Why Did God Speak In A Still Small Voice
One of comedian Will Ferrells characters is a man named Jacob Silj. Ferrells character suffers from a rare disorder called Voice Immodulation Syndrome. It renders him unable to control the pitch or volume of his voice. He always speaks the same way and sounds the same way. Its comedic when Ferrell does this, but itd be tragic if this was how God spoke to us. Thankfully, God is able to speak to us in words that we will hear. At times he does speak to us in the thunder and earthquake and fire. At other times he speaks to us as he did Elijah. What is the difference? God lovingly speaks to us as we need.
P.G. Ryken says it well: In his weakness, anything more than a gentle God would have been too much for Elijah to bear. After all, he is the God of wind, earthquake, and fire. Sometimes Gods Spirit is in the wind, rushing and blowing about the earth. Sometimes God is in the earthquake, shaking the earth to show his power. Sometimes he is in the fire, as he was at Mount Carmel, when lightning fell from heaven to consume Elijahs sacrifice. But there are times when the glory of God is too much for any human being to take. His power is a terrible reality, and sometimes we simply want to know that he is our friend. This is what God revealed to Elijah: And after the fire the sound of a low whisper .
From Exhilaration To Depression: Israel To The Wilderness
Elijah moves spiritually from exhilaration to depression as he moves physically from Israel to Judea. First Kings 19, from which I read just a moment ago, opens just after Elijahs triumph on Mt. Carmel. It was the highpoint of his career. For three and a half years there had been no rain in Israel as a result of Gods word and Elijahs prayer. Then came the dramatic showdown between the prophet of God and the 450 prophets of Baal, at the climax of which Elijah prayed once more and fire came down from heaven to vindicate Gods cause. The people who were watching responded in faith, the prophets of Baal were slain, and to cap it off Elijah prayed a third time and the drought was broken. The rains came again. The biblical writer sums it up with these words: The hand of the Lord was on Elijah . You can imagine the sense of triumph and excitement which he must have felt.
But then he hears from Queen Jezebel. Baal may have been defeated, but she certainly wasnt. She was determined to take her revenge upon the prophet whatever the cost. Just that quickly Elijahs exhilaration turns to terror, and his spirits plummet. He panics, and runs for his life.
Does God Speak With A Still Small Voice
Many experts on prayer advise us that when we pray, we should enter into a time of quiet meditation where we do nothing but listen for the still small voice of God speaking to us. The question is, how are you so sure that any silent voice you hear is Gods? How do you know it is not your own mind playing tricks on you? How do you know it is not your own mind retrieving some piece of information that you read somewhere or heard sometime? Jesus was fasting for 40 days when the next voice He heard was the devils.
This article explains what the Bible meant by still small voice.
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What’s Important About God Speaking In A Still Small Voice
1. It was what Elijah needed.For a moment I want you to put yourself in Elijahs shoes. You have just won a tremendous victory where God showed up and proved he was God. Now you are running for your life. Elijah was so distraught that he didnt want to live anymore and his desire to be a prophet vanished as well. In this moment Elijah didnt need the power and strength of wind, an earthquake, or a fire. If God would have appeared out of the wind, the fire, or the earthquake I think that would have overwhelmed Elijah in his fragile condition. What he needed at that moment was the calming reassurance of Gods presence. God knew this and he met him in that manner.
2. It revealed the tender nature of God.While God is judge and all-powerful and can do what he wants, when he deals with you and me he very rarely comes with the fire. This does not mean that God doesnt bring judgment because he does, but that is not his first response. God is a lot calmer when he deals with us than we are when we deal with people. God deals with us more often than not with grace and loving-kindness. I believe this was part of the significance of God appearing to Elijah in a gentle whisper. This revealed the tender nature of God. As important as it is to know the God of fire and brimstone that does not draw us to him. It is his kindness, his mercy, his compassion, his love that draws us in. I believe God was displaying that to Elijah. Paul reminds us of this in Romans,
From Depression To Complaint: The Wilderness To Mt Horeb
Then comes the next stage of the story where Elijah moves spiritually from depression to complaint, and physically from Judea to Mt. Sinai. An angel appears to him there, sitting under the broom tree, offering Elijah food and rest, and then sending him out on a journey to Horeb, the mount of God, that is to say, Mount Sinai. And we read:
There came to a cave and lodged in it. And behold, the word of the Lord came to him, and he said to him, What are you doing here, Elijah? He said, I have been very jealous for the Lord, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.
What a fascinating conversation this is! God begins with a question for Elijah: What are you doing here? To which Elijah might have reasonably replied, Well, you sent an angel who set up the whole trip. What do you mean, what am I doing here? But of course Elijah understood what God was really asking. This question was a summons to reflection: Elijah, stop and think what has brought you here why are you feeling as you are? Elijahs reply is a mixture of self-pity and accusation. He very helpfully reminds the Lord of all the terrible things that have been happening in Israel, as if God might not have noticed. And he insists, I have been zealous, as if to say God has not.
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Two Mighty Servants Of God
Elijah fled to Beersheba. Leaving his servant, he went another days journey into the wilderness, where he asked God to take his life .
For whatever reason, Elijah had taken his eyes off the awesome power of God, instead allowing a mere human to intimidate him.
In the next few verses, we read that God sent an angel to feed him and to send him to Mount Horeb . The passage tells us that this special meal was to sustain Elijah for forty days and forty nights . This is an important hint to what surely went through Elijahs mind at this moment.
First, he was headed to Horeb, the mountain of God. This mountain, where Moses first encountered God in the burning bush , is better known as Mount Sinai. When Israel encamped before the mountain, Moses also went without food and drink for 40 days and nightstwice!
As a man dedicated to the true God, Elijah must have seen the similarities between his experiences and those of Moses. Both had fled from hostile, tyrannical rulers. Both had journeyed into the wilderness. Both had become discouraged, asking God to take their lives. Both had eaten food provided by God, and both had fasted on their way to the summit of the mountain of God.
When Elijah had climbed the mountain, he entered a cave or actually the cave . What cave could be intended other than the cleft of the rock into which God put Moses when he was on the mountain ?
But thats not what happened!
Voices: Gods Still Small Voice
Recently, while sitting on a porch with a calming stream babbling by in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado, I was suddenly filled with anxiety and fear. It was early in the morning and no one else was up. The air was clean and cold, but the stillness of the moment did not translate to my heart.
The reason for this anxiety and fear was not clear. It seemed to creep up on me out of nowhere. My heart was in a battle of faith, a battle to believe God is bigger than my fears and my anxiety. The passage of Scripture I was reading in that moment was Psalm 29.
This Psalm calls us to worship the Lord, to ascribe glory to his name because he is on the throne. As I was sitting on this porch in the cool of the morning, watching this stream rush by below me, I read verses 3 and 4: The voice of the Lord is over the waters the God of glory thunders, the Lord, over many waters. The voice of the Lord is powerful the voice of the Lord is full of majesty.
The Lord is on the throne. He is Lord over these waters and he is Lord over my heart. He is Lord over this fear and anxiety, which seems to dominate so much of my life. My heart needs to hear the voice of the Lord, the voice of this majestic and glorious King. His voice calms these fears and holds back this anxiety.
What Elijah heard
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Zac Harrel is pastor of First Baptist Church in Gustine, Texas.
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So How Does God Speak To Us
God does speak to us, but not through voices. I believe that Gods voice is the written word. As we study and meditate on that word, it becomes more and more in us and part of us. I believe that God thinks to us more than he speaks to us. Often the Holy Spirit would just bring a scripture or something in the Bible to you, and that is a sure indication that God is leading you in a certain direction. You may call that a small still voice if you like.
But I would be careful about telling people to listen for small still voices. God does not want us to be lead by voices. His word is a lamp unto our feet, and a light unto our pathway . God wants us to listen to His voice through His word. See my articles on the Voice of God and How to Interpret the Bible for more.
The Still Small Voice
And after the earthquake a fire but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice. And it was so, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went cut, and stood in the entering in of the cave. And, behold, there came a voice unto him, and said, What doest thou here, Elijah? 1 Kings xix. 12, 13.
What is the lesson of this? May God the Holy Spirit help us this morning to learn it, and to teach it.
Law and terrors do but hardenAll the while they work alone Tis a sense of blood-bought pardonThat dissolves a heart of stone.
Now, whatever the soft and gentle instrumentality may be, it is in every case, if it saves the soul, wrought by the Holy Spirits presence and the Holy Spirit, though he can be a rushing, mighty wind when he wills, for he comes according to his own sovereign pleasure, yet usually when he comes to bring to man the peace of God, descends as the dove, or as the dew from heaven all peace, and gentleness, and quiet. Satan can set the soul on fire with agony doubts and fears and terrors rend it like an awful earthquake the whole man is in trouble and confusion as the whirlwind of the law sweeps through his soul but the Spirit comes in tenderest love, revealing Christ the gentle One, setting up the cross of the Saviour before the sinners tearful eye, and speaking peace, pardon, and salvation. Brethren, this is what we want, the work of the Spirit of God in his own manner of living love.
From Complaint To Obedience: Mt Horeb To Israel
Now comes the climax of the story, when Elijah moves from complaint back to obedience, back to Israel, where his calling and ministry are. In one of the most famous scenes in the whole Bible, God speaks to Elijah in front of that cave on Mount Sinai.
And he said, Go out and stand on the mount before the Lord. And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountain and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire, the sound of a low whisper.
The Lord God passes by Elijah in the hurricane, and in the earthquake, and in the flash and fire of the lightning, as once he had appeared to Moses on this same mountain. But the Lord didnt speak through any of these. Elijah waited quietly until he heard the sound of a low whisper, the sound of a still, small voice. Then in reverence, he wrapped his face in his cloak and he listened as God reassured him that he wasnt alone, that there were still 7,000 faithful people in Israel. God gave Elijah a new task of service.
The Way Of The Still Small Voice
Illustration by Edel Rodriguez. Cover design by Point Five Design.
And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind and after the wind an earth-quake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire and after the fire, a still small voice. 1 Kings 19:1112, RSV
Elijah at Horeb has been one of my favorite Bible passages since I was a child, and this story continues to unfold and unfurl itself to me.
Who can deny how poetically pleasing these verses are ? The anaphora achieves its intensifying effectand after the wind, and after the earthquake, and after the firefollowed by the simple phrase a still, small voice, lovely in its consonance but powerful in its percussiveness.1 Like a soft drumbeat, the phrase arrests us as readers or hearers, so we are sympathetic to Elijah, who is stopped and reoriented by the voice he hears.
Elijah states his proud case, caught up in his fears and in blaming the people of Israel for their unrighteousness. God tells him to stand upon the mount, where he witnesses whirlwind, earthquake, and fire. Gods voice is not in any of these disasters, though. It comes after the storm and fury, in the voice of fragile silence.2
In an online Jonathan Sacks commentary, the British rabbi and author describes what this textual moment means to him:
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The Still Small Voice Is God
Maybe you have read the gospel of John where he says âIn the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God.â What an amazing thought! God Himself is LITERALLY His words!
1 Kings 19:9
9 And he came thither unto a cave, and lodged there and, behold, the word of the Lord came to him, and he said unto him, What doest thou here, Elijah?
There are so many places in the scriptures that say âThe word of the Lord came to him.â It doesnât say a figure, a physical body, a thought, or a feeling came. It says the very word of God came. Now, remember earlier how we said that we understand words as the sound of a voice that communicates something?
Remember also that we said a voice is only a method of communicating the words, and that the words themselves are a way to express something? So what is it saying here when it says âThe word of the Lord came to him?â
16 It stood still, but I could not discern the form thereof: an image was before mine eyes, there was silence, and I heard a voice, saying,
Look close at what was said here! âThere was silence, and I heard a voice, saying, â
Without a single sound, in dead silence, a voice was still heard that did not come from the one hearing it. How can a person hear a voice when there is silence? Unless, the voice itself is something other than sound.
Yes, I know that may be confusing to some of us. The truth is that if you have never experienced it then it may be very hard to grasp.