(Sorry about skipping out on a Friday post; wasn’t exactly feeling very well then. Anyway, we’re picking up again with Peace on the Inside Monday).
There have been many, many sermons and books written pushing for Christians to learn to hear God in the Stillness, and it’s definitely been for good reason. American culture has turned from its mindset of producing quality to quantity, and we’ve certainly done our part to bring it there, demanding convenience at our every whim, from faster cars (even though the speed limit is still 65) to faster internet (because our Youtube videos need to be up and ready to go in five seconds instead of ten). All of us need to slow down here a little, or better yet, stop, and listen. So shut off your TV, turn down the stereo, and read this little blog post.
I think many of us have heard this Bible story before.
And the word of the LORD came to him: “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
He replied, “I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”
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.
A little background: Elijah just gone done facing off with the prophets of Baal in a fight over whose God was greater (Elijah won). However, Jezebel, wife of Ahab, King of Israel, was killing the prophets of YHWH, so Elijah was on the run, a fugitive. He hid out on Mt. Horeb (also known as Mt. Sinai), where God found him, and this story took place.
This story has a couple of meanings tied into it. Understand that, inside his little cave, he was fearful for his life. The world was ready to slaughter him, but when YHWH says he’s going to pass by, you better go check it out. Then the loud winds beat the mountain, an earthquake shakes it, and then there was fire (God likes to open with a show). God’s not in any of these things, but in the stillness following these great, probably terrifying things, there is stillness, and a whisper within. What’s important here is to recognize that God will speak to us if we listen, but we must be patient, waiting out the wind, the earthquake and the fire around us. Hearing God takes patience. We must strain to hear them, and that requires stillness.
We Christians want to put God in a coffee cup. We carry him around and sip at Him to get that little boost of energy, and when the cup is gone, if we can, we go and fill it back up. This isn’t a very good way to treat God. While God provides us with strength throughout the day, giving us wisdom and the words to speak to others, this makes him so much more than just a cup of Columbian. He’s our sustaining breath, our very life force. We cannot draw breath without receiving his very existence each day, and we do so whether we want to acknowledge it or not.
It’s our acknowledgment of Him that helps us know where our strength is coming from. Our own strength is little in comparison to the sustaining life force that God holds. We must, however, slow down and be still to hear the whisper of God. When Elijah finally did so, the Lord spoke to Him of his next tasks as prophet, and encouraged him in his despair. Just the same, if we stop and listen as the Lord passes by us, we will hear the whisper
The Lord speaks to us in the stillness, in the quiet whispers that get drowned out by traffic sounds, by car engines, our televisions, our iPods. Many men of God have come to realize this, and thus, for a period of time or for the rest of their lives, separate themselves from the rest of the world in order to hear Him and converse with Him. In the same way, we must shut out the rest of the world from time to time in order to learn to listen for the whisper of God’s voice. When we have learned to hear it, only then will we hear it over the noise of the rest of the world.
What noises are drowning out the voice of God in your life?