Out of God's Presence
Updated: Apr 2, 2020
Elijah is one of my favorite Bible characters. Actually, other than Jesus he is probably my favorite. He is a figure of great spiritual fortitude. He trusts God, walks with God, and is empowered by God. More than that though, he is eccentric, sarcastic, and wild. Elijah is a character who can’t be tamed. No one can seem to overpower him, other than God.
Elijah bursts onto the scene in 1 Kings chapter 17 in a way few characters in the Bible ever have. Elijah declares a famine over the land of Israel, and lo and behold a famine began! Can you imagine being so connected with God’s power, that you are able to tell nature to stop working? Elijah was. This was how Elijah was introduced into the Biblical narrative! Talk about an incredible opening act!
Right after Elijah declared a famine on the land though, the word of God came to him, and told him to go hide from all the kings and powerful people. God sent Elijah to the “mouth of the Wadi Cherith.”
For context it is important to note that a “wadi,” was simply a rock bed extending from a river, that would gush with water during the rainy season and dry up during the summer. The “Wadi Cherith” was a specific wadi, one that, based on the name “Cherith,” would have created covering for Elijah in the form of a ravine or possibly even a cave.
So, after pronouncing a famine over the land, God then told Elijah, “Hey, good job in bringing the famine through my power, but now I’m going to send you out to the middle of nowhere. I want you to go hide in a cave.”
The entire kingdom of Israel was about to undergo a severe famine. People were going to starve. The poor, sick, and feeble would all die. The suffering would seem to be endless. And yet, rather than keeping Elijah in the kingdom to ensure he could help those who were suffering, God sent him into the middle of the wilderness. Why?
I think the answer to this question lies in the observation of our tendencies in times of chaos. Think about all the moments of chaos we go through in life, all the times of worries and anxieties. How often do these times of chaos propel us to be more still than we were before? I’m not talking about praying for God’s help, or saying, “God is allowing this to happen for a reason.” What I’m wondering is, How often do chaotic times push us towards stillness?
If we are being truthful, I think we could easily say chaos breeds chaos. It isn’t often that we are able to see a chaotic world around us, and then determine, “Oh, I should probably just pause and think and be still.”
Our general reaction to times of fear, anxiety, and turmoil is to be affected by all that is taking place. The world is in disarray, so we panic and buy all the toilet paper the supermarket has. My finances are in critical condition, so I do whatever it takes to fix it. There is confusion and a plethora of questions over how everything is going to be fixed, so we search the web and social media for answers even if they aren’t validated.
It is so incredibly easy to allow existential circumstances to permeate our internal state. Unfortunately, when we allow the chaos of the world to breed chaos in our heart, we are just creating a bigger issue.
I truly believe this is why, as the kingdom of Israel was about to be plunged into chaos, God told Elijah, “Hey, go away into seclusion, and simply be with me.” The best thing we can do in this time of strife, as the world seems to be crashing all around us, is to slip into God’s presence, so that everything we do comes out from our time spent with Him.
When teaching on the difference between the possessions of the world vs. the Kingdom of Heaven, Jesus expresses the difference between choosing worry vs. receiving peace.
27 “Consider how the wildflowers grow: They don’t labor or spin thread. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was adorned like one of these. 28 If that’s how God clothes the grass, which is in the field today and is thrown into the furnace tomorrow, how much more will he do for you—you of little faith? 29 Don’t strive for what you should eat and what you should drink, and don’t be anxious. 30 For the Gentile world eagerly seeks all these things, and your Father knows that you need them.
31 “But seek his kingdom, and these things will be provided for you. 32 Don’t be afraid, little flock, because your Father delights to give you the kingdom. 33 Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Make money-bags for yourselves that won’t grow old, an inexhaustible treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Luke 12:27-34)
The truth is, there are a lot of things in this world to be worried about. If it isn’t a famine, it’s a sickness; if it isn’t a sickness, it’s a war; if it isn’t a war, it’s politics; if it isn’t politics, it’s social constructs. The only way we can combat and face the worries that are persistent within this world, is to keep our sole focus on the Kingdom that is soon to come.
That’s why God pulled Elijah away from the turmoil that was taking place, and what God did with Elijah is what He is trying to do with us as well. The question is, are you allowing Him to pull you into His presence, or are you letting the chaos that is continually ensuing take hold of your heart? We will continually have fear and anxiety within us, until we allow for God’s presence to consistently show us the Kingdom He has prepared.
Questions for Reflection
1. Take a look at the text in 1 Kings 17:1-16. What did Elijah do after being in God’s presence? Why do you think he was able to do it?
2. How does Jesus’s teaching on worry, and not focusing on the possessions and things of this world, apply to the way we face conflict and fear in life?
3. How have you come into God’s presence lately? Have you been able to draw near to Him consistently? What can you do in order to maintain a participation in His presence? What do you seek to gain from being in His presence?