My oldest son, Noah, spent the first six years of his life as missionary kid in Madagascar. His best friend, Tafita, was our next door neighbor. Communication, as you can imagine, for these two preschoolers was an odd mixture of French, English and Malagasy. Sometimes language barriers led to tantrums and sometimes to laughable moments. But there was one game that Noah and Tafita would play that didn’t require words. It’s called “cache-cache” or as we know it, hide and seek.
This past Thanksgiving Eve I preached on 1 Kings 17:2-6:
Then the word of the Lord came to Elijah: “Leave here, turn eastward and hide in the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan. You will drink from the brook, and I have directed the ravens to supply you with food there.” So he did what the Lord had told him. He went to the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan, and stayed there. The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning and bread and meat in the evening, and he drank from the brook.
I love this story because Elijah here gets to play “cache-cache” with God. He is told to hide and God will seek him.
Hide? My first thought as a missionary was “Why hide?” I saw lots of things in Madagascar – from hissing cockroaches to poisonous centipedes, from Malaria to a coup d’état – that made me want to go and hide. Then I thought about the other prophets who delivered their doomsday messages not only to the king but also to the people. They had no choice to hide. Then there is Jonah. He tried to hide, but his hiding landed him in the belly of a whale.
But then I realized by hiding two things happened to Elijah:
First, the nation of Israel was facing judgement due to idolatry. Elijah warned the king that there would be no more rain until God speaks it so. No rain meant no crops. The kings prosperity was tied directly to the bounty of the crops. Hiding meant time and space between the safety of the prophet and the threats from the kingdom.
Second, hiding meant time with God. It was a moment of seclusion! Not only could Elijah physically hide his body, but his spirit was sheltered by the concealment of God. By removing Elijah from the world, God had Elijah to God’s self. The prophet, who was sent to some cut off ravine, relied 100% on God for food, water and company. Hiding meant time and space for God to be at work in the heart of Elijah. It was about preparation so that when Monday rolled around and the work called, Elijah was ready.
Understanding God’s command of go and hide to Elijah got me thinking about the people in my own congregation. With Thanksgiving comes the onset of the holiday season. For some people, it is an exciting time. But for others, the holidays can be overwhelming, stressful and lonely.
So I hid a $5 gift card to a local coffee shop in the Thanksgiving Eve bulletins. With this gift, I challenged the congregation that between Thanksgiving and New Years they should find 30 minutes of quiet time to play “cache-cache” with God. Of course, how and when they do that is up to the individual. Some people like suggestions; I gave several. They could:
Straight Up Elijah-Style. One on one time with God. Sip a cup of coffee and read the Bible. Practice being still.
My Style. Get a cup of joe, walk the neighborhood and pray. Because some people are not made for sitting still.
In Company. Find a lonely neighbor, friend or family member. Treat them to a cup of coffee cheer and conversation. (One small cup of coffee is $2.03. There was enough on the gift card for two cups!)
Donate. Befriend someone in need. Learn their name and give them the card.
The point was to take some time to hide with God. For each person – the 30 minutes to be cut off from phones, computers, family and social media – would look different. It’s to be a moment of seclusion for the self with God. Intentional time for God to be at work in the hearts of the people. Without a doubt – just like it did for Elijah – Monday rolls around and the work calls. God wants God’s people to be ready for the work to be done. Ready to love this world that seems to stand in constant judgment of one another. It’s in these quiet moments that God prepares our hearts to do just that.
Hiding for us means time and space with God. So go and hide, my friends, in the ordinary places and let God find you there.