It was as if they believed in vain. Their belief was worthless and in danger of extinction. The nation turned away from its God toward foreign gods, and strange doctrines filled the land.
Zealous in his mission, Elijah gave no rest to his eyes. Dwelling in isolation, he groaned and prayed every night for his God to prove Himself and restore the nation. He prayed for revival. Eventually, he became equipped for his mission.
Coming out of his isolation, Elijah prayed that there should be no rain — that they might believe and turn to his God (see 1 Kings 17). At the command of his God, he invited them to gather for a duel so he could prove Him.
Elijah prayed again, and fire came down from heaven and devoured a sacrificial offering drenched in a sea of water (see 1 Kings 18). His competitors prayed to their gods for the same thing, but nothing happened. He took matters into his own hands and slaughtered his competitors with the sword.
Thinking he had won the nation for his God, he prayed again for rain, and it fell. Unfortunately, the nation did not turn to his God. Instead, he got a death threat from the government with an almost immediate deadline.
In fear, he ran for his life, but ended up praying that God should take it from him. The reply to his request came in the form of an angel who became his chef. Then, the angel told Elijah it was time to meet with his God. He directed him to a mountain called Horeb, the mountain of his God (see 1 Kings 19).
At Horeb, God asked:
“What are you doing here, Elijah?” (1 Kings 19:9, NIV)
“I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and put Your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.” (1 Kings 19:10, NIV)
Then the Lord said:
“Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. (1 Kings 19:11–3, NIV)
And the question was asked again:
“What are you doing here, Elijah?” (1 Kings 19:13, NIV)
Meeting with God always brings us to the realization of truth
It tests whether we are in sync with God. It is a place where our muscles rest and we review our stewardship — it is a place where our busyness does not matter. More than that, our perceptions of who we think God is are tweaked to better fit who God actually is.
This is the same thing that happens in our day to day work. We never know we have been doing things wrong until we step back to reflect. This results in a tweaking of the process, which leads to greater work efficiency.
The story of Elijah the Tishbite is one that exemplifies stewardship — how our work and God’s work intersect. Elijah was an apostle of change. He was evidently highly anointed. He did some great works by divine instruction, while some were self-willed, but they were all aimed towards the fulfillment of the kingdom of God.
A review of Elijah’s story and ministry highlight 5 important points:
1. Anointed and zealous, but not doing everything according to plan
What was he expecting of the appraisal of his ministry when he met with God at Horeb? Perhaps he was expecting applause — “Well done, Elijah. You have done well.”
What he got was a question that indicates his assignment was not yet completed — “Elijah, what are you doing here?” Twice.
What was his personal conviction of who God is, and how did it compare to his realization of who God actually is? Perhaps his conviction was that God uses terror to accomplish His will, but his realization was that God offers grace and reassurance.
The Lord was not in the storm, earthquake, or the fire. Rather, the Lord spoke in a gentle whisper. Being anointed or equipped for mission is not all there is to stewardship. We have to learn to channel it in to the plan of God.
2. When we react to situations as they come, we miss God
When situations do not look as we envisaged they would, sometimes we panic and doubt. Then, we become self-willed, evicting God out of the driver’s seat and taking control of the steering wheel.
At the command of God, Elijah carried out an insurrection. Why was he then afraid at the negative feedback, even to the point of deciding on a suicidal course of action?
We can become overwhelmed with unfavorable situations in stewardship and other spheres of life, but they should not take charge of us to the extent that we forget the potency of He who is leading us.
3. A relational God and a proud human
In this story, we see a relational God — a God who asks questions and speaks with a gentle voice. We also see a proud human, who did not admit his fears. Rather, he highly esteemed his works. Therefore, when he was asked the questions, he did not seek help. Instead, he talked about his zealousness.
He did not admit his fears because of pride. Perhaps he thought to himself: If I have wrought so much for God, how can I allow the government to capture me? How will my competitors react — with mockery?
Therefore, he prayed for God to take his life.
The downside of fear is that it makes us forget past victories. If Elijah had admitted his fears and asked how God could help him, maybe the Lord would have him sent to a place of safety — just like he did at the brook Cherith.
Instead, he forgot his God, who sealed the heavens on his behalf. He forgot the God who fed him from the mouths of ravens.
Compare this response to our Lord Christ who, in spite of all the miracles He worked, admitted His fears at Gethsemane and prayed for help. The result? He received strength. Stewardship requires us to learn to relate to this relational God.
4. The God of second chances
The two voices represent a crossroads.
At the first path, you admit your fears and seek help. There, you get a ready-made answer and go back to your mission. At the second crossroad, you face judgment if you do not turn to God and instead try to do things on your own.
It’s such a remarkable judgment the Lord gave. The Lord did not kill Elijah when he asked for death, even though he walked out of the presence of God. He did start over and anoint Elijah’s replacement.
When we go the wrong way in our stewardship, there is still an opportunity to tun around and make amends.
5. The end goal is to finish well
Elijah did not finish well. He did not complete the mission. Rather, he was evicted and replaced.
If he had persevered, walked completely according to God’s plan and maybe weathered the storm with the 7,000 reserved Israelites (see 1 Kings 19:18), he would have seen the nation turn to his God. He would have heard the kings calling him “My father, my father,” just as they did for Elisha (see 2 Kings 13:14). Perseverance is a virtue we must embrace in stewardship until we see results.
Stewardship is not an easy job. Our input may not produce the required output, and we will grow weary. But our Boss is very accessible (see John 14:26 and 1 John 2:27). Thus, if meeting with God provides a mirror through which we can clearly see how we are doing with our stewardship, then we should endeavor to meet with Him daily as long as we are alive. This will enable us to make turnarounds and readjustments in our stewardship, lest we one day hear the words:
I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness! (Matthew 7:23, NKJV)