If we are not currently hearing God’s voice, one major reason could be a particular act of sin or a persistent wrong attitude – some act of disobedience or a habit of self indulgence. When one of the builders lost a borrowed axe head and asked Elisha to help him to find it again, the prophet asked one simple question: ‘Where did it fall?’ He would find it, surely, exactly where he lost it? And of course he did (2 Kings 6:1-7). Confessing how he lost his cutting edge solved the problem for him. ‘If we confess and turn from [our misdeed we] will receive mercy’ (Proverbs 28:13).
Consider, for instance, Elijah’s encounter with God after his strenuous public battles with wicked Queen Jezebel’s prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel (see 1 Kings 18:1-46).
The site was significant – Mount Sinai
Was Elijah hoping to repeat Moses’ experience on that mountain of fire (Hebrews 12:18-21 mentions ‘flaming fire’, as well as a ‘whirlwind’)? It was in such circumstances of awe and fearsome wonder that Moses received the Law with its commandments and judgments on offenders, as well as offerings to answer various aspects of human weakness and failure.
A recent atmosphere of death threats (1 Kings 19:1-3)
Despite the victory he had just achieved, Elijah felt needy – for obvious reasons:
- He was emotionally exhausted, so God gave him several long sessions of rest and sleep.
- He would become physically famished, on his six-week journey south – without daily raven deliveries! (1 Kings 17:3-6) – so God twice sent an angel to cook some bread for him, and to bring him water – after three years of intense drought.
- He was spiritually confused because Jezebel was still on Israel’s throne while he himself was ‘on the run’ from her death threats.
- He was tainted with self-pity and self-righteousness, falsely believing that he alone had been left in the ministry as the only one who was true to the Lord; but eventually God assured him that he had 7,000 who had never bowed the knee to Baal! (see 1 Kings 19:15-18).
God has various ways of speaking to us – including in ‘a gentle whisper’! (1 Kings 19:12).
At the end of his time of spiritual ‘retreat’ Elijah was given a new commission to anoint three future leaders: the next king of Judah, a new monarch of northern Israel, and his own successor in the prophetic ministry, Elisha, who currently is just a farmer’s boy bringing up the rear of a dozen farm labourers with the twelfth pair of oxen ploughing the newly softened fields, thanks to the recent season of rain, the first in three and a half years.
* Let’s prepare our hearts for God’s work among us and through us, his people, in 2019.