I’m hovering over the first part of 1Kings 19 this morning. And you can’t help but notice the stark contrast between the two mounts Elijah stands upon. The first, Mount Carmel, was a mount of victory (1Kings 18:20-40). The place where Elijah stood firm footed though out-numbered 850 to 1. The mount where he called upon the God of heaven to reign fire down from heaven. And God did. As the water-soaked altar burns, the prophet stands tall. And as the sacrifice smolders, he executes judgment on the enemies of God.
The second mount, Mount Nebo, is a mount of despair (19:8). No longer the dynamic prophet, Elijah now is the defeated prophet. No longer surrounded by the crowds, he now sits alone in a cave. No longer calling the people to repentance and faithful obedience, now all he wants to do is to die and be done.
And the valley that joins these two caves? It’s the valley of fear.
Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, “So may the gods do to me and more also, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by this time tomorrow.” Then he was afraid, and he arose and ran for his life . . .
(1Kings 19:2-3a ESV)
Oh the impact of fear on faithfulness. The debilitating effect of anxiety on action. The way that the disquieted soul can distract from determined service. The man who once went face to face with an army of prophets now runs for his life from a lone woman. All because of fear.
Not judging Elijah. Rather, relating. The fear of the known . . . the fear of the unknown . . . the fear of man . . . I can relate to all such fears and think of how they have either sent me fleeing . . . caused me to doubt . . . and sometimes, caused great despair. So, this post isn’t about bashing the beaten up prophet. Rather, its about the restoration brought about by the sound of a low whisper.
Elijah’s in his cave of despair and the LORD comes to him, “What are you doing here?” (19:9). Get that! The LORD comes to him. The God who is busy holding the entire universe together visits a cave on Mt. Horeb and interrupts a pity party asking, What’s goin’ on?
So Elijah dumps. He tells his tale of woe to the Almighty. And God tells Elijah to get back on his feet and to walk out of the cave, “Go out and stand on the mount before the LORD” (19:11).
But it seems that Elijah isn’t so willing to listen. He doesn’t stand up. He doesn’t move. And so God further condescends to minister to this once faithful but now faltering saint. Instead of just letting Elijah hear His voice, the LORD God determines to provide Elijah with His presence and so, He passes by him. And there’s a great wind that shatters rocks. And there’s a great earthquake that uproots trees. And there’s a great fire which lights the entrance of the cave. But, so records the Spirit of God, the LORD wasn’t in the great wind. Nor was He in the earthquake. Nor the fire. Though He could have been–think Exodus and Moses before the burning bush and the people before trembling Mt. Sinai–in this instance, for this scenario, with this paralyzed prophet . . .
And after the fire the sound of a low whisper. And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave.
(1Kings 19:12b-13 ESV)
A low whisper. A thin silence. A gentle blowing. A still small voice. That’s how the LORD manifested Himself and ministered to this bruised reed . . . that’s how He would fan into flame this faintly burning wick (Isa. 42:3). And when Elijah heard the voice, he stood up and walked out of the cave.
And I’m in wonder at how God deals with Elijah’s fear. Though the error of Elijah’s self-absorbed, woe is me I’m-the-only-one-left view was dealt with firmly by the Almighty, it was also dealt with in a still small voice. The voice of intimate communion. The almost imperceptible sound whispered in one’s ear. It is the tender talk of a mother comforting their child as she holds them in her arms. It is the low whisper of perfect love which casts out fear (1Jn. 4:-18).
It is the hush of grace.
And it is a balm for the beat up servant. And it is for the glory of our God who has promised never to leave us or forsake us.
Praise Him for the hush of grace.