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The God of the Desert

The God of the Desert

In 1 Kings 19, the prophet Elijah had just committed one of the most amazing acts of faith in the whole Bible. He had entered a showdown with the pagan prophets – 400 of them – to see whose worship was true, based on which god responded to prayer with fire from heaven. After mocking them because their god didn't answer them, he put the odds hugely in God's favor by dumping water all over his altar, soaking the wood, the bull, everything, and praying that God would show up.

You can read the story to see what happens next, but the short version is that God came through, and Elijah put to death all the pagan prophets. Seems like a tough guy! But immediately, the Queen threatened his life because of what he did to her prophets, and Elijah was terrified of her. He ran for his life.

Where do you run when you're afraid? To a friend? To a lover? To an addiction? To a game or movie or social media – a distraction?

Running for his life

But of all the places he could have gone, Elijah ran straight into the wilderness, a place noted all throughout scripture to be a place of testing, hardship, and death. Maybe he thought no one would find him there. Maybe he thought dehydration and starvation would be a better way to die than to face the Queen's rage.

Not alone

But Someone did find him in the wilderness.

God met him there, in the dry, dusty heat. God found a fickle prophet, sleeping under a bush, hoping to die, and woke him up. When Elijah woke up, the same God who had provided fire from heaven to burn up his water-soaked offering had provided another fire in the wilderness – this time with bread baking on it. A symbol of life. A jug of water was next to the bread. Another symbol of life.

God brought the "dead" prophet to life, and set him on a journey. For 40 days and nights, God led Elijah to Horeb, the mountain of God, where He had met Moses in the burning bush, and later came down in fire and earthquake to give the people of Israel the Ten Words.

Traditional site of Mt Horeb

What are you doing here?

God had a question for Elijah once he reached Mt Horeb: "What are you doing here?" Elijah replied, "I've been jealous for you, but everyone else has abandoned you and I'm alone. Not only am I alone, but they are trying to kill me!"

God said, "I want to show you something."

What happened next was that God put on a display of power just like he did for Moses on this very mountain so many years prior. Fire. Smoke. Wind. The ground shaking until rocks broke apart. The God of Creation was flexing for Elijah, showing him that he was much more powerful than the Queen, capable of much more than burning up a water-soaked altar, and reminding him that he was the God who keeps his covenant.

In Exodus 19, God was in the fire, but here in 1 Kings, he wasn't. He wasn't in the earthquake, he wasn't in the smoke or the wind – he was in a voice, a soft whisper after the noise. Not just powerful – personal.

Once again, God asked Elijah the question he'd asked before, "What are you doing here, Elijah?" Unmoved, Elijah replied with the same answer. "I'm alone, and life is miserable for me because powerful people are trying to kill me."

Feelings aren't reality

How many times have you read the Bible and thought, wow, that's great, but it doesn't apply to me? It seems like that was Elijah's thought as well. "Great show of power God, nicely done there with the whisper and all, but the Queen is still after me, and I feel very much alone out here!"

Maybe you've thought something similar.

  • "Yeah, God, you're the great Physician, the Healer, the Powerful one, but the Doctor said I have _____________. No one understands how this feels."
  • "Yeah God, you're powerful and all, but I'm afraid I won't get this job. Everyone else has a job but me."
  • "Yeah God, you love me and are committed to me, but no one else cares."

God went on to reveal to Elijah that there were in fact 7000 other people who were just like him, who didn't worship idols or bail on their faith in God. Elijah's feelings weren't based on what was real, and what he learned that day was that the covenant-keeping God who meets his people in the wilderness was more powerful than his enemies and closer than his friends.

It's what he does!

I don't know what wilderness you are in today. I don't know what you're running from or running to, but Psalm 40 speaks of God pulling us up out of the pit, setting our feet on a firm foundation, and giving us a song to sing.

It's what he does! He finds "dead" people in the wildernesses of life, wakes them up and gives the Bread of Life and Living Water to fuel them through the journey of knowing God.

Gods word gives voice to everything you are going through today and in his Son Jesus Christ reveals a God who is not only powerful – he is personal.

You are not alone.