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ELIJAH AND THE STILL, SMALL VOICE

1. FLED FOR HIS LIFE (1 Kings 19:1-4)
St Teresa of Avila lived in 16th C Spain. She spent many years travelling on God’s business, founding and reforming convents. Journeys were both unsafe and uncomfortable in those days, but she was never daunted. But one day, when she was near the end of her tether with weariness, her carriage broke and she fell out of it into the mud. She is reported to have shouted at God, “No wonder you have so few friends, when you treat them so badly!”

Elijah lived thousands of years before Teresa in a completely different civilisation, but he felt the same way in today’s Bible reading. He was completely fed up with God and his life and so he walked away from the situation he was involved with. He had been struggling for a long time and through many difficult experiences to try and get his people to turn back to God.

Just think about the things that Elijah had been through. He had managed to survive a three year long drought; he had raised the dead son of a woman who looked after him; he had confronted the king who had let his foreign wife turn his people away from the true God; he had prayed and God sent fire and rain. But all of this did not seem to take any effect on the king and his powerful wife – Elijah may have won a great contest but the leader of his people had not turned back to God.

When Jezebel, the queen threatened Elijah with his own life, he flees. The Bible says he was afraid, which you can understand. But I think he was also exhausted from struggling for so long and not a little fed up with God. Elijah has had enough of the struggle. No amount of effort seems to have lasting effect and I’m sure he would have agreed with St Teresa: “God does not know how to treat his friends!” I’m sure we feel like that sometimes, and we give up trying any more and collapse in an exhausted and emotional heap!

2. A LONG JOURNEY (1 Kings 19:5-9a)
Many of you will know of my Pilgrimage to Santiago in June 2006. I was well prepared for my long journey on foot, but in some ways it was similar to Elijah’s. I was ready for a break after 21 years on ordained ministry and was seeking spiritual and mental refreshment during my sabbatical.

I wonder if you can think of a long journey you have made, perhaps to somewhere special, or for a special purpose other than simply being a tourist?

Elijah needed something to keep him going on his long journey. He was exhausted and until this stage all he really knew was that he wanted to get away from the threatening situation he had fled. He left his servant in a town called Beer-sheba, right in the south of Judah, and then went on into the wilderness on his own.
He was so tired and depressed that he wanted to end it all. He just wanted to lie down, go to sleep and never wake up again. That sounds really sad, but sometimes a person can feel like that, especially if they’ve struggled a long time with a difficult illness or disability, or with a situation in their life which doesn’t go away.

But God wasn’t going to give up on his faithful prophet. He sent an angel who provided some food for him. Maybe it was another person, maybe it was a supernatural being. In some ways it doesn’t matter. But twice Elijah had some food and drink and regained enough strength to carry on. Now his running away turned into a journey with a purpose. He went for 40 days and nights with the strength and encouragement of the angel’s food.

Elijah headed for Horeb which was a long way, but it was where Moses had received the Ten Commandments. Elijah prepares to have a proper heart to heart with God to sort things out. God did not try and sort Elijah out straight away, but gave him time to recover and be ready to receive fresh direction for his life and work. God was patient with Elijah and spoke when he was ready.
3. VOICE IN THE STILLNESS (I Kings 19:9b-16)
Can you remember what happened when Moses got the Ten Commandments from God? It was very dramatic. No-one apart from Moses, not even animals, was allowed to set foot on the mountain. There was dramatic weather, in fact, it could have been like a volcano erupting. The people down below were frightened and it was all very impressive.

From his cave where he sheltered Elijah began to think about his life. He felt God asking him what he was doing there and he replied that he had worked hard for God and not much had come of it. “I am the only one left, and they want to take my life as well!” he complained. Elijah then experienced similar dramatic things happening on the mountain outside but it wasn’t to be like Moses and his experience, he wasn’t going to get some commandments like that. After everything had calmed down, then Elijah heard God speaking and giving him new tasks to fulfil for him – a new king to anoint and a new prophet to take up the work after Elijah. All of this came in the silence after the storm.

We might not know exactly how Elijah heard God speaking, but it was enough to make Elijah go back and do the jobs God had for him. The hymn that we learnt today describes the different ways in which God can speak to us. Sometimes he does show himself in dramatic, unusual or miraculous ways – showing signs. But God does not always speak like that. Sometimes God speaks in quiet ways when you have to concentrate on what your inner thoughts and feelings are, and sometimes it is only when we stop and keep silence that God can really get through to us.

Often God can show us his ways through our reading and pondering the Bible – we can ask for the Spirit to help us understand for our own lives. God always speaks to us in and through Jesus, as we think about his life and work and we seek to understand and follow him. May God guide and lead us whether we are weary or full of energy!

   


 
 

God our saviour,
look on this wounded world
in pity and in power;
hold us fast to your promises of peace won for us by your Son,
our Saviour Jesus Christ.

Amen


 

 



Acknowledgements