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Elijah Meets Yahweh

Elijah travels to Sinai to meet with God.

Written by David Steltz on .

Notes

Introduction/Recap

Today, we’ll be continuing in the story of Elijah. This is our third week in Elijah, and I’m planning to wrap it up next week.

This is one of my favorite sections of the Old Testament, so it has been really fun to study it and share it with you, as you know if you’ve been here the past couple weeks, I get pretty excited about Elijah’s whole story.

And we’ve established that not only is Elijah a lot of fun to study, he’s also one of the most significant of all the prophets, second only to Moses, and his story bears significance not just on its own but in the larger-scale narrative of the whole Old Testament and even into the New Testament.

The passage we’re going to look at today is no exception to that.

Even though last week we looked at what is probably the most epic and climactic chapter of the story, I think the next passage is actually my favorite. It’s still quite dramatic and theatrical, and we’ll even get more fire at one point! And the message is powerful.

We’ll be picking up the story in 1 Kings chapter 19, but I want to do a quick recap first of what’s happened so far.

Orientation

Remember, we’re in the time of kings, after the Judges, before the Exile.

timeline

It’s after king David, after king Solomon, after Israel divided into two separate kingdoms: Israel in the North, and Judah in the South.

The book of 1 Kings documents all the kings that came after Solomon, and it goes back and forth between Israel and Judah, listing all the kings who ruled, and whether or not they were good or bad kings. Most of them were bad.

geneology

Ahab & Jezebel

Towards the end of chapter 16, we get to Ahab, and he’s the 6th king after Jeroboam, who led the revolt and secession of Israel from Judah. So he’s roughly right in the middle of the list of kings.

And he’s kind of surrounded by bad kings, but he stands out as being especially bad, worse than all the kings who came before him.

On top of that, he marries this woman Jezebel, who’s just as bad or worse than him, and very motivated against Yahweh, the God of Israel. She tries to kill all of the prophets of Yahweh, while supporting hundreds of prophets of Baal and Asherah, the gods of her people, and thereby influences and incites Ahab and the rest of Israel to follow and worship these other gods instead of Yahweh.

Elijah On the Run

In chapter 17, Elijah shows up to confront King Ahab. He has little introduction, other than where he’s from, and he shows up seemingly out of nowhere, but he speaks to Ahab, and right of the bat, his words are full of authority and power:

“As Yahweh, the God of Israel lives, in whose presence I stand, there will be no dew or rain during these years except by my command!”

So, he claims to stand in the very presence of God, and makes this declaration, in the name of Yahweh, that they’re about to enter years of drought and famine, which will end only by Elijah’s command.

And sure enough, that’s what happens.

In the meantime, Elijah becomes a fugitive; public enemy #1. Yahweh has him go into hiding near a water source, and provides for him miraculously, sending ravens to feed him.

Then, when the water source dries up, Yahweh sends him to a gentile widow, in Jezebel’s own homeland, a hotbed of Baal worship. He provides Elijah refuge there, of all places, and miraculously provides for them, with a supply of flour and oil that never runs out, but is always just enough to survive.

Then, when the widow’s son dies, Elijah prays over him, and God brings him back to life. In doing so, this widow witnessed that Yahweh has power even over death, and she confessed faith in who Elijah claimed to be, which is really a confession of who Yahweh is, because Elijah claimed to be a representative of the all-powerful God of the universe. And she saw that to be true.

Elijah On Mount Carmel

In the meantime, 3 years go by, and Ahab is still searching desperately for Elijah. Then, in chapter 18 God says to Elijah:

“Go, present yourself to King Ahab and tell him that I’m going to send rain soon.”

So, this is going to be good news, but Ahab’s still not going to be happy to see him, and in the beginning of chapter 18 we get this awesome little interaction between Obadiah and Elijah.

Obadiah is a prophet of Yahweh, and has a whole scroll of his own in the collection of the twelve, the minor prophets, a short prophesy against Edom.

But we also learn that he’s in charge of the Palace during Ahab’s reign, and secretly is able to save 100 of Yahweh’s prophets during Jezebel’s genocide. He’s just an awesome dude, who’s able to somehow be a man who greatly fears Yahweh, while serving as the second-hand man to the most evil king and queen Israel had ever seen.

When Obadiah sees Elijah, he reacts first by showing profound deference, and then by totally freaking out, terrified by how Ahab is going to react when he tells him Elijah is there to see him.

But eventually Obadiah goes and gets Ahab, and Elijah commands Ahab to summon all the people of Israel, along with all the prophets of Baal, to the top of Mount Carmel.

And there, he proposes a contest to the people, a contest to determine which god was truly worth following and worshipping: Yahweh, or Baal, and the people agreed.

They each got an altar, and wood for a fire, and a bull, but no fire. No source of ignition. They would each have to call on their god to provide the fire for them, and whichever one came through would be declared the winner.

Of course, the prophets of Baal tried as hard as they could, all day long, to summon fire in the name of Baal, and when Elijah mocked them and mocked Baal, they tried even harder, cutting themselves and dancing around frantically.

Still, they got no response. Nothing happened.

So, Elijah called the people over to him while he prepared his altar. He had to repair it first, because Jezebel had had it torn down, and then he did something very strange: he dug a moat around it, and had the whole thing completely soaked in water, until the trench filled up around it.

Then, he simply prayed. There was no ritual, no antics, just a simple, but powerful prayer. In summary, his prayer was: “Yahweh, prove who YOU are, and that I am your servant, so that these people will know that YOU, Yahweh, are God, and that you are bringing them back to you.”

The whole purpose of this entire thing was to prove who Yahweh is, and to show that out of his love and mercy, and out of faithfulness to his promises to Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and Moses and David, that he would once again redeem adulterous Israel back to himself.

And, of course, Yahweh did respond! He responded immediately, with a rush of holy fire, consuming EVERYTHING, the wood and the bull on the altar, the stones of the altar itself, the very dust of the stones and all the water in the trench were completely consumed, leaving no question as to the winner of that contest.

So, the people acknowledged Yahweh as God, and Elijah had them round up the prophets of Baal in the valley at the bottom of the mountain, and killed them all. It was a MASSIVE victory for Yahweh, and a MASSIVE failure for Baal. And it was an act of redemption and mercy, proving himself to his people, and reaching out to restore them to him.

In the meantime, there still hadn’t been any rain, so Elijah goes back up to the top of the mountain and prays. And he has his servant run up to the sea to check the horizon for clouds, seven times, until finally he sees a tiny little cloud coming towards them. At that, Elijah sends his servant and Ahab back home at top speed, saying “GO! Rush your chariots home, or you’ll be overtaken by the storm.” Because that little cloud quickly became a mighty and furious rainstorm. But Elijah didn’t have a chariot, so God gave him temporary super-speed, and he sprinted, faster than the king’s chariots, all the way back to the gates of Jezreel, about seventeen miles away. Just a crazy, fun way to end chapter 18.

Transition

And that’s where we left off last week! The rain has returned, and Ahab is rushing home.

So, Ahab was with Elijah while all of this happened. He saw Elijah destroy the prophets of Baal. Jezebel, in the meantime, was at home, and had no clue yet about what happened.

The news certainly isn’t going to go over well.

I know that was a long-winded recap, but I think it’s important to have the whole story fresh on the mind as we go into chapter 19.

Let’s read the beginning of chapter 19 now and see how it plays out:

Elijah Flees Jezebel

1 Kings 19:1–2 NLT
1 When Ahab got home, he told Jezebel everything Elijah had done, including the way he had killed all the prophets of Baal. 2 So Jezebel sent this message to Elijah: “May the gods strike me and even kill me if by this time tomorrow I have not killed you just as you killed them.”

Jezebel is FURIOUS when she hears what Elijah’s done! Clearly, she isn’t swayed in her allegiances to her gods, or moved to repentance for her sin, rather she doubles down and swears vengeance on Elijah.

In fact, I think it’s kind of ironic that she swears by the gods who were just proven worthless and powerless! She says “may the gods strike me down!” But that’s kind of an empty threat in light of everything that has just happened. It really reveals her character and her stubbornness.

Nevertheless, she is going to do everything in her power to kill Elijah, and so he’s going to go on the run again:

1 Kings 19:3 NLT
3 Elijah was afraid and fled for his life. He went to Beersheba, a town in Judah, and he left his servant there.

It points out that he ran far enough that he and his servant would be out of King Ahab’s jurisdiction. Remember, Ahab is king in Israel, not Judah, so they should be relatively safer here, and I’m guessing that’s why Elijah left his servant there, so he wouldn’t be leaving him in imminent danger of Jezebel’s threats.

But then he continued on his own:

1 Kings 19:4 NLT
4 Then he went on alone into the wilderness, traveling all day. He sat down under a solitary broom tree and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life, for I am no better than my ancestors who have already died.”

Oh, dear.

Oh, Elijah. Does this whole scene here sound a little familiar?

It sounds a LOT like the end of the book of Jonah, doesn’t it? Jonah doesn’t actually come until a bit later in the story, but this is almost identical, if you were to draw a picture, of what Jonah looked like after preaching to Nineveh:

A prophet, sitting under a tree, complaining to God, so depressed and exasperated that he begs to die!

These prophets can be so dramatic sometimes, can’t they!?

But, to be fair, Elijah’s situation is a little bit different than Jonah’s. Now, this is seen as Elijah’s one weak point, his one failing as a prophet, is this kind of pouting, or complaining that we see in this chapter. And it’s true, as great of a prophet as Elijah was, he wasn’t a perfect human, and not all of his behavior is model behavior.

However, if we’re going to compare him to Jonah, we have to realize that Jonah was pouting because Nineveh repented, and because he didn’t have enough shade, and was uncomfortable in the hot sun, waiting to see God destroy Nineveh. Whereas Elijah was pouting because Israel had not repented, and because as a direct result of their sin, he was on the run for his life, starving in the wilderness! A little bit different, and I think a bit more excusable, of a reason to be upset.

He, along with the people of Israel, had just witnessed what Jonah hoped to: a glorious and holy manifestation of God’s power, and victory over his enemies. And yet, at a large scale, and in the long term, it didn’t really change anything.

So, from a human perspective, I think it’s understandable that Elijah sort of collapses into this profound depression. From his perspective, God’s methods, God’s purposes, had failed. And if he didn’t see it as God’s failure, then he’d have to see it as his own failure, and either way it was enough for him to just completely give up hope.

You have to realize, too, that he’s run approximately 125 miles, plus a day’s journey, in less than 24 hours, and now he’s all by himself. At this point, he’s utterly exhausted physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. He’s broken.

But God’s going to meet him there:

Elijah Fed by an Angel

1 Kings 19:5–7 NLT
5 Then he lay down and slept under the broom tree. But as he was sleeping, an angel touched him and told him, “Get up and eat!” 6 He looked around and there beside his head was some bread baked on hot stones and a jar of water! So he ate and drank and lay down again. 7 Then the angel of the Lord came again and touched him and said, “Get up and eat some more, or the journey ahead will be too much for you.”

So, God yet again provides for Elijah’s physical needs in a miraculous way! An angel ministers to him; he’s touched, twice by this divine presence. The first time, he wakes up to find food and water, he eats and drinks, and goes right back to sleep.

So the angel comes again, and tells him to eat more, or else he won’t have enough strength for the journey ahead. So, apparently Yahweh is sending him on yet another journey.

This is the opposite of what Elijah begged for, by the way. He came here begging to just die and be done with it. Instead, God is basically saying “nope, I’m not done with you” by nourishing and strengthening him.

So, the second time the angel comes:

Elijah Journeys to Horeb

1 Kings 19:8–9 NLT
8 So he got up and ate and drank, and the food gave him enough strength to travel forty days and forty nights to Mount Sinai, the mountain of God. 9 There he came to a cave, where he spent the night. But the Lord said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

Yet another case of supernatural intervention or provision: somehow, one meal was enough to give him the energy for a journey, on foot, that lasted 40 days and 40 nights!

A journey to none other than the Mount Sinai.

Note: some translations may use the name “Mount Horeb” instead. Those two names are used interchangeably throughout the Old Testament, and both refer to the same mountain.

This would have been approximately a 200 mile journey. So, why was Elijah determined to go there? What’s so significant about this mountain? And why is it called the Mountain of God?

Well, throughout the narrative of the Old Testament, Mount Sinai is portrayed as an intersection of Heaven & Earth, like the garden of Eden, where God meets with humans intimately and profoundly.

It was on Mount Sinai that Moses met with God in the burning bush. The presence of God was represented then by fire, though instead of an all-consuming fire, it was a fire that didn’t burn up the bush at all! It was there in that encounter that God revealed his personal, divine name to Moses:

Exodus 3:15 NLT
15 God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel: Yahweh, the God of your ancestors—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you. This is my eternal name, my name to remember for all generations.

It’s a place of profound, divine revelation.

Then, later in the story, it was where Moses brought the people of Israel after escaping from Egypt. They camped at the base of the mountain, and Moses went up the mountain multiple times to meet with God. It’s like he was taking trips to have meetings in God’s office.

And at one point, the whole mountain was covered in smoke and fire, because Yahweh’s presence had descended on the mountain in a display of power, and the whole mountain shook violently, and God spoke in thunder.

And it was there that God then gave the ten commandments, and the rest of the law, to Moses. It was there that Israel accepted Yahweh’s covenant, entering into a binding agreement, like a marriage, that they would stay faithful to God forever.

And again, the glory Yahweh descended on the mountain, and the summit was ablaze with an all-consuming fire, and there was a cloud all around the mountain to shroud the fullness of God’s glory from destroying everyone.

It was there that they received instructions for building the Tabernacle, a tent that would represent God’s presence, a mobile version of what would eventually be the temple, and, again it was full of garden of Eden imagery, and functioned as God’s designated meeting spot and place of worship.

It was also there, while Moses was meeting with God, getting all this information, that the people got impatient, and bored, and decided to make a golden calf, an idol to worship, breaking their covenant vows on their wedding night.

It was there that Moses, as a result, had to intercede for Israel, begging God to spare them.

And it was there, soon after, that Moses asked God to reveal his presence in full glory to him. And he does, though he doesn’t allow Moses to look directly in his face, he passes before him, declaring his own name, Yahweh, declaring his compassion, and mercy, and love, and faithfulness.

It’s a massive moment of revelation, from which Moses returns transformed, even physically, to the point of having a glowing face, which terrifies everyone, and he has to wear a veil to cover up the glory of God which is shining through him!

I know that was kind of a long tangent, but it’s important to realize the significance of Mount Sinai.

It’s also important to realize though, that “the mountain of God” represents a set of important ideas: covenant, law, and revelation, more so than an important physical location. After all, the people were never told to make pilgrimages to or worship at Mount Sinai. They WERE to worship at the temple, in Jerusalem, which was built up on a hill, and designed to evoke garden of Eden imagery. But it was never the actual geographical location that mattered, rather the concepts represented by that place.

So, when Elijah journeys to Sinai, we immediately flash back to Moses, the burning bush, and the ten commandments, and the revelation of God, and his covenant, and the golden calf, and God’s judgment and mercy and redemption and glory. All that significance is packed into the role of this mountain in the story.

It’s no coincidence that we find Elijah here now.

The length of his journey, 40 days and 40 nights, is no coincidence either. Moses spent 40 days on the mountain, Israel wandered in the wilderness for 40 years, the flood rain lasted for 40 days and 40 nights, Jonah’s proclamation to Nineveh was destruction in 40 days, Jesus fasted in the wilderness for 40 days. These are intentional hyperlinks.

But, let’s get back to the story:

Elijah Meets Yahweh

1 Kings 19:9–10 NLT
9 There he came to a cave, where he spent the night. But the Lord said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 10 Elijah replied, “I have zealously served the Lord God Almighty. But the people of Israel have broken their covenant with you, torn down your altars, and killed every one of your prophets. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me, too.”

It’s interesting, God obviously provided Elijah with the energy, the fuel to make this journey, even though it never says that God actually told Elijah to come here.

The implication is that it was Elijah who was determined to come here, and God allowed him to, and now that he’s here, Yahweh asks him “What are you doing here?”

Elijah’s reply is basically a complaint. “I’ve come to formally file a complaint, God!” He says “I’ve served you faithfully!” Not just faithfully, but zealously, but the people have broken their covenant, again. It’s the golden calf, all over again, and Elijah sees himself as the only faithful one left, running around with a target on his back.

But it’s not just a complaint, really is it? It’s more like he has nowhere else to go, and nothing else to do. He explains why he’s there by expressing how discouraged he is. And yes, there is a tone of self-pity there, which I think we can rightly criticize as a weakness, though I doubt any one of us would do any better in his situation, we can still acknowledge that.

But on the other hand, he’s in utter despair, and his response, self-pity aside, is still to seek God in the best way he can think to do. And God does not turn him away. He says “come to me.”

1 Kings 19:11–13 NLT
11 “Go out and stand before me on the mountain,” the Lord told him. And as Elijah stood there, the Lord passed by, and a mighty windstorm hit the mountain. It was such a terrible blast that the rocks were torn loose, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. 12 And after the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper. 13 When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And a voice said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

WOW! The language here is so similar to when God appears to Moses. Yahweh “passes by” Elijah, and there’s WIND and an EARTHQUAKE, and FIRE! All these mighty, dramatic phenomena, that have in the past indicated God’s presence on Mount Sinai! And yet, it says that Yahweh was not in those things!

God WAS present but his presence was not revealed to Elijah through those loud and spectacular events, his presence was revealed in a whisper.

Or, you could say that all those things were an indication of God’s presence, but they were not a communication from the presence of his person.

The communication, his answer, his word, the personal presence of God, was revealed in a whisper.

Revelation is not always loud, or dramatic. It’s often quiet, which requires silence. Stillness. Space.

Psalm 46:10 ESV
10 “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”

Literally, that word “be still” means to “let go” or “release” and, in context, is telling the nations to let go of their conflict, to stop fighting. It’s a command to the forces of chaos to relent, so that in the stillness, God would be revealed.

It was in the stillness, after the chaos, that Elijah heard and recognized God’s voice. The fact that he wrapped his face up, not during the wind or the earthquake, or the fire, but when he heard the whisper, is significant. Moses was covered by God’s “hand” as he passed by, and Elijah knows that no human can see God’s face and live, so he wraps up his face, but not until he truly sensed God’s presence, and it was upon hearing that low whisper.

Man, it’s just so cool, isn’t it?

I’m going to circle back around to this concept, because I think dwelling on this is the richest application for this passage, but I want to wrap up this section of the story first.

When God does speak to Elijah, what does he say?

It’s kind of funny, because after all that, in this case, it’s nothing particularly profound, or new.

He simply repeats the same question he asked earlier: “Why are you here, Elijah?!?”

And Elijah pretty much just gives the same exact answer:

1 Kings 19:14 NLT
14 He replied again, “I have zealously served the Lord God Almighty. But the people of Israel have broken their covenant with you, torn down your altars, and killed every one of your prophets. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me, too.”

It’s the same reason as the first time. It’s like he’s saying “I know you’re here, but I still don’t understand what’s happening or what you’re doing.”

But this time God responds again with a command:

1 Kings 19:15–18 NLT
15 Then the Lord told him, “Go back the same way you came, and travel to the wilderness of Damascus. When you arrive there, anoint Hazael to be king of Aram. 16 Then anoint Jehu grandson of Nimshi to be king of Israel, and anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from the town of Abel-meholah to replace you as my prophet. 17 Anyone who escapes from Hazael will be killed by Jehu, and those who escape Jehu will be killed by Elisha! 18 Yet I will preserve 7,000 others in Israel who have never bowed down to Baal or kissed him!”

So, first of all, this response I think is very loving and patient. He doesn’t try to argue with Elijah, he simply renews his commission and purpose by giving him a command, with some bonus information thrown in to give him some hope.

This command has two parts:

The first part, with all these names, is essentially a command to execute judgment against Ahab. We won’t get into the specifics now, but you see these names come up later in the story as it plays out. God is going to use Hazael, as king of Syria, along with Jehu, a military commander, and Elisha, Elijah’s successor, to purge the house of Ahab.

You can read about it 2 Kings, in chapters 8-13, there’s a whole bunch of stuff that happens. But the bottom line is that God is bringing judgment against Ahab. We might get into that a little bit next week, I’m not sure yet.

But the second part of this command is not really a command at all, but a simple fact thrown in at the end, in verse 18:

1 Kings 19:18 NLT
18 Yet I will preserve 7,000 others in Israel who have never bowed down to Baal or kissed him!”

This is a very gracious way of correcting Elijah’s self-centered, pessimistic way of thinking.

Earlier, Elijah had forgotten about the 100 prophets that Obadiah had protected. Now, he learns that there are 7,000 others who remained faithful to Yahweh!

Granted, that’s still a tragically small percentage of Israel, but it’s certainly a MUCH larger number than 1, and vastly more than would be necessary to have meaningful fellowship!

This is God’s way of saying “No, Elijah, you’re not alone. I understand that you feel like you’re alone, but you’re not.”

This is just a fantastic example of how sometimes, whether it’s that we feel alone, or we just don’t understand what God’s plan could possibly be at any given moment in our lives, we really have a limited perspective, and God is always working in ways and in places and in people that we have no idea about.

And I know that knowing that doesn’t just make the pain, or the frustration, or the loneliness, or anger, or depression just disappear. Those are still very real and valid experiences that are a result of living as humans in a corrupted world.

But, knowing that God IS much bigger than us and does have a plan does give us hope. And knowing that he does care enough about us to reveal himself to us in intimate ways should bring us some comfort, even if he doesn’t always give us the full picture.

In this case, he revealed a tiny bit of what Elijah didn’t know, to encourage him, to give him some hope.

But one other major component of this command, which is kind of tied into the judgment aspect, but is really like a third element, is this fact that Elijah is going to be literally passing the mantle to Elisha.

And that transition is going to be the main focus of our time next week, but I’ll go ahead and read through the last bit of this chapter just as a little preview into the next part of the story:

Elijah finds Elisha

1 Kings 19:19–21 NLT
19 So Elijah went and found Elisha son of Shaphat plowing a field. There were twelve teams of oxen in the field, and Elisha was plowing with the twelfth team. Elijah went over to him and threw his cloak across his shoulders and then walked away. 20 Elisha left the oxen standing there, ran after Elijah, and said to him, “First let me go and kiss my father and mother good-bye, and then I will go with you!” Elijah replied, “Go on back, but think about what I have done to you.” 21 So Elisha returned to his oxen and slaughtered them. He used the wood from the plow to build a fire to roast their flesh. He passed around the meat to the townspeople, and they all ate. Then he went with Elijah as his assistant.

Kind of an interesting little interaction, right? Elijah leaves the mountain of God, and it doesn’t really say anything more about his mental or emotional state, but I get the sense that he’s leaving somewhat refreshed, with a renewed sense of purpose. Now, that’s clearly not the point, because if it were important it would specify, I just like to think that he was encouraged because it makes me feel better! In reality, he still could have been deeply depressed, but either way he did exactly what God told him to do, which is what really matters in the end.

Conclusion

For now, I’d like to circle back to Elijah’s encounter with Yahweh, and like I said just dwell on God’s revelation in that moment.

How often do we look for glorious, grand gestures from God, when he’s waiting for us in the tiny cracks, the small spaces of silence and stillness in our lives? How often do those cracks disappear completely, when our lives become enveloped in chaos and busyness and noise?

Often, it’s not the grand and impressive displays of power in which we truly “find” God, but in our most broken and vulnerable moments, where we are receptive and humble and still enough to hear God’s gentle whisper, and know that we are not alone.

Jane’s Story

I’d like to end our time by sharing with you something written by someone I know. I never was very close to her, but she was an acquaintance in College, and Ellie even knows her from circles they were both a part of in Ohio.

Her name is Jane Marczewski. She’s a singer, and goes by the name of Nightbirde on stage. She’s recently been brought into the spotlight a bit, after her appearance on America’s Got Talent. Not just because she’s a great singer, but because of her story, her attitude, and her message.

I want to read you one of her blog posts, because so much of it just seems to resonate with Elijah’s story.

Please don’t think that I’m sharing this as a doctrinal thesis, this isn’t scripture, it’s just one person’s thoughts as they process their experiences. But she processes them in a very relatable, vulnerable, and powerful way. It’s moving, and it’s poetic. I have no idea if she and I would agree on finer theological points, (or if she would even care), but I do think she communicates beautifully the truth of how God often meets us at our lowest.

The following is taken from https://www.nightbirde.co/blog/blog-post-title-three-2rjnk

I don’t remember most of Autumn, because I lost my mind late in the summer and for a long time after that, I wasn’t in my body. I was a lightbulb buzzing somewhere far.

After the doctor told me I was dying, and after the man I married said he didn’t love me anymore, I chased a miracle in California and sixteen weeks later, I got it. The cancer was gone. But when my brain caught up with it all, something broke. I later found out that all the tragedy at once had caused a physical head trauma, and my brain was sending false signals of excruciating pain and panic. I spent three months propped against the wall. On nights that I could not sleep, I laid in the tub like an insect, staring at my reflection in the shower knob. I vomited until I was hollow. I rolled up under my robe on the tile. The bathroom floor became my place to hide, where I could scream and be ugly; where I could sob and spit and eventually doze off, happy to be asleep, even with my head on the toilet. I have had cancer three times now, and I have barely passed thirty. There are times when I wonder what I must have done to deserve such a story. I fear sometimes that when I die and meet with God, that He will say I disappointed Him, or offended Him, or failed Him. Maybe He’ll say I just never learned the lesson, or that I wasn’t grateful enough. But one thing I know for sure is this: He can never say that He did not know me. I am God’s downstairs neighbor, banging on the ceiling with a broomstick. I show up at His door every day. Sometimes with songs, sometimes with curses. Sometimes apologies, gifts, questions, demands. Sometimes I use my key under the mat to let myself in. Other times, I sulk outside until He opens the door to me Himself. I have called Him a cheat and a liar, and I meant it. I have told Him I wanted to die, and I meant it. Tears have become the only prayer I know. Prayers roll over my nostrils and drip down my forearms. They fall to the ground as I reach for Him. These are the prayers I repeat night and day; sunrise, sunset. Call me bitter if you want to—that’s fair. Count me among the angry, the cynical, the offended, the hardened. But count me also among the friends of God. For I have seen Him in rare form. I have felt His exhale, laid in His shadow, squinted to read the message He wrote for me in the grout: “I’m sad too.” If an explanation would help, He would write me one—I know it. But maybe an explanation would only start an argument between us—and I don’t want to argue with God. I want to lay in a hammock with Him and trace the veins in His arms. I remind myself that I’m praying to the God who let the Israelites stay lost for decades. They begged to arrive in the Promised Land, but instead He let them wander, answering prayers they didn’t pray. For forty years, their shoes didn’t wear out. Fire lit their path each night. Every morning, He sent them mercy-bread from heaven. I look hard for the answers to the prayers that I didn’t pray. I look for the mercy-bread that He promised to bake fresh for me each morning. The Israelites called it manna, which means “what is it?” That’s the same question I’m asking—again, and again. There’s mercy here somewhere—but what is it? What is it? What is it? I see mercy in the dusty sunlight that outlines the trees, in my mother’s crooked hands, in the blanket my friend left for me, in the harmony of the wind chimes. It’s not the mercy that I asked for, but it is mercy nonetheless. And I learn a new prayer: thank you. It’s a prayer I don’t mean yet, but will repeat until I do. Call me cursed, call me lost, call me scorned. But that’s not all. Call me chosen, blessed, sought-after. Call me the one who God whispers his secrets to. I am the one whose belly is filled with loaves of mercy that were hidden for me. Even on days when I’m not so sick, sometimes I go lay on the mat in the afternoon light to listen for Him. I know it sounds crazy, and I can’t really explain it, but God is in there—even now. I have heard it said that some people can’t see God because they won’t look low enough, and it’s true. Look lower. God is on the bathroom floor.

*****

Read more of Jane's posts at nightbirde.co

Jane has every reason to be depressed and consumed by self-pity. Today she still is fighting cancer throughout her body, with a 2% chance of survival. And yet she chooses not to be defined by the bad things that happen to her, but by her relationship with God. And it’s a relationship in which she wrestles and struggles to understand God, but I truly believe God invites us to come to him with those thoughts, and ultimately, if we are willing to listen, He will reveal himself to us, though it may be in the most unexpected or uncomfortable of ways, and he might not give us all the answers we want.

How often do we look for glorious, grand gestures from God, when he’s waiting for us in the tiny cracks, the small spaces of silence and stillness in our lives? How often do those cracks disappear completely, when our lives become enveloped in chaos and busyness and noise?

Often, it’s not the grand and impressive displays of power in which we truly “find” God, but in our most broken and vulnerable moments, where we are receptive and humble and still enough to hear God’s gentle whisper, and know that we are not alone.


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North Country Fellowship Church
NCF was started in 1987 to minister to the growing population of Fort Drum and Jefferson County. Located in Carthage, just minutes away from Ft Drum, Lowville and Watertown, it is a blended congregation of local and military folks, single soldiers, young families and grandparents.