1 Kings 19:13 “What are you doing here Elijah?”
Elijah the Prophet had experienced many breakthroughs from his God throughout his life’s calling. When Jezebel threatened him with death, he hastened to the desert. According to Karl & Delitzsh, Elijah did not flee as a result of fear, because he did not merely withdraw into the kingdom of Judah, where he would have been safe under Jehoshaphat from all the persecutions of Jezebel. Instead, Elijah continued on towards Beersheba and into the desert. I would venture to say that Elijah needed a reminder of God’s provision. Similar to Jacob, he needed a God-I confrontation:
Interestingly, the distance from Beersheba to Horeb is environ 200 miles. Elijah would not have required 40 days to travel there, if the intention of God had been nothing more than to cause him to reach the mountain. However, with the strength of the nourishment provided by the angel, Elijah was not only to perform the journey to Horeb, but to wander in the desert for 40 days and 40 nights i.e., 40 whole days, as Moses had formerly wandered with all Israel for 40 years. This was to remind Elijah that the Lord was still the same God who had nourished and sustained His whole nation in the desert with manna from heaven and water from the Rock (cf. 19:6, the bread cake & the pitcher of water & 13 Exodus 16, 17).
This was a simple demonstration of God’s provision for his basic needs: “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” (Matthew 6:33) Elijah reaches the cave, (Heb. lit. המּערה - the Hebrew shows a definite article). Here, many commentators claim that the definite article gives the reader a subtle hint to which cave it could have referred to — none other than the cleft of the rock that Moses hid in when the Lord passed him by (cf. Exodus 33:22).
Then the question came: What are you doing here, Elijah? Jews of that time, as many of the other cultures, held their holy mountains & sites in high regard. Elijah could have been spurred on by a cultural catalyst. Perhaps in the confusion and uncertainty of the moment, Elijah’s default was to adhere to this cultural spur and to satisfy his curiosity and assist his faith with the sight of that famous place where the law was given and where so many great things were done, hoping to meet with God Himself there. However, the question God poses could easily have been accompanied by His Son’s words: “Believe Me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.” Elijah came all this way, perhaps because he had to be reminded by God that He is omniscient and Emmanuel: God with us, despite where we find ourselves geographically, culturally, emotionally.
Sometimes, the simple questions, the gentle ways of God, carry the biggest effect. As Herder and Henry so beautifully put it:
[It] was to [point] to the fiery zeal of the prophet, who wanted to reform everything by means of the tempest [in stark contrast to] the gentle way which God pursues, and to proclaim the long-suffering and mildness of His nature, as the Voice had already done to Moses on that very spot; hence the beautiful change in the divine appearance (Herder, Geist der hebr. Poesie, 1788, ii. p. 52).
Gracious souls are more affected by the tender mercies of the Lord, than by His terrors. The mild voice of Him who speaks from the cross, or the mercy-seat, is accompanied with peculiar power in taking possession of the heart (Henry).
Am I where I should be, whither God calls me, where my business lies, and where I may be useful? It concerns us often to ask whether we are in God’s will or inside a religious cave fashioned by our own perceptions of where the Almighty lives.
Lord, thank You that You are the still the same God who led Your people to wander in the desert, from Moses, to Elijah, to David, to Jesus. You gave them sustenance. When I am in the desert, help me to remember what You have brought my forefathers through and to delight in the provision and sustenance of Your Son. Thank You that I can never be separated from Your presence and that You will always remain Emmanuel - God with me, Amen.
Henry, M. Commentary. Bible Hub. [Online]. Available at: https:// biblehub.com/1_kings/19-13.htm [2019/11/18]. Keil, C. F. & Delitzsh, F. Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament. [Online]. Available at: https:// www.sacred-texts.com/bib/cmt/kad/ kg1019.htm [2019/11/18].
Strawn, B. A. 2011. Commentary on 1 Kings 19:1-18. [Online]. Available at: https://www.working-preacher.org/preaching.aspx? commentary_id=1082 [2019/11/18]. Words of Life Ministries. [Online]. Available at: https:// www.wordsoflife.co.uk/bible-studies/study-7-what-are-you-doinghere-elijah/ [2019/11/18].
How often do we consider the questions God has asked us in Scripture? How could God Almighty ask a question? He could and would, because it serves a profound purpose. In this first blog post of a Devotional Series, aiming to look at ten questions uttered by God, we start by taking a look at the very first question on our list, i.e. what God asked Jacob (pre-Israel) and of what relevance it is for us today.