Prophet Elijah is one of the greatest and most romantic characters in the Old Testament. He emerges into the biblical narrative with thunder. Only one verse after his introduction in I Kings we see him walking fearlessly into the court of the king Ahab and declaring a divine punishment of famine. His prophetic ministry was full of majesty, mystery and miracles, stories of healing and resurrection of the dead, fire descending from heaven and rivers being divided by his mere word. We see animals and angels serving and helping him, personal encounters with God and the living-breathing presence of the Lord in everything he did and said. Not only was Elijah a fearless super prophet and a man of faith, but also one of only a few human beings to be taken to heaven alive, without experiencing death. His impact and influence is apparent in the sheer number of references to his ministry found in the Old and New Testaments, including some by Christ himself. We recall and remember Elijah every time we do a hokehankist service in the hymn ‘ee Vereen’.
One would think that with such a powerful divine presence in his life and ministry Elijah probably had a very peaceful life and fruitful ministry. But the reality was quite the opposite. Not only was his prophetic message rejected by all, but it also angered the king and the queen who were determined to find and kill the outspoken prophet. This hostile response to his selfless service and commitment utterly broke the spirit of the great and gentle prophet. Elijah sought refuge in the solitude and silence of the desert. Without water and food in the desert, all alone, he started a forty day journey to the mountain of God – Mount Sinai – to express his disappointment to God and to ask the Lord to reveal him of his prophetic ministry.
The biblical account of God’s response and reaction is both humbling and mesmerizing. God knew exactly how Elijah felt, what precisely he was going through even before Elijah would reach the holy mountain and express his disappointment to God. The creator of the heavens and earth could connect and share the mere mortal’s struggle and heartbreak. There was no condemnation, no blame, no questions asked why Elijah abandoned his call and ministry. Instead, we see God’s loving embrace and understanding demonstrated by sustaining his servant, by sending his angels to care for him and provide him with drink and food when the exhausted prophet would fall asleep. It was through his personal encounter with the Lord himself, by sharing his worries and dismay with God that Elijah would find peace and empowerment to embrace his new assignment of going back and preaching not only to the kings and queens of Israel, who were seeking to kill him, but also to the king of Syria – the principal enemy of Israel.
We all can relate to the story of Elijah, we all at times feel just like him. Moments when the challenges and demands we face hold us hostage. Moments when we feel powerless against the tremendous waves of troubles and tribulations shaking our lives violently. Times when frustration, puzzlement, heartbreak and hopelessness become the only reality. Times when we, like Elijah, are ready to give up, retrieve to the desert of loneliness and despair.
But we are never quite as alone as we think because God is right there with us. Even if our minds can not discern, understand and feel it – the angels of the Lord are there to protect and sustain us just as they did with prophet Elijah. If only we can gather enough strength and patience to reach the holy mountain of God – He is there waiting for us, ready to listen, comfort and restore us. The holy mountain symbolizes the place where we find and encounter God in our lives. We find and step into our holy mountain through our prayers and reflection, through picking up our Bibles and allowing the living word of God to touch our souls and speak to us. The peace that we find through our prayerful encounter with the Lord does not only have qualities to heal and restore us, but also to enable and empower us to reach new horizons and new possibilities. Then we, like the prophet Elijah, can feel the presence of the Lord flowing through our veins, guiding us and working through us.