My wife, Liz, painted a picture of Elijah on Mt. Carmel as my college graduation gift. It’s one of my greatest treasures and it hangs in my office today as a reminder of the immeasurable power of God.
Elijah was a prophet in a time of turmoil–a time when God’s people had turned on Him with contempt. Although God had redeemed and delivered his people, they still turned away. They began to replace their eternal redeemer with temporal idols, something I’ve been fond of doing in my own life–substituting the temporal for the eternal.
So God used Elijah to deliver His word to these people.
Liz’s painting below portrays Elijah calling down the fire of the Lord as proof to the doubters and worshipers that Elijah’s God was the only God.
However, Elijah’s faith wasn’t always so strong.
In fact, Elijah was closing to giving up. Word had spread about his audacious event on Mt. Carmel and there was a ransom on his life. He was a man on the run. On top of that, he was hungry and exhausted.
In these moments, I find myself understanding how Elijah felt.
His prayer was one of desperation and defeat.
“Lord take my life.”
I’ve never prayed that prayer in the sense that I’ve wanted to die, but I have prayed that prayer in absolute surrender.
I’ve often learned that it takes our surrender for God to show up. And in Elijah’s case, He did:
The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains 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 a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.
1 Kings 19:11, 12 NIV
As I read this passage, I couldn’t help but be reminded that God is full of surprises.
1. God passes by
I love, “the Lord is about to pass by,” especially the third person reference. A friendly reminder to Elijah and us that, the Creator–God–may pass by.
Don’t we often feel so separated from God, longing for connection and hoping for His guidance? We’d do anything for Him to pass by and when He doesn’t, we slowly die to the possibility that He even cares.
In the middle of this tension, I’m reminded that God does stop by, but not how we expect. He clothes Himself in the beauty of a sunrise and with the tranquility of the sunset. He whispers in the power of a storm and speaks through the crashing of the waves. All beautiful glimpses, hints of His passing by.
Unfortunately, when He does stop by, I’m often too busy or consumed to open the door–to look in His direction.
Today, be on the lookout. God may stop by.
2. God often shows up when we realize that we have nothing left
In the context of this story, Elijah is completely exhausted. He’s on the run and he’s terrified. In fact, it sounds like he’s given up as he prays “God take my life.”
Have you been there before? You may be there now. And it doesn’t have to be that dramatic, but there has been a time when you’ve realized that your strength isn’t enough. It’s in that vulnerable moment when God shows up.
I love this prayer:
“God humble me by your presence so you don’t have to humble me by my circumstances.” – Mike Ashcraft
Circumstantial humility is tough, a hard life lessons to learn. However, as we seek His presence daily, we’re given relational humility.
The God of Elijah is no different today. He shows up when we give up.
3. God can roar, but He often whispers
We expect God in the mighty wind. We expect Him in the earthquake. Yet, he comes in a whisper!
Honestly, when I began pursuing a passion for writing, this story of Elijah was not in my mind, but I described my experience as a whisper.
We often look for God to roar, but we must be quiet and listen for His whisper. Now God can roar, sometimes it takes that, but it’s usually not enjoyable for us.
I’m learning to prefer the whisper.
Question: How can you listen for the whispers in your life?