What are you doing here Elijah? asked God (1 Kings19: 9). Did it sound like a dumb question?
Elijah had just won a spectacular battle with the Priests of Baal (1 Kings 18), yet barely had the dust settled and he was running for his life. The nation had turned its back on God and was worshiping other gods; many faithful prophets had been murdered and Queen Jezebel promised that he was next on her list. A storm was approaching.
What follows is a remarkable turnaround. God told Elijah to get out of the cave where he was hiding and stand on the mountain. In rapid succession Elijah experiences a howling gale, an earthquake and fire – but God was not in any of those experiences. Then came silence. Then Elijah finally left his cave and heard again What are you doing here Elijah? He repeats his litany of woe ending with I alone am left, and they are seeking my life to take it away. Now Elijah discovers that God knows differently. Elijah served for many more years and is unique in being the only prophetic figure to ascend to heaven without first experiencing death. (2 Kings 2: 1-12).
I thought of this story as I listened to Monday’s gale rattling around the house. After a mild, calm February, March has seen a dramatic change in the weather. Motorists stranded in snow on the M62, homes washed away along the Norfolk coast. Now a gale, with much more rain or snow promised as well. The last three years appear to have been one long series of storms of one sort or another.
When life takes a turn for the worse, how prepared are we? Worn down after several years of struggle, Elijah was clearly not prepared for Jezebel’s violent reaction: but neither was he prepared for the way that God was at work. He was not alone. God protected him. God let him tell it as he saw it. God called him to more work and eventually took him to heaven; directly.
Like Elijah we get tired. Sometimes the storms threaten to overwhelm us. Sometimes all we can do is burrow deeply into our cave. When we do, are we prepared to wait for the sheer sound of silence; and listen for the still, small voice. Oh yes, and if we are honest, we can always tell it as we see it; as long as we then listen to God return the compliment.
Rev’d Philip Payne Lent 4
The Notice Sheet for 19th March can be found here