By Francis Frangipane
The Lord asked Elijah, "What are you doing here?"
And he said, "I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the sons of Israel have forsaken Thy covenant, torn down Thine altars and killed Thy prophets with the sword. And I alone am left; and they seek my life, to take it away." 1 Kings 19:10
It can be a crushing experience to give your very best and still fall short. Elijah had been discouraged with God's people. Thinking he had failed, he fled Jezebel and begged God to take his life.
The Scripture tells us that "hope deferred makes the heart sick" (Prov. 13:12). Elijah desperately wanted to see the nation awakened in repentance, but he did not understand the role God would have him play. Perhaps Elijah's main mistake was that he was personally shouldering the burden of Israel's revival. Not knowing his own place, he assumed the place of God.
When the heart becomes sick with disappointment and discouragement, it is easy to lose perspective. We must remember, apart from the cooperating work of the Holy Spirit, no man can truly change another person's heart. Much of Elijah's discouragement came from the false expectations he had placed upon himself.
In his dejection, alone and hurting, Elijah withdrew into a cave on Horeb. For us, self-pity can also become a spiritual cave. It can trap us in a dark hole of loneliness and pain. In this place of isolation we fail to hear the encouragement of God; all we really hear is the echo of our own voice magnifying and distorting our problems.
Calling Elijah out of the cave, the Lord told him, "Go forth, and stand on the mountain before the Lord" (v. 11). As Elijah stepped out of the cave's darkness, an awesome event occurred.
The Lord was passing by! And a great and strong wind was rending the mountains and breaking in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of a gentle blowing. 1 Kings 19:11-12
A New Revelation of God
There are times when the Lord must expand our understanding of His will, actually liberating us from the container of our previous experiences. The Lord was passing by, but He was not in the wind, the earthquake or the fire, all of which were familiar symbols to Elijah. The Lord who caused these mighty manifestations was not in them.
For Elijah, mighty manifestations had been signs of God's approval. But something new was at hand that required a fresh submission to the living God. A new anointing - a "double portion" - was coming! This new work of God would eventually end the reign of Jezebel and destroy Baal worship. The distinguishing characteristic of this new anointing would not only be seen in supernatural manifestations but in greater wisdom and compassion.
As the last of the signs ended, we read, "After the fire a sound of a gentle blowing" (v. 12). This sound was not the voice of God; it was the prelude to God's Presence. Elijah recognized the holy silence and "wrapped his face in his mantle" (v. 13), lest he look upon God.
Perhaps it was near this very site that Moses, 500 years earlier, hid when the Lord passed by. Now it was Elijah's turn. Entering this eternal stillness was the Person of God.
Seeing Him Who is Unseen
Earthquakes, fires and storms - the signs which accompanied Elijah - are the signs of our times as well. But to enter this new level, we must recognize God's nearness when there are no "earthquakes" or "storms" to capture our attention. He demands we enter a more refined relationship with Him - one that is based on His love and whisper of His word, not merely the issues of our times.
Thus, we must learn to hear the voice of Him who rarely speaks audibly and observe the actions of Him who is otherwise invisible. Elijah would gain the courage to endure Jezebel's wrath the same way Moses faced the rage of Pharaoh: "He endured, as seeing Him who is unseen" (Heb. 11:27).
We also endure by seeing Him who is invisible. But, before we can truly discern the Presence of God, we must recognize the gentle blowing that precedes His Presence. What is this spiritual phenomenon? It is the Holy Spirit subduing the activities of earth in preparation for the Lord's approach.
If we are to attain the power needed at the end of this age, we must learn to detect, without great signs, the still small voice of God. He will not fight for our attention; He must be sought. He will not startle us; He must be perceived. It took no special skill to "discern" the earthquake, the fire or the great storm. But to sense the gentle blowing of God, our other activities must cease. In our world of great pressures and continual distractions, the attention of our hearts must rise to the invisible world of God's Spirit. We must learn to "see" Him who is unseen.
A New Beginning
In the quieting of Elijah's heart, the Lord appeared. Again the Almighty asked, "What are you doing here, Elijah?" (1 Kings 19:13) Elijah repeated his former answer: "I have been very zealous for the Lord . . . and I alone am left; and they seek my life" (v. 14). Restoring Elijah's perspective, the Lord assured him there were 7,000 Israelites who had not bowed to Baal.
A new commission was about to come. The Lord told Elijah to anoint Hazael as king over Syria and Jehu as king over Israel. He also was to train Elisha, who would be his successor (1 Kings 19:15-16). At Horeb, God released a "double portion" of spiritual power. Although God gave the anointing to Elijah, it would be Elisha who would walk in it.
Indeed, under this powerful new anointing, Elijah's successor, Elisha, would do twice as many miracles (2 Kings 2:9-14). More than a prophet of judgment, Elisha's works would actually resemble Christ's. Elisha multiplied bread (2 Kings 4:42-44); he captured an enemy's army with kindness; he established peace between Israel and the bands of Aram (2 Kings 6:14-23); he healed Naaman, a Syrian general (2 Kings 5:1-14); and anointed Jehu to destroy Jezebel and Baal worship in Israel (2 Kings 9-10). He also presided over the closest thing to revival the northern ten tribes would ever experience (2 Kings 10:28, 30).
Elijah did not personally bring national restoration. Yet, he did receive a greater understanding of his place in God. His call was to "go before" and prepare the way for greater things to come. Many of us are destroying ourselves trying to bring revival. Perhaps our call is more to prepare the ground for that which is coming after us.
Elijah was so successful at "preparing the way," his spiritual anointing was apportioned to John the Baptist as a herald to both Christ's first and His second coming (Mal. 4:5-6; Matt. 17:11). Ultimately, God brought Elijah to heaven in a flaming chariot and a whirlwind, which were familiar manifestations to Elijah's heart.
As this age ends, God's promise to us is that, like Elisha, we too shall receive a "double portion" (Isa. 61:7; John 14:12). What can this mean but that the Lord is going to reveal Himself to us in glories we have never known before. But first He must stop our unanointed activities and the striving of our flesh. He must bring us to the end of our strength and the beginning of His. As we cease trying to take God's place, we shall, instead, find our place in Him.
Even though the spirit of Jezebel has been blatantly manifest in our world, its days are numbered. Our task is to be still and know that Christ is God. He shall triumph over all His foes. He will be exalted in all the earth, and to abide in Him is to dwell in the Stronghold of God.
Oh, Master, how easily I fall into dead religious habits and spiritual dullness. Lord, I long to know Your ways, to have eyes that really see and ears that clearly hear. Teach me, Lord Jesus, the intimacies of God. Remove the mystery surrounding Yourself, that I might truly know You.
Forgive me for looking for signs instead of listening for Your voice. Oh, God, how I long to truly know You as Moses did, to abide in Your glory. Restore to Your church the double portion You have promised and guide us into the fullness of Your power. In Jesus' name. Amen.
Adapted from the book by Francis Frangipane. "The Stronghold of God".