Last month we looked at the humility of Elijah and how, after so much success, he might have “believed his own press” and thought he was responsible for so many miraculous things. Instead, he humbly trusted in the Lord to do His holy will. I noted then that it was not his stature before men that was important; it was his posture before God. But, as we saw in Moses’ case (in sermons on Numbers 11), the most humble and godly people can grow weary, fainthearted and even seem faithless.
So, back to Elijah in 1 Kings 19. God’s fire had fallen, the prophets of Baal had been defeated, the rains had returned after the three-year drought, and Elijah’s strength in the Lord was such that he outran King Ahab’s chariot to Jezreel. Quite a day’s work for the man of God!
Then the message came from Jezebel, wicked Ahab’s even more wicked wife: “If I have anything to say about it, your head will be separated from your body by this time tomorrow.” Suddenly, from the heights of spiritual and physical success, Elijah fell into the depths of fear and faithlessness. He left immediately and traveled from Samaria to the southern part of Judah, Beersheba, where he left his servant. Then he ran a day’s journey into the wilderness where he sat down and asked God to die. If he wanted to die, Jezebel was happy to do it, but even in his weariness and fear he knew that it was better to die by the hand of the Lord than by the hand of any human being. David admitted a similar thing when God was going to discipline him and Israel for the prideful census he ordered. God’s prophet brought him three choices: So Gad came to David and told him, and said to him, “Shall seven years of famine come to you in your land? Or will you flee three months before your foes while they pursue you? Or shall there be three days’ pestilence in your land? Now consider and see what answer I shall return to Him who sent me.” 14 Then David said to Gad, “I am in great distress. Let us now fall into the hand of the Lord for His mercies are great, but do not let me fall into the hand of man” (2 Samuel 24:13-14, NASB95). The Lord is very kind and gracious to us.
After resting and being refreshed by the Lord’s angel, Elijah made the arduous hike to Horeb, the mountain of God. Elijah’s complaint and the Lord’s manifestation to him are worthy of our attention and study, but it is the Lord’s question to Elijah that struck me again lately: “What are you doing here, Elijah?” (verses 9 & 13). Based upon where one puts the emphasis, the question searches every aspect of Elijah’s depression.
“What are you doing here?” Elijah had traveled far from the arena of his ministry, 40 days journey in the wilderness. Instead of facing the responsibilities of his calling, and trusting the Lord, he had, out of fear and maybe loneliness, gotten as far away from them as possible. God’s man was hiding in a cave! Many a believer, based upon circumstances, has run from the very place (and people) that God has placed them to serve. We should often ask, “Am I where God wants me to be?” If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit (Galatians 5:25 NASB95).
“What are you doing here?” There was much work left for him to do (see verses 15-16). Yet, far from being busy about the Lord’s work, Elijah was sitting in a cave, fretting and feeling sorry for himself. He was doing exactly nothing. God has plans for us, good works for us to do (Ephesians 2:10), but we are doing those things or are we doing exactly nothing. “Am I busy about the Lord’s business, or am I useless, rendered that way by my own weakness and fear?”
And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. 10 Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 (NASB95)
Finally (and probably the force of the meaning of the question is on the pronoun), “What are you doing here? You of all people, Elijah! Can you not trust Me? Remember all that I have done in and through you. You are My prophet, My instrument, a great man of My making. You above all people should have no reason to hide in fear.” We are the people of God. These verses that we have considered so often stand absolutely true: But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; 10 for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy (1 Peter 2:9-10, NASB95).
How blessed we are to be useful where God has put us, strong in Him and His might, ever busy about our Master’s business! Let’s let that low whisper, that gentle blowing, that still, small voice direct, strengthen and encourage us as a church to press on toward Christ-likeness.
Soli Deo Gloria!