Elijah cried out, “The God who answers by fire, he is God.”
The Prophets of Baal cut themselves and danced around their altar all day. And there was no fire; there was no voice.
Elijah lay the offering on the wood on an altar named “Israel” and called upon Yahweh.
At 3pm, the fire fell on Mt. Carmel and consumed the sacrifice —the same hour of the day that Jesus breathed his last, while nailed to the wood by Israel before the fire fell on Pentecost.
Elijah slaughtered all the prophets of Baal. And as the rain began to fall, in the power of the Lord, he ran ahead of King Ahab’s chariot all the way to the palace of Ahab and Jezebel. Elijah must have expected a revival at the revelation of the power of the Word. Jezebel did not; she ordered the slaughter of Elijah. It appeared that the Word of God had failed.
Afraid, Elijah ran for his life and curled up under a tree in the wilderness and prayed that God would take his life. The “Angel of Yahweh” woke him and fed him bread and water, saying, “The journey is too great for you.” What journey?
Elijah then “went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mount of God. There he came to a cave and lodged in it. And behold, the Word of the Lord came to him, and he said to him, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’”
Elijah spoke the word, and now the Word is messing with Elijah.
Mt. Horeb is where Moses received the law and where God hid him in the cleft of the Rock, saying, “No man can see my face and live.”
“What are you doing here?” asks the Angel of Yahweh.
Maybe he came for more direction, more law, and more firepower?
Maybe he came because he wanted to die?
Maybe he came because he wanted to live?
He had run to save his life, then asked God to take his life; perhaps he hadn’t even begun to live Life?
“The journey is too great for you.”
Perhaps the Angel meant the journey to the cave; perhaps he meant the journey you call “my life.”
Have you ever asked, “What am I doing here, living ‘my life?’”
The Word—the walking, talking Word of God in the cave with Elijah—says, “Go out and stand before the face of the Lord, Yahweh.”
There was a great wind, an earthquake, and a fire.
But Yahweh was not in the wind, earth, or fire, (although fire, earth, and wind are in Yahweh). And after the earth, wind, and fire, “the sound of a low whisper (ESV),” “a still small voice (KJV),” “the sound of sheer silence (NRSV).” Most literally translated, Elijah heard “a voice, a thin silence.”
I’ve always wanted to hear words from the Lord the way prophets seem to hear words from the Lord. And people have told me to listen for the “still small voice.” I’ve driven myself nuts trying to listen for the “stillest” and “smallest” voice.
Once I did hear words from the Lord, very crisp, clear, and wonderfully devastating. And later that day, the Lord literally pinned me to the floor, almost broke my arms, pulled back the curtain on my mind, and I realized: The Voice of the Lord is anything but still and small, and yet, in an amazing way, it is silent; it is not simply sound waves in the atmosphere of this world—the Voice of the Lord.
When my son was born, he wouldn’t stop crying. The nurse handed him to me and said, “Speak to him; he knows your voice.” The moment I did, he stopped crying and rested in my arms. How did he know my voice?
Well, I had drawn a face on my wife’s belly, and every night I’d speak to that face. I’d say, “Scooter, I’m your dad. Hope you’re doing OK in there. I’m so excited to meet you. I love you.”
When I spoke, everything in that womb-world would vibrate to the sound of my voice, and yet my voice was not a particular thing in that world. Are there things “in” this world that cannot be found in this world or explained by this world, yet we all recognize in this world? How about Beauty? How about Truth? How about Love?
Maybe there’s a face, just outside our world—on the other side of the Big Bang—and it’s constantly speaking: “I’m your Dad. Hope you’re doing OK in there. I can’t wait to meet you. I love you.”
My infant son knew my voice, yet he hadn’t seen my face. To see my face, he had to die to that womb-world and be born into this world. That’s profoundly traumatic, and yet he came to rest in my arms, for he knew my voice. It’s important to know your Father’s voice here, so you will rest in his arms there.
My son couldn’t discern the words, but he knew my voice.
But suppose you did hear words and recognized the voice… would the voice have gotten bigger or smaller… stronger or weaker? God must limit himself to use the human words with which we all try to capture meaning (logos).
If a prophet speaks some words but hasn’t listened to the Voice—the voice of Love—perhaps he’s crucified the Word? Once the Word of God got so weak and small that we wrapped him in swaddling clothes, nailed him to some wood on a mountain, and placed his body in a cave. He is “the firstborn of all creation… firstborn from the dead,” “firstborn among many brothers.” On a Friday, we witnessed his birth from inside this womb of a world.
Well, Elijah came out and stood at the entrance of the cave, for he heard what he could only describe as “the Sound of Sheer Silence.”
Unprotected by words, in the presence of Love…
I stop justifying myself and realize that I am justified.
I stop trying to create myself and realize, I am the creation of I am.
I stop thinking of what I’ve done or need to do, so I can just be, which is exactly where “I Am” is: NOW.
The walking, talking Word of the Lord spoke words to Elijah in the cave.
But now the Voice (of sheer silence) speaks the same words to Elijah at the entrance to the cave, which clearly implies that the Word of God is the Voice of God; and now that Word and that Voice are in Elijah, and Elijah has just been born from above.
The cave is a grave, and the grave is a womb, and the Word is a Seed from beyond space and time. He turns water to wine and says, “Take and eat, this is my body. This is my blood. The journey is too great for you. But not too great for me.” Now, Elijah will not only speak the words of God; he will become who he truly is: the Word of God that is spoken, his body.
It’s a bit fascinating that Elijah didn’t die (a flaming chariot took him to heaven.) And fascinating that, later, he showed up on the Mount of Transfiguration with Moses and the Face of the Lord, shining like the sun.
Moses, however, did die. He went to Sheol before he appeared on the mountain with Jesus; he had only seen the “backside of the Lord” and words written in stone.
Elijah did not die at the end of his “life”—He did not die, for he had already died the second death at the mouth of the cave as he stood before the Face of the Lord.
When I sit before Jesus in silence, I lose my life and find it… I’m born from above.
The Voice is Love. And his face is Jesus—the all-powerful and entirely gracious Word of God.