Imagine life as a crestfallen fugitive, perturbed past the point of pain and desperate for death. Not even Harrison Ford could fathom the intensity that Elijah must have felt during his escape to Beer-sheba from the clutches of Ahab and Jezebel. Conventional fugitives are often renegades seeking self-preservation and/or revenge; however, this was not the case with Elijah. On the heels of God’s intervention at Mount Carmel, Elijah had set off on another mission, initiated by the tucking of his mantle under his belt (18:46). As Elijah neared his approach to Ahab, the Bible says the power of God was upon him. Yet, not even this divine overlay could prevent a fear of man from overwhelming Elijah. Upon Jezebel’s threat on his life, he fled into the wilderness after leaving his servant in Beer-sheba, on route to Horeb. In the heart of rough country, God would trade refuge for refuge with Elijah.
The spiritual awakenings would commence with an angelic visitation at a broom tree (19:5) and a theme of deuces. Twice, an angel of the Lord commanded Elijah to get up and eat in order to meet the journey’s physical requirements. And twice, Elijah obeyed, knowing the expedition would be an extensive one. After 40 days on foot, Elijah arrived at Horeb and entered a cave to spend the night.
At this stage, Elijah must have been caught up in a whirlwind of emotional whiplash, wondering why his obedience after an emphatic victory over the Baal prophets had to brush with a man-fearing outcry. At the broom tree, Elijah not only asked for death, but admitted he was no better than his fathers! The desertion surrounding Elijah had clearly pushed him to the end of his rope. Still Elijah must have had some sense that a special encounter with the presence of God was looming. Why else would an angel justify his exodus to the mountain?
Once inside the cave, God made contact with Elijah. Twice, the Lord asked Elijah, “What are you doing here?” Twice, Elijah replied, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God of Hosts, but the Israelites have abandoned Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they’re looking for me to take my life.”
Note the name Elijah used, the adjective choice of ‘zealous’, and how he openly confirmed his frustrations. Elijah may have been hiding from his enemies, but he, in no way, veiled himself from God. Contrarily, Elijah spoke transparently, addressing God with the name David shouted when he killed Goliath (1 Samuel 17:45), and the name Isaiah mentioned after prophesizing the coming of the Messiah (Isaiah 9:6-7). By proclaiming this profound introduction, Elijah ultimately subjected himself to the power of God, for the title, “Lord of Hosts” means Creator of every living thing. In essence, Elijah had no where to turn, but to the arms of the Father.
In a powerful response of love, the Lord graced Elijah by passing him by. Like a high-action scene pulled from a Hollywood classic thriller, Elijah witnessed mighty winds, shattering cliffs, earthquakes and fires. One could only wonder what Elijah’s reaction might have been like as this all transpired. Although the Lord’s presence triggered an earthly shaking, He was not in the actual elements, but rather outside them in a soft whisper (19:12). This still small voice would humble Elijah to the point of wrapping his face in his mantle. What Elijah had just experienced was a touch of the Holy Spirit. What Elijah had just witnessed was the Lord of Hosts soothingly speaking to him, “My Spirit is present among you; don’t be afraid” (See Zechariah 4:6; Haggai 2:5).
What an incredible, breathtaking moment! God had charged Elijah so that he could continue carrying out his calling! Furthermore, such an instance of intimacy was demonstrated in part so we, believers of the 21st century, could find peace and rest in unsettling times – when the walls of life seem to crash around us and we feel our allies are thin. How amazing is the Lord for setting us up to encounter his glory? How gracious is He for answering our call in the midst of trouble and adversity? How thankful we should be when the preciousness of God fills us with the strength and encouragement needed to press onward. Even when the ground rumbles and everything seems to be falling apart, God is there!
Having supplied Elijah with reminders of his very nature, the Lord would charge him to voyage to Damascus and anoint three men: Hazael as king over Aram, Jehu as king over Israel and Elisah as prophet in Elijah’s place. These successions of anointings would set the stage for a greater cleansing of the spiritual landscape for the next several generations.