“After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. After the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave” (1 Kings 19:12-13).
Elijah was on the run. He had fled for his life from murderous Jezebel. The Israelites, to whom he had been sent as a prophet, had turned away from the Lord. They had already killed all the other prophets of God and he was the only one left. We do not have any trouble understanding his fear and we understand his desire to run, to save his life. He left his servant behind at Beersheba and went out into the wilderness and prayed that he might die saying, “I have had enough, Lord. Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors” (verse 4). But God had put his hand on him. He sent an angel to Elijah who fed him and sent him on a journey of 40 days and nights until he got to Horeb, the mountain of God. There he went into a cave for the night.
Elijah was a prophet of God. Such a one can not flee from God as readily as one can flee from some earthly oppressor. The word of God came to Elijah in that cave asking him what he is doing there. Elijah pleads his case. “I have been zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too” (verse 10). To encourage Elijah the voice tells him to, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Then he hears a powerful wind that shatters the rocks, but the Lord was not in that wind. Then an earthquake shakes and batters the mountain, but the Lord is not in it. Then a fire, but again, the Lord is not in it. It is then that Elijah hears a small, gentle whisper. In that small, gentle sound, Elijah experiences the Lord passing by and he covers his face with his cloak and goes to stand at the mouth of the cave. Then Elijah is sent out again as the prophet he is called to be. And he goes with a renewed courage.
This story is instructive for us today. As Christians we are called upon to be disciples of the Living God, who has shown himself to us in the flesh in Jesus Christ, the Lord. We, too, are surrounded by those who wish we would just go away, or those who would like to get rid of us either by law, or worse. We must have the courage of our convictions, the bravery of our faith, to remain in the struggle. God does not show himself to us in huge, powerful natural, or supernatural events today. Just like Elijah, we must not look for him in such things, but we must learn to listen for that small, whispering sound that surrounds us at all times, that speaks to us in the silent solitude of our praying hearts. We are not to look for him in great, miraculous events, but in the faces of the smallest, the most vulnerable, the poor, the wounded and the hurting ones among us. We must be ready to bring the word of God to them with our words, but especially through our deeds of love, care, compassion, and forgiveness.
Lord, Open the ears of our hearts so that we may listen more carefully for your whispered presence in our daily lives. Give us the courage to be your good and faithful servants as we move through the ordinary places of our daily lives. We pray this, as always, in your name, Jesus. Amen!
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