“What are you doing here, Elijah?”
“What do you mean, doing here? Didn’t you—? Look, Lord, I have been very zealous for you, but my people have rejected your covenant. They’ve destroyed your altars and murdered your friends. I am the only one still serving You, and now they’re hunting me!”
“I understand that’s how you see it, Elijah. So come out here. I have something to show you.”
Elijah rubbed his eyes and stretched. He crawled over to the mouth of the cave and stuck his head out into the bright sunshine. He held his hand up to shade his eyes and squinted across the valley.
“Come on. Get out here where the Lord is. The Lord is about to pass by.”
“Um, didn’t you tell Moses ‘no man can see my face and live’?”
“I’ll ask the questions, Elijah. You just try to get your act together long enough to get out here.”
Elijah dragged himself onto the side of the mountain and stood up by the mouth of the cave. He started to lean back against the rock when a shrill howl came from across the valley, and he jerked himself straight.
Way over on the far side, a black funnel tore the rocks and trees off the mountain. Then the wind shattered the mountain itself. Tore it into giant rocks and tossed them onto the floor of the valley. Plunkety, plunk, plunk.
Wow! He stood still and stared at the pieces of mountain scattered out before him.
“So, was that you, Lord? Is that what you meant? Did you just pass by?”
“You have such small expectations, young man. You see a little windstorm and think I was walking by? That was just part of the pre-game warm-up show. Nope. Not I.”
“Okay. So the Lord was not in the wind. Got it.”
The earth shook under Elijah. Not across the valley, but the mountain he was trying to lean against. It knocked him down. He tried to stand back up, but the mountain kept bouncing. The second he planted a foot, the rock floor under him bounced up and sent him and his foot flying.
Then it stopped bouncing. He looked around for it to bounce again, and then he crawled to his feet. Whew! The rock of the mountain held steady under him again.
“Impressive. But I’m not falling for that trick twice, okay, Lord? So you weren’t in the wind, and you weren’t in the earthquake. What have you got to—?”
“Whoosh! A huge flame jumped up right in Elijah’s face. Yikes! He leaped back, but the smell of burning hair followed him. He felt his beard. About an inch shorter all around. Eyebrows? Nope. Gone. His cheeks felt hot, but he had expected that.
He blinked while he held his palms against his cheeks. But he knew better than to ask. Nope, the Lord was not in the fire.
Then came the gentlest whisper. “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
He pulled his cloak up over his face and crawled back inside the cave, but he found no place to hide. He started to give the same old groan: “Lord, I have been very zealous …”
“It’s not about you, Elijah. You want to rescue those little girls and push Asherah out of your land. And I understand that. But if I can’t get people to listen with tornadoes or earthquakes, what makes you think a little fire on the mountain is going to change hearts?”
“With some people, the only thing I’ve got going for me is a still, small voice. But my voice is like a lamp in the night. It’s not the sun. The only way to get sunshine is to wait for the dawn.”
Elijah returned to Benmelech’s house, picked up Nathan, and headed to Arad. “The Lord did something that felt like our mother.”
“The Lord? The Lord’s like Mother?”
“You know how she takes your face in both her hands.”
“I’m just so glad she doesn’t pinch my cheeks. I hate it when the aunts and uncles do that, but it seems to give them some kind of joy.”
“No, no. Not the cheek pinching thing. I’m talking about when Mom wants to make you really listen. You know how she holds your face in both hands?”
Nathan looked over at him and smiled. “Yes! She makes me look right in her eyes.”
Elijah gazed up and ahead. “And back there on the mountain it was like I could feel the Lord’s two hands holding my face, with both eyes staring words right into me. And I can tell you every syllable.”
“Listen up, Elijah. You’re not the only one serving me, you hear? I’ve got reserve forces you never dreamed of — a complete company who never bent a knee or puckered up a kiss for that Asherah pole.”
“Wow.” Nathan took several steps. “I’d still be standing there with His hands holding my face.”
They went over the bank of the Judean Plateau down to the Dead Sea, and then north on the caravan route. This time, though, instead of hiding in the swamp, they chatted with the camel pullers with their wispy beards.
They came again to the Ein Gedi junction.
But did you know the Amorites called Ein Gedi ‘Hazezontamar’? Say that three times rapidly.”
“You know the story. When Chedorlaomer captured Ein Gedi, he made the mistake of carrying…”
Elijah finished. “… of carrying off Lot. So Abraham…”
“Remember how you told Dad if we had Abraham’s 318 armed men they could help us rescue those little girls from the Asherah temple? You made Dad laugh.”
Elijah quirked his mouth. “I wish we had them in Tishbe right now to protect Mother.”
Nathan looked west up the road to Jericho. “Here we are at this intersection again. Really, Lijah, I don’t get it. Why did the Lord send us all the way south to get away from Jezebel’s scouts, and now back north again?”
“Maybe they called off the search? Maybe He could only get my attention out in the desert on the side of the mountain?”
“You don’t know? The Lord showed you the route to Zarephath. Put pictures in your mind. Doesn’t the Lord show you stuff anymore, now that your beard’s grown?”
“Ha! Not today. And I’m okay with that. I don’t have to know. Remember down off Mt. Carmel I told you things were going to be different now? Well I’m what’s different.”
As they left Jericho behind them, Elijah reached over and pinched Nathan’s cheek. “When we grew tall, the aunts and uncles had to reach a foot above their own cheeks, and they gave it up. Remember?”
When they passed Adam, the city where the waters stood in a heap for Joshua, they stopped and gazed up at the Gilead plateau on the east bank.
Nathan asked, “Moonlight enough for you to see Dad’s oaks up there where we sold wine?”
“Ha! Those oak groves all look alike from down here. Of all the times you and I looked down on this valley, I never dreamed we would stand here and look back [as adults and ache for home].” A slight smile curled Elijah’s lips. “I want to help Dad sell wine again.” Then his eyes filled with tears, and he spoke in a quiet voice. “You’ll be going to Neetz in Zarephath, and I want to go home.”
Nathan leaned into him. “We’ll get you there, Lijah. Not much longer now, either.”
Elijah waved his back out over the Jordan River Valley. “It’s all beautiful. But right now, I just want to get home.”