“Thanks, Nate.” Elijah squinted into the sun and brought a shaky hand to his forehead. “I’ll be right back.”
Mount Horeb, 871 BCi
1 Kings 19:3-18ii
Elijah settled Nathan’s wineskin in his pack and trudged past a sandy, graveled hill on Beersheba’s outskirts.iii
A golden jackal crouched by a dead thorn bush, the only sign of life on the hill. He lolled his tongue, pinned his ears back, and watched Elijah.iv A bustard strutted and pecked for seeds among the clumps of purple-mauve grass decorating the wadi floor. v
Elijah neglected his customary wave and cheery greeting for fellow creatures. He put his head down, lumbered east, and let out a tiny groan. His life was gone. Could he find purpose in this empty land?
From behind the mountains of Edom, the bright yellow sun slid up into gray clouds. Blue sky pushed into the gray, forming dozens bays and inlets which exposed Elijah to the heat.vi
He trudged southeast through the Negev wadis and hills. He sipped Nathan’s wine, nibbled Shillem’s flatbreads and cheese, and guzzled Abraham’s water. While the sun still hung high over the sea, he finished his food and drink.
His shoulders dragged low, and his chest caved in. No Absalom oak offered its thick, cool shade, so Elijah folded his frame under the tiny thorns and pitiful leaves of a broom tree. He slumped with his hair hanging in his face.
He glanced toward heaven, then let his head flop down. Elijah let out a hard sigh. “Just let me die, okay, Lord?” He stretched out, moaning and muttering about with him gone, maybe Jezebel would leave Mother alone. He fell asleep.
A touch on his arm. “Have a bite.”
Elijah opened an eye.
A jug of water sat by his head.
The sun hovered with one toe dipped in the sea.
In the dim light, glowing coals showed bread baking on hot rocks. (Does he see the angel? What is he thinking?)
He ate, drank, and lay back down. Another daydream? Nathan’s advice still held. Don’t think about Jezebel’s price on his head.
He slept and dreamed an angel fed him fresh-baked flatbreads from a fire and gave him spring water to drink. In his dream, a great gray shrike flapped its black and white wings high in the broom tree and sang trr-turit trr-turit.
An angel tapped Elijah’s shoulder and pointed to the sun poking up over the mountains of Edom. “That’s your ‘Rise and shine,’ young man.” He handed Elijah a short stack of fresh-baked flatbreads. “Let’s put more food inside you. You’ve got a long way to go.” His fingers flinched from the hot bread . This was no dream.
On the strength of that breakfast Elijah hiked what felt like forever [This sounds like one long day, unless the reader knows the geography. I suggest that you indicate that it was many days (or you could even say 40), and maybe his sandals wear out or his beard grows, etc.] — all the way to Horeb, the mountain of God. [How does he know he is at Horeb?] He spotted a cave part way up, climbed in, and lay down for the night.
First thing in the morning, the Lord asked, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” (A Voice? What does it sound like to Elijah? Does any light accompany it?)
Elijah swallowed. “What do you mean? Didn’t you send that angel with food for a long trip?” He swallowed again. “Look, Lord. You’ve got to understand. I have been so passionate for you. I know you are the mighty Lord of warrior angels, but the children of Israel have turned their backs on your covenant. They destroy your altars and murder anyone who speaks out for you. I am the only one left alive. And look. They’ve chased me into this wilderness.” (Is Elijah looking around, trying to figure out where the Voice is coming from?)
“That’s how you see things, I know. So, come out here, please. [I don’t know if the Lord would have sounded quite so polite.] I have something for you.”
Elijah rubbed his eyes and stretched. He crawled to the mouth of the cave and stuck his head into the light. While his eyes adjusted to the brilliance, he shielded his face with his hand. Across the valley, boulders and broom trees covered the mountain.
“All the way. On the ledge, son. Since you’re so passionate, get out here where you can feel what’s happening. 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. Just crawl out here.”
Elijah dragged himself out of the cave, stood, and leaned back against the mountain.
A shrill howl came across the valley.
Elijah jerked straight.
On the far mountain side, a tornado ripped rocks and trees off and scattered them across the valley floor. The black funnel tore the mountain itself into giant pieces of rock and tossed them onto the boulders and broom trees—plunk, plunk, plunk. What a mess. (How is Elijah reacting? Is he trembling?
“I felt that. Wow! So, that’s you, eh, Lord?” [I’m wondering if he’d sound a little more awed or intimiated?]
“Such small expectations. You see a little wind and think I was out for a walk?”
“Okay. So the tornado—you were just getting my attention?”
The mountain under Elijah shook. It tossed him up. He fell, and it tossed him again. His feet went left, his head right, and he landed on his shoulder. He rolled and put a foot down, but the mountain bounced again and again. The moment he planted a foot, the rock foundation sent him and his foot flying. (Is Elijah scared? How is he reacting? What is he thinking?)
The bouncing stopped. He waited. The mountain under him held steady, so he got to his knees. Whew! “Impressive. But I’m not falling for that trick twice. You weren’t in the wind, so that means you weren’t in the earthquake. What have you got to—?” [I’m just wondering if he’d sound a little more reverent, but maybe I’m wrong.]
Whoosh! A huge flame jumped in Elijah’s face. Yikes! He leaped back, but the smell of burning hair followed. He touched his beard. An inch shorter all around. Eyebrows? Gone. His cheeks burned, but he had expected that. (Maybe have the fire a safe distance away.)
He held his palms against his cheeks and blinked. The Lord was not in the fire, and he’d better not ask.
The gentlest whisper touched his ear. [A sound of sheer silence – 2 kings 19.12] “What are you doing here?”
Elijah pulled his cloak up over his face and crawled back inside the cave. [why? What was going through his head in this moment]
The Lord followed. (POV How does he know this?)
Elijah felt around. No place to hide. He moaned, “Lord, I have been very earnest …”
The Lord raised his hand. “I heard you the first time, but you haven’t heard me. You haven’t been listening.”
Elijah bit his lip. Not listening? How many times had he repeated Dad’s words from beside the old limestone well when he hugged him goodbye? “Listen for the voice of the Lord, Elijah. And do the right thing.” Dad would be so disappointed. Elijah had a private interview with the Lord, and instead of listening, he’d been bragging.
The Lord rested his hand on Elijah’s shoulder. [POV Can Elijah see the Lord’s hand? “You’re not the focus, Elijah. You still dream of sword school for you and Nathan. And I understand. You want to rescue those little girls and push Asherah out. When nobody’s looking, you see yourself as a tornado from the Lord, clearing the world of evil while you ride in a House of Omri chariot. Swords and tornadoes, earthquakes and fires. Quick. Easy. But temporary. That little fire I set on Mount Carmel, for instance. It cost me nothing, and it turned heads. But that moment has passed.
“Listen up, Lijah. I’ll have more action for you, but my voice is soft.”
Elijah covered his eyes with his hands. The Lord of ten thousand warrior angels spoke like Mother?
The Lord pushed Elijah’s forehead back. “Your brother’s waiting.”
Elijah crawled out of the cave and stood on the ledge.
The Lord shoved [why? Soften?] him against the mountain. “Before you go, young man, I’ve got a bone to pick with you out here in the daylight.”
i I’m surprised that God seems so harsh to Elijah. Maybe look for ways to soften God’s interaction with Elijah—why would He shove him against the mountain?
And Elijah doesn’t seem to react to the tornado, earthquake, and fire. Bring in more of fear and fight or flight instinct in regard to the tornado, earthquake and fire.
iii[Where is the sun?]
ivYou could show the heat by drawing attention to the way things blur in the distance, like the air is water.
vi (Does he have a walking stick?)