The prophet Elijah sat next to a brook, watching the water level lower and waiting for his next meal delivery. Ever since he told King Ahab that there would be no rain and God sent him to the brook to await further instructions, Elijah had been fed by ravens each morning and evening with bread and meat hanging from their beaks. I can only imagine the waiting and wondering as he sat next to that shrinking brook. Left to the solitude of his camp, did he replay what he had said to ruthless King Ahab over and over in his mind? Did he continually pinch himself to wake up from the strangest dream he’d ever had?
Once the brook was completely dry, God gave Elijah instructions to move on to the village of Zarephath. He was told to find a widow there who would feed him. He found her gathering sticks to light a fire and cook her last bit of flour and oil. She told Elijah her plans to make her final meal for herself and her son, and then they would die of hunger. But Elijah urged her to give him the last loaf of bread and trust that God would provide. No doubt he still had the taste of the raven-delivered bread on his own lips as he told the woman that she could trust God. Then he promised her that the oil and flour wouldn’t run out until the rains returned.
Elijah went on to Mount Carmel and called for a showdown with the 450 priests of Baal. He built an altar and had them do the same. Then, in the presence of King Ahab, he told the priests that only the True God would be able to send down fire to light it. The priests of Baal cried and screamed and cut themselves, but nothing happened. Elijah, the lone Prophet of God, mocked them and called for everyone to gather around to see what a Real God could do. He asked for water to be poured on the altar, soaking the wood and flowing into the deep trench that had been dug around it. Then he prayed to God. He said, “Lord, please act so that these people will know what I know about You.” God sent fire, and it consumed the sacrificed bull, the wood, and the stones. It even licked up the water in the trench. The people turned on the priests of Baal and slaughtered them.
When King Ahab reported to his wife, the cruel Queen Jezebel, what had happened, she sent a message to Elijah that she would kill him. Elijah was afraid and ran. Hopeless and miserable, he plopped down in the desert, ready to die. God sent an angel to feed him and sent him on to Mount Sinai, a 40-day journey. Once there, he found a cave and spent the night. Then God asked him, “What are you doing here?” Elijah explained that he had served the Lord faithfully, but he had nothing to show for it. The people still broke all of the covenants God had made with them. He was the only prophet left, and they were trying to kill him, too. Then God sent him to stand on the mountain.
“And as Elijah stood there, the Lord passed by, and a mighty windstorm hit the mountain. It was such a terrible blast that the rocks were torn loose, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave.” (NLT)
Then God asked him again, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
I can’t say why God asked Elijah this question two times in one chapter. I do know that when God asks a question he already knows the answer. Is it rhetorical? Is God saying, “You ran away because you were afraid for your life, but do you remember what I did on top of Mount Carmel? Do you remember the flour and oil that replenished itself from thin air and the angel that brought you food in the desert? And how about those ravens?”
This is my time to remember when I’ve been fed by ravens. I need to focus on the times when God has provided for me. When Elijah had a belly-full of God’s provisions, he was able to stand up to 450 angry pagan priests. I may not get an answer like he did on that mountain—mighty fire sent to burn an altar—but I may get the response he got on a different mountain. Heaven knows I have the time to listen now, Lord, so open my ears to hear your gentle whisper.