What Are You Doing Here? Pt. 2
And the word of the Lord came to him: “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
What was he doing there? Everyone knows the story by now. He was on the run! Prior to his 40 day journey to Mt. Horeb, Elijah had just defeated 450 prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel in a dramatic and spectacular display. If you recall, he summoned the prophets of Baal, King Ahab, and all the Israelite people to a show of strength. Two altars were built. Two bulls were sacrificed. Two gods were called upon. Only one answered and proved that he alone was God.
But then, as is the case for the majority of those who challenge the status quo, his life is threatened and the prophet hits an all time low. The hurricane hit. For Elijah it was Hurricane Jezebel. For me it was Hurricane Harvey. His major victory is followed by immediate defeat. He flees to Mt. Horeb and when he arrives the word of the Lord comes to him in the form of an almost mocking question, “What are you doing here?”
If I'm Elijah, at this point I've lost it.
"What am I doing here? God, I’m following you! I’m attempting to be faithful to you! I’m your servant, and even though it’s not really true, I feel so alone in all of this. So alone.
"And everything was going so well too! It was all working out so perfectly, almost too perfectly. I spoke and the people responded. We met and both felt something real. We both experienced something overwhelming. We believed, all of us, that you were really behind it all, but now that my life is on the line, I'm not so sure. But now that my church's life is on the line, I'm not so sure."
All of that is interpretive imagination of course. I'm not Elijah and I wasn't there. But the prophet does respond to God in equal dramatics. “I’ve been working my heart out for the God-of-the-Angel-Armies,” said Elijah. “The people of Israel have abandoned your covenant, destroyed the places of worship, and murdered your prophets. I’m the only one left, and now they’re trying to kill me (1 Kings 19:10, MSG).”
"What am I doing here? At least I am here! Where are you?"
And then the most amazing thing happens.
God shows up.
God shows up in the aftermath of a hurricane.
"Then he was told, 'Go, stand on the mountain at attention before God. God will pass by.'
A hurricane wind ripped through the mountains and shattered the rocks before God, but God wasn’t to be found in the wind; after the wind an earthquake, but God wasn’t in the earthquake; and after the earthquake fire, but God wasn’t in the fire; and after the fire a gentle and quiet whisper (I Kings 19:11-12, MSG)."
God shows up.
And after this spectacular display, God, in that quiet, calming voice, asks once again, "So Elijah, now tell me, what are you doing here?"
And this is where Elijah's story and mine diverge. For a second time, Elijah lobbies his complaint against God. God then is forced to speak to him more bluntly. He misses it. He completely misses what God was trying to tell him. He missed it!
"Elijah, just because I've called you to something, just because you are indeed in the right place at the right time, just because I am really behind all of this doesn't mean that it will be easy! There will be hurricanes. There will be storms. There will be fires. But I am the one who has brought you here despite all of that."
Here is one of the biggest mistakes we make. We are mistaken to believe that God's sovereignty automatically mean an easy yoke. But an even worse mistake is to believe that the heavy yoke means God is not sovereign!
It is a mistake and a costly one at that. Elijah forfeits his ministry effectiveness at this point. God instructs him to go appoint new prophets, including the one who would eventually take his mantle, Elisha. Only a few chapters later he will be called into heaven on a chariot of fire.
And the word of the Lord came to him, "What are you doing here, Elijah?"
The question was not a flippant, mocking question. It was an invitation. It was an opportunity. It was a chance for the prophet to pause, take a breath, even if for a moment, and consider that maybe, just maybe, God had been with him the entire time - in the victory as well as the defeat, on Mt. Carmel and on Mt. Horeb.
And I can almost hear him saying it to me as well, can't you? As I sit on Mt. Horeb, I can hear God. If you pause and listen, take a deep breath, maybe you can hear him as well. He is asking, "What are you doing here?"
Will we make the same mistake as the prophet?