The heavens black with clouds and wind. A great rain. A wind so strong wind that it tears the mountains and breaks rocks into pieces.
Sounds like a description of Typhoon Mangkhut on Sunday but this is actually an old weather report. Really old, like from the Old Testament old.
It was desperate times for God’s people in Elijah’s day, especially if you were a prophet of the Lord like him. Israel was ruled by an evil king, Ahab, who worshipped Baal. In 1 Kings 18 and 19, Elijah had just triumphed over the prophets of Baal in a display of God’s might and rightfully humiliated them. But this great victory is short-lived and he is running for his life from Ahab and his queen, Jezebel. He takes refuge in a cave on Mount Horeb, the mount of God, completely exhausted and afraid, thinking that he’s the last prophet alive. Then God shows up, tells Elijah to stand outside the cave for this:
And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke 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 the sound of a low whisper. And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And behold, there came a voice to him and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 1 Kings 19:11-13
In the aftermath of Mangkhut, it might be good to reflect and think if God may have a message for you in the wake of the storm. God’s whisper to Elijah gave him two valuable insights.
Elijah was badly in need of this. After defeating the prophets of Baal, he was fearful, exhausted, hungry and tired. He believed he was the last of God’s prophets. He was certainly burnt out but it was to the point that he completely forgot that he was told of a hundred other prophets, also sheltering in caves, hiding out from Ahab and Jezebel (18: 4, 13). God assures him that there are indeed other faithful ones, even seven thousand (19:15-18). Elijah lost his perspective and regained it.
Sometimes it takes a big event to give us a good dose of perspective. We need to be shaken out of our norm once in while. At the very least, we should all be deeply thankful for how well Hong Kong weathered the super typhoon (which was the world’s most powerful storm this year) and the minimal damage suffered.
There has been a lot more devastation, loss and grief in the Philippines and other places (and from Hurricane Florence in the U.S. too). We need to pray and act to help those who have lost so much.
But personally, we should not miss the lesson in perspective from this. For everyone reading this in Hong Kong, our homes and buildings are probably still standing. I don’t know anyone who suffered any injury. We have the ability and resources to get right back up after the storm. For these, we are grateful. Maybe there are other lessons in perspective for you like appreciation, humility, generosity, service.
What perspective does God have for you after the storm?
Also the wake of the wind, earthquake and fire that passed, God had big-picture news that equalled those elemental forces: He revealed Elijah’s successor, Elisha (18:16). Knowing what (or in this case, who) comes next means peace. It means a measure of certainty. It is an assurance that God is sovereign and in control. For Elijah, there would be someone to train and pass the mantle to. There would be greater meaning and purpose in knowing that the line would not end with himself.
Purpose doesn’t have to only mean something as significant or far-reaching as this. Purpose could be His near-future purpose and plans for you. Maybe it’s wisdom for a specific situation or for the days or weeks ahead. Or maybe it’s a short-term peek into the future, not the whole picture, but enough to give you faith to continue on a certain path.
What purpose does God want to whisper to you?
Unlike other typhoon days that have been more like a day off, Mangkhut kept most of us too busy to relax and reflect. But just like in this account, God didn’t speak to Elijah during the winds. He spoke to him gently afterwards. Don’t miss the chance after this storm to listen for His voice.
In the wake of Mangkhut, how are you doing? (Or aside from anything else, how are you doing today, right now as you read this?)
What are you doing today with the lessons from the typhoon?