyed a great distance, forty days and nights to Horeb the mount of God, the scriptures tell us. I have often felt I wanted to disappear into the ground, safe & sound, pull it around me to comfort me. For a time I used a shawl to wrap myself in when times were tough.
“He answered, “I have been very zealous for the LORD, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away.” (Verse 10)
From Elijah’s statement to the Lord, you can understand how Elijah might be afraid. What Elijah did not say is that he had withhold water from the land, proved the authenticity of the Lord God, and smote the prophets of Baal. His actions were fearless. But now he is afraid. I can actually understand the dichotomy that Elijah is feeling. I will quite often take actions that I know are right and good, but become afraid of the outcome, quivering to see what will happen. Even with experiencing that time and time again, I still act boldly and decisively, and then are nervous until the outcome is seen.
But, Elijah’s destiny was to not be fearful, but be sustained in the Lord’s Presence.
“He said, “Go out and stand on the mountain before the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by.” Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence.” (Verses 11 – 12)
Often times the Lord comes in the quiet and stillness. The world marches loudly and brazenly, acting in ways that cause ache and heartache, and more. We have seen it in our current days. We may think, I must be loud too. I must bang drums and cymbals, yell and scream, tear things apart to show our inner feelings. These are not the brave actions I was talking about above, but noisy actions that gain nothing but sound and fury.
“When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. Then there came a voice to him that said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” He answered, “I have been very zealous for the LORD, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away.” (Verses 13 – 14)
While I am very familiar with this story, as I worked my way through it I puzzled why the second statement that Elijah gave was the same as the first. Was there no learning here after seeing and hearing that the Divine was not in the noise and the brashness? Moreover, was my interpretation above inaccurate? The commentator I consulted states that both statement were filled with brashness. But then Elijah’s concern of death does not seem to be a fear but a proud statement. So, why did he run away?
“Then the LORD said to him, “Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus; when you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael as king over Aram. Also you shall anoint Jehu son of Nimshi as king over Israel; and you shall anoint Elisha son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah as prophet in your place. Whoever escapes from the sword of Hazael, Jehu shall kill; and whoever escapes from the sword of Jehu, Elisha shall kill.” (Verses 15 – 17)
Loose cannon. Maybe. It is interesting that it is at this point that a successor to Elijah is named. I/we know from further passages that the taking on of Elisha as a prophet heralds the end of Elijah’s ministry on earth. This passage is really puzzling me; it makes me wonder if I might have to reconsider the theme for this week, and delve into the passage at a greater depth. For now, let us leave things here. As the Lord God said, there is still some hope left.
“Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.” (Verse 18)