And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice. 1 Kings 19:12 (NKJV)
Elijah and the Sound of Sheer Silence – Hearing Series – Part 3
What does God’s voice sound like?
In 1 Kings 19, the Prophet Elijah is afraid for his life and on the run. He prays in verse 4, “I have had enough, Lord, Take my life, for I am no better than my ancestors who have already died.”
(ever felt like that?)
Then the writer of Kings tells us that an Angel appeared to him, told him to eat (twice) and after resting, Elijah travelled 40 days and nights to Mount Sinai, where he set up camp in a cave. There in the cave, God ‘asked’ him, “why are you here?”
Elijah told God his worries and fears. But instead of comforting him, God told him to go stand in front of the mountain and wait.
First, a windstorm assaults the mountain, loosening rocks and toppling trees. But God's voice could not be heard in the wind.
Second, an earthquake shook both the mountain and Elijah, rattling bones and boulders around like toys… But God's voice could not be heard in the Earthquake.
Third, a fire consumed the mountain, and wiped its hot tongue down the landscape, licking at Elijah’s legs… But God could not be heard in the fire.
All these things – wind, earthquake and fire – are grand displays of power and dominance, loud and demonstrative; God was not speaking through them.
And so Elijah waited. Through the noise and the pain and the shaking and the heat, he waited. And at the end of it all (who knows how long it took), there came upon the air a gentleness, like a whisper, like the breath of God.
Other translations say that Elijah heard God in the “still small voice.” Some translators of the Biblical texts and experts in Hebrew say that this phrase in its original form doesn’t refer to audible noise, but means something like “God was in the sound of sheer silence.”
Who knows if perhaps it was God who was then ready to speak or Elijah who was then ready to listen.
In this place of contemplation, quiet, stillness – a meditative state – God encouraged a tired, heartbroken, and freaked out Elijah, and told him what to do next.
Not too long before Elijah's encounter with God in the cave, He was in a spot of trouble with some Baal worshippers. But he prayed, called down fire from heaven, and God answered with fire. It seems that due to all the grand, powerful and demonstrative things that Elijah was experiencing, he could have begun to take the small and silent stuff for granted; living from high to high. I think some of us can relate to that.
Our lives can feel like they’re full of earthquakes and windstorms and fires – hot and full and violent and loud and rushing and big and crazy. But if we live to and for these things, we’ll be swiftly burned out and crushed under their weight.
Listen for God; make yourself available to his instruction and presence; get silent. Remove yourself from the all the crazy stuff that happens around you. Forget about your schedule, the dishes in the sink, the shows on Netflix, the problems at work… and just be still. Silent. Focused. Relaxed.
He is waiting.
Go to Part 4 – Already Ready »
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