“God turned up” Meditations: 19 : To Elijah
1 Kings 19:11-13 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. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.
We are not told when the Lord first ‘turned up’ for Elijah. The first we read of Elijah is, “Now Elijah the Tishbite, from Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab, “As the LORD, the God of Israel, lives, whom I serve, there will be neither dew nor rain in the next few years except at my word.” (1 Kings 17:1) These are the words of a confident prophet, a man who knows God and who knows his calling. He’s a pretty powerful character!
After that we read, “Then the word of the LORD came to Elijah: “Leave here, turn eastward and hide in the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan.” (v.2,3). He clearly hears God’s directions – and follows them. But it continues, “Some time later the brook dried up because there had been no rain in the land. Then the word of the LORD came to him: “Go at once to Zarephath of Sidon and stay there.” (v.7-9) So he does that. The story continues: “After a long time, in the third year, the word of the LORD came to Elijah: “Go and present yourself to Ahab, and I will send rain on the land.” So Elijah went to present himself to Ahab.” (1 Kings 18:1,2) What followed was the amazing incident on Mount Carmel (see rest of chapter 18) where the Lord sent fire to burn up his sacrifice and shame the false prophets who were subsequently killed. This was a most incredible encounter and conflict.
Now the upset this caused is quite obvious: “Now Ahab told Jezebel everything Elijah had done and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. So Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah to say, “May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like that of one of them.” (1 Kings 19:1,2) Now that’s an odd thing because surely it would have been easier for Jezebel to just send some soldiers and kill Elijah. No, perhaps she is scared of him and this is just scare tactics to get rid of him. It works: “Elijah was afraid and ran for his life” (v.3) Eventually he ends up in a cave at Mount Horeb.
There the Lord confronts him: “And the word of the LORD came to him: “What are you doing here, Elijah?” (v.9) Elijah explains and the Lord instructs 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) The Lord is about to turn up in a big way. “Stand…. in the presence of the Lord” simply means the Lord is going to come there in a very obvious way. The Lord confirms that by “for the Lord is about to pass by.” i.e. I’m not staying but just turning up for a specific reason – you need help and encouragement (implied).
Now I think if we were Elijah we might not like the sound of that. The Lord has spoken to us and guided us and empowered us a number of times, but if He is using this sort of language He is saying I am about to ‘turn up’ in a significant way. For what reason we are not sure, but when He talks about making His presence known, He obviously intends to create a stir and impact on Elijah. Elijah, brace yourself, this is going to be something!
Then, “a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD.” Wow! This is awesome. The power of God is here, but hold on, “but the LORD was not in the wind.” So what was that about? The Lord just demonstrating His might? Next, “After the wind there was an earthquake.” Awesome! The whole earth shakes. This is mighty power, “but the LORD was not in the earthquake.” What? Where is the Lord then? Why the earthquake? Just showing a bit more of what He can do! Then, “After the earthquake came a fire.” Whoops, this is getting close and personal. The earthquake was shaking but the fire could burn me up! But where is the Lord? I’m seeing all these demonstrations of power but the Lord still isn’t making His presence known here. He’s still holding off. Then, “And after the fire came a gentle whisper.” He’s here! To be able to hear a whisper means that the person is close. Then comes the conversation between them.
Yet as we read on there is no manifestation of the Lord; Elijah simply hears a voice. Now I don’t know about you but I find this both awesome and encouraging. I mean, if I suddenly heard this audible whisper coming from behind me as I am typing these words, it would scare the life out of me because I know there is no one else in the room beside me – or at least there hadn’t been until that moment, but someone is now there – and close! Scary! Awesome!
But then if this is the Lord turning up, especially after He’s given warning that He’s coming, it must mean that He is trying to convey something particular to me. To me it seems like He is trying to convey intimacy. He’s actually not here in a mind-blowing vision that would probably knock me over; He’s here quietly communicating His presence to me in a way that is not overwhelming. Suddenly I realise that this is how He does mostly turn up. So often when He’s spoken to me it’s been in a quiet whisper, so quiet I could have almost missed it. This is Almighty God who loves us and understands us and so often comes so quietly and gently we might almost miss Him. How amazing. He comes intimately and close and He’s there for us. Wonderful!