Hopefully you used Faithful Friday’s resources on REST to take a break this past weekend…because now it is time to get going! The first step God asks us to take on our journey toward SOUL CARE is take care of our physical needs. We need to rest, refresh, and renew our bodies to gain strength and energy to move forward. On this Mindful Monday, we will learn just how far God can take us once we are rested and ready.
Last week we left Elijah in the middle of the desert, depressed, depleted, and defeated. He had run away and crashed after having one of the biggest victories of life. God meets him right where he is and does not shame or scold him for his lack of faith. Instead, God does something for Elijah. In His mercy, compassion, and kindness God steps in, by means of an angel, and provides exactly what Elijah needs: food, water, and rest. He gives Elijah time to restore and replenish.
BUT… God does not give Elijah food, water, and sleep only to let him to recuperate in the middle of the desert. God sends him on an important journey…one that has a everything to do with restoring his soul.
So, let’s read what happens next in 1 Kings 19:7-18. This is the The Message version so it reads much more like a story. I highlighted some key parts of the account in order to make some points later.
7 The angel of God came back, shook him awake again, and said, “Get up and eat some more—you’ve got a long journey ahead of you.”
8-9 He got up, ate and drank his fill, and set out. Nourished by that meal, he walked forty days and nights, all the way to the mountain of God, to Horeb. When he got there, he crawled into a cave and went to sleep.
Then the word of God came to him: “So Elijah, what are you doing here?”
10 “I’ve been working my heart out for the God-of-the-Angel-Armies,” said Elijah. “The people of Israel have abandoned your covenant, destroyed the places of worship, and murdered your prophets. I’m the only one left, and now they’re trying to kill me.”
11-12 Then he was told, “Go, stand on the mountain at attention before God. God will pass by.”
A hurricane wind ripped through the mountains and shattered the rocks before God, but God wasn’t to be found in the wind; after the wind an earthquake, but God wasn’t in the earthquake; and after the earthquake fire, but God wasn’t in the fire; and after the fire a gentle and quiet whisper.
13-14 When Elijah heard the quiet voice, he muffled his face with his great cloak, went to the mouth of the cave, and stood there. A quiet voice asked, “So Elijah, now tell me, what are you doing here?” Elijah said it again, “I’ve been working my heart out for God, the God-of-the-Angel-Armies, because the people of Israel have abandoned your covenant, destroyed your places of worship, and murdered your prophets. I’m the only one left, and now they’re trying to kill me.”
15-18 God said, “Go back the way you came through the desert to Damascus. When you get there anoint Hazael; make him king over Aram. Then anoint Jehu son of Nimshi; make him king over Israel. Finally, anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from Abel Meholah to succeed you as prophet. Anyone who escapes death by Hazael will be killed by Jehu; and anyone who escapes death by Jehu will be killed by Elisha. Meanwhile, I’m preserving for myself seven thousand souls: the knees that haven’t bowed to the god Baal, the mouths that haven’t kissed his image.”
The point of this story is not just that Elijah makes a physical trip to Mount Sinai; it is really a spiritual pilgrimage. Elijah is in a crisis and finds himself stuck at a crossroads, wanting to end his life. In an act of sheer grace God intervenes, provides the prophet with life-giving food and water, and suggests a journey to Mount Sinai, a place where God wants to meet with Elijah.
For those stuck in the middle today, Elijah’s story calls out to who you who are worn-out, fearful, or in need of renewal. God gently tells you to “get going” and provides a way forward by first meeting your physical needs. All God asks is that you first eat and drink of His life-giving sustenance, trust and follow His leading (even if you must wander), and listen for God’s still small voice. This is the beginning of renewing your soul.
Here are four key lessons you can take away from Elijah’s experience that will guide you on our journey toward SOUL CARE.
1) YOU NEED TO GET UP AND GET GOING (vs.7).
Yes, you need to eat, drink, and sleep. You need to take time to rest your physical body and replenish your strength. But God doesn’t want to leave you in the middle of the desert. He wants you to reach your destination. God knows you need to meet your physical needs first, but there is a purpose and plan in meeting those needs. He has something for you do. He wants to move you forward toward your destination. He wants to speak to your soul, but you are going to have to get up and take that first step.
2) ONCE RESTED, YOU WILL BE ABLE TO GO VERY FAR (vs. 8-9).
Go back and read those verses…Elijah walked for 40 days and 40 nights! The scripture seems to suggest that Elijah did this without any additional food or water for sustenance.
I read a few commentaries to try to unpack this further. By looking at a map, it seems as if the trip to Mount Horeb would have taken only about 4-5 days for the average man, so what took Elijah so long? Many commentators suggest that Elijah was wandering, maybe even still hiding, in the desert, similar to how God had the Israelites wander in the desert for 40 years before reaching the Promised Land. Others suggest that the forty days parallel the time Jesus spent in the wilderness as part of His temptation and were necessary for Elijah’s spiritual transformation.
Either way, we can agree that the food and water God provided enabled Elijah to go very far. It also reminds me of one of my favorite quotes: “Not all who wander are lost.” (J. R.R. Tolkien)
Yes, God can miraculously sustain you on a long journey, but He has a purpose for the path He chooses. And you might be in the desert a long time to learn what He has to teach you.
3) YOU WILL HEAR GOD’S VOICE IF YOU LISTEN (vs.11-14).
Once Elijah reached “God’s mountain” (Mount Sinai), he found a cave to crash and slept (can you even imagine how he felt after 40 days of walking day and night?). Afterwards, he was told to get up, stand on the mountain and wait for God to pass by. Notice what happens next. First there is a hurricane wind, then an earthquake, then a fire. But God did not reveal Himself in any of these spectacular and frightening things.
Instead, in the still silence, Elijah heard a gentle whisper. He knew it was the Lord. He got up, stood at the opening of the cave and hid his face with his coat.
The gentle voice asked Elijah the same question it had before: “Elijah, why are you here?” God knew the answer, but gave Elijah the opportunity to vent. From Elijah’s answer, it is easy to tell that he is still struggling with doubt and self-pity. He feels like he’s all alone, doing the right thing, and has no one to support him. This is not true, but Elijah is still unable to see things clearly. God listens, but does not respond directly to Elijah’s complaints; instead, God gives him something new to do.
Can you relate to Elijah’s pity party? Has God shown himself to you in spectacular and miraculous ways, yet you refuse to see? Are you waiting for a huge sign from God or can you be content to sit quietly and wait to His soft, gentle whisper? God wants to talk to you…especially in the middle of your lowest, darkest times…be open and willing to listen for His still, small voice.
4) GOD HAS EVERYTHING UNDER CONTROL, BUT YOU MUST FOLLOW HIS INSTRUCTIONS (vs. 15-18).
Elijah’s encounter with God ends with God giving him instructions to go back the way that he came and travel to Damascus in order to anoint kings and stir up rebellion against Ahab and Jezebel (the very people who were trying to kill him). He was also to appoint his successor, Elisha, who would be God’s answer to the solitary Elijah’s need for a friend to work alongside of him. In addition, God comforts him by letting him know there are 7,000 others who will sympathize with him in his trials and who need his care. He is not alone, He is still God’s prophet, and there is still work for him to do.
If you are discouraged and despondent on your journey toward SOUL CARE, realize that God has everything under control and you are never alone. God has a plan, but you must be willing to follow His instructions. As Elijah’s story reveals: He will provide for you, He will protect you, and He has a purpose for you.
On this Mindful Monday, I encourage you to take some precious time alone this week to listen to God’s whisper. He is there, gently telling you to get going. He is sending you out on a spiritual pilgrimage…will you go where He leads? Even if you have to wander?
Sometimes we need a road map on our journey…meet me back here on Faithful Friday where you can find some more practical guidance and direction from God’s Word on how to reach your destination.