And in a little while the heavens grew black with clouds and wind, and there was a great rain. And Ahab rode and went to Jezreel. And the hand of the Lord was on Elijah, and he gathered up his garment and ran before Ahab to the entrance of Jezreel. [1 Kings 18:45-46 (ESV)]
When Elijah and the Lord proved triumphant over Baal, the man must have felt like he’d won the gold medal in the prophet Olympics. Rain stopped when he called for a drought, returned when he promised it would, fire poured down from heaven at his call, and the people had slaughtered Baal’s prophets. Fresh from his extraordinary victory at Mount Carmel and thinking that Ahab and Israel would return to Yahweh, Elijah ran all the way to Jezreel.
Although Ahab had witnessed the defeat of Baal’s prophets, Jezebel had not. After the king related all that had happened, the incensed queen vowed to kill the prophet. Neither Ahab nor Jezebel understood: it was God’s power that defeated Baal, not Elijah’s! They might be able to kill the prophet but they couldn’t defeat the one true God.
When Elijah sped to Jezreel, he probably expected a hero’s welcome rather than the death warrant that sent him fleeing into the wilderness. Doing God’s work doesn’t mean we won’t be frustrated or disappointed by the results; it certainly doesn’t mean we’ll be free from opposition or trouble. Let’s remember that all but one of the disciples died a martyr’s death and the hero’s welcome given to Jesus by Jerusalem’s population was replaced by calls for his crucifixion less than a week later.
Forgetting that God (not Jezebel) was in charge, the disheartened prophet prayed for death and fell asleep. He awakened to an angel who fed him and sent the man on a 200-mile journey to Mt. Sinai. Once there, Elijah found shelter in a cave where he once again complained to God. Having served the Lord in such an extraordinary way, he didn’t expect to be rejected and alone. God responded by promising the depressed man that He soon would pass by. After a wind so powerful it loosened the rocks raged, there was a terrifying earthquake followed by a fire. Although wind, earthquake and fire were signs of God’s arrival, the Lord was not found in any of those impressive phenomena. Finally, it was in the sound of a faint whisper that Elijah heard the Lord’s voice.
Sometimes we see or hear God in the impressive and spectacular but, more often than not, He makes Himself known in ways we least expect: the seemingly insignificant—like a hushed voice. God doesn’t have to shout because He always is near. Let us silence our complaint and draw close to Him so we can hear His gentle whisper.
God operates in the great and small, the remarkable and the ordinary. While He may call us to do spectacular things, as He did with Elijah, most of the time, He calls us to do ordinary mundane tasks. Those tasks won’t bring us honor or glory (nor should we expect them to). What they will do is glorify God! As Mother Teresa so wisely said, “Not all of us can do great things, but we can do small things with great love.”