“What Are You Doing Here?” – 1 Kings 19

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? 

This happened to the prophet Elijah, shortly after God brought him a great victory over the prophets of Baal.

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)

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!

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 had carried out God’s judgment against the 450 prophets of Baal, who had misled the people and turned their hearts away from the Lord.

Elijah was now 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 with him about it.  Rather, He sent an angel to comfort him and to actually bake him a heavenly cake.  (Possibly the origin of the name Angel Food cake).

Given renewed physical strength, Elijah continued to run south.  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 in one where Moses had slept before him, the Lord spoke to him.

“What are you doing here, Elijah?”

When God speaks to people, He does not waste words.  He is direct and to the point. 

Elijah had an answer for Him, giving many reasons.  But none of them seemed to impress or convince the Lord that this was where he should be. To be blunt, it was not an act of faith in God to not believe He would protect Elijah from Jezebel after all God had done for him the previous three and a half years.

But once again, God treated the prophet tenderly.  He offered to appear before him, as he had once appeared to Moses, that time hiding Moses’ face so that he did not look directly at the Lord (found in Exodus 33).  God then had Elijah wait outside the cave on the mountain.

As Elijah waited, tremendous powers and forces of nature rose up, even ripping rocks from the mountain – strong wind, earthquake, fire – many of the types of natural disasters we face today, the so-called Acts of God.  But God was not present in any of these.  So Elijah waited.

Then, God did finally 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 one with 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, most of us do it, and fairly regularly. Especially when we are not feeling our best or strongest, having recently been through challenging or tiring situations, and in desperate need of some time to refresh, recharge, and renew our physical and spiritual strength. 

God was not finished with Elijah, not by a long shot. Among his many other future duties, he would one day appear alongside Moses to encourage Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration, shortly before Jesus was delivered over to be scourged and crucified as a sacrifice for our sins, providing for our eternal salvation through His death and resurrection. Perhaps, in this case, it was Elijah helping to refresh and strengthen our glorious Savior. Whatever the case, in that moment, Elijah was exactly where the Father wanted him.


Where do you go when you need time away to renew your physical and spiritual strength?

What actions are you about to take that you have not yet consulted with God about?  He will help us to get on the right path – His will for us.

Father God, we lift up to You any actions we have taken that we have failed to consult with You about.  Help us to be aligned with Your will in our lives, as reflected in our thoughts, intentions, words, and actions. Grant us strength, refreshment, reinvigoration, and the joy of the Lord as we seek to follow You this day.  We ask this in Jesus’ name, Amen.

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