God strengthens people in caves. Consider Moses. Moses responds to the call of God, leads the people out of Egyptian slavery, guides them through the wilderness, climbs the mountain of God, receives the Law, climbs back down the mountain and …
Sees his people worshipping a golden calf that they’ve made with their own hands. The scene would be funny if it weren’t so sad. The people even shout in unison, “These are your Gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!” (Ex 32:4) Can you imagine prostrating yourself before a golden calf? I would argue that we do it every day, but alas, that’s a different entry …
And so to say that Moses is “discouraged” would be the understatement of the year. This isn’t like when you’re the pastor of a church and your Sunday numbers are down. Moses is experiencing borderline despair. And so Moses retreats to be with the Lord in a small cave. And in that cave, the Lord “passes by” and reveals all of his “goodness” to Moses (Ex 33:19). And Moses is encouraged and refueled for his mission to Israel. Because of his experience in that cave. From that day forward, Moses was a caveman.
Or what about Elijah? He embarrasses the worshippers of Baal on top of Mount Carmel. The display is moving and humorous and awesome. Baal is revealed as impotent. Yahweh is revealed as real and holy and true. Both fire and rain descend from heaven. Elijah expects to be vindicated. But instead of a hero’s welcome, Elijah faces assassination. Jezebel wants him dead. And so Elijah runs to Horeb – the mount of God – and comes “to a cave” (1 Ki 19:9). Elijah is lost, confused and in need of encouragement. And in that cave, God strengthens Elijah. Not in the wind. Not in an earthquake. Not in the fire. But in sheer silence. A still, small voice. From that day forward, Elijah was a caveman.
Symbolically speaking, caves are where we go to meet God when we need some encouragement. Caves are where the Lord gently passes us by and reveals all of the goodness that our hearts can stand without killing us. Caves are where we return to – day in and day out – to find God in the sheer silence. A still, small voice.
Where do we go when we need some encouragement? Are we taking the time to retreat and to spend time in God’s presence? Like Moses, we may feel at times like all we do is in vain. Like Elijah, we may think that our great moments of faith and Godly risk-taking only get us into more trouble. But there’s a cave for us somewhere. Not to hide in but to retreat to and to find strength. And in that cave we make an appointment with God. We find refreshment, renewal, strength, and fresh joy to do God’s work.
Moses was a caveman. Elijah was a caveman.