The Whisper
Based on Old Testament 1 Kings 18:16-19:18
(Written by Jaclyn Tepe)

The wind whistled through my ears as I mentally counted and assessed the 850 prophets of Baal and Asherah that were amassed before me. I bitterly resented these people that were now assembled with me on Mount Carmel. Here I was, a faithful servant to the Lord Most High, alone among so many who had turned away in order to follow other gods. Where were the true God's other chosen ones? Why should I have to face this challenge alone? I shook my head as I thought of how foolish these people were about to look. Why can't they see that their god is nothing more than a stone, fashioned by man into the image of yet another man's idea? "Because they don't want to see," came the answer from somewhere deep within me. It was time. I inhaled deeply and slowly let it escape through my nostrils as I approached mine and my God's enemy.

"How much longer will you try to serve two gods at once? Either choose Baal or choose God, but stop this indecisive servility," I yelled trying to keep my words from being carried away by the wind. But the eyes I gazed into remained blank, and the voices remained silent. "There is only one prophet of God here, and that is me. Baal, however, has hundreds of his prophets to represent him. Why don't we each take a bull, build an altar and whoever's God sends fire from heaven to consume the sacrifice is the true God?" The people's affirmation of the plan resounded in my ears as they immediately began to prepare their sacrifice.

I relaxed on the ground as I watched their procession. A sardonic smile crept to my lips as I stared at the prophets of Baal as they danced around their altar yelling prayers until I thought their throats would explode. Round and round they went, their violent motions causing the earth under me to shake. If they could only see themselves, I thought. Each man fears to give up for fear of retaliation from their peers and their king who watches on. They had started their futile efforts early in the morning and already the sun was at its highest point. Still, nothing had happened. What are they waiting for?

"Shout louder!" I yelled from my place of surveillance. "Maybe your god cannot hear you." Taking my advice, the voices that already threatened to break managed to rise to an even higher volume. "Maybe your god, since surely he is a god, is just busy in thought. Maybe he is traveling or deep in sleep. That's it," I cried. "He just needs to be awakened!" I tried to suppress a laugh as these men again joined together in hollow shouts, but now they began to slash and cut themselves with their swords and knives. Blood splattered the ground as the men still continued to weave themselves in an intricate dance about the altar. I averted my eyes as the ground began to turn to a bloody mud under all the churning feet. For several more hours they continued. I knew not where they were getting this stamina and persistence. Why not quit? So you really think that Baal is going to answer you now? I longed to shout these and other thoughts, but decided it would be best to let my God handle the problem.

I nodded my head to no one in particular in acknowledgement that the time had now come for me to call upon my God, a God who had always been and would always be. The prophets of Baal were sluggishly revolving about their still unburned bull. I feared that they would have walked until a canyon was beneath their feet if I did not tell them to halt. "Come to me," I ordered as I began to reassemble the broken and dilapidated altar of the Lord. As I built up the altar with twelve stones, I prayed that God would be with me and he would give me strength. It was not a question of whether He would send the fire, for I already knew that today God was going to have the victory, but it was a question of my courage and trust.

I could feel the thousands of eyes as they focused on me as I completed my task. The ground where the stones lay upturned was nothing but dust. Neither a drop of rain nor drop of dew had been sent to quench the parched lands for about three years, and this drought had been accomplished by God through me. I had been the one that had uttered the words that had ceased the rain, and it would be me who would prophecy their return. As I finished placing the last stone on the altar, the wind seemed to kiss my cheek with a faint hint at moisture.

As I prepared the bull for the sacrifice, others dug the trench around the altar that I had ordered to be constructed in order to be filled with water. Watching as jar after jar of precious water was poured on my sacrifice, the prophets of Baal reacted with surprise mixed with doubt. If their god couldn't burn a dry sacrifice, how in heaven's name did I think that mine would be consumed after being saturated with water? It was getting late in the afternoon and the heat was finally starting to wear on me. I could feel the salty moisture on the back of my neck and my palms were damp as I clasped them together.

Silence. Not a word was uttered, not a position shifted, in fact, it seemed that no one even breathed as I knelt on my knees. I inhaled deeply, and then with a voice that resounded with the majesty of heaven, I prayed. It was simple. It was to the point. There was no dancing, no slashing, shouting, or pleading. Just a humble request that my God make his presence known.

The air seemed to be pulled away from the mountain where we stood. Dust rose like a cloud and I was forced to close my eyes. But no sooner had I opened them than I pressed my eyes tightly together again. For it seemed that the heavens were being ripped open with a bolt of fire, but not with the simple fire of the housewife. No, this was the brightest, purest, holiest fire that my eyes had ever beheld. Screams echoed about me as the amazing sound reverberated off the mountain walls. When I dared to open my eyes it was as if the sun had risen to its fullest height once again. The altar was completely consumed in flames. I could hear the water hiss as it came in contact with the intense heat. Vapors of mist encircled the holy pyre for only a few moments, and then disappeared into oblivion.

I thought that the heavens had opened up once again as the people began to shout with one voice, "The Lord, he is God!" Again the earth shook as voice upon voice was added together in a mighty multitude of praise. I watched as the prophets of Baal hovered around each other in fearful expectation for what would befall them after being completely defeated. They knew that they were about to die and that there was nothing that they could do to prevent it. My heart beat with the triumphant thrill of victory. Yes, the rain was going to come. Soon, very soon. It was as if the very earth wanted to wash itself of the blood of these vile men. After seeing the execution of the false prophets and after informing the king of the coming storm, I ran.

I had just been responsible for the death of 850 of the Queen's prophets, and I doubted that she would be too excited to learn of their disposal. Jezebel was a woman to be feared if ever there was one that ought to be. And so I ran. My mind raced with my feet over the events of the day. My body along with my soul was exhausted. I had encountered my enemy of the flesh and spirit face to face, and not only had I survived, I had been victorious. But still I felt the need to glance over my shoulder, to stop and listen for the sound of impending horsemen, and to be ready for any attack that may come.

For a day, I braved the heat of the desert as my feet continued to pound the dust under them in an unending rhythm. At times my feet were numb and I could barely feel the sensation of their striking the ground. My thoughts wandered until finally I collapsed under a tree longing for rest. Oh, that I could just die and end this trial! I am no better than those who came before me! My soul beseechingly cried out for repose until overcome by fatigue I closed my eyes and slept. I know not how long I slept, only that I was awakened by the touch of an angel instructing me to rise and eat. Could this not be a dream? A mirage caused by the heat? I ate and again I slept. I awoke again to the angel's prodding; instructing me to eat for the journey was going to be much.

What refreshment I encountered when alone in the desert with no one but my God to rely upon. It was time again to travel. The forty days passed in a blur, a whirlwind of movement. Finally, I came upon Mount Horeb, the mountain of God, and I found rest in the sanctuary of a cave, or so I thought. No sooner had I entered than I was questioned by the voice of God himself. How do I put into words the nature of that voice? It is a voice that resounds with the depths of the oceans, it tinkles like drops of rain on a budding leaf, it rises as if carried by the wings of dawn, and it is. What more can be said of a sound that encompasses the everlasting, the creator, and the defender? "What are you doing here, Elijah?" it asked me.

A thousand different scenarios rang through my ears, but it was my soul that replied with the answer that it had been basing all other thoughts and actions. "I have faithfully served the Lord Almighty with all fervor that I could muster, and yet your people turn their backs on you, they break your altars, and put your prophets to death. I am your only faithful servant left, and I, too, am running for my life!" I heard myself answer. Again the voice addressed me, this time instructing me to go out and wait for the presence of the Lord to pass by. And so I waited for his glorious and powerful arrival.

Almost imperceptibly at first, I heard the faint sound of a breeze outside of the mouth of the cave. But in seconds the breeze had turned into a furious gale. The wind howled as it screeched across the empty entrance to my hollow. I fell to the ground to keep from being tossed by the powerful force. The wind picked up boulders as easily as a child picks up stones and just as recklessly dashed them to the ground in a moment of childish whimsy. The stones above my head resounded with the deafening cries of shattering rocks. Surely the Lord was in this awesome display of natural might, but my spirit told me that this was not his presence. I started to rise from the ground for it seemed that the violent wind was beginning to subside, but no sooner had I regained my feet than I was thrown to the cold, stone floor once again.

Small stones and dust fell from the ceiling of the cave as the ground shook with the angry motion of a ship caught in a maelstrom. I could hear rocks splitting as their foundations quivered to the depths of the earth. I threw my hands over my head and crouched like a child afraid of the dark. I coughed as my lungs filled with grimy debris. Searching for the presence of the Lord, my spirit called out. But it was not in the tossing of the earth that he had chosen to make himself known. I didn't know whether to be scared or amazed, frightened or impressed. I sat up, again thinking that finally the Lord's glorious display had come, only to shield my eyes from the blinding flame that now consumed the mountain top.

The flame that had devoured the sacrifice now seemed nothing more than the dying glow of a smoldering candle. Even with my eyes shut and my hands pressed in front of them, I could still see the red fire. My eyes ached with the intensity of the light. I clung to the stone wall and floor, desperately trying to embrace the coolness that had only minutes before resided in that mountain shelter. I dripped with sweat only to have it evaporate moments after appearing on my skin. I tried to cry but there was no moisture left for tears. Thinking that I could take no more, I fell to the ground in humble submission. The fire ceased. I looked up. I fearfully awaited the next catastrophe. What else was I going to encounter?

Expecting the thunder of the heavens, I almost missed the gentle whisper of His presence. I drew my cloak in front of my face and stepped out of the cave. "What are you doing here, Elijah?" the voice asked me again, this time in the soft whisper. I replied as I had before, but this time, a little less confident in my answer. "For had it been my reply that had brought the onslaught of natural displays of strength?" I wondered. I received several instructions, but what the Lord said that encouraged and humbled me most was a certain fact. I was not alone. There were seven thousand faithful servants to the Lord Most High who were involved in the same plight that I was. I was not the only one whose knees had not bowed and whose lips had not touched the mortal image of Baal. What joy came to my soul in knowing that I was not alone!
On one mountaintop I had thought that I was the only follower of God who had not succumbed to the patterns of those around me. On another one, I learned that there were thousands of others enduring the same hardships and trials as I was. On Mount Carmel I proudly proclaimed my God and his wondrous power. On Mount Horeb I cowardly hid from the magnificent displays of his might. At the altar, I saw my God as a bolt of lightning proclaiming he was the true God as he consumed the saturated sacrifice. In the cave, I witnessed my God as the gentle whisper that surpasses the other sights and sounds that one would assume to see their God use to display his presence. It was in the stillness and peace of a whisper that my God talked with me. He used the quiet, the subdued, and the small things to make himself known. I was reminded, I am not alone!