When I read Scripture, I often turn to the big, theatrical moments that show God's power. The Flood (Genesis 6-8). The Four Men in the the Fire (Daniel 3). Elijah vs the Prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18). Those are huge stories that make being on God's team exciting. If I were giving out awards, this account of Elijah would get the award for Best Trash Talk in the Bible. [Insert award show clip of Elijah asking if Baal is using the bathroom.] He calls down fire from heaven. He kills the prophets of Baal. He prays the rain out of the sky. Elijah is BA (Bible Awesome).
By the next chapter, Elijah appears to have lost his prophet-warrior status. He is a normal guy who has made enemies (they happen to be the king and queen), and he is scared. He runs to the desert, leaving behind his servant and eventually making his way to a cave on Mount Horeb. God asks Elijah why he is there. Elijah tells God that His people have turned against Him, he is the only one left, and they are trying to kill him. He's exaggerating a bit, but I fully trust that he believed what he was saying. Most of us are the same way. Think about how often fights include "you never" or "you always." This is when the story takes an unexpected, yet tender, turn:
"The Lord said, 'Go out. Stand on the mountain in front of me. I am going to pass by.' As the Lord approached, a very powerful wind tore the mountains apart. It broke up the rocks. But the Lord wasn’t in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake. But the Lord wasn’t in the earthquake. After the earthquake a fire came. But the Lord wasn’t in the fire. And after the fire there was only a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his coat over his face. He went out and stood at the entrance to the cave" (1 Kings 19:11-13, NIRV).Did Elijah expect to encounter the God who rains down fire, for whom the earth trembles? I think so. Instead, God reveals another part of Himself, the gentle Abba - father, daddy - who sits down next to His upset child, picks him up, and places him on His knee. God asks Elijah, again, why he is there, and Elijah's response is the same. The words are the same, but the conversation is different.
God tells Elijah to get back to work: anoint a king for Aram, anoint a king for Israel, anoint Elisha as the next prophet. Go get your squad, one might say. These were the guys who were going to support Elijah in the work God wanted him to do. #squadgoals.
Elijah would no longer be alone. He had kings, a prophet, and 7,000 Israelites on his team. But more importantly, he had God on his team. Or, more accurately, he was on God's team. So, Elijah went.
Today, many people are shut in their homes, but their spirits are in a cave on Mount Horeb. To them I say, wait for the whisper.
Wait for the whisper.