Summary: So when you’re fed up, discouraged, and ready to quit, when you whine and complain to God, “I’m done. I’m through. It’s over,” don’t lose it when God says: “No you’re not."
Elijah is running for his life, frightened, trying to hide from the fears that haunt him. Suddenly, in the thick of his escape attempt, “The word of the Lord came to [Elijah]”! Now if that’s not enough to frighten someone, the question the Lord asks him should. God asks Elijah, “What are you doing?”
Then God adds another word to that question, a word that should make Elijah break out into a cold sweat. God asks, “What are you doing HERE?” God asks that because Elijah was running away in fear, trying to escape from King Ahab’s wife, Jezebel.
Elijah rebuts, “I’ve been faithful, but Your people haven’t. I’m the only one left who still worships You. I’m done. I’m through. I quit.”
God says, “You’re not done. I still have more for you to do. Now get moving; your playtime is over.”
God’s ways don’t always make much sense to us, do they? His delight in working through weakness usually messes with our minds. For us, that just looks like one divine folly headed for another, one disappointment nipping at the heels of another.
But God does His work in His own way. He delights in creating our salvation through the Word of the cross. God rescues us through the preaching of Christ crucified, which is His power and His wisdom. That’s how God is saving those who believe--through what we would consider weakness and folly.
It’s easy for us to see in hindsight how shortsighted Elijah was. But if we were there, we’d probably be doing the same thing--running in fear for our lives. We are just as shortsighted: Like Elijah, the falleness of this world also frightens us. Like Elijah, we want God to amaze us all the time, like fireworks on the 4th of July. But that’s not our God. He chooses if, when, and where He’s going to have His fireworks. God’s normal way is working through weakness.
If you recall some of Elijah’s life, you know that God did some incredible stuff. First, Elijah saw God miraculously replace oil and flour at an elderly widow’s house. Second, Elijah saw God raise her son from the dead--even using Elijah to do that!
And third, Elijah saw the one, true God put that false-god Baal in his place. He saw the Lord overthrow the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel with a fire that “consumed the burnt offering, the wood, the stones, the dust, and even the water that was in the trench” (18:38). And “when the people saw what had happened, they fell flat on their faces and cried out, ‘The LORD is God! The LORD is God!’” (18:39).
The problem with fireworks and dazzle, however, is if the dazzle doesn’t keep coming, your faith deflates. Look at Elijah. Elijah experienced all that. But what does he do after God puts Baal in his place? Elijah’s gets intimidated. Despite God’s in-your-face demonstration of His power, as soon as that finishes, Elijah runs for his life from Jezebel, the wife of Ahab.
Instead of saying, “Did you see what the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob can do? Who are you to threaten me?” Elijah ran. He flees and then hides out in a cave. It’s then that God abruptly brings him back to reality. It’s then that “the word of the Lord came to him.” God said to Elijah, “What are you doing here?”
After the initial fear of being found out, you’d think that Elijah would be ecstatic that the Lord was still speaking to him and calling him by name. You’d think that Elijah would breathe a sigh of relief and take comfort, knowing that all would be well. But with Elijah, that’s not what happens.
Instead, Elijah’s responds in sniveling self-indulgence. “I’ve been especially zealous for the LORD,” he says. “The Israelites have abandoned your covenant, demolished your altars, executed your prophets with swords, and I--that’s right, just me!--am the only one left. Now they’re seeking my life, to get rid of me” (19:10).
Now some of what Elijah said was technically correct. But since Elijah experienced the Lord’s power firsthand, how could he have such a severe case of spiritual Alzheimer’s?
Yet even more astonishing than Elijah’s spiritual Alzheimer’s is the Lord’s patience with Elijah. The Lord could have justifiably given up on Elijah because of his anemic, near-dead faith--but He doesn’t! Instead, the Lord goes to extraordinary lengths to ‘resurrect’ Elijah and his faith--not by scolding him--but by reminding him that He comes in seemingly weak and powerless ways.
“Not by force or strength, but by My Spirit,” God told the Prophet Zechariah (Zechariah 4:6). And with Elijah, the Lord’s shows him grace flowing on top of grace. He lets Elijah know that what He has given him to do--that is, being a prophet--was no trivial calling.