Congratulations! You've just about made it through Monday! I hope last week was amazing for you. (I took a break from writing for Labor Day.) I also hope your day, today has been great. Mine has been quite busy with school and preparations for a concert in Detroit this weekend. I do apologize for the lateness of the email.
In the midst of the busyness of the day, I've been thinking a lot about the story of Elijah. One of my favorite stories about Elijah is the spectacle at Mt. Carmel. God used Elijah to embarrassingly defeat 400 prophets of the false-god, Baal. God showed his power in incredible fashion, using Elijah as his spokesperson as he demonstrated his status as the one true God.
What is also interesting about this story is Elijah's less than spectacular behavior after what happened on Mt. Carmel. Just one chapter later, we find Elijah consumed with fear and running for his life. Apparently, the queen didn't like Elijah's participation in the defeat on the prophets of Baal. She vowed to kill Elijah. When he heard about the queen's vengeful promise, Elijah took off running like a fugitive.
The story of Elijah's great escape is rather interesting. He ran to the point of exhaustion into the wilderness. He isolated himself. Leaving his servant in a town along the way, Elijah continued his trek into the wilderness. Finally he found himself out of energy, out of courage and out of faith. He prayed to God: "Take my life."
In his exhaustion, Elijah fell asleep in the wilderness. He was awoken by the touch of an angel. The angel provided him with food and water. Elijah partook and went back to sleep. He was again awoke by the angel who again provided nourishment for Elijah. After being refreshed this second time, Elijah took off running again — for forty days and nights — eventually taking refuge in Horeb, (aka The Mountain of God).
After Elijah had rested for a night at his hiding place in Horeb, the Bible says God spoke to him saying:
“What are you doing here Elijah?” - I Kings 19:9
There's more to the story. God reveals himself to Elijah at Horeb in breathtaking fashion and soon after the mountain experience, God also relieve Elijah of his duties as his prophet. He takes Elijah to himself in a chariot of fire and Elisha assumes Elijah's mantel as God's prophet. But, for this email, let's stick here at God's question for Elijah. "What are you doing here?"
I find it amazing that Elijah was so strong in his faith that God could use him to destroy 400 prophets of an idol god. I also identify with just how flimsy his faith was when Jezebel threatened his life. He ran away from this woman, whom he knew to be ruthless and at times bloodthirsty. The thought of this woman being after him shook Elijah to his core. He ran.
I think we can all identify with Elijah. It is really interesting how our faith can be strong in one area and weak in another. We're good at courageously trusting God when we are sure of how he is going to do things. Elijah knew exactly what was going to happen at Mt. Carmel. God was directing him step by step. There was plenty of certainty there. He knew God wouldn't leave him hanging there.
After Mt. Carmel, something was different, though. There was no word from God saying, "Elijah, don't trip out, now. Jezebel is going to come at you." There was no expressed promise, "I will protect you. Don't fear, Elijah." Many times we are just like Elijah in these circumstances, aren't we? In the absence of an expressed word from God, our faith gets flimsy! We get fearful. We forget about the nature of God and the mighty ways he has provided and protected us in the past. All we see is the danger before us.
Just like Elijah, when we feel fear, we try and make our own moves. We run. We hide. Just like in Elijah's case, fear often leads us to find ourselves far from where we belong. In our spiritual amnesia, we run away forgetting our own Mt. Carmel experiences only to find ourselves exhausted in wildernesses!
There's a rich lesson for us in Elijah's story. King David puts that lesson in imperative terms in Psalm 103:3 — "forget not his benefits." One of the things I'm learning in my faith walk is that faith is largely a function of memory. If we look at our lives individually, we can see the faith story that God is developing in and for us. Look back at your life and all that God has done! Remember how he has cared for you, and comforted you, and provided for you, and protected you!
When fear comes, we have to look back at our own Mt. Carmel experiences and remember! When we feel our fears of the future welling up inside of us or when we find ourselves on the run from the scary things on the horizon, we do well to ask ourselves the same question God asked Elijah. When Elijah allowed his fears to drive him far from his assigned place, God asked him the pointed question: "What are you doing here?"
Questions for the week
- What is my assigned place? Do I know where am I supposed to be?
- Do I feel uneasy when I am not hearing from God? How do I respond?
- How do I keep my spiritual memory refreshed so I "don't forget his benefits?"
- What kinds of fears send me reeling and move me from my assigned place?
- Where am I now? Am I in a wilderness, moved there because of fear or am I where I believe God has assigned me to be?