Peter looks at the story of Elijah in 1Kings 17-19. What can we learn from Elijah’s relationship with God?
In God’s Presence
In 1Kings 17 Elijah bursts on to the pages of the history of the northern kingdom of Israel.
Meeting King Ahab in Gilead he declares: “…there shall not be dew or rain these years but according to my word.” (17:1) Elijah was then instructed to go and live in certain places where through a series of miraculous events God ensured that he and others had food and water during the drought and famine.
Three years later
We learn from Obadiah that Ahab had unsuccessfully scoured the country looking for him. (18:10) Understandably Obadiah was somewhat reluctant to announce to Ahab that he had found Elijah who wanted to speak with him. (18:7-14)
Elijah challenged the 450 prophets of Baal and the people of Israel: (1Kings 18:18-46)
“How long will you waver between two opinions? … “The God who answers by fire is God.” (1Kings 18:20)
This contest is graphically described in 1Kings 18:23-39. After hours of futile attempts by the priests of Baal to elicit a response to their prayers Elijah takes his place in front of the amassed crowds.
In answer to his prayer “the Lord’s fire fell and consumed the burnt offering, the wood, the stones, and the dirt and it licked up the water that was in the trench.”
The prophets of Baal were executed, and the 3 years of drought were ended.
When King Ahab told Queen Jezebel what Elijah had done, she vowed to kill him. Immediately Elijah became afraid and “ran for his life.” (19:1-3)
So great was his fear and deep depression that he prayed to die: “I’ve had enough Lord…” he said. Then exhausted and depressed he lay down and slept. Twice he was awakened by an angel who told him to eat and drink. He then made a six-week, 40 days journey to Horeb where he spent the night in a cave. (v4-9)
So often when God wants to get our full attention He will come at a time when we are not expecting Him, in a way that surprises us and so it happened for Elijah – “Suddenly, the word of the Lord came to him…” (v9)
We are not told how the thoughts came to Elijah’s mind but suddenly he heard the question; “What are you doing here Elijah?”
I’m sure that in the previous weeks of travel he had been filled with thoughts of fear, panic, dread, and insecurity centred on his perception: ‘I am the only prophet of God left and everyone is out to kill me!’ (v10).
I love God’s response: (v11) “Go out (of the cave) and stand on the mountain in the Lord’s presence.”
In God’s Presence
Most of us have times when full of perplexity or anxiety we have longed for some answers, comfort, or direction. We have wished that God would speak clearly.
Elijah had already experienced amazing demonstrations of God’s provision and power. Despite that, he somehow knew that God was NOT in the dramatic and terrifying wind, earthquake or fire. Instead, God came in the gentle stillness of a whisper (19:13).
This utter contrast, this total transformation caused Elijah to hide his face and stand still in God’s presence to hear the most glorious tender repeated question: “What are you doing here Elijah?”
There was no direct rebuke, no criticism at his complaint: “I’ve had enough! I can’t go on like this!” Such a gentle prodding laid bare his vulnerability and led to positive practical steps towards personal and national resolution.
Do we need to ‘just’ stand in God’s presence, anticipate His passing by and listen for the sound of stillness and his gentle endearing question: What are you doing here? Why are you in this state?
The first thing Elijah did was to anoint Elisha – someone who was as sensitive to the presence of God as he was!
Do you have someone like that?