Even Great Prophets
can Experience Fear
Why is the prophet Elija hiding in a cave on Mount
Sinai? What happened to the staunch and courageous father of all prophets
"Elijah was afraid and fled for his life."(1 Kings,19:3)
Elijah is afraid? Of what, of whom?
On mount Carmel he had bravely challenged all the prophets of Baal. With
a miraculous intervention of God he had won. But now he is afraid, and
prays to God,
"I have had enough, Lord,' he said. 'Take my life, for I am no better
than my ancestors." (1Kings,19:4)
Yes, because of that victory on mount Carmel, his arch-enemy, queen Jezabel,
has vowed to kill this "disturber of the people".
The fear must have been great indeed, if Elija could walk forty days and
forty nights to reach the mount of God, Sinai.
And it seems that God himself is helping him to reach mount Sinai, by
providing him with food and drink for the journey.
"So Elijah got up and ate and drank, and the food gave him enough
strength to travel forty days and forty nights to Mount Sinai, the mountain
of God. There he came to a cave, where he spent the night."(1 Kings,
Why did Elijah choose mount Sinai as his refuge? May be he wanted to go
to the place where Moses had received the revelation from God, and the
Covenant with God was established.
Perhaps Elija is hiding in the same cave where Moses (more than three
hundred years earlier) was hidden when the Lord passed by before him.
But the prophet Elija is living a completely different experience. He
is discouraged and wants to give up his prophetic mission.
"I have zealously served the Lord God Almighty. But the people of
Israel have broken their covenant with you, torn down your altars, and
killed every one of your prophets. I alone am left, and now they are trying
to kill me, too.'"
The voice of God is clear in the silence of the cave, "and a voice
said, 'What are you doing here, Elijah?'" (1 Kings, 19:3)
A prophet can not hide himself in a cave. God will strengthen him, heal
his fears and send him back to his mission.
"Go out and stand before me on the mountain," the Lord told
him. And as Elijah stood there, the Lord passed by, and a mighty windstorm
hit the mountain. It was such a terrible blast that the rocks were torn
loose, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake,
but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake there
was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there
was the sound of a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his
face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave.
Then the Lord told him, "Go back the way you came, and travel to
the wilderness of Damascus." (1 Kings, 19: 11-13,15)
A strong wind, an earthquake, a fire, are all signs of the presence of
God, but not this time! It is only when Elijah hears the sound of a gentle
breeze, that he knows right away that God is there. But the gentle whisper
does not mean gentle words! The command from God is clear, "Go back
the way you came"!
And Elijah left the cave, and returned to his mission.