“And there he (Elijah) came to a cave (on Mount Horeb), and lodged there; and behold, the word of the Lord came to him, and he said to him, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’ He said, ‘I have been very jealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and slain your prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.’ 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 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 a still small voice. And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave…” (3 (1) Kings 19: 9-13)
So the great prophet Elijah has fled for his life to Horeb, the “Mountain of God,” where God spoke to Moses in previous times. Elijah feels alone and scared after the imperious Jezebel threatened to kill him, and after the people disregarded his witness. His flight to Horeb is understandable, as far as I can see. But God asks him reproachfully, “What are you doing here?” Because Elijah needs to go back and do his thing. He must go and speak unpleasant truths amidst his people, rather than resent them from a holy mountain. So, God does send Elijah back, but first He reminds Elijah of His subtle presence – not in a great wind, or earthquake, or fire, but in “a still small voice.”
The whole situation is familiar, really. How tempting, at times, is a flight from one’s vocation, i.e., from the specific people, places, and responsibilities we are sent today, in the here and now. Often God doesn’t seem to be helping, and/or people don’t seem to be cooperating. So we flee, vicariously or otherwise, to holy mountains. But today, as we celebrate the day of the great Elijah the Prophet (according to the Older Calendar), I’m reminded of that “still small voice,” just barely-audible amidst my here and now, when I have the ears to hear. May I take pause to listen today, whatever it is I am doing, and wherever I am called to do it.