Since The Lord wasn't in any of the expressed situations, what then was the purpose?
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At the time that this episode occurred (as told in 1 Kings 19), Elijah was very discouraged. He had tried to bring Israel back to the worship of God through the contest with the prophets of the false god Ba'al and the false goddess Asherah on Mount Carmel, in which he had called fire down from God to consume the sacrifices that he had prepared, and then had subsequently slain hundreds of the prophets of Ba'al and Asherah (1 Kings 18:20-40). Yet, despite this dramatic event, Israel did not turn against Ahab and his wife Jezebel, the evil king and pagan queen of Israel. In fact, Jezebel had ordered that Elijah was to be killed, forcing Elijah to flee for his life. Elijah made a journey of forty days and forty nights south in the Sinai Peninsula to Mount Sinai, where God had originally given His Law to Israel through Moses. There, Elijah hid in a cave (1 Kings 19:7-9). When God asked Elijah why he was there, Elijah replied that, despite all that he had done on behalf of God, the people of Israel had broken their covenant with God, torn down God's altars, and killed God's prophets with the sword, until only Elijah was left, and now they were seeking to kill him, too. At that point, God told Elijah to go out and stand at the entrance of the cave while He would pass by. A huge wind arose, so strong that it caused rocks from the mountain to fall and shatter. However, God was not in the wind. After the wind, an earthquake occurred, but God was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake, there was a fire, but God was not in the fire, either. Finally, there came a still, small voice, which marked God's presence. The wind, earthquake, and fire might have been expected to be indicative of God's presence because of their powerful nature, and yet they were not. In my opinion, God was similarly showing Elijah that the spectacular deeds that Elijah had performed were ultimately not going to turn Israel back to the worship of God. Instead, God would work through the "still, small voice" of His word that God had called Elijah to speak to Israel in order to accomplish all that God intended to do (as noted in Isaiah 55:10-11). (In this regard, God also revealed to Elijah that, despite the rampant idolatry of Israel at that time, God had preserved a remnant of 7,000 in Israel who still worshiped Him and who had not bowed down to idols, even though Elijah perceived himself as the only one in Israel who had remained faithful.)
In the midst of all the distress that Elijah was experiencing, God asked him to step back and focus. Today in our lives, we are many times as overwhelmed as Elijah was. As humans, I think we are so easily impressed by the amazing, the flashy, the unusual, the supernatural. But, God can do the most amazing, the extreme supernatural, the mind boggling! But, we must remain focused! Keep our center on God. Know that He is ultimately in control! He can use any number of exciting things to get attention. He often is the small voice that we tend to stray away from, because we are not listening! Elijah lost his focus! Satan jumped on the opportunity to frighten him. Fear always leads us away from the will of God. Faith always plants us firmly in God's will. Fear for the child of God is unfounded. Daily, we must take up the cross, deny ourselves and follow. Luke 9:23. Earthquakes and wind and fire may have been what Elijah expected. God used another method. God is sovereign, He is in total control at all times. We have to try to understand and Let Go and Let God.
These fearsome displays of nature are all simply forces of nature to us. G-d expected Elijah to be obedient, trusting Him in facing and weathering these mighty fearsome elements of nature. All I can say is that Elijah learnt that our wonderful G-d does not display Himself as a fearsome tyrannical monster through the forces of nature, but shows Himself as a gentle, omnipotent, loving Master. Adonai knew the trials Elijah had just gone through, calling him out with a gentle whisper instead. (1 Kings 19:11-12). As I sit hear my eyes fill with tears once again releasing G-d's wonderful love He has for us shown to us through Jesus His Son send to the world to save what is lost (Jn 3:16). Elijah ran to G-d's mountain, but all we have to do is pray, trust and believe, for He is in our heart. Glory Brethren, Shalom Maranatha!
The wind, earthquake, and fire are illustrations of the power of the LORD to do as he wished in fulfilling the covenants to Moses and prior patriarchs. In a sense it was a repetition on a smaller scale of the events of Moses at Mount Sinai. The coming captivity of the kingdom of Israel, and later, Judah, was just over the horizon at this time. I believe that Elijah went to the mountain to obtain an extension of the Mosaic covenant, so both Israelites and Jews would be able to continue their traditional worship in foreign lands. The Mosaic covenant had only applied to the land given to them through the promises of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, not to the lands they would be eventually forced to live in. Because of Elijah, Jews all around the globe are able to maintain their religious identity, even though their circumstances are vastly different from that of the time of Elijah.
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