…so many parts of verses….
(NIV1984) 1 Kings 19:13b-15a – “Then a voice said to him, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’
“He replied, ‘I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.’
“The LORD said to him, ‘Go back the way you came….'”
The first part here is an almost identical repeat of what has gone on before. God already asked and heard exactly the same thing Elijah said here. And Elijah doesn’t change his story at all. What I notice this time about Elijah’s words — his speech — is that he states what he has done and what the Israelites have done – and, yeah, it’s what they’ve done in relation to God, but it just seems to be a focus on works here. Not only that, but Elijah doesn’t bring up at all what God has done for him or for the Israelites. It’s almost like he’s forgotten. Or maybe that’s the point – that in coming here, in running, Elijah was not as attuned to what God wanted. Yes, the angel of the LORD appeared to him and helped him knowing he was going on a long journey. But before, where God commanded to go and Elijah went – this time he fled in fear without a direct command from God. And although he still sees God as the gentle whisper, his fear is of the destructive forces of men – and earlier, there was guilt for that. Is there still now? Or did the forty days and nights help to refocus him?
And what does God say? “‘Go back the way you came….'” (NIV1984, 1 Kings 19:15). There’s more to it, and we’ll get into that tomorrow. But after all of this, to hear the LORD say “‘Go back'” (NIV1984, 1 Kings 19:15) must have been hard…or maybe Elijah knew it was coming.
Maybe we know that it’s coming. Ok, you’ve refocused. Now go back. I still have more for you to do there. Follow me and go back. Be Me to them. Go back.
And that can be a terrifying thing, having to go back the way we came. To retread pathways. To go through things again. Elijah had – and is having – a mountain experience with God and was – is – instructed to go back the way he came. That means another trip through the desert. That means going back to Israel. That means he might die.
But if we know Elijah, we know at this point that he’s going to return. Because God is commanding him to.
And there is just as much comfort and encouragement here as there was before: God wasn’t done with him yet, and God isn’t done with me yet, and He’s not done with you yet.