Alone.

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Recently I read I Kings 19, and I have to admit, it stumped me.

The story, as you remember, tells us about the prophet Elijah who has just challenged the prophets of Baal to a sort of spiritual duel on Mt. Carmel. In the process, God gloriously proves Himself, utterly humiliating the prophets of Baal. The people recognize the Lord, and Elijah leads an aggressive charge to purify Israel, killing the false prophets.

The problem? Glorifying God comes at a price. Jezebel, Ahab’s wife, promises to kill Elijah. In fear, Elijah flees. The distance from Samaria to Beersheba as the crow flies is almost eighty miles. Poor Elijah flees Beersheba to the desert, where he arrives exhausted and discouraged.

And now, to my way of thinking, the story gets really interesting.

In the desert, the story tells us that an angel brings Elijah bread and water. Elijah eats, sleeps and eats again. The angel tells him that he has a long journey ahead. Eventually, the prophet flees to Mt. Sinai. Hiding in a cave, the LORD asks Elijah, “What are you doing here?”

Elijah’s response is very real, and brutally honest—though not quite factually accurate. “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 alone am left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”

For days, God’s response baffled me. He asks Elijah to go out and stand on the mountain. There, Elijah experiences a mighty storm—one so severe that it blasts rocks loose. After the wind, an earthquake. Then, a fire. The NIV, the NASB and the NKJ all make this observation, “The LORD was not in the wind,” (or the earthquake, or the fire) The experience was so frightening that it must have driven Elijah back into the cave, because his next experience brings him out of the cave.

Elijah hears a gentle whisper. He wraps his face in his cloak and stands at the cave’s entrance. Again God asks, “What are you doing here?” Again Elijah reveals his fear and discouragement.

One of the ways I discover depth in a Biblical story is to place myself inside it. This leads me to statements like this: “If I were Elijah, I’d want God to be in the powerful wind, the mighty earthquake and the fire. Elijah’s in deep trouble. His life is in jeopardy. He needs a powerful protector.”

But this is NOT what God does for Elijah. Instead, God reveals himself in a gentle whisper. Why? While God was not IN the wind, or earthquake, or fire, He certainly showed his power OVER the wind, the earthquake and the fire. Was that His point?

Perhaps that is part of it. Notice that in the story, none of God’s power displays move Elijah forward. Instead, only God’s quiet voice enables Elijah to take up his call (again) as prophet. Only after reassuring Elijah of his presence does God begin to correct his facts. Elijah is not alone.

Does the whisper represent relationship? Does it represent God’s quiet presence with the man? Does the whisper represent God’s loving direction? Maybe a bit of all these things!

Perhaps this is my lesson: While God’s power is certainly His to use in protecting His kids, it is His quiet whisper that enables us to serve Him. In relationship with Him, we get our instructions. His direction gives us the courage and the specifics we need to obey.

When Elijah arrived at Sinai he may have believed that he needed the POWER of God to save him from Jezebel’s threats. By the time he left, he had discovered that God’s relationship provided all the protection he would ever need.

This morning, I’m feeling a little like Elijah. His prayer might have sounded like mine:

“All I’ve ever wanted Lord was to influence the world for you. But the doors and windows are closed and locked. No one wants what I have to offer. No one responds.”

And like Elijah, I must remember. His presence with me is Enough.

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5 Responses to “Alone.”

  1. Laura Davis Says:

    Good thoughts, Bette. Thank you for sharing this. I think most of us who long to make a difference have gone through similar times!

    • Bette Nordberg Says:

      Yup, Laura. Thanks for your kindness. We New Testament believers didn’t invent frustration with ministry, did we? I think Jeremiah had us all beat! The trick is to keep from losing heart in the meantime!

  2. Duane young Says:

    The well do not need a physician – find someone who is sick and tired of their circumstances and situation.

    • Bette Nordberg Says:

      Right on, DJ. I can see that finding an eager recipient makes things easier. Poor Elijah had a really resistant audience. They weren’t well, but they refused to acknowledge their illness. Do tell. How do you find said “sick and tired” person?

  3. Laura Davis Says:

    DJ is right. I think I want to join the “DJ / Bette Club” : )
    But remember, everything is in God’s timing. I went through some years recently when I felt sooooo insignificant. Then God spoke to my attitude one day and totally reassured me. Be in His will, and your opportunities will come in His time, in His way. IMHO!

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