The Lord revealed His presence to Elijah as “a gentle whisper.”(1 Kings 19:12b)
1 Kings 19:13a When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.”
Elijah covered his face in shame before God. It’s a spontaneous reflex, a natural reaction. It’s what someone automatically does when they realize they’re in the presence of a perfectly sinless, almighty, and holy God.
1 Kings 19:13b “Then a voice said to him, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’”
Standing at the mouth of the cave is not exactly what the Lord told him to do. Actually, the Lord told him to stand on the mountain. But it’s a start. It’s a step in the right direction. Come out of your cave. Move beyond your fears. Open up and begin to live a full life. Begin to experience the satisfaction of knowing what God has called and created us to do. The Lord want to take us farther. He wants to lift us higher. He wants us to become bolder and more confident in who we are because of who He is.
After seeing that earthquake, wind and fire, after hearing that gentle whisper, the Lord asks Elijah again… “What are you doing here?”
1 Kings 19:14 “He replied, ‘ I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left and now they are trying to kill me too.’”
We can spend hours talking to someone who’s depressed and hiding in a cave; someone who’s tuned out and shut themselves off from everyone who loves them and is trying to help them, and we honestly believe we’re making progress. We think we’re getting through to them.
They seem to agree with everything we say. It looks like they’re just about ready to come out of their cave, but the next time we see them, it starts all over again and we’re back to square one. “I am the only one left.” “Let’s not talk about what I’m doing here. Let’s talk about what’s happening to me. Let’s talk about why I deserve to be here. I’m here because no one cares. No one listens. No one understands.”
It’s not easy talking to someone who’s hiding in a cave. There’s nothing harder than trying to talk someone out of their cave, their house, their work or wherever they may be hiding themselves. I’m sure all of us, at one time or another, have either tried to talk someone out of their cave or someone has tried to talk us out of our cave.
Probably the most frustrating thing about talking to someone who’s depressed and hiding in a cave is finding out that, after talking with them for several hours, they haven’t heard a single thing we’ve said to them. When someone has gone into their cave, closed themselves in, pulled away from people and shut out the world, they are only interested in what they think and can only hear what they are saying to themselves. They are not interested in hearing the truth or in dealing with reality. They are fully convinced that they have every right to feel bad and they want us to agree with them.
Keep in mind that I’m not talking about a more serious, diagnosed form of clinical depression that may have various mental and physiological causes That is definitely a lot more complicated to work through and requires professional help. I’m talking about the more common form of depression that we all experience at various times in our lives, even the strongest believers like Elijah.
1 Kings 19:15a “The Lord said to him, ‘Go back the way you came.’”
“Go back the way you came.” When you left Samaria, you said, “I have had enough!” But I’m giving you more. You said, “Never again. I quit.” But I’m saying, “Don’t quit. I want you to do it again.” It’s time to let go of the past. It’s time to get back to where you belong, the place I want you to be, and the work I’ve called you to do. You’ve had enough time to recover from your hurt. I’ve given you time to talk out and release all your frustrations. It’s time to put your life back on track again. My grace is always sufficient for you. My power works best when you realize you’re the weakest.
“But Lord, it won’t work. It won’t do any good. The people won’t listen to me. Jezebel and Ahab want to kill me Please don’t ask me to do it again. “But I need you to do it again. You need to do it again. You’ll never be happy, you’ll never be at rest, you’ll never have peace in your heart or your mind, you’ll always be angry and frustrated with yourself and with others until you are where I want you to be, dong what I’ve called and created you to do.”
You are absolutely right, Elijah. After going three and a half years without rain and then finally receiving a heavy rain, nothing has changed. Ahab is still one of the worst kings Israel has ever had. He’s never going to change. Jezebel still wants to kill you and the people who think of themselves as my people are still worshipping the gods of this world.
Things haven’t changed, Elijah, but you have. You’re not the same person who came here. No one can stand in my presence like you have without being changed. You’ve been strengthened by my power, a power greater than all the powers of earth and hell combined. “Go back the way you came” with my peace inside of you. “Go back the way you came” with my strength inside of you. But most of all, “go back the way you came” with a fresh hope for tomorrow.
Albert Einstein said that the definition of insanity is doing things the same way and expecting a different result. But Einstein was wrong. It is possible to do things the same way and experience a different result when the Lord is the one doing it. And it’s possible to keep doing things differently and experience the same result if the Lord is left out of it. It’s not insanity when the Lord is the one asking us to do it.
True insanity is trying to do something in every way we can think of without the Lord and expecting it to work, expecting it to last; expecting it to matter. The Lord is still on the throne. He is still the “I am.” He is still the sovereign Lord of all. He is causing all things to work together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.
Lord willing, we’ll take it up from here next Tuesday. Thanks for being in God’s word with pastor Buj.