"What Doest Thou Here?"
[This chapter is based on 1 Kings 19:9-18.]
Elijah's retreat on Mount Horeb, though hidden from man, was known to
God; and the weary and discouraged prophet was not left to struggle
alone with the powers of darkness that were pressing upon him. At the
entrance to the cave wherein Elijah had taken refuge, God met with him,
through a mighty angel sent to inquire into his needs and to make plain
the divine purpose for Israel.
Not until Elijah had learned to trust wholly in God could he complete
his work for those who had been seduced into Baal worship. The signal
triumph on the heights of Carmel had opened the way for still greater
victories; yet from the wonderful opportunities opening before him,
Elijah had been turned away by the threat of Jezebel. The man of God
must be made to understand the weakness of his present position as
compared with the vantage ground the Lord would have him occupy.
God met His tried servant with the inquiry, "What doest thou
here, Elijah? I sent you to the brook Cherith and afterward to the widow
of Sarepta. I commissioned you to return to Israel and to stand before
the idolatrous priests on Carmel, and I girded you with strength to
guide the chariot of the king to the gate of Jezreel. But who sent you
on this hasty flight into the wilderness? What errand have you here?
In bitterness of soul Elijah mourned out his complaint: "I have
been very jealous for the Lord God of hosts: for the children of Israel
have forsaken Thy covenant, thrown down Thine altars, and slain Thy
prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my
life, to take it away."
Calling upon the prophet to leave the cave, the angel bade him stand
before the Lord on the mount, and listen to His word. "And, behold,
the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and
brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the
wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the
earthquake: and after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the
fire: and after the fire a still small voice. And it was so, when Elijah
heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and
stood in the entering in of the cave."
Not in mighty manifestations of divine power, but by "a still
small voice," did God choose to reveal Himself to His servant. He
desired to teach Elijah that it is not always the work that makes the
greatest demonstration that is most successful in accomplishing His
purpose. While Elijah waited for the revelation of the Lord, a tempest
rolled, the lightnings flashed, and a devouring fire swept by; but God
was not in all this. Then there came a still, small voice, and the
prophet covered his head before the presence of the Lord. His petulance
was silenced, his spirit softened and subdued. He now knew that a quiet
trust, a firm reliance on God, would ever find for him a present help in
time of need.
It is not always the most learned presentation of God's truth that
convicts and converts the soul. Not by eloquence or logic are men's
hearts reached, but by the sweet influences of the Holy Spirit, which
operate quietly yet surely in transforming and developing character. It
is the still, small voice of the Spirit of God that has power to change
"What doest thou here, Elijah?" the voice inquired; and
again the prophet answered, "I have been very jealous for the Lord
God of hosts: because the children of Israel have forsaken Thy covenant,
thrown down Thine altars, and slain Thy prophets with the sword; and I,
even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away."
The Lord answered Elijah that the wrongdoers in Israel should not go
unpunished. Men were to be especially chosen to fulfill the divine
purpose in the punishment of the idolatrous kingdom. There was stern
work to be done, that all might be given opportunity to take their
position on the side of the true God. Elijah himself was to return to
Israel, and share with others the burden of bringing about a
"Go," the Lord commanded Elijah, "return on thy way to
the wilderness of Damascus: and when thou comest, anoint Hazael to be
king over Syria: and Jehu the son of Nimshi shalt thou anoint to be king
over Israel: and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah shalt thou
anoint to be prophet in thy room. And it shall come to pass, that him
that escapeth the sword of Hazael shall Jehu slay: and him that escapeth
from the sword of Jehu shall Elisha slay."
Elijah had thought that he alone in Israel was a worshiper of the
true God. But He who reads the hearts of all revealed to the prophet
that there were many others who, through the long years of apostasy, had
remained true to Him. "I have left Me," God said, "seven
thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal, and
every mouth which hath not kissed him."
From Elijah's experience during those days of discouragement and
apparent defeat there are many lessons to be drawn, lessons invaluable
to the servants of God in this age, marked as it is by general departure
from right. The apostasy prevailing today is similar to that which in
the prophet's day overspread Israel. In the exaltation of the human
above the divine, in the praise of popular leaders, in the worship of
mammon, and in the placing of the teachings of science above the truths
of revelation, multitudes today are following after Baal. Doubt and
unbelief are exercising their baleful influence over mind and heart, and
many are substituting for the oracles of God the theories of men. It is
publicly taught that we have reached a time when human reason should be
exalted above the teachings of the Word. The law of God, the divine
standard of righteousness, is declared to be of no effect. The enemy of
all truth is working with deceptive power to cause men and women to
place human institutions where God should be, and to forget that which
was ordained for the happiness and salvation of mankind.
Yet this apostasy, widespread as it has come to be, is not universal.
Not all in the world are lawless and sinful; not all have taken sides
with the enemy. God has many thousands who have not bowed the knee to
Baal, many who long to understand more fully in regard to Christ and the
law, many who are hoping against hope that Jesus will come soon to end
the reign of sin and death. And there are many who have been worshiping
Baal ignorantly, but with whom the Spirit of God is still striving.
These need the personal help of those who have learned to know God
and the power of His word. In such a time as this, every child of God
should be actively engaged in helping others. As those who have an
understanding of Bible truth try to seek out the men and women who are
longing for light, angels of God will attend them. And where angels go,
none need fear to move forward. As a result of the faithful efforts of
consecrated workers, many will be turned from idolatry to the worship of
the living God. Many will cease to pay homage to man-made institutions
and will take their stand fearlessly on the side of God and His law.
Much depends on the unceasing activity of those who are true and
loyal, and for this reason Satan puts forth every possible effort to
thwart the divine purpose to be wrought out through the obedient. He
causes some to lose sight of their high and holy mission, and to become
satisfied with the pleasures of this life. He leads them to settle down
at ease, or, for the sake of greater worldly advantages, to remove from
places where they might be a power for good. Others he causes to flee in
discouragement from duty, because of opposition or persecution. But all
such are regarded by Heaven with tenderest pity. To every child of God
whose voice the enemy of souls had succeeded in silencing, the question
is addressed, "What doest thou here?" I commissioned you to go
into all the world and preach the gospel, to prepare a people for the
day of God. Why are you here? Who sent you?
The joy set before Christ, the joy that sustained Him through
sacrifice and suffering, was the joy of seeing sinners saved. This
should be the joy of every follower of His, the spur to his ambition.
Those who realize, even in a limited degree, what redemption means to
them and to their fellow men, will comprehend in some measure the vast
needs of humanity. Their hearts will be moved to compassion as they see
the moral and spiritual destitution of thousands who are under the
shadow of a terrible doom, in comparison with which physical suffering
fades into nothingness.
Of families, as of individuals, the question is asked, "What
doest thou here?" In many churches there are families well
instructed in the truths of God's word, who might widen the sphere of
their influence by moving to places in need of the ministry they are
capable of giving. God calls for Christian families to go into the dark
places of the earth and work wisely and perseveringly for those who are
enshrouded in spiritual gloom. To answer this call requires
self-sacrifice. While many are waiting to have every obstacle removed,
souls are dying, without hope and without God. For the sake of worldly
advantage, for the sake of acquiring scientific knowledge, men are
willing to venture into pestilential regions and to endure hardship and
privation. Where are those who are willing to do as much for the sake of
telling others of the Saviour?
If, under trying circumstances, men of spiritual power, pressed
beyond measure, become discouraged and desponding, if at times they see
nothing desirable in life, that they should choose it, this is nothing
strange or new. Let all such remember that one of the mightiest of the
prophets fled for his life before the rage of an infuriated woman. A
fugitive, weary and travel-worn, bitter disappointment crushing his
spirits, he asked that he might die. But it was when hope was gone and
his lifework seemed threatened with defeat, that he learned one of the
most precious lessons of his life. In the hour of his greatest weakness
he learned the need and the possibility of trusting God under
circumstances the most forbidding.
Those who, while spending their life energies in self-sacrificing
labor, are tempted to give way to despondency and distrust, may gather
courage from the experience of Elijah. God's watchful care, His love,
His power, are especially manifest in behalf of His servants whose zeal
is misunderstood or unappreciated, whose counsels and reproofs are
slighted, and whose efforts toward reform are repaid with hatred and
It is at the time of greatest weakness that Satan assails the soul
with the fiercest temptations. It was thus that he hoped to prevail over
the Son of God; for by this policy he had gained many victories over
man. When the will power weakened and faith failed, then those who had
stood long and valiantly for the right yielded to temptation. Moses,
wearied with forty years of wandering and unbelief, lost for a moment
his hold on Infinite Power. He failed just on the borders of the
Promised Land. So with Elijah. He who had maintained his trust in
Jehovah during the years of drought and famine, he who had stood
undaunted before Ahab, he who throughout that trying day on Carmel had
stood before the whole nation of Israel the sole witness to the true
God, in a moment of weariness allowed the fear of death to overcome his
faith in God.
And so it is today. When we are encompassed with doubt, perplexed by
circumstances, or afflicted by poverty or distress, Satan seeks to shake
our confidence in Jehovah. It is then that he arrays before us our
mistakes and tempts us to distrust God, to question His love. He hopes
to discourage the soul and break our hold on God.
Those who, standing in the forefront of the conflict, are impelled by
the Holy Spirit to do a special work, will frequently feel a reaction
when the pressure is removed. Despondency may shake the most heroic
faith and weaken the most steadfast will. But God understands, and He
still pities and loves. He reads the motives and the purposes of the
heart. To wait patiently, to trust when everything looks dark, is the
lesson that the leaders in God's work need to learn. Heaven will not
fail them in their day of adversity.
Nothing is apparently more helpless, yet really more invincible, than
the soul that feels its nothingness and relies wholly on God.
Not alone for men in positions of large responsibility is the lesson
of Elijah's experience in learning anew how to trust God in the hour of
trial. He who was Elijah's strength is strong to uphold every struggling
child of His, no matter how weak. Of everyone He expects loyalty, and to
everyone He grants power according to the need. In his own strength man
is strengthless; but in the might of God he may be strong to overcome
evil and to help others to overcome. Satan can never gain advantage of
him who makes God his defense. "Surely, shall one say, in the Lord
have I righteousness and strength." Isaiah 45:24.
Fellow Christian, Satan knows your weakness; therefore cling to
Jesus. Abiding in God's love, you may stand every test. The
righteousness of Christ alone can give you power to stem the tide of
evil that is sweeping over the world. Bring faith into your experience.
Faith lightens every burden, relieves every weariness. Providences that
are now mysterious you may solve by continued trust in God. Walk by
faith in the path He marks out. Trials will come, but go forward. This
will strengthen your faith and fit you for service. The records of
sacred history are written, not merely that we may read and wonder, but
that the same faith which wrought in God's servants of old may work in
us. In no less marked manner will the Lord work now, wherever there are
hearts of faith to be channels of His power.
To us, as to Peter, the word is spoken, "Satan hath desired to
have you, that he may sift you as wheat: but I have prayed for thee,
that thy faith fail not." Luke 22:31, 32. Christ will never abandon
those for whom He has died. We may leave Him and be overwhelmed with
temptation, but Christ can never turn from one for whom He has paid the
ransom of His own life. Could our spiritual vision be quickened, we
should see souls bowed under oppression and burdened with grief, pressed
as a cart beneath sheaves, and ready to die in discouragement. We should
see angels flying quickly to the aid of these tempted ones, forcing back
the hosts of evil that encompass them, and placing their feet on the
sure foundation. The battles waging between the two armies are as real
as those fought by the armies of this world, and on the issue of the
spiritual conflict eternal destinies depend.
In the vision of the prophet Ezekiel there was the appearance of a
hand beneath the wings of the cherubim. This is to teach God's servants
that it is divine power that gives success. Those whom God employs as
His messengers are not to feel that His work is dependent on them.
Finite beings are not left to carry this burden of responsibility. He
who slumbers not, who is continually at work for the accomplishment of
His designs, will carry forward His work. He will thwart the purposes of
wicked men and will bring to confusion the counsels of those who plot
mischief against His people. He who is the King, the Lord of hosts,
sitteth between the cherubim, and amidst the strife and tumult of
nations. He guards His children still. When the strongholds of kings
shall be overthrown, when the arrows of wrath shall strike through the
hearts of His enemies, His people will be safe in His hands.
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