Mount Horeb, where first Moses and later the prophet
Elijah sought refuge during times of persecution in their lives, was
not what it appeared to be. Though forbidding and barren, as the name
“Horeb” (“desolation”) implies, it actually came to symbolize that
season in a person’s life during which a desolate soul could find the
presence of God.
Both Elijah and Moses before him found fresh
encounters with God on Horeb. Surrounded by the bleak and barren
environment, the Lord reduced His servants to one focus: God alone.
The Horeb experience tells us that God accommodates our
times of desolation and uses them to prepare us for greater glory. Out
of our barrenness comes a renewed dependency upon God, from which new
assignments and increased power emerge.
It was in the cleft of a rock near Horeb that Moses
prayed, “If I have found grace in Your sight, show me now Your way,
that I may know You” (Ex. 33:13, NKJV).
And it was here that the Lord, in turn, promised, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest” (v. 14).
We cannot say we truly know God if we remain ignorant of
His ways. To know the ways of a person is to know his heart’s
motivations as well as how he would respond to the blessings and
challenges of life. Moses knew the Lord in the deepest intimacy
possible; he knew God’s ways.
The Bible tells us that the Lord revealed His acts to the sons of Israel, but He made known His ways
to Moses (Ps. 103:7). To know the ways of God is to know the motives of
His heart and the secrets of His passions. It is to be amazed at the
resolve of His love and compelled to humility by His attraction to the
The Lord had promised Moses, “My presence will go with
you.” When God’s presence accompanies our actions, all the energy we
once spent worrying and planning is reclaimed and offered back to God
in praise and effective service.
The outcome of being companioned through life with Christ
is in His next promise, “I will give you rest” (Ex. 33:14). To enter
God’s rest does not imply that we have become inactive but that God has become active. Thus, Jesus calls, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28).
How the church today, weary and desperate, needs to
return to Jesus and re-enter God’s rest! When we are yoked to Christ,
our burdens are transferred to the vastness of His strength and
abilities. He becomes to us an untiring resource for our weakness; He
is unfailing wisdom for our ignorance.
At the place of rest, Christ becomes a continual
life-spring of grace and virtue. We can cease from our anxious labors
and, unfettered from our ideas and traditions, serve Him in the
unlimited strength of His might.
God has always been more concerned with the condition of our hearts than with the activity of our hands. What we become to Him is far more consequential than all we shall ever do for Him. He wants our love and companionship.
Indeed, the Scriptures tell us that He “jealously desires
the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us” (James 4:5, NASB). Thus,
if our devotion to our task exceeds our devotion to Him, He will
personally hinder our success. It is out of love that God delivers us
from the unanointed momentum of our zeal. He intentionally dries up our
The Lord insists that our success originate not from our
strength but from our union with Him. Our time of desolation,
brokenness and disappointment becomes a tool in His hand by which He
works within us a deeper dependency upon His strength.
Alone with God on Horeb, Moses prayed, “Show me Your
glory” (Ex. 33:18, NKJV). The Lord responded, “I will make all My
goodness pass before you” (v. 19). At the center of Christ’s
resplendent glory is His incomparable goodness. Indeed, our Horeb
experience becomes the very site where, in spite of our sense of
failure, God reveals to us His goodness.
To be personally restored to the knowledge of God’s goodness is what Elijah desperately needed. So it is for us.
The Cave of Withdrawal
It can be a crushing experience to give your very best
and still fall short. Elijah had been discouraged with his inability to
effect revival in God’s people. He fled Jezebel and traveled south
nearly 200 miles to Horeb, where he lodged in a cave on the
Scripture tells us that “hope deferred makes the heart
sick” (Prov. 13:12). Elijah had lost hope that revival would come to
Israel. When we lose hope we simultaneously lose faith, for faith is
the substance of the thing hoped for. Without hope or faith, all we
have is empty religion.
When we become heartsick with disappointment and
discouragement, we also lose perspective. We feel that we are
responsible for the results. We must remember that, apart from the
cooperating work of the Holy Spirit, no man can change another person’s
heart, much less the heart of a city or nation.
Much of Elijah’s discouragement came from the false
expectations he had placed upon himself. Often when we receive an
assignment from the Lord, we, like Elijah, begin immediately to imagine
the results. We project ourselves prematurely into a place of success
Yet we do not know what the result will be—only that we
should obey the Lord. We must leave the fulfillment in the hands of Him
who does “exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think” (Eph.
Elijah withdrew into a cave on Horeb. For us, self-pity
can become a spiritual cave. It can trap us in a dark hole of
loneliness and pain. In this place of isolation we fail to hear the
encouragement of God; all we hear is the echo of our own voices
magnifying and distorting our problems.