“While the power of God broke the rocks, shook the earth, and burned the ground as Elijah watched, the whisper of God broke and shook Elijah’s heart to burn with passion once again.”
Ever been through a long season of struggle and difficulty? Perhaps, after battling for so long, you don’t know if you can go on any farther; you are exhausted, and you want to quit. You are not alone; many great men and women of God felt the same at different points in their lives as well. Elijah is a perfect example of one who became worn out in the battle.
God appointed Elijah as a prophet and commissioned him to deliver Israel from the influence of Jezebel and her false prophets. I Kings 18 describes one of the most exciting moments in Elijah’s earthly ministry. In response to the massacre of Jehovah God’s prophets, as commanded by Queen Jezebel, Elijah set up a show down with the 850 prophets of Baal and Asherah who served Jezebel. Watching the defeat of the prophets of Baal and the destruction of powers the occult, the people of Israel came again to their senses to perceive and confess Jehovah alone as God. When Jezebel heard the news, she raged and swore to murder Elijah by the end of the next day – in other words, she issued an official assassination decree.
On the heels of his greatest victory in God, the demonic powers of fear and discouragement attacked Elijah – so much so that he went a day’s journey into the wilderness where he collapsed in exhausted depression, causing him to cry out to God to take his life. After an angel appeared to supernaturally feed and strengthen Elijah, Elijah again got up and traveled 40 days to Mt. Horeb “the Mountain of God” (I Kings 19). In scripture, the number 40 signifies a period of testing (Jesus fasted in the wilderness for 40 days; Moses was a shepherd in the wilderness for 40 years; the people of Israel wandered in the dessert for 40 years). Consequently, the forty days it took Elijah to get to Mt. Horeb signified that the fear, discouragement, and depression that had overtaken Elijah actually was a test, precipitated by the backlash he experienced as a result of his victory at Mt. Carmel.
Once Elijah arrived at the Mt. Horeb, he found a cave in which to rest. In the cool shade of that place, God asked Elijah this question: “What are you doing here, Elijah?” Of course, God knew what Elijah was doing there; He directed Elijah to come to that very mountain. God wanted Elijah to understand why he was there; God wanted Elijah to pass the test. God wanted to restore, reassure, and reassign Elijah to fulfill all that God called him to do.
Mt. Horeb, also known as Mt. Sinai, is the place where the nation of Israel, through Moses, received its call, its identity, and its laws. God first spoke to Moses from the burning bush on that mountain. Years later, the nation of Israel received, through Moses, a revelation of the Laws of God and a revelation of God’s desire to reveal Himself to the world through Israel on that same mountain. So, perhaps God took Elijah back to the point where it all began to remind Elijah of His faithfulness to Israel throughout the generations.
Perhaps, as Elijah traveled through the wilderness to Mt. Horeb, he remembered that Moses too had fled for fear from a wicked ruler who wanted him dead. Yet, after finding God on that very mountain, Moses returned to Egypt and became the deliverer God appointed him to be. Perhaps Elijah remembered that God called forth the nation of Israel from the rabble of rebellious former slaves who wanted to return to the comfort of the familiar rather than to go into the unknown land God prepared for them because giants awaited them there. Perhaps God wanted to remind Elijah that a generation perished in the wilderness because of their fear and doubt, but that did not stop God from fulfilling His promise to the Israelites. God simply prepared another generation that went in to possess the land that God promised them. Perhaps God wanted Elijah to recognize that he could give up and give in to fear, discouragement, and doubt as the first generation of Israelites did, or he could find strength in believing the voice of the faithful God and return with courage to the Promised Land to confront the giants that awaited him.
When God asked Elijah what he was doing on that mountain, Elijah, in despair, replied that among all those in Israel, only he stood for God. In reply, God told him a remnant of more than 7000 Israelites remained faithful to Jehovah who did not bow their knees to Baal. Elijah allowed fear and exhaustion to lead him into self-pity and isolation and became blinded to the reality of others who also remained faithful. His self-pity caused his spiritual myopathy.
God called Elijah to stand upon the mountain as the Lord passed by (perhaps this was the same place God had passed by Moses, as he hid in the cleft of the rock.) First, a strong wind appeared, then an earthquake, and then a fire as Elijah looked on, but the Lord’s instruction did not come in any of these manifestations. The voice of God came to him as a as a whisper (I Kings 19: 12). When God passed by Moses to show him His glory, He proclaimed His goodness and tenderhearted care for His people. When God passed by Elijah, surely, once again, God proclaimed His goodness and tenderhearted care. While the manifestations of God’s power seized Elijah’s attention, the whisper of God seized Elijah’s heart. While the power of God broke the rocks, shook the earth, and burned the ground as Elijah watched, the whisper of God broke and shook Elijah’s heart, causing it to burn with passion once again. As a result, he wrapped his face in a cloak (even as one would cover one’s face to weep in shame) and there Elijah stood in the cave entrance ready to confess his failure and hear from God again.
When Elijah left that cave, he left not only with clear instructions from God, but also he understood that he was not alone and that God had already gone before him and identified those who would come along side Elijah to complete the task God had given him. Elijah passed the test; He heard the whispers of God and allowed his heart to be restored. As a result, he went back again in the power of the Spirit to complete the good work God began.
Perhaps you too have gone through some battles that left you spiritually exhausted, afraid, and/or discouraged. Perhaps you thought you were doing what God called you to do, but things went wrong, and life fell apart, and now you find yourself in a wasteland of confusion— afraid you do not possess the strength and courage to do what you once believed God called you to do. Perhaps, overcome with spiritual malaise, you feel powerless to take on the forces that array themselves against you; you labor under the weight of a spiritual death sentence. Take heart; you are not alone. As seen in Elijah’s story, this is a common experience for those whom God calls to do great things for and with Him. It is a test—one that can be passed if you will get up and go to the mountain of God and listen for His still small voice.
Unlike Elijah, however, you do not need to travel 40 days into the wilderness. You can enter the presence of God at any time because Jesus made a way into His presence through His blood. You can go boldly before God’s throne to ask for help and grace in our time of need. So arise and enter His gates with thanksgiving, bow your heart in praise, and wait for God to show you His glory.
When spiritual malaise overcomes our hearts, it is not the manifestation of God’s power that awakens us; the still small voice proclaiming His goodness and His tender-hearted care for us ignites our hearts to burn with passion again.
When you go before God, and He asks, “What are you doing here?” pour out your heart in honesty to Him. He knows how and why you arrived there, but He wants to help you work through the pain that led you there. Take time to remember how God communicated with you in the past; remember His faithfulness; remember His promises; remember His word. Allow His still small voice to speak; listen for His correction and His compassion. Allow His voice to blow like the wind across your heart; break the bondage of strongholds; and burn away the lies, discouragement, and fear. Ask God to show you whom He has prepared to help you fulfill your call because God does not call us to isolation but into community and connectedness. Then connect with those that can walk with you and support you –that’s what the Body of Christ is for.
He will allow you to remain in the wilderness if you want to, but if, like Elijah, you want to be a part of God’s plans for your generation, do not allow fear, doubt, and discouragement to keep you from the Promised Land of your inheritance in God. When God asks, “What are you doing here?” You can answer, “I’ve come to pass this test, Lord.” Then, wait for the answers that God will so readily supply, and you will find that God still has plans for you.