THE CAVE OF WITHDRAWAL
It can be a crushing experience to give your very best and still fall short. Elijah had been discouraged with his inability to effect revival in God's people. He fled Jezebel and traveled south nearly two hundred miles to Horeb where he lodged in a cave on the mountain side.
Scripture tells us that hope deferred makes the heart sick ( Proverbs 13:12 ). Elijah had lost hope that revival would come to Israel. When we lose hope we simultaneously lose faith, Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen ( Hebrews 11:1 ). Without faith or hope, all we have is a empty religion.
Do you remember how you felt when you were younger and your birthday approached? You were excited and anxious. You knew you would receive gifts and other special treats. But some things would be a surprise. Birthdays combined surprise and anticipation, and so does fait! Faith is the conviction on past experience that God's new and fresh surprise will surely be ours. Two word describe our faith: confidence and certainty. These two qualities need a secxure beginning and ending point. The beginning point of faith is believing in God's character - He is who He says. The ending point is believing in God's promises - He will do what He says. When we believe that God will fulfill His promises even though we don't see those promises materializing yet, we demonstrate true faith ( see John 20:24-31 ).
When we become heartsick with disappointment and discouragement, we also lose perspective. We feel that we are responsible for the results. We must remember, apart from the cooperating work of the Holy Spirit, no man can change another person's heart, much less the heart of a city or nation.
Most of Elijah's discouragement came from the false expectations he had placed upon himself. Upon receiving an assignment from the Lord, it is not hard to begin imediately to imagine the results. We project ourselves prematurely into a place of success and fulfillment. Yet, we do not know what the results will be, only that we should obey the Lord. We must leave the fulfillment into the hands of Him who does exceedingly abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us( Ephesians 3:20 ). Elijah withdrew into a cave on Horeb. For us, self-pity can also become a spiritual cave. It can trap us in a dark hole of loneliness and pain. In this place of isolation we fail to hear the encouragement of God: all we really hear is the echo of our own voice magnifyingf and distorting our problems. Elijah was alone and despairing, yet the Lord knew his heart. What are you doing hear trhe Lord asked. And he said, I have been very zealous for the Lord God of hosts: for the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thine prophets with the sword: and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away ( I Kings 19:10 ).
Elijah thought he was the only person left who was still true to God. He had seen both the king's court and the priesthood become corrupt. After experience great victory at Mount Carmel, he had to run for his life. Lonely and discouraged, he forgot that others had remained faithful in the midst of the nation's wickedness. When you are tempted to feel you are the only one remaining faithful to a task, don't stop to feel sorry for yourself. Self pity will dilute the good you are doing. Be assured that even if you don't know who they are, others are faithfully obeying God and fulfilling their duties.
Elijah wanted desparately to see the nation awakened, but he did not understand the role God would have him play. Perhaps Elijah's main mistake was that he was personally shouldering the burden of Israel's revival. Not knowing his own place, he assumed the place of God. Calling Elijah out of the cave, the Lord told him, Go forth, and stand on the mountain before the Lord ( v.11 ). As Elijah stepped out of the cave's darkness, an awesome event occurred.
And He said, Go forth, and stand on the mount before the Lord. And, behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake 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 ( I Kings 19:11, 12 ).The Lord did not reveal Himself to Elijah in the spectacular ways by which He had shown Himself to Moses. To this discouraged, dispondent old prophet, God responds in gentleness. Elijah thought he was the only person left who was still true to God. He had seen both the King's court and the priesthood become corrupt. After experiencing great victory at Mount Carmel, he had to run for his life. Lonely and discouraged,he had forgot that others had remained faithful in the midst of the nations wickedness. When you feel you are the only one remaining faithful to a task, don't feel dorry for yourself. Self-pity will dilute the good you are doing. Be assured that even if you don't know who theyare, others are faithfully obeying God and fulfilling their duties. Elijah knew that the still small voice was God's. He realized God doesn't reveal Himself only in powerful, miraculous ways. To look for God only in something big (rallies, churches, confrences,highly visible leaders)maybe to miss Him, because He is often found gently whispering in the quietness of a humble heart. Are you listening for God? Step back from the noise and activity of your busy life and listen humbly and quietly for His guidance. It may come when you least expect it.