Have you ever been in a place of hurt and confusion? Bad news followed by more bad news without ever catching a break? If so, you are in good company. In mankind’s story book, the Bible, we read about people in challenging life circumstances. In the book of 1 Kings we find a depressed prophet under a Broom Tree. His name is Elijah.
A Broom Tree is a desert shrub. In the Sonoran desert of the American Southwest a similar desert tree is called “Palo Verde”, which translated from Spanish means “Green Stick”. Broom Trees are similar to Palo Verdes growing leafless sticks and providing insufficient shade. Sitting under such a tree in the blistering desert sun, we can probably sympathize with Elijah’s misery.
In a previous public showdown Baal’s prophets were challenged by Elijah. He dared them to ask their god Baal to light a fire. As much as Baal’s prophets danced around a pile of wood, all their prayers went unanswered. But when Elijah prayed to the God of Israel, a wet pile of wood lit up instantly and was entirely consumed by fire.
Making a public spectacle of the ineffectiveness of idols, Elijah demonstrated to the people that the God of Israel is real, awesome and above all gods. That demonstration did not go over well with the political powers in Elijah’s day; hence he had to disappear for a while, which brought him to this place in the wilderness under the Broom Tree. He prayed to the Lord:
“Please take my life! I don’t want to live anymore. I’m done!”
Exhausted Elijah fell asleep under the tree. An angel woke him up twice and gave him food to eat and water to drink. The manna from heaven gave him a renewed sense of purpose and energy. The prophet made up his mind to travel to Mount Horeb, which was a long distance away. Traveling day and night he arrived eventually and spent the night in one of the mountain caves. And God asked him (1 King 19:9):
“What are you doing here Elijah?”
In an attempt to justify his long and arduous trip to the famous desert mountain he replied:
“I needed to come here. Everybody wants to kill me. There is nobody left who is on your side, Lord!”
And the Lord disagreed with the prophet, but He decided to give Him a little demonstration (1 Kings 19:11):
“The Lord said, ‘Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.’”
When Prophet Elijah stood at the entrance of his cave on the mountain, the Lord Almighty showed up. He was preceded by a windstorm, an earthquake and a raging fire. Interestingly, God was in none of these; instead He chose to be in a gentle whisper. And Elijah listened.
To get a more realistic take on a situation, we too need to listen to God, just as Elijah did. He learnt from God that he still had work to do. And contrary to his opinion the Lord counted no less than 7000 people who were on His side.
What is the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of a celebrity? Most likely all the advertised features will cross your mind. However, if you had the opportunity to be with that famous person, you would probably get to know a very different side, not advertised on billboards. The same is true with God. God’s billboard is worldwide. You can see His glory in Mother Nature; and as Job describes it, you can hear His glory in crashing, fearsome thunderbolts (Job 37:5-6):
“God’s voice is glorious in the thunder. We can’t even imagine the greatness of his power. He directs the snow to fall on the earth and tells the rain to pour down.”
Thunder is awe-inspiring and gets people’s attention; nevertheless, if we want to grow closer to the Lord, we need to tune into His still small voice, the gentle whisper in our hearts. As depressed as we can be about a seemingly hopeless situation, it is never as bad as it looks. Seeking the Lord and listening to what He has to say, we will see that God always makes a way in the desert and a trail in the wilderness – despite life’s circumstances.