God poses a question to a struggling prophet on Mt. Horeb. It is also one he asks each of us every day.
In 1 Kings 19, Elijah the prophet ran away from his most significant victory, fearing for his life at the hands of bloodthirsty Queen Jezebel. He came to the mountain, afraid and depressed. A cave became his refuge from the world but not from himself.
He throws a pity partway in which he is the honored guest.
Following a series of cataclysms, the cave falls silent. In the silence, God speaks. He asks one question:
What are you doing here, Elijah?
I like that question. It is perfect for a man so focused on himself and hiding. It also allows Elijah to tell his story, get it out and lay it all on the table. (It’s incredible how little of our fears we share!)
His answer reveals his humanity. What he is doing there is worrying about himself. He is cowering in fear, seeking survival, and wallowing in depression.
If God asks, “what are you doing here,” what would you say?
Things and their maintenance occupy much mental space. We spend a lot of life worrying about trivia. Hours get invested in work that we will no longer do one day. So does ego. Life centers on me right now and my problems.
I want God to solve my problems so life is more manageable. I want clarity when confused or affirmation when neglected.
And God keeps probing, “what are you doing here?”
I don’t want to really answer that because it never sounds noble. Instead, I want to put on a Miss America Banner that reads, “look at me.”
But back to Elijah.
After Elijah makes his speech, God provides two things.
One is perspective. Let’s look at your situation Elijah. You are the only faithful prophet left? Poppy-cock. I have 7000 prophets who haven’t deserted the faith. Don’t be so full of yourself. Open your eyes, and perhaps you can see.
Don’t we require mental recalibration? Life clouds our vision with spiritual cataracts that fade the colors of the world; all we can see is our own reflection. And when we look, it is drab.
What is really happening in your life? What blessings do you overlook? After trips to Nicaragua, I believe that hot water and a clean bed are luxuries. They are easily forgotten but dreadfully missed.
When God asks, “what are you doing here”, Elijah gets a swift kick in his present pants.
The second blessing God gives is a broader mission.
“And the LORD said to him, “Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus. And when you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael to be king over Syria. And Jehu the son of Nimshi you shall anoint to be king over Israel, and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah you shall anoint to be prophet in your place.” (1 Kings 19:15–16, ESV)
He is to anoint new kings for Israel and Judah and find a protege (Elisha) who one day will step into his shoes when the smoke of the fiery chariot vanishes. In short, God says, “stop thinking about right now and start thinking of what happens next.”
God’s plan is more extensive than my life. Life existed before 1955 and will continue after the casket hits the dirt. Life is too short for stewing over pressing problems. God has a future that we work toward, one that happens even in our absence.
God says get moving. Things need to be done. Don’t sit and wallow. Move and prepare. Make things ready for the next world, the one you will not be part of but that children and grandchildren will occupy. Develop kings. Teach young men and women.
When God asks, “what are you doing here”, Elijah gets a mission that inevitably leads to Jesus.
Each of us huddles in the cave of our own wants and needs. And in that silence, God whispers, “what are you doing here?”
What is it? Our answer determines our life and the future to come.
What are you doing here?