There he went into a cave and spent the night. And the word of the Lord came to him: “What are you doing here, Elijah?” He replied, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.” The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord , for the Lord is about to pass by.” Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord , but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” He replied, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.” The Lord said to him, “Go back the way you came, and go to the Desert of Damascus. When you get there, anoint Hazael king over Aram. Also, anoint Jehu son of Nimshi king over Israel, and anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from Abel Meholah to succeed you as prophet. – 1 Kings 19:9-18
OK so the connection to water here is very weak, but this is such an interesting passage, and there are several geological connections, so I felt I should reflect on it. Elijah has fled to a cave, probably a limestone cave created by flowing groundwater, and he is hiding out there so that Ahab and Jezebel can’t kill him.
God asks him why he is hiding in a cave and Elijah responds that the leaders in Israel are hopeless. They have broken the altar, their covenant with God, and killed all of God’s prophets. Elijah tells God he is the only one left who is “zealous for the Lord”. God tells Elijah to go outside the cave for “the Lord is about to pass by”.
This is where it gets really interesting… a great and powerful wind tears at the mountain and shatters the rocks. That is one powerful wind! Even category 5 hurricane winds don’t often break apart rocks. God was not in this powerful feat of nature.
Then an earthquake happened that shook the mountain to its core, followed by fire. All of this must have been rather frightening for Elijah who was witnessing this from inside the cave. He did not emerge until he heard what followed…a gentle whisper. Then he covered his face and went out to meet with God. God tells Elijah to return to where he came from and to anoint several kings and a successor for himself, Elisha.
This passage has always intrigued me but I have never approached it from the historical context that my current “walk on water” has provided. Why did God show up for Elijah at this time and in this way? Prior to Elijah’s escape to this cave he had experienced God showing up in some pretty miraculous and dramatic ways.
I think perhaps Elijah had put God in a “box”. He had grown accustomed to communicating and following a God who showed up in dramatic or miraculous ways. God wants Elijah, and us, to understand that He shows up when and how we need Him. Sometimes that is in dramatic ways and other times it is in a whisper. We need to be ready to see and hear from God in both sensational and subtle ways.
Prayer: God help us to see You when you show up in both subtle and dramatic ways in our lives.