“Then [Elijah] was afraid… and ran for his life to Beersheba… and left his servant there. But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness… and asked that he might die…. And behold an angel touched him and said to him, “Arise and eat.” And he looked, and behold, there was at his head a cake baked on hot stones, and a jar of water… And the angel of the Lord came again a second time and said, “Arise and eat, for the journey is too great for you.” And he arose and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mount of God.” – 1 Kings 19: 3-8
We often focus on how God spoke to Elijah in a still small voice, but we often neglect the journey and preparation preceding him hearing God’s voice.
Here are some important preparatory steps Elijah went through before meeting with God:
1. Our first response to fear and intimidation should always be to return to God’s covenant and promise.
“and [Elijah] ran for his life to Beersheba.”Beersheba’s name literally means ‘well of the oath.’ Historically, Beersheba represented a place of remembering God’s faithfulness in covenant and word. What promises and covenants has God given you? Have you strengthened yourself by returning to these words of hope and promises of security? The first step in preparing yourself to hear God’s voice is remembering the promise that He’s a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.
2. Moving towards God often means moving away from our security.
“[Elijah] went a day’s journey into the wilderness.” This almost seems contradictory to our previous step but it’s actually complementary. Many of us have experienced homesickness upon first leaving our parents’ home only to have challenges with finances, jobs, school or relationships overwhelm us. Even though temporarily returning home (our Beersheba) can bring comfort, we will never truly mature unless we again leave home (our comfort zones) and move forward. God allows us to occasionally return to places of comfort and familiarity, but these times are almost always temporary to prepare us for the true destination.
3. God is met when we stop relying on our own ingenuity and wisdom and begin relying on His divine provisions and strength.
“Arise and eat, for the journey is too great for you.” Even though never directly implied in the passage, it would be easy to imagine Elijah settling on a one-day journey into the wilderness since it was a reasonable and humanly possible distance. Rather than God accepting this as a permissible location to meet, God instead sends Elijah forty days further into the wilderness. God meets us in the place where we’ve been stripped of any reliance on our own abilities and strength.
4. God is found in the desert – a place we’ve come into only by His divine sustenance.
“and [Elijah] arose… and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mount of God.” Even though divinely provided, the energy from two cakes and two jars of water should have never lasted Elijah for forty days. It was yet another way of God showing that His sustenance is beyond human capability. Elijah was asked to follow through on his faith with action (i.e. continue walking further into the unknown). To meet God, we must often leave security behind and go deeper into the unknown – but it is there that we find the mount of God and meet Him face to face.