Summary: Sometimes God doesn't make sense, sometimes he even makes us angry. But we have a God who loves us in the midst of our feelings of loss, or anger, or confusion.
“What are you doing here?” When it comes to things God might say to me, I can’t think of too many things I would like to hear less. When I finally get to heaven and look at the face of God and hear, “What are you doing here, Matt?” YIKES! Thankfully, I know, because of God’s grace, that that is NOT what I will hear. And thankfully also, when we hear this phrase in our Old Testament Reading, God isn’t talking to Elijah about getting into heaven. But it is still a challenging thing for him to hear from God.
This interaction between God and Elijah was a long time in the making. He had been a prophet in some very difficult times, and had seen the hand of the Lord at work in some amazing ways. He went to live in the home of the widow of Zarephath and had seen the Lord provide an unending supply of oil and flour, and had even been used by the Lord in the resurrection of her dead son. Her reply to him, “Now I know that you are a man of God, and that the word of the Lord in your mouth is the truth.” (1 Kings 17). But that was only the start. Soon after we read about how the Lord vanquished the hundreds of false prophets of Baal on Mt Carmel. How they cried out to their gods for hours to light their sacrifice and nothing happened. But then Elijah prayed once and fire rained down from heaven to burn the offering, and the altar, and even the water in the trenches around the altar. The people who had once disregarded God cried out in a loud voice, “The Lord he is God, the Lord he is God!” Not a bad start!
Where would things go from here? What miraculous and powerful thing would God do next to capitalize on this last big gain? At least these were the questions that Elijah was asking (wouldn’t you?). The answer was not at all to his liking. Instead of crushing all of his enemies in a demonstration of His power and might, it seemed like everything was returning to business as usual, that everything was going backwards all the sudden. Evil King Ahab told his (Eviler) wife Jezebel about what had happened, and she breathed out a murderous threat against Elijah (She was a Baal Worshipper). And instead of being on the “front of the spear” of God’s wrath and anger, “Elijah was afraid and ran for his life.”
But even in his running, God revealed his love for him. He sustained him miraculously for 40 days and nights until he reached the holy place, Mt. Horeb (Zion), where he figured he might get some answers from God. Have you ever been there, “God WHY is all this happening to me?! WHY are you not taking care of this?! So he gets there finally, and sleeps in a cave, and waits for God to give him an answer. But God doesn’t give him an answer, he gives him a question, “what are you doing here, Elijah.”
And Elijah is mad enough at God to give him an earful of an answer! He said, “I have been very jealous for the LORD, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.” What gives here God? What do you think you’re doing? These people have forsaken their promises to you, they have murdered your prophets, and now I am on the run! Come on God, when are you going to wake up and reveal yourself? When are you going to stop disappointing me? When are you going to reveal your power?
So God responds, And he said, “Go out and stand on the mount before the LORD.” And behold, the LORD passed by and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the LORD, (I’m sure Elijah was thinking, YES LORD, THIS IS WHAT I’M TALKING ABOUT… POWER, STRENGTH, DESTRUCTION!) but the LORD was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, (OK, earthquakes, great) but the LORD was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake a fire, (Oh yeah, burn baby burn, burn the enemy down – Gospel Lesson “do you want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them?) but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper. (a thin silence, a still, small voice, something so faint, so weak, so fragile, you might wonder if you had even heard it at all). This is how God chose to reveal himself.