People who are perfectionists tend to see the world in a little bit different way than others. For the perfectionist, almost everything is black and white. The gray area of life is very minimal. We perfectionists often feel like we are superhuman, that we are invincible, and able to take on anything which comes our way … that is until we discover a flaw. Then, we come crashing down and consider ourselves to have failed, and maybe even worthless. For perfectionists, there is this “all or nothing” mentality and this mentality can be dangerous. If something doesn’t work out the way the perfectionist wants it to … it can affect how they go about doing things in the future as well as affect their faith walk with Christ. They can start to think, “if I can’t do this, then I probably can’t do anything.”
The prophet Elijah in our reading from 1 Kings 19 can easily be considered one of the many heroes of the Bible. If anyone had a reason to feel like a superhuman, it was him. You see, at one point Elijah confronted King Ahab and his least than desirable wife Jezebel about their severe disobedience to God. Ahab was one of the worst kings to ever rule in the Old Testament and because of this blatant disobedience, Elijah through his prayers to God brought about a lengthy drought on all of Israel. This drought would be a farmer’s nightmare as it lasted for around three years. Not a single drop of rain for three years.
At the end of these three long years, Elijah shows up before King Ahab and challenges him to a contest. Let’s see whose god is better. The god of Baal or the Lord Almighty, the God who created the heavens and the earth. The site of the contest, Mt. Carmel. The 450 prophets of Baal build an altar and Elijah builds his alter to God.
Elijah, being the gentlemen and the perfectionist that he is, allows the prophets of Baal to go first. So the prophets of Baal start crying out and dancing and even resort to making fools of themselves in order to convince their god to send fire down from heaven to consume the altar. After hours and hours of making fools of themselves with nothing happening, they give up. Now it’s Elijah’s turn. Elijah has the people soak the wooden altar down with water to the point that it is running over the little moat he built around it. Elijah then prayers to God and in the blink of an eye, fire rains down from heaven and consumes the water-logged altar. Being the winner, Elijah had all the prophets of Baal killed.
And even though this proved who was the true God of all things, oh sweet Queen Jezebel wasn’t too happy to say the least. Hearing that all her prophets were dead, she vowed to have Elijah’s head served on a platter. All Elijah wanted was for everyone to believe that the God of heaven and earth was the one true God … but his plan totally backfired. Now, knowing there was a death warrant out on him … Elijah runs away.
We could easily tell Elijah to relax, that he needs to just calm down and that everything is going to be okay for God is with him … but as true as that is, when a mad-woman has a death threat out on you and you have heard of her killing off prophets before, one typically doesn’t want to stick around and see if she is bluffing. I imagine we would all do the same thing Elijah did … we would run and try to lay low.
But Elijah takes it a step further. Elijah goes out in the desert, hides under a broom tree and says to God, “Alright listen Lord, I’ve had enough! Take my life; for I am no better than my ancestors” (1 Kings 19:4). Now it may seem cowardly of Elijah to make such a request to God, but you know, by having God kill him, it would be easy way to get off of Jezebel’s hit list. But that isn’t why Elijah is saying this. Elijah wants to die because he was ashamed of his actions. Ashamed that he didn’t stand up to Jezebel knowing full well by the faith he had in God, that God was there with him, that God would have protected him. But it was an all or nothing thing for Elijah, and according to his superhuman standards, according to his perfectionist ways … Elijah failed.
So Elijah eventually finds himself in a cave and that is where our reading picks up. He is in this cave where he voices his complaints about how all of God’s people are horrible people, horrible sinners, how they have turned their backs on God, how all the prophets have been killed, and how he is the only one left and now there is a death warrant out for him.
God tells Elijah to go out of the cave and stand before Him as He passes by. First, there is this great wind, and then an earthquake, and then a fire, but the Lord wasn’t in any of those. Elijah then hears a small, gentle whisper. Hearing the whisper, Elijah goes out of the cave covering his face and stands before the Lord. It is there in the gentle whisper where the Lord tells Elijah to be strong in his faith. It’s there in the whisper where the Lord tells Elijah of the plan He has to be with him, the plans He has to eliminate the false prophets of the world. It was there in the whisper where the Lord tells Elijah who to appoint to carry out His plan.
One of those is to appoint is Elisha. Elisha is a very wealthy farmer. He has no experience in being a prophet, he has no experiencing in telling others about the wonders of God. Elisha is a simple farmer. But yet God has chosen him to be His mouthpiece. God has chosen Elisha to eventually take Elijah’s place. Elisha has no superhuman powers which can change the world. Elisha is a simple farmer … a farmer called by God to serve and follow him.
And he does. Without any questions, Elisha drops the reins of his oxen and tells Elijah he wants to kiss his family goodbye. Elisha returns home, slaughters his oxen, burns the yokes and gives the meat to the people, and they ate. Elisha then goes after Elijah and assists him (1 King 19:21).
Both Elijah and Elisha are called by God to serve Him and they are called in totally different ways. The placing of the prophet cloak on Elisha was totally different than Elijah’s calling coming from the still, gentle voice of God. There is nothing special about these two men. They have no superhuman power which can change the world in an instant. They are simple sinful human beings.
And so are you! You have been called in the same way in which Elijah and Elisha have been called. …You have been called by God through His simple, quiet, gentle whisper and you have been called through a very direct manner. But the question is … are you listening to them? Are you listening to the calling which God has given to you?
God through the small quiet whisper of His Words speaks to you and me just as He spoke to Elijah. It is through God’s Word in which you and I receive comfort, we receive a boost in confidence knowing what it is that God has done and what He continues to do for you. Through His Word, God tells you … I am with you. You are not alone. Cast burdens on me and I will give you the strength to meet the days ahead.
As much as God talks softly through His Word, He also speaks to us in direct manners. God calls you through the waters of baptism and through the gift of faith through the witness of others. God has called you, He has put His name on you, and called you to be a child in His family. God doesn’t clothe you with a cloak like Elisha received, but instead you are clothed with Christ. Paul says, “For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourself with Christ” (Galatians 3:27). It is there in baptism, there in your call to faith where God has asked you to turn your backs on your former way of living. God didn’t ask you to quit your job or leave your parents like Elisha did, but God does ask us to give Him our hearts, our souls, and our bodies. God doesn’t want an hour of your time here or there … God wants all of you.
And God isn’t calling you to be a superhuman or to be a perfectionist in your service to Him. In the midst of serving God, He knows that you and I are going to face disappointments, that we are going to run into obstacles which may seem too big to overcome … but just like God told Elijah in a small gentle voice, know that God is with you! He is there to help you through your trials, through your short fallings, through your life transitions.
I read this quote from one of my commentaries … “Servants of God must not consult with flesh and blood, but gladly follow the call of the Lord, no matter where this may take them.” If you and I consult with flesh and blood … we will never follow God, we will never let God lead us to be the best servants we can be. Instead, you and I are called by God to gladly follow where He leads us, even if it’s to something or somewhere we have never been. We follow knowing full well as God’s children … He is with you, now and to the end of the age, just as He promised. Amen.
The peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord, now and forever. Amen.
 Popular Commentary of the bible – Paul Kreztmann