I’m really not an Old Testament scholar, really, not at all; Moses makes me feel inferior, the book of Numbers puts me to sleep, and I just get mad at Adam every time I read about his 900+ years of repercussions “She made me do it…”, can’t help but get a little peeved. But I’m trying to learn to dig and listen more.
So I was working on hammering out some quiet time this morning, between all the other issues, responsibilities, and ridiculous things that I find myself doing, none of which I have time for, and I came across an interesting passage.
1 Kings 19
Elijah, to be honest one of my favorite prophets, has just received what he feels is the last straw, a promise from a very real and long standing enemy that he will be dead very soon. Actually, it’s a threat from the wife of King Ahab, Jezabel, and I think it’s here that the phrase “hell hath no furry like a woman scorned” was first coined – Elijah was afraid that he would see that in action in a very personal way in the near future. So he has run away from danger into the wilderness of a neighboring countryside, and is for all intensive purposes, at the end of his rope.
He’s been “in ministry” all his life, doing all the right things. He’s seen just about every incredible miracle that God could use to wow and woo His people back (and every one of them turn and run away from Him) and has been threatened with and experienced just about every kind of bodily harm imaginable at the hands of those who don’t really want to have him around.
So, at this point in chapter 19, he has just basically sat down under a tree and said, kill me now, I’m done, I’m no good, I quit, and falls asleep hoping to just die.
I’m thinking, ok, I’ve been there…
So what does God do? He wakes him up to feed him, twice, so He can take Elijah even farther into the wilderness that he’s on the brink of; 40 days and nights of travel to be exact, to the Mountain of God, Mount Sinai to meet with him.
Sounds pretty amazing, right? I mean, God provided for him by an angel to feed him breakfast in bed that gave him supernatural strength enough to travel all day and all night for 40 days! I’d get up and get my happy on if an angel brought me breakfast!
But, when he arrives, GOD asks him, “what are you doing here, Elijah?”
God, as in “of the universe”, asks him a direct question! My reaction would be something like, umm, umm, err, umm, anything You want?? But I love the earthy reality that Elijah has in his walk with God. He is 100% honest.
Elijah confronts God with, “I’m tired, I’m abused, there’s nobody else left out here on my side, they are all going to hell in a hand-basket, and now they are trying to kill me too!” That’s a pretty bold statement, after facing all the trials and supernatural provision that God has given him, he still stands there, bare-faced, and lets loose his angst and frustrations.
I can almost here the whiney and irritated tones in his thoughts, why am I here?? You brought me here! You dragged me through this! Maybe because they are so much like my own when I’m aggravated at and with God’s actions in my life.
Why am I here? Because of You! Because of Your ideas about following Your plan and giving words to people who don’t want to hear it, reaching out to others who could care less about me, I’m here. Because of doing “right” all the time, because of standing up for “good” and being responsible. Because of being nice to the weird guy at the grocery store, not flying mad at the lady who slammed her door into mine in the parking lot and sped off, for not giving the young parents behind me in line with the screaming and controlling kid the stink-eye. I’ve tried and tried and still, I’m knocked down and Still You Ask Me, why are you here??
After Elijah’s rant, God tells him to stand outside on the mountain in front of God (strikes me a little like a holy-time-out). He then reveals His incredible, supernatural power through storms, earthquakes, and brilliant displays of sovereignty in the earth.
Then, He calls in a whisper to Elijah; here I see a change in Elijah: he covers his face, and then goes out to meet with God. He recognizes God’s sovereignty, and he humbles himself and acknowledges that He is Holy, and wholly Other than Elijah.
And God asks the question, again; why are you here?
This is what grabbed me, Elijah’s answer did not change, he said exactly the same thing as before; I’m hurt, I’m alone, I’m tired, I’m afraid. But you can feel the heart-change in him. He’s calling out to God, same place, same fears, same frustration, but that act of covering his face shows his attitude change; you can almost hear a softening in his request for help.
I’m hurt, I’m alone, I have everything and everyone stacked against me, but You are God, and you are holy, and You are Sovereign.
Here’s the kicker, God doesn’t offer him a resolution directly. He doesn’t give him a direct answer.
He instead gives Elijah what He wants him to go and do next. He has marching orders: Go anoint kings and your eventual replacement.
No explanation, no “I’m sorry you feel that way, but here’s why I’m doing this, and let’s hug and eat a cookie”, just a directive. In reality, to complete the new directions, Elijah has to go back through the same wilderness and on into another one (Damascus); it gets harder before he can even complete the new task.
Elijah has nothing to hold on to except the history with God and His ways when he leaves this place. He doesn’t know that :
Eventually, these anointed kings will provide the solution to his personal safety problems – they go to war and end up killing everyone threatening him.
Eventually this person he’s supposed to anoint will take his place and that he will ultimately taste heaven like few others ever have – he is succeeded by Elisha and then translated into heaven instead of dying.
He had to obey God in order to receive the fulfillment of God’s promises, and eventually the answers to his requests.
There were no shortcuts,
There is no mention of the provisions that were made for the journey back through the wilderness,
It was still a 40+ day journey back,
And there was no mention of how he was supposed to find these people and complete these tasks, it was going to be hard.
Just do it. Obey.
What an attitude adjustment comes with that beautiful, rhetorical question: Why are you here?
Obedience now, so that God’s plans are fulfilled in others’ lives, so that His plans can be revealed and fulfilled in my life as well.
This doesn’t mean that my issues and problems are resolved. Even as I grab onto this nugget that I am part of a larger scheme, I still have to walk through some stuff. I still have to navigate people and tasks that are less than my ideal of agreeable. But, I know that there’s a better result waiting for me at the end of all my attempts, near-misses, and grunts than if I just went my own, whining way.
Why are you here?
Are you broken, abused, tired, frustrated, walked over, burned out? You just want God to answer that question for you with some cosmic sticky-note? I know the feeling! I get it, really! I want it all to work out for my good now, I want the Easy-button that brings my rock-solid career, solves my relationship problems, house-trains my dog, and zaps the extra pounds from my life forever! I want a game-plan and a reason for the plays I’m supposed to make.
Instead we get things like: Go here, do this, rest now, breathe, study now, because you can’t see the mess and mayhem around the corner that’s going to bring you to your knees.
Take this mindless low-pay job because the co-worker next to you is losing their child and they don’t know if God is real anymore and need your prayers.
Go to the coffee shop and study your devotional that you don’t have time for in your busy day because the guy that’s job-searching at the next table needs you to share a word of encouragement with him.
In the middle of my messiness, I have to come face to face with the Sovereign God of all creation, the Creator, and ask Him to change my heart, to change my attitude from a tantrum to submission. I have to be willing to walk through whatever wilderness of difficulties may be surrounding me – either from my own choices or those of others – and trust that because I’m listening to the Father and moving in obedience to Him, He is preparing the solutions to my problems and suffering even as I make the choice to continue to obey Him.
Why are you here?
My guess is, it’s nothing to do with what you thought it was. But it will be so much better than you could ever imagine.
“For I know the Plans I have for you,” says the LORD. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope”.
~ Jeremiah 29:11