At least Elijah wasn’t just running away. At least he wound up in the place we all do eventually when we’ve lost our own sense of faith or direction—in the presence of God, having to answer the question, “Why are you here?”
The question echoes throughout the cave and through Elijah’s heart, as if there is someplace else the Lord might have expected him to be. Does God expect Elijah to be able to admit that fear set him on this journey?
Elijah tries out the stiff words of the speech he’s composed for this moment. The language is flimsy and awkward: “I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts.” He must know how flimsy it sounds. And yet he tries it again, this time into God’s very face. This time, he speaks it into the silence that allows for no illusions.
Why is Elijah here? Because God saved him. That’s why. Because when Elijah flees without food or drink, messengers of the Lord keep him alive, giving him food, water, and direction, even when he has no will to seek it on his own.
If Elijah is asking for protection, his request is not clear. For instead of further respite, the Lord sends him back to the world of human politics, back to the work of a prophet.
In the silent place we come to after fleeing what we fear, God will not hesitate to send us back into the world. God’s need for our action is greater than our human need to feel safe. But sometimes we need the noise of our doubts and voices of our enemies to be silenced in order to figure that out.
Lord, help me to find the silence that will send me back into the world. Amen.
The fact that we trust in God does not guarantee that life will be easy. Believers suffer discouragement as well. Elijah is a powerful prophet of God who faces profound discouragement. He looks around and sees faithlessness and desolation, as does the psalmist wrestling with his own sense of despair. In both cases the person’s spirit is revived—by divine visitation to Elijah and by the psalmist’s self-talk about the truth of God’s faithfulness. The New Testament readings take us in a different direction. Paul speaks of the freedom we have when we are in Christ, heirs to all of God’s promises. The Gospel writer tells of another kind of freedom, the freedom experienced by a man delivered from demon possession.
Read 1 Kings 19:1-15a. Recall a time you ran to a silent place. How did God send you back into the world?
Read Psalm 42. The author asks us to imagine the words of this psalm coming from the mouth of Elijah and the Gerasene man. Consider how these words might be yours as well.
Read Galatians 3:23-29. How does your faith in Christ help you to embrace the freedom that comes from lack of division rather than to flee in fear?
Read Luke 8:26-39. What true story do you have to tell to the world of what Jesus has done for you?
Respond by posting a prayer.
I join many of those who will pray for you as you seek to discern what you are called to be at this moment. May God grant you the courage to fulfill that calling. May we all open our eyes and see the misery, open our ears and hear the cries of God’s people, and, like God through the Lord Jesus Christ, be incarnate amongst them.”
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