As a person in our Sunday School class read 1 Kings 19 today, I was struck in a new way by a story I’ve heard many times.
I seem to be in a stage of tiredness and overwhelmed easily. And, that is where we seem to find Elijah – mentally and spiritually tired.
Elijah worked hard for the Lord. He was so in-tuned with God and God with him. Elijah was faithful and obedient. Yet. Yet, I feel he was exhausted and needed time away to reconnect with God. To revive the passion. To just be.
Have you ever felt like that? (I’m talking to you, women!)
In chapter 18, Elijah had just proven God’s existence as the one and only God. And, then Elijah’s life was threatened in chapter 19 (yes, that escalated quickly). Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. He ended up in the wilderness crying out to God, “I’ve had enough, Lord. Take my life…”
Yep, how many times have I said that myself? (except for the take my life part) Life seems to be like that…when it rains it pours to the point of “I’ve had enough!”
Elijah (like most men) fell asleep. An angel woke him up and provided food for him as he was going on a field trip. God knew Elijah needed some time of renewal and had a spot picked out for him — the mountain of God. And, like any good man would do, he found a cave on that mountain and spent the night…probably snoring the night away.
After this, we read of Elijah’s melt down. He basically told God what he already knew. And, God answered him . . .
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.
I Kings 19:11-13
Can we talk about these verses? Did you catch it? God wasn’t in the big ‘things’. He was in “a gentle whisper”. We, humans, seem to focus on the big. We seem to focus on the big things and feel inadequate when we don’t live up to the big in our minds. (a great book about the small is Church of the Small Things)
But, with God and Elijah, they met each other in the small. In Beth Guckenberger’s book, Start With Amen, she talks about the Hebrew word of “gentle whisper” or in some versions, “a still small voice” is kol d’mama de kah. (page 26) The author used the example of a mother and a newborn child. A mom snuggling close to the newborn and making quiet sounds to him. The newborn response with his own sounds of communication. Neither know what the other is saying but in the close intimacy of the moment, it doesn’t really matter. The proximity and intimacy is enough. “Connection is being forged through these gentle whispers.”
page 27: “The Lord was expressing to Elijah that he is not always found in the big demonstrations . . . I will find him in this intimate exchange where his face is drawn close to mine and all others are now blurred out. This is where his voice is the clearest and where I’ll be near enough to hear him address my heart’s concern.”
I can just imagine Elijah experiencing the wind, earthquake, and fire. Sitting in the cave and just thinking, “Nah, that’s not him yet.” And, then the gentle whisper. I imagine the tiny hairs on his neck and arms raising. I imagine a slight smile as he stood to walk out of the cave thinking, There He is.
God knew Elijah needed time away. Away from the work. Away from distractions. Away from people. Away to renew. Away to refresh. Away to regain the passion for his calling. And, Elijah knew that gentle whisper was the connection he didn’t know he craved until that moment.
May we recognized the small and connect with God through His gentle whispers.