Picture by Matheus Bertelli
Elijah was a mighty prophet during the reign of King Ahab, a wicked king of Israel who actively promoted and engaged in Baal worship. He is well known for His miraculous exploits for the Lord. He is mentioned in the book of James as an example of powerful prayer. He is also known for his discouragement and depression.
As we read the story of Elijah, we can be encouraged that God is with us during times of struggle.
In 1 Kings 18:16-46, Elijah experienced an astounding victory against the prophets of Baal. Two bulls were prepared for sacrifice and laid on an altar. The true god would respond with fire. Baal did not pay attention to the prophets’ cries of worship and ritual cutting of themselves. After several hours, it was Elijah’s turn. He had twelve large jars of water poured over the sacrifice and altar. “The water ran down around the altar and even filled the trench” (v. 35). Elijah called out to the Lord. “Then the fire of the Lord fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench” (v. 38). The Lord established Himself as the one true God and He used Elijah to do it.
Later that day, the Spirit of the Lord granted Elijah superhuman speed. He ran faster than King Ahab who was racing on horseback. It was a euphoric day for Elijah.
Events quickly changed, however, as Jezebel the wife of King Ahab threatened to kill Elijah. Depression overwhelmed him and he longed to die.
Elijah was exhausted physically and emotionally. The miraculous events of the previous day did not turn the hearts of the Israelites back to the Lord as he had imagined. He felt alone, the only person standing for God in a godless society. Elijah was ready to give up. He was done.
God, in His great mercy, would not allow Elijah to quit. He supernaturally prepared him for a long journey to the mountain of God where Elijah would meet with Him.
“The Lord said, ‘Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by’” (v. 11).
Scripture tells us that as Elijah waited, a powerful wind, an earthquake, and a fire broke out before the Lord. Centuries before, the Lord had revealed Himself to His people at Mt. Sinai when He gave His Law. He showed up with thunder, lightning, and fire. The mountain shook and a loud trumpet blasted. “As the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke and the voice of God answered him” (Exodus 19:19). Elijah’s experience was vastly different. God did not speak to him in the midst of the impressive and dangerous elements as during the other theophany. When it had all passed, the Lord spoke to Elijah in a gentle whisper.
It is common for preachers to emphasize that gentle whisper. Their message? We must not look for signs, wonders, and miracles when seeking the Lord, because His presence is known through His still, small voice. We must be quiet and wait to hear God speak to our hearts. While their point is well taken, something else is overlooked.
The Lord may not have been in the wind or earthquake or fire, but He was with Elijah shielding him from life-threatening elements. How else could Elijah remain safe during these natural disasters? God’s presence was with Elijah the entire time. He may not have been speaking, but He was certainly active on Elijah’s behalf.
Elijah had just experienced the earth-shattering glory of God and was kept safe from all harm. When the Lord finally spoke, Elijah was ready to listen.
What does this mean for us? No matter what we encounter, we are never alone. God may be silent, but He is not absent nor is He inactive. He is Emmanuel, God with us. His Spirit is in us and around us.
God can speak to us in whatever manner He wishes. It may be through thunder and lightning or a still small voice or a nature walk or a song. He won’t fit in a neat, tidy box, although His message will always align with the holy Scriptures. He directs our steps and lights our way.
Our job is to keep our hearts open to receive God’s gracious Word. His voice lifts us from despair, depression, and the desire to give up. His Word heals our wounds and renews our hope. Like the Lord did for Elijah, He will infuse us with new life. Be ready and willing to listen to Him.