Elijah heard the voice of God telling him to go outside for the Lord is passing by. Elijah the great prophet had heard God’s voice before this. Elijah knew he was called to be a prophet of the Lord God and answered that call. Elijah had heard the voice of God before this day. What was the importance of this invitation of God to not only hear him but see him? Did Elijah need this encounter to truly understand what it meant to be in the presence of God? Is this a natural progression of anyone who believes? We feel and hear the promptings of God; we respond by seeking more encounters and promptings. Then one day we get to a point where we are invited to have a mountain top experience. Is that the way we are to grow spiritually?
I believe God’s invitation to Elijah is a natural progression of developing as a disciple. We are continually invited to deepen our understanding of God’s love and his plan for us and to grow in new experiences of being in his presence. Why was this necessary for Elijah and why is it necessary for us? You would think just hearing his voice and seeing God’s power displayed would be enough to satisfy any doubts, fears, questions or inclinations of ours to not do everything to trust God and his words to us.
Yet on that day, Elijah was in the cave because he was fleeing from Queen Jezebel’s fury because he called down God’s power to embarrassed the prophets of Baal. Queen Jezebel after hearing how he had embarrassed her prophets and slaughtered them sent a messenger to Elijah with the news she was going to kill him in revenge (you should take the time to read this story in 1 Kings 18 & 19).
So here we find him hiding from her. God had the day before responded to Elijah’s prayer with a display of power so breath taking the people renounce Baal and declared the “Lord was God.” You would have thought Elijah would have believed that God would protect him from Queen Jezebel’s wrath. Trusting in God’s protection was not the response to Jezebel’s threat – instead he fled and hid in a cave. Now he is standing at the entrance to the cave to get a glimpse of the Lord as he passes by.
Yet when God passed by Elijah hid his face in his cloak. Did we miss something here? Wasn’t he invited to stand at the entrance of the cave to see the Lord as he passed by? How was his action identical to the action of Peter as he heard the voice of Jesus calling him to walk on water? More importantly, what are we to learn about our own response to God in these scripture stories.
Have you ever heard the voice of God speaking to your heart? I remember a time when I was an emerging teen in church looking at a statue of Jesus and wanting it to speak to me. Seriously, I had heard the stories of St. Francis and how the image of Jesus clearly spoke to him and confirmed his mission. I am not sure what I would have done if that statue ever spoke to me at that time but the fact it did not did not diminish my desire to hear God speaking to me.
I am of the firm belief that God is always seeking an opportunity to speak to our hearts so we like those watching Elijah embarrass the prophets of Baal would boldly proclaim the Lord is God. God comes to us in extraordinary ways as he did that day with the disciples as they were frightened by the storm as it raged around them. I also believe God comes to us in as we pray, read scripture, watch a sunrise or sunset, in the words of a child or a stranger or someone we love. God comes to us in our grief, our struggles with health, financial or personal problems, as we deal with addictions or rejection – God is there speaking to us.
How do we listen and is there something in these readings that will help us to learn to listen in a way so we always hear that quiet whispering sound above the noise of the storms of our lives?
I believe the answer is in these readings and it is not a lack of faith. In fact the stories are very clear God’s telling Elijah to go to the entrance of the cave is more than an invitation to see God. It was a clear message for Elijah to come out of hiding and continue to grow in his knowledge of God. Jesus has the same message to Peter when he said “O you of little faith why did you doubt.” Did you notice how the entire time of this story unfolded the storm was raging? The disciples were on the water every day of their lives and yet this storm truly frightened them even though Jesus was there in the midst of the storm speaking to them.
Elijah had enough faith to call down God’s power in his battle with the prophets of Baal. Peter had enough faith to step out of the boat into a raging sea and actually walk on water. Yet both Elijah and Peter were afraid once they responded to the voice of God. Elijah fled to a cave and Peter could not take another step forward. Something more is required of us beyond our first steps of faith. Elijah and Peter’s faith had to grow beyond the lever it was at that moment. They had to have another encounter with God so their faith would grow enough always know they could depend on God to supply all their needs and call upon his power.
This is the message for us. We have to go beyond the place we are now and listen to the voice of God telling us not to be afraid. He is always inviting us to listen to him. All we seek is found in him and he has provided us a way to be free from sin, grow in holiness and use our gifts to build the kingdom of God through the gift of the Spirit.
It is time for you and I to go to that place where God is passing by and encounter him. It is time to recognize he is in the quiet whispering sounds of life and in the storms of life. He desires to speak to your heart this very day – wait, watch, listen the Lord will be passing by.