Elijah. I kind of feel like he’s a story-time prophet, and I don’t mean that in a bad way. These are some of my favorite ‘stories.’ I just don’t really remember the application from Sunday School lessons about him. Even throughout the rest of the histories, there was always usually an application, whether I now believe they were appropriate or not. At the very least, they were all treated like morality plays.
The only moral I remember being assigned to Elijah is: God will provide. If you do as your told, God will provide.
It’s a pretty strong moral, I suppose, so maybe those lessens were perfectly complete as they were. After all, first ravens and then an angel of the Lord hand deliver food to the prophet when he has to go into hiding. A widow’s household is miraculously provided for simply because she obediently houses him. These stories of God’s provision are exciting as well as encouraging.
I do remember sermons I’ve heard about God in the whisper. He wasn’t in the wind, or the earthquake, or the fire, he was in the whisper. But my problem with that focus is that there are times when God is booming and crashing, when he is great and terrible. And even if he wasn’t in those displays of power, they still came from him. I think I rather prefer to think it’s about what Elijah needs in the moment.
He’s seen God the great and terrible. God came down and fully devoured sacrifice, fuel, stone altar, and mote of water. He needs the display of God’s power to demonstrate God’s ability to protect him, God’s true encompassing majesty, but he also needs the whisper. God isn’t all wind and earthquake and fire and drought. God is also food and water in the wilderness and quiet whispers of peace and encouragement.
Those sermons, in my memory, focused too much on God not being in those displays of power. Being speaking in the stillness, he may been reminding Elijah that he’s there; in-between the judgments, he’s still there. He hasn’t gone away. He doesn’t need to be called back. We don’t need to seek the grand demonstrations to find him.
I’m being picky. I know I am. They were good sermons. The end message is the same. As the psalm says: “be still and know that I am God.” He has all the power, but we draw closest to him in the stillness. We find the comfort and the peace in the stillness. It’s easy to be swept away by the storms and the miracles, to feel as though when things are quiet God himself has gone quiet, stepped into the other room, but he is there, in the stillness, most fully accessible when he has our full attention.
I just… sometimes I think it’s important to be picky. Sometimes I think the nuance is important. Sometimes the message does come in a pillar of all consuming fire. But that’s the introduction. The intimacy is in the stillness. Like any relationship. At first it’s fireworks and showing off, and then, if it’s going to go anywhere, it’s long evenings talking quietly.
I want to focus on the intimacy. I want to focus on the way God is meeting Elijah’s need for peace and comfort. The contrast isn’t a rejection of the dramatic, but an extension of it, a diving deeper, a drawing closer.
Also, Elijah’s sarcasm? Beautiful!