“Go out and stand before me on the mountain,” the Lord told him. And as Elijah stood there, the Lord passed by, and a mighty windstorm hit the mountain. It was such a terrible blast that the rocks were torn loose, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And a voice said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” He replied again, “I have zealously served the Lord God Almighty. But the people of Israel have broken their covenant with you, torn down your altars, and killed every one of your prophets. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me, too.” Then the Lord told him, “Go back the same way you came, and travel to the wilderness of Damascus. When you arrive there, anoint Hazael to be king of Aram. Then anoint Jehu grandson of Nimshi to be king of Israel, and anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from the town of Abel-meholah to replace you as my prophet. Anyone who escapes from Hazael will be killed by Jehu, and those who escape Jehu will be killed by Elisha! Yet I will preserve 7,000 others in Israel who have never bowed down to Baal or kissed him!”
Dear God, Bustard didn’t include verse 10 in this lesson, but I think it’s important because it starts with you asking Elijah a question and then Elijah answers. It is after this exchange that you decide to “pass by.”
There he came to a cave, where he spent the night. But the Lord said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” Elijah replied, “I have zealously served the Lord God Almighty. But the people of Israel have broken their covenant with you, torn down your altars, and killed every one of your prophets. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me, too.”
Elijah passively accuses you of the same thing I have accused you of. He feels like you have let him down. You have disappointed him. I have felt disappointed by you too. For Elijah, I think he felt like he “zealously served” you and you still didn’t come through with the people falling into line. After he did such a great job, why should his life be on the line?
Then you told him to get ready because you were going to come by. And you did some things that would physically scare him. A huge wind that crumbled rocks. An earthquake. Fire. Were you showing him that you could take his life in a minute? Were you making that point to him?
What I’ve always liked about this story is that when you showed up you were gentle. A gentle whisper is what you used to once again ask your question of Elijah: “What are you doing here, Elijah?” His answer didn’t change, but I wonder if his tone of voice did. Was there anger in his first answer? Were there tears in the second?
My wife and I were talking this morning about the fine line we often cross between feeling close to you and living in the Spirit and being completely fallen. Thank you that you give us people like Elijah who experienced the same thing.
Now, regarding this image, here we have Elijah with the cloak he put over his own eyes, and I assume that is your presence approaching his face. Is that a knife? A claw? A feather? I don’t know. Here is what the artist, Justin Sorensen, says about this story:
I’ve always been interested in how the specs tackle of the fire or earthquake didn’t touch Elijah at his core the way the gentleness of a whisper did. The ordinariness of the whisper really strikes me. My tendency is always to look for God in the places I expect to find him. The whisper seems always to suggest that God can’t be controlled, and that he can manifest himself however he likes. I think the whisper is God’s way of saying to Elijah that he is everywhere, and that he is moving in ways we can’t see. It’s not that God wasn’t whispering up until that point, it’s that Elijah then became aware of it.
Father, help me to consider my life worth nothing to me. Help me to simply finish the race and complete the task you have given me–the task of testifying to your grace.
In Jesus’ name I pray,