Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, "What are you doing here, Elijah?" 1 Kings 19:9b
You may have heard this story before: Elijah, on the run from Jezebel, who has threatened his very existence. On the way, he encounters an angel, who encourages him to eat, and provides him with food and water.He retreats to a mountain cave, where he encounters the Lord, and God says to him, "What are you doing here, Elijah?" Twice, God asked Elijah that question, and twice Elijah gave the same answer: "I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away." (1 Kings 19:10 and 19:14) But, did Elijah really answer God's question?
God wanted to know why Elijah was on the mountain, running for his life. Had the prophet not seen God's hand in everything he had already done in God's name? Had Elijah forgotten who God was? Did he now doubt that God would bring him through the difficult times ahead? God wanted to know why Elijah would run away, when God was surely going to be with him through whatever might come his way.
We think like Elijah, too, sometimes. We hide from our problems, seeking a dark cave to hide in so the world cannot find us. We try to fool ourselves into thinking that if we just ignore our problems, then they will magically disappear. We even sometimes think that if we just pray hard enough, that God will take all of our problems away! But on that mountain of old, and in our lives today, God's question is the same, "What are you doing here? Why are you hiding?"
We can't hide from our problems. We have to face them head on. God indicated that to Elijah in the earthquake, wind, and fire on the mountain. These powerful displays of nature's capacity to render us seemingly helpless are a reminder that storms will come, and fires will rage, but God will always be with us, no matter what. Prayer and dependence on God are not cures for all the troubles that will come our way in life, but tools that will help us come out on the other side of troubles with our faith still intact, and with a sense that, in the end, all shall be well.
At the end of this passage, God calls Elijah to leave his mountain hideaway. God simply says, "Go..." and instructs the prophet on what he is to do. And that same command comes to us today-Go! Go, and don't look back, and don't hide from your troubles, for God is there with you, no matter what.
A haiku to reflect this passage:
On the mountaintop,
waiting for the still small voice--
God speaks, and says, "Go!"