A strong wind tore the mountain and broke in pieces the rocks 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 the sound of a low whisper. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And behold, there came a voice to him and said, “What are you doing here Elijah?”
1 Kings 19:11-13
Read with Me
Have you had the chance to study 1 Kings 19? If not, I’d like to encourage you to take the time to read it before continuing on in this blog post, or feel free to open up your Bible and read the passage with me as I share my experience with these verses and how God used them to speak with me.
Qualifications for this Topic
I’d like to start out by saying that I am not a Bible scholar. There are many others out there more qualified to talk about it. However, the Holy Spirit resides in me, giving me the confidence to share how the Lord has been speaking more personally to me through this passage. As we continue discussing 1 Kings 19, I pray the Holy Spirit would speak directly to your heart the words you need to hear.
“What are you doing here Elijah (vs.13)?” I find this question from God to be odd and slightly comical. Let me explain. Elijah being afraid for his life flees and eventually journeys to the wilderness. Sitting under a broom tree, he asks God for death. An angel of the Lord touches him and tells him to eat. A second time the angel touches him and says, “Arise and eat, for the journey is too great for you (vs.7).” So Elijah eats and sets off to Horeb, the Mountain of God. When he gets there, the word of the Lord asks him what he is doing there. Elijah explains that Israel has forsaken the Lord’s covenant, killed the Lord’s prophets, and that he is the only one left alive. To which the word of the Lord replies, “Go out and stand on the mount before the Lord (vs.11).” The Lord eventually appears and asks Elijah what he is doing there.
I was slightly stumped the first time I read His question. I thought, “Didn’t you tell him to go there?” I had to read the beginning part again. The angel told him to eat for the journey. The word of the Lord told him to stand on the mount before the Lord. Yep, pretty sure God told him to be there. So why does God ask him that question?
Throughout the Bible, God tends to ask questions He knows the answers to. Questions like, “Where are you?” “Where is your brother Abel?” “Why are you here?” I have often been told that God asks us questions not for His sake but for ours. In my own personal experience, I can testify that God has often asked me questions, and through those questions He has revealed to me truth and identified lies and corruption. He has granted me wisdom and understanding. He has challenged my thinking, mentality, and beliefs. So how might this question benefit Elijah?
Reading through the passage we can tell Elijah is discouraged. He himself asks to be done. “Is it enough now, O LORD (vs.4)?” Have you been there? I have. “Am I done yet?” “Can I leave yet?” “Can you ask someone else to take it over?” “Why am I still here?” “Why me God?” Do these questions sound familiar?
Following up his question is a request, “Take away my life for I am no better than my fathers (vs.4).” This request seems contradictory to me. He flees because he fears his life, and yet he asks God to take him home. You might be thinking, “Wow, Elijah, that was a dumb request. Aren’t we being a little dramatic? Why would you flee only to request death? Was your plan to travel out into the wilderness and slowly wither away under a tree, asking God not for provision, not for a way out, but death?” Okay, maybe you didn’t think that, but I did. Then the Lord reminded me of my past. He reminded me of the times I was tired, strung out, and empty. He reminded me of all the stupid and dramatic things I’ve said and requested. I was reminded of how He let me say my fill and when I was done wallowing and ready to listen, He would ask me a question. How does God reply to Elijah’s request? He doesn’t answer him yet. Instead He provides Elijah with substances and sends an angel to send Elijah on a journey to find Him.
After journeying about forty days and forty nights Elijah stands out on the mount and finally encounters God only to be asked the question, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” He doesn’t reply, “Because you sent me here.” Instead he repeats what he has already said to the word of the Lord. Which personally I take as Elijah justifying his request to be done. I read it as, “God, your people no longer call you their God. They have seen your mighty works and still refuse to turn from their wicked ways. They have killed everyone that you have sent. I am the only one left, and even now they want to kill me. Everything you have asked me to do is no longer possible. Because nothing looks like it will change for the better, because everything looks futile, because everything seems impossible, can I be done?”
We Are Elijah
Elijah is you and me. We stand on top of the mountain in the presence of God.
“Why are you here?”
“Because you asked me to be.”
“I did, but why did you come?”
“Because you promised to take care of me. Because you promised joy in the midst of suffering. Because I thought life would be harder everywhere other than where you asked me to be. Because of all the changes, because of the hearts of the people, because of the obstacles, what you’ve asked me to do seems futile and impossible. Because I am tired and want to know if I can be done?”
“Go back from whence you came, and when you return, you will see that I have made a way.”
Unfortunately we aren’t done. I know you feel tired. I know you want to be done. I know you don’t see how what you are currently doing has gained any traction, but you are not done. So get up and journey to your Mount Horeb. Stand before the presence of God and let him ask you the question, “What are you doing here?” Let His question reveal truth. Let His question squelch whatever lies the enemy has told you. Let it reveal to you wisdom and understanding for what is next. Be encouraged and refilled in the presence of God and then go back from whence you came for He has made a way. He has a plan that He will reveal to you piece by piece when the time comes.