9 And there he went into a cave, and spent the night in that place; and behold, the word of the Lord came to him, and He said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 1 Kings 19:9 NKJV
Have you ever found yourself in an uncomfortable situation of your own choosing, and asked yourself, “What am I doing here?” Even worse, what if it is God asking us that question?
The prophet Elijah, on the run from the death threats of Queen Jezebel, took off into the desert wilderness south of the land of Israel. Overcome with exhaustion and hunger, he collapsed, and asked the Lord to take him and end his life. He had had enough!
4 But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he prayed that he might die, and said, “It is enough! Now, Lord, take my life, for I am no better than my fathers!” 1 Kings 19:4 NKJV
Hungry, exhausted, and depressed, Elijah had nothing left in the tank. He was running on empty after doing so many things to carry out the Lord’s commands. First, he conducted a successful, miraculous face-off against the god and prophets of Baal, then his faithful and persistent prayers ended the land’s three-and-a-half-year drought, and finally he carried out God’s judgement against the 450 prophets of Baal, who had misled His people and turned their hearts away from Him.
Elijah was fleeing on his own willpower – he had not sought the Lord about it. In fact, God’s next assignment for Elijah would be to the north of Israel, in exactly the opposite direction from where he was headed. But God was not harsh to him about it. He sent an angel to comfort him and to actually bake him a heavenly cake. (Probably the origin of the name Angel Food Cake).
Given renewed physical strength, Elijah continued to run. He made a beeline for Mount Horeb, also known by many as Mount Sinai, where God had met with Moses and given him the Ten Commandments. Apparently, this was the place where Elijah felt the safest as he scrambled to escape Jezebel’s death threat. After spending the night in one of its caves, perhaps even one where Moses had been before him, the Lord spoke to him.
“What are you doing here, Elijah?”
When God speaks to people, He does not seem to waste words. He is often direct and to the point.
Elijah had an answer for Him. He had many reasons. But none of them seemed to impress or convince the Lord that he was where he should be. To be blunt, it was not an act of faith in God to not believe He would protect Elijah.
But once again, God treated the prophet tenderly. He offered to appear before him as he had once appeared on a different rock to Moses, hiding Moses’ face so that he did not look directly at him (Exodus 33). God had Elijah wait outside the cave on the mountain.
As Elijah waited, tremendous powers and forces of nature rose up and even ripped rocks from the mountain – wind, earthquake, fire – many of the types of natural disasters we face today, so-called Acts of God. But God was not present in any of these. So Elijah waited.
Then, God did appear to him, but in a still, small voice. His message was familiar – “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
Was it such a bad thing for Elijah to flee to escape what looked to be a sure disaster? Not for an unbeliever. But for a prophet with such strong faith, it would be best to at least consult with God about the matter before acting on it.
But Elijah is not the first one to act without consulting God or seeking His will first – in fact, we all do it fairly regularly. Especially when we are not at our best, have been through some challenging and tiring situations, or are in desperate need of some time to refresh, recharge and renew our physical and spiritual strength.
God was not finished with Elijah. Among his many other duties, he would one day appear alongside Moses to encourage Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration, before Jesus was delivered over to be scourged and crucified as a sacrifice for our sins, and to provide for our eternal salvation through His resurrection. May Jesus be glorified forever!
Where do you run to when you need to get away to renew your physical and spiritual strength?
What actions have you taken that you have not yet consulted with God about? We have all done it. He is gracious and merciful and will help us to get on the right path – His will for us.
Lord, we lift up to You any actions we have taken that we failed to consult with You about. Help us to be aligned with Your will in our lives. Grant us strength, refreshment, and the joy of the Lord as we seek You this day. We ask this in Jesus’ name, Amen.