What truly amazes me is the encounter that takes place next. The Lord comes to Elijah and asks, "What are you doing here?" Listen to Elijah's reply: And he said, I have been very jealous for the Lord God of hosts: for the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away. (I Kings 19:10) There are many things wrong with Elijah's comments, but I don't have the time and space to go into that right now. Instead, I want to continue the story. Read on:
And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord. And, behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in 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. And it was so, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and stood in the entering in of the cave. And, behold, there came a voice unto him, and said, What doest thou here, Elijah? (I Kings 19:11-13)
Again, there's so much that could be discussed here, but alas, I must press on to get to the meat of today's lesson. After God displayed His great power and manifest presence, he asked Elijah again, "What are you doing here?" Surely, Elijah was humbled by this display. The Bible says he wrapped his face in his mantle which is a sign of humility and respect. From that verse alone, it appears that God has gotten through to the prophet. We expect Elijah's next words to be those of sorrow and repentance. Perhaps a plea for forgiveness or a second chance. But no, take a look at what he said: And he said, I have been very jealous for the Lord God of hosts: because the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away. (I Kings 19:14)
I assure you this is no typo, nor did I type in the wrong verse by mistake. Elijah's second answer was nearly identical to his first. He gave the Lord the same answer almost word for word. You know what that tells me? Elijah had been rehearsing. I believe that the forty-day trip from Beersheba to Mount Horeb gave Elijah a lot of time alone with his thoughts, and it wasn't at all productive. It seems to me that Elijah rehearsed in his mind that same sob story so many times that he had it memorized and could probably spout it in his sleep. And that, my friends, is what happens when we allow our minds to dwell on the wrong things.
In her book, The Best Yes, Lysa Terkeurst put it this way: "We do what we do and feel how we feel because we think what we think." Oh, how true! Elijah was running from God because he felt like he was all alone in the battle and that God had let him down. From before the time he faced the 450 prophets of Baal, he was declaring that he was the only one left serving God. Evidently, that thought (false though it was) blossomed into fear, anxiety and eventually a rebellion so great that even the shaking of the mountain couldn't loosen Elijah's grip on his bitterness. He did what he did and felt what he felt because he allowed himself to think what he thought.
The mind is a battlefield, and every thought can be a dangerous enemy. Take care. Be "mindful" of what you allow yourself to dwell on. If you're not sure if the thought lurking about is friend or foe, run it through the filter of Philippians 4:8: Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. That will quickly help you to identify the thoughts that should be allowed to remain and those that need to be brought into the captivity of Christ (II Corinthians 10:5).
Never underestimate the power of a single thought!