Last week was my last week of the school year. I am a teacher, so even though I work in the summer, the end of the regular school year is full of extra work, extra activities, and a lot of students with extra energy. Needless to say, I did not want to get out of bed any day last week and face what was ahead of me.
This happens to all of us. Sometimes when this happens to me, I remember the passage from 1 Kings 19:
11 Then He said, “Go out, and stand on the mountain before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; 12 and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire [e]a still small voice.
13 So it was, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood in the entrance of the cave. Suddenly a voice came to him, and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
1 Kings 19 11:13
I remember this passage, because of a theory I heard in a homily over 20 years ago. The pastor proposed that the second voice Elijah heard was his own.
Elijah was a prophet who was very well known in his time, and very vocal about what was happening in the world. He made very clear to King Ahab that Queen Jezebel was not a good queen (to put it mildly). Elijah was not one to back down from a challenge. He had complete faith in the Lord to protect him. However, after Queen Jezebel convinced Ahab to kill all the other prophets in the area…Elijah decided that perhaps running away would be the better option this time. He runs away to a cave, lies down, and begs God to let him die.
The Lord let Elijah rest awhile. He sent Angels to feed him and give him drink. Once Elijah finished resting, the Lord called him to stand out on the mountain where he witnessed all of God’s power and beauty. And heard the second voice: “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
We get so worried about the possible outcome- the final destination of whatever we are working for, we forget that all of life is a journey. Humans get tired and we sometimes become so overwhelmed with how hard the tasks before us are that we just can’t face the day. The passage in 1 Kings reminds us that even the most celebrated of God’s prophets had this problem. It reminds us that it is ok to rest. It is ok to take a few minutes and recharge. God will give us what we need to restore our energy, so we can continue his work. And afterward, we might come out stronger for it. I like to call it perpetual character development.
So, Elijah is in the cave, looking out. He is rested and sustained. It is then he remembered what God called him to do. Being God’s prophet was something he did with gusto. It was time to go back to his work and trust God. There is no reference in any translation I have ever read to the second voice being God. The passages always say a voice came to him. This is where the thought of the second voice being Elijah’s own- Elijah finding his voice and strength again- comes from. I have heard myself ask what am I doing many, many times. We all ask ourselves this when we are down.
Interestingly, the chapters after 1 Kings 19 God provides Elijah with a protégé named Elisha. He is also a prophet and helps Elijah with his work. This further sustains Elijah’s ministry. Elijah was human and admitted a need. God once again provided it. We must work to remember that it is ok to ask for help, and to teach our children this too.
My son recently earned his black belt. It was a 2 year effort and he failed the physical test the first time. His master gave him some very sage advice- “It’s the journey that you are working for, not the destination.” My son turned that advice into a personal mantra: “I am the Journey, NOT the Destination.”
Perpetual character development, being the journey, listening to our own inner voice- call it whatever you want. The bottom line is that we are all human, we all must rest, and after we are rested, we all must listen to God and continue His work.
Have a wonderful summer!
Yours in Christ,
Karen Rodgers, Vestryperson