Elijah travels for forty days and forty nights to The Cave and greater revelation of God. And as is God’s way, He begins the revelation with a question.
“And the word of the LORD came to him: ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’ ”
In this moment of truth, Elijah does a very noble thing. He is honest before the Lord. Elijah just lays it out the way he perceives it. “Okay God,” he says, “here is the way I see it. It ain’t pretty. And it’s gonna get worse. And to beat it all, I am the only one left and even I am a marked man.” (Paraphrased of course.)
Have you ever been asked, “What do you want?” I have and it about took my head off. One question tore down all the tasks and oughts and shoulds and left me with, “Wow, I don’t know; what can I have?” This is an explosive invitation to Elijah and to us. When God asks you a question, He already knows the answer. He wants to know if you know the answer. And after Elijah’s short sighted answer, the Lord does for him what He does when all of His children are scared: He reminds Elijah of His power and strength.
The LORD said,
Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by.
Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD,
But the LORD was not in the wind.
After the wind there was an earthquake,
but the LORD was not in the earthquake.
After the earthquake came a fire,
but the LORD was not in the fire.
And after the fire came a gentle whisper.
When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
This whole passage is packed. Look at where it says, “in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” See the two expressions of the Lord? This is our Father’s world. Every bit of it. His presence fills everywhere, all the time. Dallas Willard calls it a “God-bathed world.” So we don’t have to fear Him not being near. He truly did come to live with us, Immanuel. And in addition to His presence, there is greater revelation of the Lord Himself. He passes by Elijah. He walks with us. He talks with us. He LISTENS to us. He protects and encourages us.
He dwells right where we are. Only He is not us. His wind tears down our protective walls. His earthquake shakes the foundations that we stand on. His fire burns up anything but the sheer weight and tenderness of His presence. Powerful, but merciful.
And again comes the question that already has an answer. If I fault Elijah at all, it is that he said the same thing twice. Did he miss it? Did he miss God’s beautiful demonstration in answer to his very lament? With such a display of tender strength, what or who could come against this Living God? Elijah could never be more safe than in the presence of God. Perhaps that is why on a different day, but a similar inquiry, Job exclaimed, “My ears had heard of you, but now my eyes have seen you.” Job 42:5
Seek the face of God. Even in then caves. Ask for eyes to see the goodness and greatness of our God. And ears to hear His very present gentle whisper.