(Bible quotations are from the NIV unless otherwise stated)
The mountain of God
2nd August 2014
We read last week in 1 Kings 19 about the time Elijah ran away because he was afraid of Queen Jezebel, not stopping until he was a day's walk into the desert south of Beersheba in Judah. He sat under a broom tree and prayed for death, complaining that he'd had enough. He fell asleep until an angel woke him and gave him food. He then fell asleep, and again the angel woke him and gave him food. Verse 8 says, So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he travelled for forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God. We read on:
1 Kings 19v9-10
Elijah had walked for 40 days and nights, deep into the Sinai desert, to Mount Horeb (also known as Mount Sinai) where God had given the Law through Moses hundreds of years before. When he got there, he went into a cave and fell asleep again, because he was exhausted again. And again God spoke to him. He asked, "What are you doing here, Elijah?".
I don't think God was asking "What are you doing here?" as if to say that Elijah wasn't welcome at the mountain of God. All God's people are always welcome there.
And I don't think God was asking "What are you doing here?" as if to say that Elijah should have been somewhere else. I read a commentary that suggested that God was displeased because Elijah should have been in Israel, prophesying. But a prophet needs to spend most of his time standing in the council of God, listening for His word (Jeremiah 23v21-22).
I think God was asking Elijah to articulate the reason why he'd come to the mountain of God. Of course, God knows everything about us, but He wants us to pray honestly, to tell Him the truth about why we're praying, how we really feel and what we really want. Remember Jesus once asked a blind man, "What do you want me to do for you?" (Mark 10v51). God doesn't need us to give Him information, but He wants us to admit the truth about ourselves.
Elijah replied with a list of complaints, "I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too." I think he was saying something like, "I've done my best. I did what you told me to do. I said what you told me to say. I've given my life for the kingdom of God. But the rest of your people wouldn't respond. They're just hopeless. I'm the only half-decent follower you've got, and the others are going to kill me. It's all been a waste of time and effort. I give up." God had restored Elijah's soul under the brook tree, but he hadn't yet restored his faith. The time for that had now arrived. God was about to demonstrate His power.
1 Kings 19v11-13
God told Elijah to get out of the cave and stand on the mountain side, because he'd meet Him there. When Elijah obeyed, God sent a great and powerful wind, which is a challenging experience when you're standing on the side of a mountain. The wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks. It must have unsettled Elijah. Then God sent an earthquake which must have terrified him. Then God sent a fire. I'm sure Elijah was impressed! But he didn't find God in any of this.
Today, some Christians get very excited about signs and wonders, about healings and miracles and prophesies and tongues and other powerful gifts from God. That's fine. If these gifts are genuinely from God (some are and some aren't) then they're great. But you don't find God in the signs and wonders. Signs and wonders just point us towards God.
God then sent a gentle whisper. And Elijah found God in the whisper! God whispered in his ear, "What are you doing here, Elijah?" God doesn't need to shout. He just needs our attention. We find God much more in moments of quietness than in the demonstration of His power.
1 Kings 19v14
Elijah just repeated his list of complaints, word for word. Then:
1 Kings 19v15-18
Now God had Elijah's attention again. He gave him a new set of instructions. Elijah's life, and his ministry, weren't about to end; there was much more to be achieved.
If you will come aside to the mountain of God, if you will let the wind, earthquake and fire pass, if you will listen for the whisper of God, then He will restore you spiritually. He will restore your ministry and give you a purpose, a reason to keep going.
Finally, God said, "I reserve seven thousand in Israel — all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and all whose mouths have not kissed him." Elijah thought he was the only one left, but there were 7,000 more that he didn't know about. God is doing much more than we realise.
From that 7,000, God rebuilt the nation of Israel. From that nation, God brought forth Jesus Christ, the Redeemer. Through the ministry of Jesus Christ, God is building a nation of millions upon millions upon millions, all over the world, to the glory of His holy name.
Elijah thought God and His people had failed. He thought his death was imminent and that would be the end of the kingdom of God. How mistaken he was! The world-wide church continues to grow. There are more Christians alive now than there have ever been. God promised through another great prophet, Isaiah, that "Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end.". God is in total control. He is working His purposes out. He cannot be defeated.