Once again this morning we find ourselves in a cave and while you could see that this cave was a fun and exciting place for the children all week, cave stories in the bible weren’t always fun and exciting. In fact, many times the people who find themselves in a cave were there because things had been difficult for them and they didn’t know what else to do or where else to go. Last week we heard about David who was being pursued by Saul so fled into the wilderness and hid out in a random cave to try and save his life. Today we are going to hear about the prophet Elijah who was also running to save his life but unlike David, Elijah doesn’t hide in a random cave, Elijah ran to a very specific cave in a very special location. Elijah hid himself in a cave on Mt. Horeb which was known as the mountain of God.
Elijah’s story is found in 1 Kings 19 and it says Elijah was running from Queen Jezebel who wanted to kill Elijah because he had all the false prophets who were loyal to Jezebel killed. 1 Kings 19:1-3a Elijah was exhausted and afraid so started running but unlike David who ended up in a random cave, Elijah ended up at Horeb, the Mountain of God, 1 Kings 19:8-9a. Elijah teaches us an important lesson here. When we are alone and afraid, it’s ok to run but we need to run to God.
When we need rest, strength or help, were do we run? Where do we turn? Too often we run straight into the world looking for the answers to all that we need. We run to find our sleep number so we can get better rest.
We run to fad diets or the latest herbal supplement to give ourselves strength.
We run to find the newest self help book to find the advice and wisdom we need.
Too often we turn to the world to find our answers instead of turning to God, but Elijah turned to God. When he was afraid and in need, Elijah ran and in time God led him to the best place to hide out, the Mountain of God.
While we can’t run to Horeb when we are in need, we can still run to God by turning to those times and places where we can experience God. That’s what Elijah really wanted; he wanted to experience the presence of God. Elijah wanted to hear God’s voice or feel God’s power and presence and Mt. Horeb was the best place to find that. When we are in need we need run to those places where we can hear, see or feel God’s presence and power. For some this might be a quiet place in the woods, for others it might be in the word of God alone or with a group. For some it may be moments of silent prayer but for others it might be in songs of loud praise. When we are afraid, tired and in need of help we need to run to God with the expectation of meeting God when we get there.
Once Elijah got to Mt. Horeb he tried to just sit and wait for God to do all the work, but for Elijah to experience God he had to do his part and the first thing Elijah had to do was physically get up. 1 Kings 19:11a. Elijah had to get up and go out to the mouth of the cave. Elijah had to physically move and change his position. Sometimes if we are going to experience God we also need to get up and get moving and change our position. It is too easy to just sit and do nothing waiting for God to come and do all the work in changing our bad situation, but God calls us to get up and be part of changing our lives.
If we want to hear and see the fullness of God then we need to get up and put ourselves in places where we can experience God. If we want to feel God’s direction in our life then we need to start moving and let God’s hand guide us. A friend of mine had a great saying, he always said, it is easier to steer a moving car than a parked car. In other words, if want to know God’s direction for our life then we need to get up and start doing something and let God direct us. If we are looking for God, then we need to get up and go look for him; trust me, we won’t have to look far or long because the power and presence of God are all around us. If we want to experience God then we need to move. We need to move into small groups and learn, move into missions and serve. We need to move into worship and sing and pray and hear God’s word. We need to take an active part in our faith and change our position, change our perspective. If we will move, God will meet us on the way.
Not only did God tell Elijah to get up and move but he also told Elijah to look and listen because God was going to pass by. God told Elijah to open his eyes and look around because God was going to be there. He told Elijah to open his ears and listen to see if he could hear God speaking and he told Elijah to open his heart so that he could feel God’s presence. Elijah had to be open to God, he had to be searching for God with all his senses with the expectation that God would be there.
Are we open to God? To experience God we have to open our eyes to see God and open our ears to hear God and open our hearts so that we can feel God moving in us and around us. Elijah opened himself up to God and searched for God so when a mighty wind blew on the mountain, Elijah listened for God in that wind but he did not hear him. Then there was an earthquake and Elijah felt to see if God was present in the movement of the mountain, but God was not there. Then there was a great fire and Elijah looked to see if God was in the flames but God was not. Elijah was tuned into God – he was searching for God. He was listening and watching and even opening himself up to feel God’s presence in all that was going on around him but God was not there.
Elijah kept searching, however and because he remained open to God, Elijah finally heard and experienced God in the sheer silence that settled on the mountain. It is often in the unexpected times and places that we experience God most powerfully. It is often in the most unlikely people and events that we hear God or sense God’s presence. In my own life it was the simple hug of a child that brought me the power of God’s healing. It was the ramblings of an Alzheimer’s patient that spoke God’s truth and it was through the devastation of a storm that God’s hand gave direction. It’s not always the silence that brings God’s presence it’s the unexpected. It is in the unlikely times and places that God often tries to offer us help and if we are open to God then we will experience God.
Think about Jesus. God came into the world in a very unexpected way, born to an unknown and unlikely couple in the little town of Bethlehem. Jesus lived an unassuming life and didn’t act like the religious leaders of his day. And how unlikely that it would be the Roman death penalty and a wooden cross that would be the means by which God would redeem the world. For those who had eyes to see and ears to hear and hearts to feel God in those days – they were able to see God in Jesus.
It is important that we stay open to God and that means asking God to help us see Him at work in all the moments of our lives and asking God to help us hear him above all the noise of our culture. Being open to God is living each day with a sense of expectation that God is still moving and anticipating that we will see and hear and feel God each and every day. God promises us that we will hear and see and feel him if we will search for him. God said, you will find me if you search for me with all your heart. God doesn’t hide from us – God is here for us to see, hear and experience if we will open our eyes, ears and heart.
Experiencing God’s presence and power was not the end of the story for Elijah, he was then told to leave the cave and get back to work. As much as staying in the safety of God’s mountain must have been inviting for Elijah, God sent him back into the world, but God didn’t load down Elijah with all that had to be done, he just sent him out to take the next simple step. Elijah was afraid to leave because he felt like he was the only one left in all Israel who was faithful to God and everything that needed to happen and change in the world was overwhelming. Elijah felt hopeless, but God simply told Elijah to go out and anoint one person to be the king of Aram. Then Elijah was to anoint one more person to be the king of Israel and then Elijah was to anoint one more person to be the prophet who would follow him. That’s all Elijah had to do, go out and anoint three people. God would then use those three people to turn everything around.
When we feel overwhelmed by life and are tired and afraid of all that we see going on around us, God doesn’t always tell us to go out and take on the world, sometimes God just says, go out and take the next simple step. What’s the next step God has for you today? Maybe it’s to keep worshipping as a family. Maybe it’s to continue to bring your children to Sunday School and Children’s Church. Maybe it’s to support missions through the Ice Cream social on Friday or the VBS offering. Maybe the next step is to go on a mission trip and serve those in need in Clearfield or in other places of need. Maybe it’s to open our own eyes and ears as we read God’s word alone and with others in small groups and studies.
The needs of the world are overwhelming Terrorism in France, Political unrest in Turkey, Political and Social divisions at home and what can we really do to change any of it? It all seems too big and too complex and too overwhelming, but God is just calling us to take the next simple and faithful step. We aren’t done yet, God can use us if we will allow God to. Our story is not over.
Elijah’s story was not over, in fact, one of the most important things in Elijah’s life was to anoint Elisha to be the prophet who would follow him so that the work of God could continue. Maybe the next step we have is to help train and bless and anoint those who will follow us in mission and ministry. If the work of God is to continue at Faith Church and in our community it is going to be because all of us are looking for and inviting others to step up and serve God. You may be the one needing to step up and serve or you may be the one needing to anoint those stepping out to serve, but for all of us, our story is not over, there are more steps to take – important steps to take.
In the troubled times we face as a nation and world and with our own doubts, fears and anxiety at work in our lives, let us run to God today and let us open ourselves up fully to experience God’s presence and to feel God’s power so that like Elijah we can take that next step in faith.
Cave Stories – Elijah
1 David ran through the wilderness, Elijah ran to Horeb, the Mountain of God. Name three ways you can run to God.
2. God told Elijah to get up and move in order to experience God. In what way might you need to move in order to experience God?
• What might you need to leave behind to experience God?
• What might you need to take up to experience God?
3. Where do you most see, hear and feel God’s presence? How can you go there more often?
4. Elijah had to open his ear, eyes and heart to experience God in the silence. How might you open yourself up to the fullness of God’s presence during this week?
5. Elijah was told to go back to his life by taking the next faithful step. What is the next faithful step in your life? What one thing is God asking you to do this week?
6. Join us on Friday for an Ice Cream social as we support the future mission work of Faith Church. Bring the family along to watch Finding Nemo and make it a night of fellowship and fun.