1 Kings 19:18-18
So he got up, ate, and drank. Then on the strength from that food, he walked forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mountain of God. He entered a cave there and spent the night. Suddenly, the word of the Lord came to him, and he said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” (1 Kings 19:8-9 CSB)
Years ago I worked in residential construction contracting. We primarily did new construction. Ah, there is something invigorating about watching newly framed walls being raised against the backdrop of an autumn sky! However, we sometimes would restore old buildings. When God saves us, he renews us, but afterwards, we might require restoration. He restores my soul (Psalm 23:3 NIV).
Even God’s prophet needed restoration. Remember Elijah’s problems: fear, fatigue, false view of himself, and failure to work out his theology personally and practically. Now we see God dealing graciously with Elijah, not because he deserved it, but because of God’s free grace. In this section we want to examine God’s wondrous way of working in grace to accomplish his purposes. Remember that the Bible tells us God’s story; God is revealing his surpassing power and significance through what he accomplishes, even when we his people fail.
God does not always work in the way that we expect him to work (19:11-13). The setting was Mt. Horeb. It was at Horeb, also called Sinai, that God had made the law covenant with his people Israel. See Deuteronomy 4:10-14. Consider the physical effects at that time: fire, the mountain trembled, and loud noise. Now Mount Sinai was wrapped in smoke because the Lord had descended on it in fire. The smoke of it went up like the smoke of a kiln, and the whole mountain trembled greatly. And as the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke, and God answered him in thunder (Exodus 19:18-19 ESV; cf. Hebrews 12:18-21).
For unknown reasons, Elijah went to Horeb. From verse nine, we can deduce it wasn’t God who directed him there. People do many strange things when they are troubled spiritually and emotionally. Let’s not be quick to judge suffering people. We don’t know exactly what Elijah expected to find there. Sometimes it is hard to know why people do what they do; to know what they are looking for in religious experience. Here are some ways people seek to charge themselves up emotionally through “spiritual” means.
- Solemn formalism
- Entertaining services
- Heart-wrenching stories
- Beaten, guilty consciences
- Dynamic, exciting praise
When I was a pastor in a local church, I’d have people come to me after a service and tell me, “It felt like God was here today!” I wondered how they would seriously answer, “How can you know that God is here? You can’t see him or touch him. You can only experience his presence through faith.” Now without faith it is impossible to please God, since the one who draws near to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him (Hebrews 11:6 CSB). Faith requires confidence in his being and the truth of his promises. When you do his will, then you will know (John 7:17). When you know the Lord, you know his love, his joy, his peace, and his hope! Has the Lord, the living God ever met you?
God appeared to him in a different way than he had to Moses and Israel. We can never put God in a box and demand or expect that he will act the way that we want him to act. God acts in conformity with his own will, not ours.
God deals with us in a different way. Seriously and attentively think through Hebrews 12:22-24 and the surrounding context. We are under a new covenant; the old has passed away. Therefore, we should not seek physical signs of God’s power, but the spiritual blessings his power produces.
How did God restore Elijah? By speaking to him on the mount with a gentle whisper. He let Elijah know that he is always present, even if it is in ways that we do not expect. Does God still speak to his people today? Yes, but not in an audible voice, but in the Scriptures. Today, if you hear his voice… (Hebrews 3:7, 15 NIV). Dear friend in need of restoration, the same God who spoke to Elijah still speaks today!
Grace and peace, David