Ep040: Elijah in Earthquake, Windstorm and Fire

Hi, I’m Daniel Westfall on the channel “Pray With Me.”

We continue the story of Elijah after he won a contest with the prophets of Baal, by praying down fire from heaven. Queen Jezebel, who worshipped Baal, was not amused and she vowed to kill Elijah. Elijah became frightened and depressed, so he escaped to Beersheba where he went into the wilderness, sat under a broom tree, and said to God, “I’ve had enough. Take my life. I am no better than my ancestors.” God sent an angel to feed and refresh Elijah. Then Elijah travelled 40 days and nights to Mt. Horeb, another name for Mt. Sinai, where Moses had received the ten commandments.

Elijah travelled forty days and forty nights?  Google Maps estimates the distance from the modern city of Be’er Sheva to the presumed location of Mt. Horeb as 261 miles, or 87 hours’ walking. That’s a three-and-a-half day walk, not forty. Either Elijah took the long way around, or forty days and nights is a metaphor for a long and difficult journey.The route from Beersheba to Mt. Horeb goes through the desert where Israel wandered forty years on their way to the promised land. The number forty connects Elijah’s wandering to the confused wandering of his ancestors. It also connects Elijah to Moses who spent forty days and nights on the mountain receiving the ten commandments.

Mt. Horeb was a mountain of fireworks. When God prepared to give Moses the ten commandments, thunder rolled, lightning struck, and a trumpet blasted. Exodus says that God descended on the mountain with fire, the mountain was covered with smoke and trembled violently” (Exodus 19:18-19). But after the commandments were given, God showed himself quietly to Moses and promised, “My presence will go with you and I will give you rest” (Exo. 33).

So what did Elijah find at Mt. Horeb?  Did he find the thunder and lightning and fire and smoke and earthquake? The first thing he found was God, who said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

Elijah said, “I have been zealous for you, God. Your people have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and killed your prophets. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too!” (Exo 19:14).

God replied, “Stand on the mountain. I am about to pass by.” Elijah stood on the mountain. First, he saw the old-time power and glory that Moses experienced:
– A powerful wind tore at the mountain and shattered rocks. But the Lord was not in the wind.
– After the wind, an earthquake. But the Lord was not in the earthquake.
– After the earthquake, a fire. But the Lord was not in the fire.
The signs of God’s presence came to Elijah. But God was not present in the signs.

Finally, a gentle whisper, a still small voice. That was God at last. He showed up for Elijah, and gave him instructions for what to do next.

Let’s pray.
Our father, we see may pictures of Elijah. Elijah the man of power praying fire onto the altar. Elijah, running in fear from Queen Jezebel. Elijah, sitting despondent under a tree. Elijah, in the wilderness, following the footsteps of Moses. We also see you, God, responding to Elijah. You demonstrated your power to him in windstorm and earthquake and fire. But the tumult was trivial, your still small voice was decisive.

Our father, we wait like Elijah waited:
– through the turmoil of our lives,
– through unhappiness, fear, and despondency,
– through wilderness journeys,
– through earthquake, wind, and fire.
Visit us with your still small voice, we pray.
Amen.

I’m Daniel on the channel “Pray with Me”.

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