Have you ever been to a place of deep confusion? Bad news followed by more bad news without ever catching a break? If so, you’re in great company. In mankind’s story book, the Bible, we find characters too many to count, all at the end of their rope and ready to give up and die. In the book of 1 Kings we find a very depressed Elijah under a Broom Tree. A Broom Tree is a desert shrub. Living in Arizona we are familiar with the kinds of trees growing in the Sonoran desert, called Palo Verde, which translated from Spanish into English means “Green Stick”. Broom Trees are like that – desert sticks providing second-class shade.
If all we have for comfort is a scraggly little Broom Tree, we understand Elijah’s point of view that life ain’t worth living. What’s the purpose of running in circles like a lab rat? Why do we want to be here if we have no friends, if nobody cares about us, and if all we’re doing or saying is inconsequential? Hunted down like a criminal, why would we want to keep on running? We’re out of options, out of vision, out of courage, out of hope!
All of the above brought Elijah under a desert Broom Tree, exhausted and tired of life.
In a previous public showdown Baal’s prophets were challenged by Elijah 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. When Elijah prayed to the God of Israel, a wet pile of wood lit up and was entirely consumed by fire. Making a public spectacle of the ineffectiveness of praying to false gods, Elijah knew firsthand that the God of Israel is real, awesome and above all gods.
When Elijah stood at the entrance of a cave on Mount Sinai, God Almighty showed up. He could have been represented by something big and terrifying, like a windstorm for instance, or an earthquake, or a raging fire. Interestingly, God chose to be in none of those, instead the story reads (1 King 19:12):
“And as Elijah stood there, the Lord passed by, and a mighty windstorm hit the mountain. It was such a terrible blast that the rocks were torn loose, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave.”
Elijah listened. To get a more realistic take on a situation, we too need to listen to God, just as Elijah did. He learnt that he still had work to do. And contrary to his assumptions that he was all alone, 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, once you’ve had the opportunity to be with the famous person, you will probably get to know a very different side, not advertised on billboards. The same is true when it comes to getting to know God. God’s billboard is worldwide. You can see His glory everywhere in Mother Nature; and as Job describes it, you can hear His glory in some 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.”
Thunderbolts are pretty awe-inspiring and can certainly get people’s attention; nevertheless, if we want to grow closer to God, 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, listening to what He has to say, we will see that God always makes a way in the desert, and expertly guides us through the wilderness called life.
“I’ve been through the desert on a horse with no name
It felt good to be out of the rain
In the desert you can remember your name
‘Cause there ain’t no one for to give you no pain” Dewey Bunnell