Elijah is a man of extremes. We see that in His unshakable faith in what God will do and his obedience and calling is taken to the limit on Mt Carmel . . . we see it too in his desperation and his sense of failure, considering himself no better that his ancestors – almost straight after his (literal) mountain top experience. MORE happened than at first we might realise (the defeat of the prophets of Baal and the FIRE that consumed a soaked through sacrifice . . . but then, Elijah PRAYED and a tiny rain cloud appeared, the rains were coming . . . and then, Elijah RAN as fast as a Chariot. This man did things in the power of the Spirit that no other prophet did.
Then something happens.
Jezebel, the King’s wife sends him a message – basically, “i’ll get you for this, you’re going to die.”
Now, in the NIV the next bit is translated like this,
Elijah was afraid and ran for his life
1 Kings 19:3
But, the word “afraid” here could also mean “saw” – Elijah saw what this meant, or he saw how things were and bolted. He looked at the situation he now faced, he saw and was afraid (a small aside, but I think of Peter looking at the wind and waves and taking his eyes of Jesus . . . )
Lets track back over three years earlier . . . (1 Kings 17)
All that Elijah needs is being provided by God, he has delivered the word about the drought and famine, it has started – but God is caring for Elijah, fed by Ravens and by a stream for water . . . until the stream dries up.
Then God says,
Go at once to Zarephath in the region of Sidon and stay there. I have directed a widow there to supply you with food.
1 Kings 17:9
Elijah is told to go, and to stay when he gets there and that a widow will feed him. When Elijah arrives he meets the widow and asks for water and some bread to eat – this is what she says,
“As surely as the Lord your God lives,” she replied, “I don’t have any bread—only a handful of flour in a jar and a little olive oil in a jug. I am gathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for myself and my son, that we may eat it—and die.”
1 Kings 17:12
God says one thing, woman says something completely different – she is not with the programme! Elijah does’t “see” these circumstances as being a block to what God has said – he will be fed. They will ALL be fed. Elijah knows God has a plan here, and we have a miracle – the jar of oil and the flour that never run out. We also, like the story three years later get MORE after this.
Circumstances change again.
The widows boy dies. WHY?
Why has God gone to all this trouble to bring Elijah to this place, by the power of the Spirit sustain them all with the oil and bread only for the boy to die?
Elijah sees the circumstances but again, does not let that prevent what he believes God would do and this widow and her son are reunited as he is raised back to life!
Two sets of circumstances – Same God
Our God is the same – yesterday, today and forever. Yet, in one of these situations Elijah believes and holds to what God has said despite the circumstances and in the other, off the back of an incredible victory – he sees things differently and runs for it.
Local and Personal.
National and Public.
From the most intimate situation to global events God can do the miraculous through those who put their faith in Him and trust His Spirit is at work. All believers have the indwelling Holy Spirit . . . and, whether we are called to live out our lives locally or called to live our lives that shape World events – it is not US that accomplishes anything, except through submitting ourselves to God, trusting His voice and being obedient to His Spirit that calls us.
There is not a set of circumstances in our lives – or in our nation, that God cannot use us to change, transform and bring His love.
When he stopped running and found himself on the mountain of God, Mt. Horeb. God speaks to Elijah and tells Him he will “pass by” . . . this is what happens,
Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.
1 Kings 19:11
Here the Lord uses Fire – but is not in the Fire. (And yes, a mighty wind and an earthquake) God can use things and cause things, but we can mistake those “things” for Him. An old, old saying from when I was growing up is one of the hardest things I think for Christians, and sometimes this saying seems so obvious, at other times I come back to it and think “oh yeah, how could i be so dense!” It’s this,
Seek His face, Not His hand
You can find the “Seek His Face” clearly in scripture and, at different times in the past, notably the 1980s but also in the early 2000s I saw and heard it being quoted a lot – it has its route in 2 Chronicles,
if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.
2 Chronicles 7:14
Maybe staying rooted in that truth is what determines our attitude towards circumstances, towards what is possible with God, towards ourselves being instruments of change in this world as we are obedient to God’s call on our lives – maybe in the aftermath of madness and immense work that had happened on Mt Carmel, Elijah needed a reminder to seek God (not just His raw power that could bring a mighty wind, an earthquake, a fire, raise the dead, make a man run as fast as a chariot), staying rooted in that truth would have stopped Peter sinking . . .
There may be circumstances we are crying out to God for change and transformation – maybe they are things beyond our control, maybe we are shifting stuff back on to God when He has already told us what we need to be doing . . . (!) Maybe we want or long for that fire from heaven to scorch a path for us or someone else, or to burn up the rubbish in our own lives . . .
Lets not seek His hand.
Lets not “see” the situation and consider it beyond us (and beyond God).
Lets seek His face.
As He has called us, He will make a way – He will be faithful to all He has promised. His Spirit is in us, He that has begun a good work in you WILL bring it to completion . . . follow his calling over your circumstances, and see what God will do.