“The true perfection of man
lies not in what man has,
but in what man is.”
— Oscar Wilde
“Is that you, you troubler of Israel?” the evil King Ahab said to the prophet Elijah.
“I’m not the problem.” Elijah replied. “It’s you and your ancestors who have messed things up!”
Elijah set forth a challenge to evil King Ahab and his countrymen. They had a choice to make. “How long will you waver between two opinions?” Elijah asked. “Will you follow the Lord God of Israel or will you continue to worship false gods? Call all of the people together and let’s perform an experiment.” Ahab did as he was told, figuring that he would make Elijah seem like a fool in the eyes of his countrymen.
But in the end, the Lord God did what He does best. He supernaturally showed up at the event and made Ahab look very foolish, indeed. So Ahab sought out his wife – the even more wicked Queen Jezabel – and told her his version of what had happened between himself and the prophet Elijah. Then he added, “And by the way, dear, I decided to have all the prophets in the land killed!”
Somehow, Elijah got wind of Ahab’s boasting and believed that he was the only one of his kind left. Even after his stunning performance before the community of Israelites – where he had actually called down fire from heaven that licked up a pile of stones, soil and logs that was completely saturated with water – Elijah melted with fear when he heard the part about all of the prophets being killed. “OMG!” he commiserated. “I’m the only one left! I must run for my life!” That of course sapped his energy. So as well as feeling absolutely terrified, he was also burdened with exhaustion. That of course, can make a person feel hopeless and – for some – suicidal.
Elijah threw in the towel and prayed: “Lord, I’ve had enough! Take my life!”
But instead of killing Elijah, the Lord sent an angel (twice) to feed, strengthen, and encourage the pitiful, scared-out-of-his-wits, man of God. And when Elijah was feeling better, he picked himself up and charged back to face the enemy? … NOT. He kept right on going, another forty days and forty nights distance, to a mountain called Horeb … and he hid in a cave.
Of course, God (being God) knew exactly where Elijah was, how he got there, and all the emotions that had motivated the journey. The word of the Lord came to Elijah and asked a very simple question: “What are you doing here?”
The tired, grumpy, totally stressed human laid out his case with all the emotional excuses he could come up with. Then he capped it off with, “I’m the only left, and now they’re gonna kill me, too!”
Very calmly, the Creator instructed, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.”
What follows, in my humble opinion, are some of the most profound verses set forth in Scripture …
“Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountain 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 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 19:11-13)
God didn’t scold Elijah. He didn’t even raise His voice. He simply repeated the question: “What are you doing here, Elijah?” Then like a Father instructing His child, the Lord said, “Go back the way you came …”
It turned out that Elijah wasn’t the “only one” left. The Lord God had preserved the lives of others who had remained faithful in the face of adversity and the threat of death. And He wanted Elijah to persevere – to tell his story to a few, who would then tell their story to others. So that down through history the truth would be told about a frail and frightened individual – not much different in his mortal makeup that you and I – and about the God who loved him through a tough, very scary situation.
Would you agree that our world is becoming more and more frightening? Perhaps not so much for some individuals who still are enjoying financial prosperity, who have never experienced a violent crime or unexpectedly lost someone dear to them, and who enjoy good health.
But for each of us, the question remains: “What are you doing here?” … How are you making a difference in the lives of others from the vantage point of where you currently stand in your personal journey? Is your heart aligned with God’s heart? Do you trust Him to get you through whatever is going to happen in your world – and on the global stage – from this moment on?
More often than not, the voice of God will instruct you to suck up the drama and put on the spiritual armor that He has made available. Then He’ll say: “Go back the way you came, trust me, and we will move forward from there.”
“If God is for us, who can be against us?
He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for all —
how will he not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things?