By Mary Miller
I’ve been struck lately, by yet ANOTHER way in which I am not – yet – like God.
It’s not as if I was running out of things to work on or anything, but another, deeper look at His grace is never a bad idea for me.
Last month I heard a sermon about Elijah and his “cave time”. The story in 1 Kings 18-19 goes something like:
1. Elijah publicly humiliates and then kills all the prophets of Baal.
2. He goes up Mount Carmel to pray for the end of the 3 year drought (that he prophesied would come).
3. Then he supernaturally out-runs Ahab’s chariot in a rain storm to get to the city before him.
Pretty amazing day so far! God’s man of faith and power for the hour!!
4. Then Jezebel threatens him, “and he was afraid and ran for his life.”
Did he think she was going to be happy about all this? For Pete’s sake! Why did it throw him into such a tailspin? But it must have been like the last straw to Elijah, because he goes off alone into the desert, and prays “that he might die.” He falls asleep there and is awakened by an angel with breakfast! That’s pretty cool! I might be thinking that maybe I should change my emotional or spiritual posture after that kind of room service, but not Elijah! He eats the food AND GOES BACK TO SLEEP!!!
What the heck?!! So now the angel comes back with lunch and instructions from God that he is to travel for 40 days and nights to Mount Horeb. That should have given him plenty of time to think things over. Surely by now he’s in a better frame of mind, right? NOPE. He gets to the ‘Mountain of GOD’ and finds a cave to curl up in, but before he can go back to sleep, GOD speaks to him.
“What are you doing here, Elijah?”
This part really gets me. Elijah answers GOD with a rant and an invitation to his pity party!
I’m thinking, “No! You did not just do that!”
So GOD responds with His own invitation. HE invites Elijah to step outside. Now, I keep trying to put myself in Elijah’s shoes, but here again, I’m at a total loss! He knew God was not in the tornado, the fire or the earthquake. He was in the middle of a huge pity party, and he still had this intimate ‘knowing’ of God. If it was me standing at the mouth of the cave and the wind started blowing rocks off the mountain, I’d probably be thinking, “Uh-oh, here He is and is He ever mad!” But Elijah knew better and when the three big scary things were over and the gentle blowing came up, that’s when he knew God was there, and he knew what to do about it. How many men on the face of the earth that day could have done the same thing? I don’t get it.
And after all that… God mercifully repeats the question, like maybe Elijah might’ve come through, but NO! He answers exactly the same as before.
Now, he just saw GOD, more or less in person!!! But nothing had changed. How is that possible?!
So now I’m expecting some appropriate chastisement, correction, rebuke, lightning bolt–SOMETHING! But this part totally melts me. GOD says, “Go on then, son. Go finish these last two jobs and you can come on home.”
How was he not disqualified from ministry? Why didn’t GOD fix him and THEN send him back to tie up the loose ends? I just don’t get it.
Then this past Sunday I heard about Moses on the back side of the desert. GOD shows up in the burning bush and commissions him to go back to Egypt, the place of his greatest failure, to finish doing exactly what he had tried to do, wanted to do 40 years ago, before he murdered a man and ran for his life.
Understandably, Moses is filled with excuses and really good reasons why HE should choose someone else. Finally, if such a thing were possible, GOD seems to ‘give in’ and agrees to send Aaron to help him.
Now I think I understand a bit about GOD’s sovereignty, but it messes with my head when HE doesn’t exert HIS rightful authority and takes a fearful man who is determined to remain so, and allows him not only a place in the Kingdom, but a purpose and a destiny. HE doesn’t violate the individual’s will even to help him or bless him. And somehow HE customizes the task so that it works even with the compromise!
All of this blows me away and if the story ended there, I would probably have some idea of them being sent to some tiny little out-of-the-way corner of heaven, never to be heard from again. Nice of God to let them in, but really…
I could be happy with my conclusion, except for one thing. The amazing addendum on the Mount of Transfiguration. There they were, Elijah and Moses talking to Jesus. No hidden corner. No doghouse. Just amazing grace.
At this point my mind is blown. There is no “understanding.”
The only appropriate response is worship. Let’s.