What doest thou here, Elijah? (1Kings 19:9) At first glance one might say, “That’s a simple question Lord, your angel led me here to this cave”.
But even Elijah knew that the Lord wasn’t looking for the simple answer. This was more of a searching question not too much unlike the question the Lord had asked Adam after he had sinned, “Where art thou?”(Gen.3:9)
The Lord is omniscient (all-knowing), he’s not looking for information, so his question to Adam, wasn’t that Adam was hiding so well that God couldn’t find him. But, rather it was to cause Adam to look into himself to see why and how he got into this position, and that hiding wasn’t the answer to his problem.
Adam had sinned, but the question goes deeper than that. Why did he sin, how is it that the serpent could manipulate this man and his wife so easily.
Adam’s position with God had changed, even before he ate of the fruit. Just what was the core of this problem, was it a lack of knowledge, mistrust, pride? The Lords question was designed to draw this out of Adam’s heart, so the man could see how he got to the place he is now in.
As the Lord asks Elijah, “What doest thou here”, Elijah knows that the Lord isn’t speaking of the cave. So he told the Lord what was on his mind, or troubling him.
But even this isn’t the answer the Lord was trying to pull out of Elijah, there’s something even deeper and yet simple that Elijah needs to see about himself.
Today there are people whom the Lord is asking the same questions, “What are you doing here” or ” How did you end up in this place you’re in? For the most part, many of us will find that what brought Elijah to this place in his life or ministry, may be the same reason we are where we are.
Here we have one of the greatest prophets of the Old Testament, who just pulled off some of the greatest acts of his ministry. He called down the fire of God to prove who is the real God and then he destroys the prophets of Baal, afterwards he declared that it was going to rain again and then ran on foot about 16 miles out running Ahab in his chariot.
But when he hears of Jezebel’s threat, he seems to have lost all hope and direction; and goes to sleep under a tree and wishes to die.
What happened! How did he go from the mighty man who just faced King Ahab and four hundred and fifty of the prophets of Baal, only to end up in this place of despair?
If he really wanted to die all he had to do was find Jezebel, she would have gladly fulfilled this wish. (So did he really want to die , or was there something troubling him so much that he was just saying that he wanted to die?)
Elijah the prophet of God may have had a word from God for anyone who would have come to him, but for himself, at this moment he seemed to have none. What was it that caused this confident man of God to lose hope and act like he’s giving up?
How does a mighty man of God come to this place? As Elijah sets in what looks like the land of self-pity, sleeping and waiting to die, the Lord sends an angel.
The angel awakes him and Elijah finds fresh food and water prepared for him (these are often used symbolically for the word of God). The Lords answer seems to be, “it’s a time for life not death”.
Elijah, who has said that he was ready to die, now eats and drinks, (Why eat and drink if you want to die), but then he goes back to sleep. The angel come a second time and tells him to arise and eat, nothing is said of another meal having been prepared, so he may be eating what had already been provided when the angel came the first time (one might see that God’s word and purpose hadn’t changed and the Lord still wanted Elijah to walk in the strength of it).
The distance Elijah traveled was about 150 to 200 miles, a distance that one could have traveled in 7 or 8 days, but as it is with the Lord, it took 40 days.
There seems to be a similarity here between Moses and Elijah at this point being divinely drawn. Elijah fasts forty days and forty nights, he goes to Horeb the mount of God where there is a cave.
Many believe this to be the same cave or cleft where the Glory of the Lord passed before Moses after receiving the word (Law) of God. No doubt there is a connection being drawn here for Elijah; something was revealed to Moses, that may answer Elijah’s problem!
So the Lord asks, “What doest thou here, Elijah?” After hearing Elijah’s reply, the Lord, acts as if he didn’t hear Elijah’s complaint, and tells Elijah to “Go forth and stand”.
Then the Lord seems to give Elijah an object lesson as he passes by. As the Lord passes by, four things happen; first, we are told that, “A great and strong wind rent the mountains, and broke in pieces the rocks before the LORD…… then an earthquake….. Then comes a fire….”
After each of these came a strange statement, “But the Lord was not in the wind”, “But the Lord was not in the earthquake”, “But the Lord was not in the fire.
There are several things we need to look at here. One, what is meant by the Lord was not in the wind; after all didn’t he cause it by his passing by? So one could say he was in it, yet we’re told he wasn’t.
Two, who is making this narrative statement? The Septuagint and the Arabic translators have it coming from the mouth of the Angel. Some believe it came from Elijah afterwards some time later after the revelation of this moment was revealed, much in the same way the apostle John adds his commentary after Jesus’ statement.
Such as when Jesus said:
(John 7:38-39) “He that believeth on me, as the Scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.” (But this spoke he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)
John isn’t writing his gospel at the same moment Jesus is speaking, but years later. So, verse 39 is John’s inspired comment or commentary explaining what Jesus meant.
Three, how was Elijah to know to look for the Lord in the wind, the earthquake and the fire? Oh yes, he had in deed cause them, yet something of the Lord was missing in or through them.
What is meant by “…not in…” if he caused them by passing by?
Then came the small still voice! We’re not told what the voice said, but it was enough to make Elijah hide or wrap his face with his mantel.
Another thing, the narrative statement, “the Lord was not in it”, is missing when the small voice comes! The Lord’s object lesson is over and it seems to have hit home.
It is my opinion, that, what was missing in the wind, the earthquake and the fire, is the word of God or his instructions.
Look at it this way; what if the Lord struck a tree with lightning right next to you.
What would you think he was trying to say to you? Would you think that the Lord wanted you to go to Africa and preach, if so, how did you come to that conclusion?
No! The Lord may get your attention this way, but his instruction comes through his voice, or his spoken word.
What is my point! Though there may have been clearly the power of God being demonstrated in Elijah’s life; such as healings or miracles. Healings and miracles are not knowledge, they in themselves give no instruction.
A healing may give witness to the presence of God being present or at work; healings however do not give instruction of the will of God, such as, go here, go there, do or believe this or that.
So as the Lord asks Elijah, , “What doest thou here, Elijah?”, it just may be that somewhere he looked at the power of God in his life, and just assumed what it all meant and what was to happen.
Could it be, Elijah thought as the fire was coming down, “Now, Israel will believe, “Revival”. The smell of rain is in the air, “Revival”. Could it be maybe he thought after all of this even Ahab and Jezebel would repent. But, they didn’t.
Could it be that maybe when Elijah heard Jezebel’s threats, his assumptions fell apart or he felt he missed God , after all, just how does a true prophet miss God?
As a prophet he may have known (or maybe not) that he was to help bring in the coming of Messiah and he assumes that this was that moment (not knowing the timing of this event); and as Jezebel’s threatens him he may have seen his timing was off, which may have caused him to question his calling or purpose.
We know very little of Elijah himself, he comes out of almost nowhere, much like Melchizedek. Some even believe he was an angel, who for a while was given a body to witness to the backsliding Israel. While others believe he was a Gentile who believed in the God of Israel, who God sent to bring Israel to jealousy. (Most likely he was of the seed of Jacob.)
James writes: (Jas 5:17-18) Elijah was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit.
As James writes, he first calls Elijah a “man”, so that tells us that the Jewish teachers that try to make him an angel are wrong! He also was subject to like passions, which simply put means; Elijah had to deal with fear, doubt, and unbelief and so on, just like everyone else in this world.
Therefore he had to discipline himself in the frame-work of prayer (speaking to and hearing God’s thoughts) or learned how to pray and get results.
OK! So how does a man of God, the prophet of God come to this place where we see Elijah? A man so full of confidence one minute, but next he’s under a tree crying out to the Lord to die.
One of the wonderful things about the written word of God is how it doesn’t try to cover up the sins or character flaws of the men and women of God. In this way we can find solutions to our own problems, as we try and walk with God.
Isaac, Jacob, David, Solomon and many more, we can draw from their mistakes or moments of weakness.
One of the things I find comfort in; is from The Apostle Paul, where he wrote in chapters 11 and 12 in the book of 2 Corinthians. Paul speaks of his infirmities, some of which was from the constant attacks he endured as he boldly preached the gospel; in other words, his infirmity was in fact, the weakened state of being; in both his physical body and mind (he was worn out).
He even said, “We were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life”. Paul gives a hint that some of this was brought on by his own sense of pride or boasting in the form of being too overly zealous.
I believe this is what he had requested of the Lord three times to be removed from him (his tendency to being too overly zealous, or prideful).
But the Lord does not remove the character flaws of his people, but rather we are to overcome (control) them through his grace, which we draw from Christ, his Spirit and with the word of God.
The Lord’s reply to Paul was; “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” In this I see much comfort for those of us who fight every day against our character flaws, knowing that even though we have them, The Lord can still flow or work through us. That my flaws will not cut God’s grace short and derail his ability to use me for his purpose, or else, how could God have used many of the men and women of the O/T which we read about.
So what may have been Elijah’s flaw?
In 1 Kings 18, we hear Elijah’s statement;
(1Ki 18:22) Then said Elijah unto the people, I, even I only, remain a prophet of the LORD; but Baal’s prophets are four hundred and fifty men.
Why does Elijah say this? just in v.4 we are told that Obadiah had hidden a hundred prophets from Jezebel, then again in v.13 Obadiah spoke to Elijah about it and said, “ had you not heard….?” So why does Elijah say that, he only remains and from what or where does he draws this conclusion?
Even when the Lord asks, “What doest thou here”, Elijah makes the same accusation twice! So does he feel he is the only man (prophet) standing up for the Lord?
If so, then what a dangerous position to hold, so much would be riding on just that one man, because what would the consequences be if you failed or killed before you finished your course, pride could easily form in one’s heart. If not pride, at the very least, false assumptions on how God will use this person could raise up in their own mind.
Could this be why he said that he was no better than his fathers (those who had been before him and failed)? After all in his mind he may have been the last hope of turning Israel around to a revival towards the Lord.
What was in the small still voice that caused him to hide his face in his mantle? What ever it was, it wasn’t in the wind, the earthquake or the fire.
Then the Lord asked again, “What doest thou here, Elijah? Just what was the Lord trying to draw out of Elijah, what was it that the Lord was trying to get him to understand or see?
Over the years I have seen men and women, who like Elijah were powerful in ministry, seemingly having it altogether and very zealously following after God and knowing what direction they were going. Then all of a sudden they stop as if they just lost all confidence in themselves, questioning whether they ever really heard from God in the first place or at least in doubt of something.
In some cases just out right sin may be the reason, but for others I believe that they have come to suspect that they are off course and are trying to figure out just how they got there.
God normally guides us with his word and by the leading or impressions given by his Spirit. Some people have felt within their love and zeal for the Lord, that they were called to the mission field, so they went in faith only to fail or realize later that they were wrong.
This can leave one very confused; even to the place where they question within themselves whether or not they actually have or can hear from God.
The problem isn’t that they can’t hear, but the question is did God in fact speak, or were they using something else to confirm their assumptions.
Gideon threw out a fleece before the Lord to confirm what was said, so likewise many people try this method. However, Gideon’s fleeces were based on something that could not be done in the normal way of life in this world, in other words it was supernatural.
So if one is going to throw out a fleece, then we need to make sure that it really is something that only God can do or something he would be willing to do, so as not to fool ourselves or allow the devil to deceive us.
I know some people’s fleece is opening up their bible randomly to a page and the first words they see, is the way God speaks to them. However, if they don’t like that page then they try again and again until they get the words they are looking for, so many fleeces are done in just that same manner. They just keep throwing out fleeces until they get the answer they are looking for, or it is something that is so easily done in the natural course of this world one can easily get the answer they want.
Elijah however, may have used supernatural events that God actually did do, to confirm his assumptions, when in fact he should not have. If we are going to use events that we believe are done by God as our so-called fleece, then at least ask the Lord to confirm first (Let him know you are looking for confirmation, as well as what it is that he is confirming), and then wait for the event to happen. Don’t see an event, and then just make it your confirmation.
Remember, a fleece is not the normal way that God leads us, he does have a voice. If God wants you to go somewhere or do something, he does know how to speak!
There are times that God will let us in on what he is doing through us, as well as there are times that he keeps that to himself, so be ready or open to the fact that he may not be ready to confirm what you have asked.
Deut. 29:29: let’s us know that there are some things that will remain secret; Jesus even said that there are times and seasons of the Father that are not for us to know, ( Acts 1:7).
So let’s be sure that in these moments that we don’t some how force a confirmation, when in fact God is confirming nothing.
So, it this what happened to the mighty Elijah; he was looking in the wrong things to guide him. Yes, the Lord did do these mighty works before Elijah; but nowhere was God’s instruction, except in the small voice!
Maybe the Lord is asking you that same type of question,”What doest thou here?” What you to this place you are in?