I’ve always loved the story of Elijah and the prophets of Baal. Ever since my first depressive episode, I’ve especially appreciated the part in the story after the Mount Carmel encounter. The story when Elijah is exhausted and discouraged and ready to give up, and God meets his needs in very specific ways.
In I Kings 18, Elijah had an amazing showdown with the prophets of Baal vs. God, and God proved Himself in a big way. The prophets of Baal were defeated and killed. King Ahab and Queen Jezebel were furious, and so Elijah “ran for his life.” He went into the wilderness, where he collapsed from exhaustion and asked God to let him die. Instead, God let him rest, fed him, let him rest again, and fed him once more. Then Elijah ran for 40 days and 40 nights, and he spent the night in a cave at Horeb, the mountain of God.
It’s not clear, but perhaps Elijah was hiding in the cave. Maybe he was still exhausted and discouraged. But God wanted to remind Elijah of His great power, and that Elijah was not without hope because God was still with him. He told Elijah to “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” (v. 11a)
First, God displayed His power to Elijah in a great and powerful wind, then in an earthquake, and then in fire. But the Bible says that God was not in the wind, nor the earthquake nor the fire. Finally, God spoke to Elijah in “a gentle whisper.” After all that Elijah had been through, and his feelings of depression and defeat, God spoke to him in a gentle whisper.
When I read these verses this week, this really stood out to me. That God would speak to a man, hurting and tired and feeling alone, in a gentle whisper. That He is so kind as to be gentle. Not a voice in the wind, or earthquake, or fire. But in a gentle whisper.
Elijah was listening. And God was gently assuring, encouraging, and challenging. He reminded Elijah that he was in no way alone – there were 7000 others who followed God. He reminded Elijah that He was all-powerful God, and that He was with Elijah as Elijah served Him as prophet. He told Elijah of Elisha – his soon-to-be companion, assistant, and replacement.
God responded to Elijah’s battle with the prophets of Baal by exceeding expectations of proof of His existence as the only true God. He cared for Elijah with rest and food, equipped Elijah to run to safety, and spoke to him gently.
Such a personal God we love and serve. Meeting us at exactly our point of need, in just the way we need to hear.