1 Kings 19:9 (NAS): What are you doing here, Elijah?”
This passage grabbed me the first time I read it, and it hasn’t let me go. There’s no easy answer to this common question when it’s the Lord God Almighty who’s doing the asking. I think I’ve been attracted to the passage because it’s the question I so often ask myself.
The prophet Elijah is on the other side of one of the greatest victories by a prophet of the Lord. The heavens were shut at his word so that it would not rain, but by his word. He has been sustained by a raven, and a widow with a handful of flour and a little jar of oil. He raises the same widow’s son who fell sick and died. This incredible win streak culminates with an epic victory in a mountaintop showdown with 450 prophets of Baal. Yes, the Lord has used him mightily and shown His strength through him. Elijah is one of the greatest prophets in Israel’s history.
1 Kings 19:2 (NASB95) Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, “So may the gods do to me and even more, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by tomorrow about this time.”
It’s this ominous threat by wicked Queen Jezebel that sends Elijah running for his life. The irony of his flight from the queen is striking given his bold face-off against the king and the prophets of Baal. Nonetheless, he finds himself at Horeb, the mountain of God, weary, exasperated and ill-tempered. He’s not simply afraid of Jezebel. He’s not afraid to die. No, he wants out of the fight. He’s weary and heavy-laden. He needs a place to hide away; a place to seek refuge for his wounded soul. And the Lord’s question is, “What are you doing here Elijah?”
Elijah’s answer makes two things clear. First, he believes he is alone in his faithful service to the Lord. And second, he is exasperated by the injustice of it all. Elijah has done things that history will remember. He has done incredible, powerful acts of faith, but now it all seems small and of little consequence. So, he ran. He ran for his life. Not the breath in his lungs life, he ran for the more meaningful, substantive life. He ran for the life of his faith; his faith in a just world, where right prevails. Thus he would say,
1 Kings 19:4 (NASB95) “It is enough; now, O Lord, take my life, for I am not better than my fathers.”
I identify with Elijah. I too find myself having run from the fight. In weariness of soul, I have also sought a place to hide away. A wounded pastor of a failed church plant, I ran for my life of faith. I share Elijah’s feeling of being alone and exasperated by the injustice of it all. Believe me, I have no illusions about being a prophet like Elijah, but I gave it my all and being all-in we have lost much. And since then, I have often asked myself, “what are you doing here?”
Well, the Lord assures Elijah that there will be justice and that he is not alone. But He does not simply heal his wounded soul and send him back into the fray. Realizing the prophet has had enough, the Lord has him anoint Elisha in his place. It is reassuring to know that I was not alone. No one in service to the Lord is ever alone. And my faith in the justice of God is secure. But I don’t like the notion of being done. I am not strong and neither am I young. I don’t have the privilege of naivety and invincibility that’s afforded the young. I have great concern for taking another body blow. I fear we may not get up if we are knocked down again. We have lost so much in our service to the Lord. You may have noticed the change to the plural pronoun. It’s purposed because my family is in this with me.
This is where I need your prayers, friends. I believe I still have so much the Lord has given me to share, and for the moment I don’t believe that notion is my vanity. The Lord gave Elijah many more years of service and he sure seemed stronger later. Yet my wounds have not healed. So for now, I wait.
Elijah heard from the Lord at Horeb. He was not in the chaos and commotion of the strong wind, the earthquake, or the fire. He was in the gentle whisper. The gentle blowing befitting the hiding place. The place of refuge. There, I await His leading.
Psalm 91:4 (NASB95) He will cover you with His pinions, And under His wings you may seek refuge; His faithfulness is a shield and bulwark.