"What Doest Thou Here, Elijah?"
1 Kings 19
First Kings 19 reveals Elijah in the cave of despondency. And well he might be! Nationally, Israel had forsaken God's covenant, the very foundation of her national existence. Religiously, they had thrown down God's altars and slain His prophets with the sword. Personally, Elijah alone was left as one who was jealous of Jehovah, and he was a hunted man - they were seeking his life to take it away.
We can sympathize with Elijah. Many of us have spent many hours in such a cave; some have hardly been out of it. The whole world has seemed to be a boiling cauldron belching forth new trouble with every bubble. Often our nation has seemed to totter on the brink of military embarrassment, of economic collapse and civil anarchy. True religion is on the decline. Many pulpits of the land are occupied by infidels and some of the Lord's bitterest enemies are among those who claim to be of His own household. The courts seem determined to establish humanism as the national religion and almost daily give new license to lasciviousness which flows like a flood into our lives through every avenue of communication. How dark the future appears for us and for our children! How difficult to resist the pressure!
Read God's question two ways: First, "What doest thou here, Elijah?" You, the foil of Ahab and the frustration of Jezebel, God's champion on Mount Carmel, "the chariots of Israel and the horsemen thereof." And, "What doest thou here, Elijah?" What can you accomplish in this place and in this frame of mind?
Would not God question us in this same way? We profess that faith which "is the victory that over comes the world." We claim identity with that great church which in 30 years changed the course of world history, and alliance with the same God who gave them that success. We claim possession of the same weapons, the same armor. What do we here in despondency? "For God gave us not a spirit of fear fulness, but of power and love and discipline" (2 Timothy 1:7).
Elijah needed three things to remove him from the cave: First, he needed a revelation of God. It is just such a revelation that each of us needs - oh, not a literal miraculous vision, but a vision of God by faith. Despondency is weak faith; it is losing sight of "God amid the shadows;" it is forgetting that "the Most High ruleth in the kingdoms of men." Faith, on the other hand, endures "as seeing Him that is invisible."
Elijah also needed a vision of his earthly fellowship. He was not, as he supposed, alone. He was but one of seven thousand who had not "bowed the knee unto Baal." Any idea today that "I, even I only, am left," is inexcusable. There are still relatively large congregations of devout, earnest Christians whose outstanding zeal makes them examples for us all. There are numberless smaller ones scattered throughout the world, relatively unknown, yet courageously letting their light shine in their dark corner. And how many saints there are who may be alone in their own world, but who in the Lord are joined hand in hand with "the whole family, in heaven and on earth." "Lord, open thou thy servants' eyes!"
Elijah desperately needed a renewed assurance of God's eventual victory over Baal and of his role in it. He was a disillusioned man and this was a major part of his problem. Enthusiasm and optimism go hand in hand. The zeal of the Galilean disciples was unbounded while they had visions of Jesus sitting on a throne in Jerusalem, but when His death dashed their hopes, they were consumed with disillusionment, explaining: "But we had hoped that it was he that should redeem Israel." The most fervent evangelism America has ever seen was more than a century ago among those who genuinely believed that the plea for restoration would eventually break down all denominational barriers and unite all believers. The most sacrificial and passionate efforts at world evangelism were in times when men possessed a vision of a world "full of the knowledge of Jehovah as the waters cover the sea." But we have about decided that these things will never be. The church of our generation is an old man who has learned that the visions of youth are unrealistic. But by the Spirit of God, this old man can yet dream dreams - dreams of battles won, of conquest and victory in the name of the Lord.
Each time Elijah complained, God's response was, "Go!" He instructed him to anoint a new king over Israel, to appoint a new king over the enemy of Israel and to prepare Elisha to be prophet in his stead. "Go," says the Lord to us - "All authority has been given unto me." Renew allegiance to the throne in spiritual Israel. "Make disciples of all nations," thus making Jesus their king. And "Ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath, but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord." The battle soon will be theirs. God is not defeated - His purpose will be accomplished!
Scanned from CHRISTIANITY MAGAZINE, Sept. 1987
By Sewell Hall
From Expository Files 3.11; November 1996