And after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper.

1 Kings 19: 12

 

Sometimes I expect one thing when another comes along. This is often the case when I come to the way that God shows up in my life, and it certainly applies to the manner and even the method with which He speaks forth His truth and wisdom. Elijah was having a series of extremely bad days. He had taken a forceful stand for the Lord and for His righteousness, and that had caused the powerful people in the land to come after him with all of their might and with the fury of Hell behind the effort. Now Elijah was worn down and weary to the center of his soul. He was out in the desert with no one for companionship or support, and he had no resources to call upon and it seems as if there was no place to go that would be either safe or sympathetic to his need.

 

Yet, he was fed, and he had water to drink. He could find places to take shelter, and that was what he was doing on this fateful day. He had holed up in a cave, but the voice of the Lord came to him and told him to go out of his place of shelter and onto the mountain where he would be very exposed and vulnerable. I think that Elijah was reminded of all that the Lord had done in his presence and for him in the past, for he goes out into the open on that mountain. While he is up on that high place amazing things happen. First a strong wind comes up and tears at the rocks, then an earthquake shakes and shatters the ground, and a fire with its searing devastation follows this. Yet, the Lord was not found in any of these mighty signs. Elijah must have been truly puzzled and left wondering about the method of delivery and the timing of God’s message for him, as God was known to show Himself in all of these naturally occurring phenomena.

 

Then, as Elijah was looking out on the devastation that the wind, earthquake, and fire had surrounded him with and with the acrid smell of the smoke still filling his nose, there comes the voice of the Lord in the form of a quiet and calm whisper. Elijah and I are often taken off guard by the manner and the timing of God’s responses to our needs and wants. He is not predictable and I do not control the outcome of God’s engagement in my life, and I think that this is the point. The Lord is absolutely trustworthy, and He wants me to know this in my mind and live it out from my heart. God is with me in all of the aspects of my journey through this life, and He demonstrates His love, care, wisdom, and provision continually throughout my days. However, He also wants me to understand His presence and use that understanding as a means of growing in my relationship with Him. God is here with me at every moment of this day; so, my question remains, “Am I open to Him, willing to do as He asks, and listening for His voice?”

And Elijah came near to all the people and said, “How long will you go limping between two different options? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.” And the people did not answer him a word.

1 Kings 18: 21

 

Is this a problem for another time and place? The tension that resonated in a culture that is totally foreign to the one that we know today? Hardly! We may not refer to our alternative god as Baal, and we might not bring sacrifices to his alter, but there is no question in my mind that there is a conflict afoot in our times and within our cultures wherein the God of Creation is being replaced by the various gods of people’s choosing. It is easier and more comfortable to follow a god who I designed and whose requirements of me fit with what I wish to give. It is harder to yield myself to the God who asks me to surrender my heart and my mind to His will and to follow Him along a path of righteousness and holiness.

 

Essentially, this is the tension that exists in this verbal interchange between Elijah and Ahab, and it is the struggle that exists in our world today. The Israelites were attempting to pick and choose the allegiances that they offered up to the gods of man and to Yahweh, God Himself, and the path of man was winning out. Their social order and process of life were moving rapidly away from those that God had set out. So, the culture was becoming ever more secular and increasingly removed from the rules and the values that God desired for people to follow in order to walk closely with Him and, by so doing, to bring His love and peace into the world.

 

The Lord is jealous of our affections and of our attention. He wants all of us, for there is no part of our lives that does not fall under the heading of sacred; so, if we follow Christ, we do not have a secular portion in our lives. Everything that we do, and all of the words that we speak are acts of worship in some form. The Lord desires to inform and guide us through the totality of life. The Lord does not permit us to turn to sources of guidance beyond God’s Word and His Spirit; thus, when we wish to depart from His will in order to do as we wish, we are on our own. Following Christ is a full on, all of the time commitment that informs every aspect of life with the eternal wisdom and with unceasing love and grace.

 

And Elijah came near to all the people and said, “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.” And the people did not answer him a word.

1 Kings 18: 21

 

This is a hard moment in the history of the people of Israel. Ungodly rulers are leading them into evil ways and unrighteous actions, and they are quietly and passively going along with it all. Admittedly, defying the king or queen would almost certainly result in a very unpleasant outcome, but even the fear of death is for them a failure of faith. These are people who have heard the stories of various miraculous and wondrous ways in which God has saved and preserved their ancestors. Yet, they live in the compromised state that Elijah describes here. Instead of expressing the beautiful and fluid worship practices that are directed to the Lord, they go about in the broken cadence of people who do not know who they are and do not worship any one true god.

 

We do not live in those times. Our nations are not created and designed as theocracies, and our rulers are not the direct appointees of God. They are not intended to establish and guide the spiritual tone and tenor of the land. Yet, there are some striking similarities between the times of Elijah and ours. The challenge that the prophet threw down for the people is still valid today. There are only two paths through life that we can choose. We either choose to follow God, which means that we become committed disciples of Christ, or we follow the ruler of this world and make ourselves into disciples of Satan. I admit that those words sound hard and harsh, and there is much in this life that we encounter that is not absolutely clear.

 

However, when it comes to making our fundamental decisions about what is right and worthy and what is wrong and outside of God’s plan for His people, the only direction that a follower of Christ can go is to submit ourselves to our Lord. His will is found within the pages of His Word, is brought to light through committed prayer and meditation upon that word, is given support and encouragement in the fellowship of Christ’s body the church, and is strengthened and developed as we enter into the struggle of life with the truth and love of the Gospel as our banner. This is not an easy choice to make. But, if Jesus is Lord and He is God, then there is no other path to choose than the one that engages in full-on and total discipleship to Christ.