John Alan Turner

Writer, Theologian, Consultant, Speaker, Teacher

What Elijah Didn't Know

Elijah had a problem. He was a wanted man, so he panicked and ran as far away from his home as he could go. And then he ran a little more. Six weeks later, he was hiding in a cave in Egypt when God came to him. "What are you doing here?" God asked -- not really looking for information as much as giving Elijah the chance to just be honest and maybe to learn something while he's talking it through out loud.

Though this conversation (which you can read for yourself in 1 Kings 19), it becomes clear to us that Elijah has forgotten all about God's past faithfulness. He's forgotten all about the amazing ways in which God has provided for him over the past several years. He's even forgotten how God has come through on his promises for the people who had lived before him -- Abraham, Moses, Joshua, David. God had made outlandish promises, and he'd gone to amazing lengths to see those promises fulfilled.

But Elijah forgot, and, because he forgot, he panicked.

But wait...there's more! Elijah's problem wasn't just that there was some stuff he'd forgotten about. Elijah's other problem was that there was some stuff he didn't know about.

God tells him there's going to be another king. God tells him there's going to be another prophet. God tells him there are 7,000 others who haven't sold out to a foreign god and are willing to fight to get the kingdom back on track. God had been at work preparing history for the next chapter.

Elijah didn't know any of this.

Q: Why do you suppose Elijah assumed God had been inactive?

A: Because Elijah didn't see any of God's work going on.

See, we can sometimes assume that, if we don't see it happening, it's not happening. If God hasn't given us the update, there's no news to report. If God were up to something, we'd know about it.

That's an arrogant and dangerous assumption. It's the assumption that Abram & Sarah made. It's the assumption the Hebrew people made while they were enslaved in Egypt. It's the assumption they made again while they were wandering around for 40 years -- trying to get all the Egypt out of them. It's the assumption the Pharisees made. It's the assumption Mary & Martha made while Jesus stayed put and they buried their brother, Lazarus. It's the assumption the disciples made while Jesus himself was in the tomb.

And it's the assumption I all too often make when I don't see God at work in the way or in the timing I want.

What Elijah didn't know -- and what we must remember if we're to resist the urge to run and hide from our stressful circumstances -- is this: God does some of his best work in hidden, unseen ways. In the womb of a teenager. In the heart of a foreign king. In a dark cave carved out of the side of a hill.

Just you wait. His track record is pretty good. The seed is in the ground. It's just a matter of time now.