I think the last time I wrote a blog about Elijah was about a year ago. Maybe.
But today I was praying for some people, and in the praying for some people I was reminded of Elijah. And I was reminded of the last time I blogged about Elijah. And I was reminded of how much I love and relate to Elijah…
The middle of 1 Kings actually blows my mind every time I read it.
In the middle of the chaotic timeline of a nation in continual rebellion against God, in chapter 17 we are simply introduced to the prophet Elijah.
Oh man, I love Elijah.
Because oh boy, I so completely resonate with Elijah in so many ways.
I mean, this is the guy who in a mere two chapters, sees God stop the rain, and raise the dead, and create food from almost nothing, and fall in visible FIRE from heaven.
This is the guy who prays with a faith that shatters the idolatry of a nation, and brings restoration to the people, and we are invited into a narrative dedicated to an earth-shaking-changing-God movement.
And then we hit chapter 19.
Which opens with these infamous words:
Elijah was afraid.
Get your head around that for a minute.
I mean, he has every-possible reason to, I don’t know? NOT be afraid.
But even after all he has seen God do, he is literally petrified.
He is depressed.
Quoted from the story, he came to a broom tree, sat down under it and prayed that he might die.
You cannot make this stuff up.
Which I’m really glad about, because there are sometimes where what I really and totally need to read is that there’s someone else who freaks-the-hell-out just like I do.
Elijah lies under this tree and with his final-hopeless prayer and falls into this super-hopeless-sleep.
Where, at once, God meets him. First, with food. Then, with drink. With these practical things.
(Which, by the way, are the things that any bad-mood-I-can-ever-fall-into are normally treated by. I once worked for a guy who used to send me home for a nap, a burger and a cup of tea if I ever got into a real grump! I am NOT kidding!)
And then, and this is where I am really struck today, Elijah makes his way to the mountain of God.
Literally we read, ‘Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God’.
Which in all honesty leaves me with one question.
One I often dwell upon.
Why is the mountain of God always in the wilderness?
Because it is, right?
In every story.
The people are always going into the wilderness.
These mighty men of God are always being led into the wilderness.
Even Jesus was… Led into the wilderness.
It’s like God has this *thing* about it.
I mean, honestly? It’s SUPER inconvenient. There’s not a highway, or a bus route, or any food stores along the way. It’s a trek into nowhere. It takes a heck of a lot of time to get to.
And I sometimes wish the wilderness was… I don’t know? A bit more accessible?
Ok. I’m going to tell you a rather amusing story from the last week.
On Tuesday, three of my friends were going to another town in Hokkaido (about 4 hours drive away) to pick up a massive amount of wood (don’t ask). So, on Monday, one of them was going to pick up a rental van big enough to help them achieve this purpose.
Now, I finish work at about 6.30 on Monday evenings, so my friend suggested that he go and pick up the van, then pick me up from work, and then a bunch of us would hang out/eat dinner. Perfect.
So at about 6.30 I finished work. And my friend was waiting for me in the cafe of our school.
And he looked worried.
The thing was… He had gone to the rental car company by taxi. And managed to leave his iPhone in the taxi.
I wasn’t worried. ‘What’s the taxi company name?’ I asked. He had no idea.
‘Colour?’ No idea.
‘Anything?’ No idea.
It had been one of those last minute, spontaneous taxi rides that you don’t really think about until it’s way too late.
So in a last ditch attempt for clues we resorted to every iPhone user’s final hope, and did a ‘Find my iPhone’ on my laptop.
Which flashed up that his phone was now in a totally different ward of town quite a long drive away. And moving. And moving. And moving. And…. Only had 20% battery left.
Also not so perfect.
I like to think that this particular part of the story shows our immense investigative ability.
Not deterred, we successfully googled the only taxi company in that part of town, followed the blue dot car-chase style, and an hour later successfully were reunited with said-iPhone.
But this situation reminded me a little bit of the story of Elijah.
Because my friend is normally a super-happy-hopeful-kind-of-guy.
But in the moment that he realised he had little hope of ever seeing his phone again, he was just a little bit hopeless.
The solution? I made coffee. And tea. We did some of those practical searching things to prepare for the journey.
And then we headed off into the metaphorical wilderness.
To find the thing that was lost. The thing that we were searching for.
I am brought back to the Song of Songs.
Who is this coming up from the wilderness leaning on her beloved?
I read that single verse and I am left going… ‘Oh. THAT’s why the mountain of God is there…’
It wasn’t ever meant to be somewhere we could just stroll into or out of with all our pride and strength intact.
Because of the journey.
Because of love.
Because leaning on our beloved, who is our Saviour, who is Jesus, is the position of love.
That’s why the rest of chapter 8 is a proclamation of this love.
Place me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm; for love is as strong as death, its jealousy unyielding as the grave. It burns like a blazing fire, like a mighty flame. Many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot wash it away. If a man would give for love all the wealth of his house, it would be utterly despised.
So this wilderness that we are coming up from in the position of love, speaks of weakness.
But in the wilderness, the seal of God (that seal of love that burns and marks us in verse 6) grows most effectively on our hearts.
Because Jesus invites us to lean.
To learn how to love.
To learn what love is.
The reward of verse 6 is found in the wilderness of verse 5.
The anointing to love is found in the desert place.
We come up from the wilderness in victory.
We arise in love.
We learn something in the search and in the journey and in the following-the-blue-dot-into-the-unknown.
And a lot of people say, ‘Once God delivers me, then I’ll be totally on fire for Him!’, ‘Once this place is over…’
I know I’ve said that time and time again.
But what I’m learning over and over again, is that the wilderness is where God captivates my heart and ruins me for anything less than Him.
So the mountain of God is in the wilderness, because the wilderness is where we learn to lean.
Because leaning is at the heart level.
Because loving is at the heart level.
And I want to lean. And love. And come up from the wilderness. Like Elijah. Like Moses. Like Jesus.
We always talk about being strong in God.
But I think that we should sometimes talk more about being weak in God.
Like Elijah. We’re real with the victory.
We’re real with the defeat.
We’re real in the leaning.
And we’re real journeying that out with God, and the people He brings into our lives to make us coffee, calm us down and remind us that we will come out the other side.
Oh, and last night we had an AWESOME international Asian-foods party. Friends from Vietnam, the Philippines and Thailand cooked up a storm and we laughed a whole lot! So here are some great pictures from the proceedings 🙂