It was not the victory I had anticipated.
The priests of Baal and Asherah lay dead in the valley. Yahweh had given his people a great show of power. The power of the idolaters was to have been broken there on Mount Carmel before the eyes of the whole nation. And the rain – the blessed rain that fell from the same heavens that sent fire to my sacrifice. There could be no doubt that Yahweh is God in Israel.
And yet, I found myself huddled miserably in a cave, starting at every sound, certain that should my eyes close for too long I would open them to find Jezebel’s assassins ready to strike. Despite our great victory, it seemed none in Israel dared defy the queen. I knew the reach of her power. I had not the gall to assume I would be spared.
More frightening than the sounds of the mountain around me was the silence within. Forty days and nights I waited for Yahweh’s voice. From the moment I chose to flee to Horeb, the silence had been stifling. Israel had failed the test. All save myself had fallen away. And Yahweh saw fit to abandon me as well.
As I lay there, awaiting the hoofbeats announcing my murderers, I heard it. The voice I had waited for in vain on my journey. Yahweh’s revelation. It came not with a message to preach, but with a question.
“What are you doing here, Elijah?”
Despite my joy, I was angered. Was it possible Yahweh did not know? Did He care nothing for my life? I laid my devotion before Him, listing my many deeds in His name and reminding Him of the harlotry of the nation.
“I am the only one left!” I shouted in desperation. “And now they are trying to kill me, too.”
“Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.”
I scrambled to my feet. Let Him show me His power once again.
As I came to the mouth of the cave, the blast of wind nearly knocked me back inside. I clung to the rocks, reveling in the buffeting, welcoming the roar in my ears. The sharp dusty scent stung my nostrils. Yes, let Yahweh come in the wind and drive the evil from the hearts of His people. I strained, waiting for the voice in the hurricane.
The wind vanished as suddenly as it started. I sagged against the rocks, bruised from the gale. So it was not to be wind. Surely this was merely a precursor to His true judgement. The display was nothing compared to what was coming, certainly.
A rock tumbled down the mountain. The earth shuddered under my feet, knocking me against the cave opening. I shrank back into the cave, still listening intently for the announcement that Yahweh intended to punish those who had turned from Him. He would let the earth swallow them up. The rocks rained down in front of the cave as the earth rumbled.
The frustration seared through my chest, filling my heart with white-hot rage. This was not solving the problem of an apostate people. If Yahweh meant to take action, he ought to begin at once. The anger so filled me that it took several moments for the crackling sounds outside the cave to become clear. I scrambled to the opening again. Heat prickled against my skin as the fire roared, sweeping across the mountain. It was fearfully beautiful. Yes, yes. Fire – the true purifier. This was how Yahweh would act. I was certain. I ventured out as the flames moved past the cave, eyeing the scorched ground in delight. Just what Israel needed.
Even though I was sure, the silence was unnerving. Yahweh had never failed to speak. What could it mean?
In the silence, I heard His voice. Quiet. Gentle.
“What are you doing here, Elijah?”
I repeated my earlier answer, more confused than before. Yahweh told of a remnant. Of those who were to be anointed to carry on the work I began. Of the faith I ought to have clung to. I was ordered to go be about my calling.
Jezebel’s assassins were no doubt still looking for me. The nation was still fallen away and unrepentant. But I left the mountain that night – retracing my steps into the peril. I thought no more of the danger.
I had heard Yahweh speak.
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