Have you ever been to a family dinner and before the salad course was done your head was already spinning as there seemed to be four loud conversations going on simultaneously. Everybody was talking you and wondered to yourself if anyone was really listening. Or think back to a recent road trip you made; you are driving down the road listening to your favorite music and all of a sudden you hear “that noise.” You know, that noise when a car pulls up next to you (with its windows up) and the music is so loud that you can no longer even hear your music (which probably is also too loud). The bass sound blasting from their woofers and subwoofers is almost deafening to you and you feel the vibration inside your car. We cannot seem to do anything without some sort of noise blasting into our ears. And we often think the louder the better.
Sadly, in order to be heard today, you frequently need to be the loudest noise among the many noises in the room. We often also expect that when God speaks to us, He will speak in a big tenor voice. Think back to God speaking to Moses in the classic 1956 movie, “The Ten Commandments,” starring Charlton Heston. While it is true that sometimes God does speak in a loud voice, He more often speaks in soft and quiet whispers. He is often not the loudest voice in your head. In the 19th chapter of the Old Testament book 1 Kings there is the story of the prophet Elijah waiting for God to speak and he initially misses God’s voice. Let us set the context.
In 1 Kings 18, Elijah experienced the powerful presence of God in a showdown with hundreds and hundreds of false prophets (verses 16-45). Right after that showdown, beginning in 19:3, Elijah got scared and feared for his life, and he fled to Mount Horeb. He “knew” God was large and in charge, but he “felt” genuine fear. And if Elijah is anything like us, what he felt got in the way of what he knew. Sound familiar to anything you’ve ever experienced? At Mount Horeb, the voice of the LORD told Elijah to go out to the mountain and wait for the LORD to pass by. So we imagine Elijah waited, expecting the LORD to show up in a powerful way. Now we pick up the text in 19:11-13, and read what happens next.
The LORD said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by.”Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
While Elijah stood out on the mountain waiting for the LORD to show up, three powerful forces of nature passed by – great and powerful wind, earthquake, fire – but God was not in any of those forces. Elijah was probably now confused as to where God was. Just like Elijah, we often times anticipate God will speak to us in a certain way and when He speaks in a way we have not anticipated, we miss His voice.
The text goes on to tell us that after the three powerful forces passed by, a gentle whisper (literally, a gentle blowing) came upon Elijah, and immediately he recognized it was his God. It was in that gentle blowing where Elijah met God in a new and intimate way.
So we ask you today, are you intently listening for the quiet intimate voice of God? It is often in those quiet whispers that God speaks loudest to us.