A Gentle Whisper

1 Kings 19: 9-18  God was not in the earthquake; he was in the gentle whisper!

“What are you doing here?” When God asks this question you know you are in trouble; and Elijah was. He had fled to Mount Horeb to escape Jezebel’s man hunt. But this was not where God wanted him. There is panic in Elijah’s reply, “The Israelites have … put all your prophets to death … and now they are trying to kill me” (10). But Elijah did not answer God’s question. Why was Elijah at Mount Horeb?
Well God knew of course; and he exposes Elijah’s reasons in what he does next. He tells Elijah that he is about to ‘pass by’ (11). Then, as if to confirm it, he sends a powerful wind which shatters the rocks. But after the wind has died down, Elijah realizes that the Lord is not in the wind, and he is disappointed. But never mind, because God then sends an earthquake, ♦ and the ground shakes with great violence. But after the ground stops moving, Elijah realizes that the Lord is not in the earthquake. Again it’s disappointing. But God isn’t finished, he then sends a fire. It blazes red hot as Elijah looks intently and listens. But after the fire dies down, Elijah realizes that the Lord is not in the fire. Again he is disappointed.
Why is God doing this? It is because Elijah wants the signs that were given to Moses. You see, Mount Horeb is Mount Sinai, otherwise known as ‘the Mountain of God.’ Elijah was at the mountain where Moses received the Ten Commandments. During God’s communication with Moses he told him he would ‘pass by.’ While there the mountain shook and smoke rose from the fire upon it. And also previously when God called Moses to deliver Israel from Egypt, he had spoken to Moses from a burning bush. And after that he used wind to part the waters of the Red Sea. Moses experienced wind, fire, earthquake and much more. It was God’s way of showing Moses and the Israelites that he was holy and powerful and not to be messed with.
Elijah was on the run from Israelites that had become ungodly and he wanted the God of Moses to strike fear into Israel. He wanted the God of Moses to show that he was the God of Elijah too.
Now you may ask why he would want this, I mean, God had already done extraordinary things through Elijah. But we have to look at the state Elijah was in. The mighty prophet of God was fleeing from Jezebel. He had lost confidence, he was full of fear; whatever God had done through him previously was having no effect. He was a man in need of assurance, a man needing to know once again that God was with him.
And we are all just like Elijah! No matter how many supernatural experiences we have had, we still need assurances. All believers are prone to bouts of doubt and fear. Nothing has changed.
So God gave Elijah what he wanted; a mighty wind, a raging fire and a violent earthquake, but he was not in them. He was not in the fire like he was at the burning bush. He was not in any of the signs given to Moses. But after these things comes ‘a gentle whisper’, some Bibles say ‘a small still voice’. And when Elijah hears the whisper, he covers his face. This is what Moses did at the burning bush when he realized that God was in the fire. Elijah now sees that God is in the whisper.
What is God telling Elijah in all this? He is telling him that he should not be on the run, that he does not need dramatic signs, or the things of Moses, all he needs is to keep following the gentle whisper.
There is a lesson in this for all of us. Often we either want the dramatic or we want what somebody else had. We forget that God is often in the small things, and that God does things differently with each person.
People sometimes say “God doesn’t speak to me” but they are expecting a voice like thunder instead of the gentle whisper in their hearts. People sometimes think “I’m not anointed like my pastor or that evangelist” but they are anointed, they are just looking for the wrong signs. God uses everyone differently. Elijah is not Moses and should not expect the things of Moses.
God wanted Elijah to be content with the whisper. It’s so important that we learn this, because God whispers in our hearts more than he thunders from heaven. If we only look for the dramatic we will miss him most of the time. One whisper from God satisfies, it puts a smile on your face, and it gives you the joy and strength to face all your enemies.
God’s gentle whisper can lead to amazing things. How did Jesus know he should walk on water or feed five thousand with five loaves? He heard the Father’s whisper. He lived and acted by the Father’s gentle voice.
When God whispers, he is talking in a subtle way, and God often speaks in subtle ways in scripture. For example Paul was ‘compelled’ by the Spirit to go to Jerusalem (Acts 20: 22), the disciples on the road to Emmaus said they felt their hearts burning as Jesus spoke to them – such burning accompanies revelation and even confirms it (Luke 24: 32). Jeremiah got what seems to have been a mental picture of a boiling pot tilting away from the north (Jeremiah 1: 13-14) and God then explained that he was going to bring disaster from the north. Often God highlights scripture as we read it, he can also do this with thoughts in our head. And when we act on those verses and those thoughts we see God’s power.
This by the way, is how most preachers who operate powerfully in words of knowledge and prophecy know what God is saying; and you don’t have to be a preacher to learn to hear these whispers. Anyone can grow in hearing God if they will take the time to listen and then act on what he says.
Of course most of our thoughts and mental pictures are not from God, just as most of our dreams are not, so we need to learn to discern which are from him and which are not. Usually phenomena from God have an unusual weight or urge attached to them. But the real test is in putting the message into action. So for example, if you sense God is telling you that a work colleague has a headache and that you should pray for their healing, approach that person and ask them if they have a headache. If they say “Yes, how did you know?” then you know it’s likely you heard God and have a good reason to believe that healing will occur if you pray.
Do you know God’s gentle whisper? Why not start a habit of waiting on God for that small, still voice before you start each day? There is nothing like walking on God’s spoken word. Jesus did it all the time.

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