Bible stories of hope: Elijah - by James Archer
Bible stories of hope is a series comprising a reading about someone's encounter with God, some notes about how they may have seen it, and a prayer.
Reading – 1 Kings 19:4-11
Elijah walked for a whole day into the desert. He sat down under a bush and asked to die. “I have had enough, LORD,” he prayed. “Let me die. I am no better than my ancestors.” Then he lay down under the tree and slept.
Suddenly an angel came to him and touched him. “Get up and eat,” the angel said. Elijah saw near his head a loaf baked over coals and a jar of water, so he ate and drank. Then he went back to sleep.
Later the LORD’s angel came to him a second time. The angel touched him and said, “Get up and eat. If you don’t, the journey will be too hard for you.” So Elijah got up and ate and drank. The food made his strong enough to walk for 40 days and nights to Mount Sinai, the mountain of God. There Elijah went into a cave and stayed all night.
Then the LORD spoke his word to him: “Elijah! Why are you here?”
He answered. “LORD God All-powerful, I have always served you as well as I could. But the people of Israel have broken their agreement with you, destroyed your altars and killed your prophets with swords. I am the only prophet left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”
The LORD said to Elijah, “Go, stand in front of me on the mountain, and I will pass by you.”
Elijah was in despair. In God’s strength, he had single-handedly taken on all the pagan priests and had won a resounding victory, proving that God was the one true God. Surely God’s people would see the light. But the next day, his arch-enemy Queen Jezebel had shown that she was by no means finished and was out to get him. There was nothing more he could do – it was hopeless, and he was exhausted.
Do you sometimes feel like that – especially after a mountain-top experience with God? Reality hits you, and you have nothing left to draw on. All your high hopes seem to be dashed. What’s the point of it all?
God knew what Elijah needed. First, nourishment and rest. Then something to do with himself. Then a new experience of God.
Elijah’s victory on Mount Carmel was a demonstration of God’s power. But his experience on Mount Sinai would show that God wasn’t truly revealed in demonstrations of power such as earthquakes, gales or infernos, but in a still, small voice.
“Not by might, not by power, but by my Spirit,” were the words Zechariah heard (Zechariah 6:6). “A little yeast works through the whole dough,” said Paul (Galatians 5:9) echoing a parable of Jesus.
Elijah thought he was the only one left. He didn’t know there were 7,000 others, or that the victory on Mount Carmel had turned the tide and that God-worship was on the way back.
Do you depend on your experiences of a whizz-bang God, or do you know him through his still, small voice? If you are in the same place as Elijah, shorn of hope because God seems to have run out of special effects, perhaps you need to be still enough to hear what he is saying to you quietly.
Lord God, teach me to be quiet and humble enough to hear you when you whisper to me. Amen
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