Elijah went before the people and said, “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.” But the people said nothing.At the time of sacrifice, the prophet Elijah stepped forward and prayed: “ Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. Answer me, Lord, answer me, so these people will know that you, Lord, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.” Then the fire of the Lord fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench. When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, “The Lord —he is God! The Lord —he is God!” (1 Kings 18:21, 36-39 NIV)
What an incredible moment on the mountain. What's next? Hmm. Maybe Elijah needed to get all these people enrolled in a discipleship class or take an offering after this show of strength. Or, maybe he needs to write a book and then he can go on Jews for Jesus television and his life will be complete, except that Jesus was still hanging in heaven with God. No more resistance from the people and no more feelings of being alone as "the only one left". After all he's now a national hero. Right? Surely ALL Israel could now see Gods hand on Elijah; surely Elijah had to "feel" emboldened. Not so fast. In a moments time he goes from "bravery to slavery" and from "hero to zero" as he goes into hiding. He became a slave to fear and fear has zero influence on God. What happened to Elijah's "mountainous faith"?
Now Ahab told Jezebel everything Elijah had done and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. So Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah to say, “May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like that of one of them.” (1 Kings 19:1-2 NIV)Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, while he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness. He came to a broom bush, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” Then he lay down under the bush and fell asleep. All at once an angel touched him and said, “Get up and eat.” He looked around, and there by his head was some bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again.
The angel of the Lord came back a second time and touched him and said, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.” So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God. There he went into a cave and spent the night. And the word of the Lord came to him: “What are you doing here, Elijah?” (1 Kings 19:3-9 NIV)
What are you doing here? Really? This is God we are talking about. Why is he asking a question that He already knows the answer to? I think that I've heard the same question, maybe more than once in 2014. "Mark, what are you doing here?" Or, "How did you get here?" Have you ever pondered why you are in the place that you're in? I can tell you that with every mountaintop there is a cave calling our name. The cave isn't the problem, it appears to be the answer; it's what we do in the cave that will determine God's next play with our lives.
Will the cave be a place of hiding or of hearing? Why is Elijah running from the witch Jezebel, and her threats on his life? Are the threats toward him greater than the God in him? Or, is he running to a place where he can hear God's voice? I'm not judging Elijah but I am trying to understand the radical shift in his behavior. I think we are all tempted to run when we are tired and Elijah had to be exhausted. I think that Elijah needed the cave to bring him back to presence, God's presence, which is where God's power actually originates.
I have found myself running from the "overwhelming" responsibilities in my life instead running to an "overcoming" God.
What am I doing in my downtown cave? Watching and waiting? Looking and listening? The pyro-technics of ministry anointing that I experienced in past years are so much more electric and mystifying than "the cave" that I now find myself in. However, there is just as much power found in the "whisper" inside the cave, as there is the "fire" on the mountain. It's the "powder" in the fireworks that provides the "power" for the spectacular display. The preparation for the fireworks display is created in a manufacturing plant, or in a cave if you will. There are no fireworks without the plant and no more power without the cave. The cave is where we get our "powder for the power". Powder up!
I love the line in Spider-Man one, "With great power comes great responsibility." I think most human beings love power but despise the responsibility that accompanies it. The mountaintop is only the beginning for all of us. It's the attention getter. It's God "showing off" if you will and proving Himself capable. It's a faith building moment so that we will never forget His omnipotence.
Most of my Christian life I've read this powerful story of Elijah taunting the prophets of Baal as the apex of Elijah's prophetic ministry. I’ve always thought of this supernatural act of God as the grand finale of a life well lived. Not so much anymore. All Israel is wowed and that does it. In fact I now believe that the mountain top "light show" was just the "appetizer"... for everyone including Elijah. Face it; we all love the "show" of God's power.
Granted, I miss feeling God's power, the "light show", flowing through me as I declared His truths and saw lives being transformed as a result of those truths. Those were my mountaintop moments. We, the church, all celebrated as people approached the altars of His sanctuary where their lives were altered forever. Like Israel, we too were wowed. But, I, like Elijah, would run to my own cave after many of those Sundays empty and lonely, wondering where God could now be found.
If I can't handle my "man cave" then the mountain might just be the end of me. I've been to the mountain. I've experienced God's power. I've seen miracles before my very eyes. I know that God is real. And, in the midst of the celebration I've also felt very alone. I've discovered that it's possible to experience loneliness in the midst of crowds, parties and incredible victories. Why is that?
I can't speak for anyone else but for me I found myself celebrating the miracle instead of the miracle worker, the kingdom instead of the King and the mighty deeds instead of the all-Mighty. The cave brings me back to HIM.
After 97 days I've learned how to be totally alone and not be lonely. I've discovered the power of the cave; the peace in knowing that joy is not found on the mountaintops but in the One who crafted the mountain.
Elijah went before the people and said, “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.” But the people said nothing. (1 Kings 18:21 NIV)
The people said nothing? Seriously? They need a visit to a cave! The cave is a place of deciding what we really believe. One on one, not one on hundreds, is where God does His best and deepest work in us all. Emotions will challenge even the greatest of victories when we are in the darkest of times. Go to the cave. Past victories are not enough to sustain the hunger in a man's soul. Our spiritual muscles atrophy without a daily visit to the place that God carved out inside our mountain, closest, living room (You get it). I now have a new reason to retreat into my "Hu-Man cave". My cave is no longer an escape from the pressures of life but it is an entrance into the presence of God.
My cave is no longer an escape from the pressures of life but it is an entrance into the presence of God. His whisper is the greatest reminder of just how near He is to me. Listen carefully!