Tanakh Study 1 Kings 19
Sometimes we feel like we've had enough. We've fought hard. We've fallen down, gotten back up, and been knocked down again. Frustration sets in, we find ourselves questioning God in a world plagued by violence, disease, and evil of all sorts. Often, as believers, we feel attacked and pressed on all sides. If you have ever felt this way; tired, frustrated, about to give up, you are in good company.
We find the characters in the Tanakh to be all too human. We see ourselves in the stories and situations found in the Bible. God loves to use imperfect people, of whom there is always a steady supply, to do his work here on earth. This is just as true today as it was in the days of Elijah. In 1 Kings chapter 18, Elijah takes a stand against the false prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel. After building an altar, he calls down fire from heaven, proving the power of the true God to the people of Israel. God had Proven himself to Elijah, and used him in a very powerful way. Yet in the very next chapter, we find Elijah in a very different situation;
------Now Ahab told Jezebel everything Elijah had done and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. So Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah to say, “May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like that of one of them.” Elijah was afraid and ran for his life...-1 Kings 19:1-3
So even after all that God has done for, and proven to Elijah, Elijah is now running scared. Here is a prophet who is overwhelmed by his situation, and has reached his breaking point. For Elijah, the confidence and faith required to call God's fire down, has been replaced by fear of the wrath of an angry queen. Like you or I, he is exhausted, frustrated, and on the verge of giving up;
------while he himself went a day's journey into the desert. He came to a broom tree, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” -1 Kings 19:4
"I have had enough, Lord." What a profoundly honest statement. Once we've been beaten down and discouraged to the point of giving up, the next emotion we feel is often shame. None of us want to feel like we've let God down, and we certainly don't want to feel like he's let us down. The troubles we face in this life are going to sometimes push us to the breaking point. Elijah was there, and all of us have been there too. But we serve a God who loves to prove himself strong in our weakness. It is acceptable to be broken before the Lord, which is a clear alternative to hiding from him in shame. When Elijah was tired and broken, God showed up just in time;
------The angel of the Lord came back a second time and touched him and said, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.” So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God. 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?”-1 Kings 19:7-9
So after being refreshed by God's provision, Elijah continues to run; he isn't running from something anymore, he is running to something. He is running to the mountain of God. He is seeking shelter from his pursuers in the presence of God. This is not a bad thing, but God has work for him that won't get done while he's hiding in a cave. "What are you doing here, Elijah?" God knew exactly what Elijah was doing in that cave, hiding in fear of the same folks he had taken a stand against in the previous chapter. God wanted Elijah to answer for himself. Often we need to take responsibility for, and own up to our actions. God expects Elijah to be honest and open with how he feels about his situation. Instead of hiding from God, who knows the contents of our hearts already, we should also be open with God about our frustrations. He is patient with us, and will provide us with shelter when we need encouragement and provision. We cant stay in the cave too long though, there are issues that need to be confronted. "What are you doing here?"
It can be difficult to relate to the prophet Elijah who raised the dead and called down fire from heaven; but in 1 Kings 19, we can point at Elijah and say, "I've been right there." God wants to do powerful things through ordinary people, if we know how to listen for his voice;
------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.” 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. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.-1 Kings 19:10-13
Sometimes, when we are desperate and overwhelmed, we call out to God and expect him to show up in the powerful wind, the earthquake, and the fire. We don't realize that he's been there all along, because we fail to hear his voice in the gentle whisper. Sometimes in the midst of the chaos of this world, our deliverance comes by spending time in the quiet place. We do well to learn this lesson from the Tanakh.
The God who rained fire down on Elijah's altar is the same God who shows us patience and mercy, and speaks to us in gentle whispers. Caught in the middle of life's trials and tribulations are you and I, all too human, and often frustrated and overwhelmed. Let's learn from the prophet Elijah. Instead of continuing to run away from our problems, let's run to the mountain of God. When we receive his provision, and hear his voice in the gentle whisper, let's emerge from hiding and press on to victory.
------Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord , "He is my refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust." -Psalm 91:1-2
Shalom, Tony http://zionsmountain.org/
Baruch hata Adonai, elo-henu malech ha-olam, ha'tov, va-ha'me-tev.