And the word of the LORD came to him: “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
1 Kings 19.9
Crossing the Line
This verse finds Elijah hiding out, disgusted, depressed, and afraid. Ironically, it comes after he triumphantly humiliated a group of idolaters in a sort of “Battle of the Gods.” With Israel plagued by drought, King Ahab staged the event hoping one of them would bring rain. After Baal failed, God performed in spectacular fashion. In a fit of bravado, Elijah slaughtered his enemies. Then rain poured from the sky.
God proved Himself, but Elijah crossed the line trying to end the debate once and for all. When Queen Jezebel learned Elijah murdered Baal’s prophets, she swore revenge. He fled for his life, plopped down, and whined, “I’ve had enough, Lord. Kill me now.” He kept running, eventually settling in a cave. That’s when God asked, “What are you doing here?”
Déjà Vu All Over Again
“I’m Your biggest fan,” Elijah complained. “Israel turned away, but I defended You. Now I’m all alone and they want to kill me.” God didn’t buy it. “Go wait outside,” He said, “and I’ll come by.” A powerful wind shook the mountain; God wasn’t in it. Next came an earthquake and fire—no God in them, either. Finally, Elijah heard a gentle whisper. “What are you doing here, Elijah?” God repeated. Elijah sang the same sad song. It was déjà vu all over again. He didn’t get the question. It wasn’t “Why are you here?” It was “What are you doing here?”
Defending vs. Doing
Today’s volatile climate can easily lure us into religious showdowns not unlike Elijah’s. First, we should avoid debates about whom God accepts, sexuality, etc. That’s His business. Second, we have nothing to prove because we can’t prove anything. The Bible clearly defines faith as belief based entirely on hope without evidence. Third, we learn from Elijah that embarrassing our adversaries feels grand at first, but it ultimately creates problems that alienate and frighten us. When we should be out in the open, following Christ, we’re holed up somewhere, going no place. We won’t hear God in tumults. But, sooner or later, He’ll quietly ask, “What are you doing?”
It turned out God needed Elijah to get things done. He reeled off His plan to remove Elijah's enemies and provide a colleague, Elisha, to stand with him What's more, Elijah was far from alone. God had 7,000 believers ready to do what's right. Righteousness and truth don't need defending. They need doing.