And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect. (Hebrews 11:39-40)
Elijah is running for his life. He runs through Israel, to the very edge of the kingdom of Judah, and then continues running into the wilderness. He runs until he can run no more. Falling beneath a Juniper tree, Elijah cries out to die. He yields his spirit up to God, and everything goes dark.
But he doesn’t die. An angel wakes him, feeds him and sends him deeper and farther into the desert.
For 40 days, Elijah wanders deeper and deeper into the harsh, barren world of emptiness. This same Elijah proclaimed the rain would stop in Israel and it did, raised a dead boy to life, humiliated and killed prophets of Baal. This prophet of God who came from nowhere must now find God in no place—Mt. Horeb.
Mt. Horeb, also known as Mt. Sinai, is the same place Moses met God. Cloaked in lightening and smoke, Moses entered into the terrifying grip of God’s grace. The children of Israel could not touch this mountain for fear of mortal danger.
In this holy, mysterious place that is no place, Elijah ascends to find God. He leaves behind human civilization, human strength and human wisdom. He stands naked before a holy God. In the hole of a cave, he waits for an audience with the Creator.
Suddenly a violent wind rips through the mountain. The intensity is so great that the mountain begins to crumble and shake. The earth is collapsing. In the midst of this chaos, there is an explosion. Fire surrounds Elijah like lava consuming the land. And then everything stops. Shuddering silence. God is present.
Elijah has come to the end of himself. He must face his images, his idols and his limitations of God. He must face the fact that he is not God. He is finite and fallen. His limited view of God and his inflated view of self fall before the holy quiet of the Creator.
We need the desert. We need our own smug revelations challenged — again and again. Like Elijah, we somehow think we understand God. He knew Him in outward power; he faced Him in living silence. In our understanding, we seek to domesticate the untamed Creator. We polish Him. Then like a genie in a bottle, we wait for Him to appear and grant us our wishes.
Like Elijah, we compare ourselves with others. From our own deeply flawed perception, we determine some are better than us and some are worse. We often secretly despise those around us who succeed. But then we are humiliated in His holiness and face our absolute dependence upon His mercy and grace. We breathe every breath by the grace of God. Lord, have mercy! We go to the desert to be stripped naked. For when we are naked before the Lord, He can clothe us with his glory.
Lord, forgive me of my pride. Forgive me for thinking I’ve got You all figured out. You are the Holy One, the Merciful One, the Gracious One. Thank You that You cover me with Your holiness, mercy and grace.