by Heather Bock
Don’t miss the giveaway for a free Bible at the end!
Elijah was afraid for his life…and with good reason. Elijah had just enacted one of my favorite scenes in the Bible. He had stood brave and saucy before all the prophets of Baal, challenging them to a god duel of fire. He taunted them with some pretty offensive jabs, asking if their god might be too busy on the toilet to send fire to light their altar. Elijah’s God wasn’t too busy to send down fire, and He did with a fury. Elijah then had all the prophets of Baal there killed.
Elijah didn’t run away then. No, after forecasting a huge storm to end the three year drought, he outran a chariot to Jezreel from Mt. Carmel. That’s about 32 miles. He outran not only a chariot, but a king’s chariot pulled by probably the finest horses, all trying to run fast from the oncoming storm. As a runner, I have to pause and give credit to God for this very cool miracle that most people haven’t heard or don’t remember. This one should be in the children’s Bibles!
God helped Elijah run to Jezreel, but whatever He was planning for Elijah to do there didn’t seem to happen. As soon as Elijah heard Jezebel was sending out soldiers to murder him for his ill treatment of her prophets, he ran far away to Beersheba, about 113 miles away, more than three times the last distance he had traveled. He went even farther into the wilderness and begged God to take his life. Maybe because his last major demonstration with the prophets of Baal seemed to have failed, maybe because he was so tired of his difficult life, or maybe even because he had just run away, he said that he was ready to die, that he was not better than his fathers.
After all I’ve studied about God’s grace, I still don’t understand it. I expect God to have rebuked Elijah, to have told him he shouldn’t have run away or that he shouldn’t have requested death. That’s not the way God responded. First, he sent Elijah an angel who twice gave him food and water to strengthen him for yet another journey farther away–about 200 miles to Mt. Horeb (another name for Mt. Sinai). God gave him a long time to get there–much longer than was needed. It took him 40 days and 40 nights–symbolic of his emotional state–the same number (in years) the Israelites spent in the desert before they entered the Promised Land. Then, once he was there, God still didn’t rebuke him. He only asked Elijah a question: “What are you doing here, Elijah?” Elijah answered that he was the only prophet left and that the Israelites wanted to kill him.
This is an interesting statement because unless I don’t understand something going on behind the scenes, Elijah knew full well there was a prophet named Obadiah still living who had hidden 100 prophets in caves to protect them from Jezebel. He had just spoken to him in the last chapter. However, Elijah was depressed and disheartened (not always a logical state), and he certainly felt alone, like the only one who truly wanted to follow God. He was at a low point, not in a place of trust in God at this moment, and he was willing to say it almost to His literal face.
How did God answer? This blows me away (no pun intended). A mighty wind came, one that ripped apart the trees and rocks on the mountain. But God was not in the wind. Then came an earthquake. God was not in the earthquake. Then there was a fire. But God was not in the fire. All three of these are symbols of judgment. God did not come with judgment to Elijah. He recognized Elijah’s downcast spirit and instead came in a gentle wind and asked him the same question again. “What are you doing here, Elijah?” When Elijah gave the same answer, God commissioned Elijah to anoint a new king to replace the one wanting to kill him, and he let Elijah know there were 7,000 people who still followed God. He assured Elijah that he was not alone, and what’s more, he gave Elijah a protegé, someone to do the work with him until he was taken up to Heaven.
I’ve felt doubt of a similar kind, the kind that comes from discouragement, and when I go to God with that doubt, I sometimes expect Him to come in fire and storm, to blast me with judgment over my lack of faith. I don’t know why I still expect this. He doesn’t do this to me. He is sweet and kind. He is a gentle wind. He encourages us when we feel we’re alone; He provides comfort when we’re down; He gives us friends to help us carry on when we feel we can’t continue on God’s path anymore. He is powerful, no doubt–He showed it in the wind and earthquake He created. He showed it when He sent down the fire at Elijah’s altar–but He holds that power in check and treats us with gentleness when we belong to Him.
Don’t hesitate to bring your doubts before Him. Even though He doesn’t have to, He will prove Himself good and trustworthy to you.
Drawing for a Free LifeHacks Bible
If you want to spend more time reading about characters in the Bible like Elijah, or if you know someone who would enjoy having a new Bible, I am giving away one copy of the NIV LifeHacks Bible, which is full of helpful articles to help you understand more while you’re reading.
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