1 Kings 19:9-18
And he came thither to a cave, and lodged there; and, behold, the word of the LORD came to him, and he said to him, What do you here…
Elijah went in the strength of the refreshment he had received from the Angel-Jehovah a forty days' journey to Horeb. He was now on holy ground. It was the "mount of God" on which Moses had seen the Angel-Jehovah in the bush, and was within sight of Sinai, memorable for the giving of the law. On Horeb he lodges in a cave, perhaps the very recess from which Moses witnessed the Shechinah (see Exodus 32:22), and here becomes the subject of Divine communications and revelations. Consider now -
I. HIS INTERCESSION AGAINST ISRAEL.
1. Observe the occasion.
(1) The question came to him by the word of the Lord, "What doest thou here, Elijah?" In answer to this he urged what Paul calls his "intercession against Israel" (Romans 11:2, 8). Wherever we are it behoves us to ask ourselves what business we have here. Everywhere our first business is to glorify God.
(2) This question is thought to suggest that Elijah might have been more profitably employed elsewhere. But did he not come here after receiving supernatural strength from God Himself expressly for this journey 2 (See vers. 7, 8.)
(3) Rather must we not look upon his journey in the light of a parable, showing how God abandons those who refuse to be reformed? (Compare Jeremiah 9:2.) In this view we can see how Elijah acted in "faith" in this journey; for Paul seems to allude to him in Hebrews 11:38.
2. The matter of the accusation.
(1) The view now given harmonizes with this, the substance of which is the prophet's great jealousy for the Lord God of hosts, whose honour had been outraged by the apostasy of the children of Israel. Here is no confession of that unworthy timidity with which Elijah has been, we think, too hastily charged. Nor had he any rebuke from God for such supposed dastardliness, which doubtless he would have received had he deserved it. He is here because he cannot abide in the land of Israel, where Jehovah was commonly insulted.
(2) He recounts the particulars of his grief. "For the children of Israel have forsaken flay covenant" - have substituted false Elohim for Thee; "thrown down thine altars" - attempted to abolish Thy worship; "slain thy prophets with the sword" - to provide against any revival of the pure religion of their fathers; "and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life to take it away." Of what use, then, could he be to such a people? (See Hosea 4:17.)
(3) The motive of this intercession to God against Israel is not personal revenge, but zeal for Jehovah. And though we are bound, as Christians, to love our enemies, that does not say that we are to love the enemies of God. There is a spurious charity in high favour which the Scriptures do not sanction. (See 2 Chronicles 19:2; Psalm 119:19; Psalm 139:21; Luke 14:26.) Beware of that charity which has complicity with sin.
(4) The repetition of the answer when a second time the question was put evinces the deep sincerity of the prophet's soul.
II. THE ANSWER OF GOD UNTO HIM. I. This was first given in symbol.
(1) To witness the vision he was caused to stand on the mount before the Lord. Probably this was the place where Moses stood on a similar occasion (see Exodus 19:9, 16). We should have the Rock of Ages for our foundation when we witness visions of God. All shall witness them in the judgment of the great day.
(2) Terrible signs immediately followed upon the passing by of Jehovah.
(a) First, "a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord." Here was a sign of wrath upon the rulers and people, through invasion. (Compare Jet 4:11-15; Ezekiel 6:2; Amos 4:1).
(b) "And after the wind an earthquake." This is a sign of revolution, whether in things civil, ecclesiastical, or both. (Compare, Psalm 68:8; Revelation 6:12; Revelation 16:18).
(c) "And after the earthquake a fire. This is the symbol of judgments more immediately from God (see Deuteronomy 4:24; Psalm 18:12-14; Psalm 66:12; Jeremiah 48:45).
(3) But the Lord was in none of these. Judgments are a strange work to Him. They are necessary to the order of His government, but not congenial to His nature. "He delighteth in mercy." So the Lord was in the "still small voice" which followed. The gentle voice of the gospel follows the law which came with the uproar of the elements, and God is in it. So Elijah wrapped his face in his mantle. (Compare Exodus 3:6; Isaiah 6:2.)
2. It was afterwards expounded in words.
(1) Elijah, the intercessor against Israel, and therefore the impersonation of anger against sin, was to return to Israel by way of Damascus, where he was to "anoint Hazael to be king over Syria." In Hazael now we must look for the "strong wind" that was to come up and make havoc upon the mountains and rocks of Israel. (Compare 2 Kings 8:12, 13; 2 Kings 10:32, 38; 13:3.)
(2) "Jehu the son of Nimshi" was Elijah to "anoint to be king over Israel." Here was the instrument of the "earthquake" of revolution. (See 2 Kings 9:1-3.) Not only did Jehu bring a signal destruction upon the whole house of Ahab; he brought down judgment also upon the worshippers of Baal (2 Kings 10:28).
(3) "Elisha the son of Shaphat" was this impersonation of righteous anger to "anoint to be prophet" in his room. Here is God's instrument of "fire." His words are to be swords of flame. So "it shall come to pass that him that escapeth from the sword of Hazael shall Jehu slay; and him that escapeth from the sword of Jehu shall Elisha slay." No sinner can escape the fire of God's word.
(4) But the "still small voice" of the gospel of mercy has its triumphs. "Yet I have left me seven thousand in Israel," etc. God has His faithful "hidden ones" (Psalm 83:3). No wonder Elijah should cover his face with reverent gratitude at the discovery of that sealed company in whose midst was JEHOVAH-SHAMMAH! (Ezekiel 48:35; Revelation 7:13-17.) - J.A.M.
Parallel VersesKJV: And he came thither unto a cave, and lodged there; and, behold, the word of the LORD came to him, and he said unto him, What doest thou here, Elijah?