Elijah the Great Prophet. Drought Settles. God v. god. A Glorious Revealing. An Appropriate Assistant. Blood for Dogs. Taken to Heaven.
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.
1 Kings 19:11a-12 (NIV)
The lure of the Summer Service Project, or “Missions Trip,” grabbed a hold of me in eighth grade. In February, Pastor Hank started challenging us to pray about the summer trip – a week in an un-gentrified part of town, sleeping in sleeping bags and weeding lawns full of dandelions and Coors bottles. Could make some friends, could get lice, could build a tan from all that sun-work. So I followed his command and prayed about it, but my mind had been made up long ago about it. My brother did it the year before, and he brought back stories of all night games of sardines and cheesy gross dares and wrestling matches on the foam pads in the pre-school room. No thought to be had or prayers to be prayed – I was going.
What compelled me to go? Was it the serving, the playing, the constant games of dodgeball? It wasn’t God.
And then the internship at my church, the idea being that I would be a “peer mentor” to the middle schoolers going into high school, and since I was a Freshman in college and all, they would look up to me. Duties included fellowship with the kids and leading small group Bible studies, and then there was the expense account to take the guys out on day trips to Six Flags and the movies. A perk involved taking a diverse group of students to Creation, a Christian version of Woodstock, but that seemed much more like a downside to me. It would be a fun summer job, something to keep me busy, long hours, and what else would I be doing? I took the job and didn’t regret it; it was a great, memorable summer.
But why did I say yes? Was it the fellowship, the leadership, the free trips to theme parks? God was involved certainly – I took this one more seriously. But it wasn’t all God.
Then there was Oliver, who came to my theater party and danced like a dancer and drank too much and hugged me for three seconds too long. It took pestering a half dozen friends before someone felt comfortable giving his number to me. The excuses I made – he told me he wanted to read a play of mine and he left his sunglasses at my house… yes I know the party was at night. But I got it. No one encouraged me to text him; this was all my doing. And I did. I invited him to hang out that evening, on a lazy Sunday night. And he said yes. And I told my roommates to scram, because I had a lady coming over. And they grinned and grimaced and took their books and left.
No one told me to do it, nothing overtly compelling came forward. No… it was a whisper that said, go ahead… you want this, can’t you feel it? The hushed voice continued and sometimes fluctuated and said, stop, do you know what you’re doing, the horror, the horror, and just as quickly it’d whip around back to, but it feels good… so it is good.
It was a whisper.
Elijah is a spiritual superstar complete with unshakable Godly loyalty and a command over miraculous events. He parts the Jordan River by dipping his robe in the waters; fire pummels the Earth with a flick of his index finger. The authors of 1 and 2 Kings record no sinful behavior on his part, which is remarkable considering his company – not only the fallen leaders who have parted ways with their Creator but also a horde of angry denizens crying out for his head. God shuttles him off to the heavens before death befalls him – the only human to be awarded such a fate with the exception of Jesus Christ himself. But before accomplishing all of these exceptional feats… before crossing the Jordan and raining plagues and blessings from God, before thrusting into the hammocks of Paradise… God called upon Elijah to climb a mountain to meet Him.
As he climbed, the wind roared against him, but we are told that God was not in the wind.
Then the Earth shook from its core, but God did not cause the earthquake.
Then a fire burst forth and swallowed the area around it, but the fire was not from God.
And when all of the muck settled, a whisper sauntered in and hit Elijah’s ear – a faint voice that commanded him.
It was God.