One story that I’ve always loved is the story of Elijah at Mt. Horeb found in 1 Kings 19. It comes right after 1 Kings 18, Elijah on Mt. Carmel, which is one of the great triumphs in scripture. Elijah has this battle between God and the prophets of Baal. They set up this contest to see which God (Yahweh or Baal) is real by making two altars and then seeing which god will send down fire to light the altar. Whichever god answers is the true God.
Prophets of Baal go first, and they scream, chant, and cut themselves with rocks in an effort to get Baal’s attention. Elijah starts making fun of them by questioning if Baal is asleep, or possibly off on a vacation. After much trying, Elijah decides to end the contest by calling on Yahweh. First, he soaks his own altar with water multiple times. Then, he cries out to God, and God lights up everything with fire. Elijah is on top of the world. But then, the very next moment, Jezebel, the evil queen, vows to strike Elijah down because of what he’s done. Elijah realizes she’s just wicked and crazy enough that she might do it, so Elijah fears for his life and he goes running into hiding, or in reality, exile. Eventually God tells Elijah to go to Mt Horeb because God is going to show up.
The contrast between the two events is clear. Elijah moves from one extreme to the other in a matter of minutes. Elijah is on top of the world one moment, and the next moment he is fearing for his life. It doesn’t make sense. All of us reading the story want to scream, “Elijah, wake up, don’t you remember what just happened at the end of chapter 18. Don’t stop at the chapter break, go on back and recognize God is going to show up.” But Elijah doesn’t do it. He forgets so quickly what has just happened and when he finally gets to Mt. Horeb he starts complaining, or actually whining to God, about how he is all alone.
We hear the whining, and we get so frustrated. Elijah, listen to yourself, don’t you see how quickly you’ve given up. And yet, the reason the story means so much to me is that I recognize myself so often falling into the same trap. I swing from one extreme to the other, sometimes in the middle of the same day. I go from God can do anything to feeling all alone, sometimes in a matter of minutes. It’s ups and downs over and over again. Life gets so busy, and I’m just trying to hang on for dear life. It’s so hard.
We’ve all been there, where life gets so busy, or life gets so difficult, or one bad thing happens and then another, one after another…and we begin to wonder, when is it going to stop? When can I catch a breath, and just relax?
Part of our problem is we are searching for so many different things to somehow give us meaning and purpose. We are trying so many ways to find fulfillment. I have to get this done. I have to be at this meeting. I have to get my children to this practice. We just need to slow down and take a breath.
Which is probably why it’s so important for God to show up the way God does with Elijah. When God shows up at Mt. Horeb, God’s not in the whirlwind, or the earthquake, or the fire. God is not in the loud exploding ways, but God is in the sound of sheer silence. When Elijah hears the sound of sheer silence, he covers his face because he knows he’s in the presence of God. When Elijah has a chance to just breath, he recognizes “all will be well, all will be well, and all manner of things will be well.”
If you are in one of those moments right now I invite you to take a breath, and for a moment, be with God. While you rest with God, hear the words of Peter being spoken over you.
“God’s divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness….God has given us…God’s precious and very great promises, so that through them (we) may escape from the corruption that is in the world…and become participants of the divine nature.” (2 Peter 1:3-4)
Hear that again. God’s divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness so that we may escape the world and become partakers of the divine nature.
You don’t have to be in the rat race. You don’t have to run yourself ragged. You don’t have to meet some unspoken goal in order to be successful. God has given you everything you need. So rest, relax, and find peace with God…and allow God to show up in the sound of sheer silence.