1 Kings 19:1-4, (5-7), 8-15a
1 Kings 19:9-13 offers some direction for understanding how we hear God speak to us. Elijah is a great prophet of our faith. Driven from his homeland by Jezebel’s death threats, the solitary prophet – who believes he is the only person still faithful to Yahweh – goes back to the place where his faith began. He hides in the same rocky cleft that once sheltered Moses, and there, he encounters God in a small still voice, in a voice the Hebrew describes as “utter silence.”
How do we hear God’s voice? How can we find utter silence? It can be hard. We live in a world full of noise, including noise from people who declare that they have messages from God without truly listening to our Creator. Chances are that we all know people like the wind, the earthquake, and the fire.
The person who is like the wind probably talks continuously. You hear their voice in every aspect of life. Those individuals are the ones who give advice and then keep giving advice even after the lesson is learned. Maybe you know a person who loves to give advice, but I declare the advice is just wind if the person does not acknowledge the presence of God and speak from the heart.
The person who is like the earthquake probably moves and shakes everything. You can see the products of their handiwork. Those persons are always working to make things better sometimes to the detriment of others since they rarely have time for anyone else. Maybe you know an individual who is a mover and shaker, but I declare their actions are as destructive as an earthquake if they do not possess the love of Jesus Christ in their heart that fuels their words, actions, and deeds.
The person who is like the fire is probably a pyromaniac, but not one who damages physical property. You can see the ashes of the ideas and projects that have been burned down by them. Those people tend to destroy dreams and wishes unknowingly by not supporting the creativity of others. Maybe you know a person who lights a fire, but I declare their actions are worst when there is no display of the strength of the power of the Holy Spirit that resides in them.
We all know people like the wind, earthquake, and fire. God may not be in these loud noises, but they still have a purpose. It is like watching a loud movie when the TV gets abruptly muted. Suddenly, we can hear the silence. The voices of the wind, earthquake and fire prepare Elijah to hear the silence — and know that it is holy.
How do we hear the silence? Perhaps one way we can hit mute on the TV is to remember the voices that spoke truth to us in the past, the voices who were grounded in God. Perhaps we can hear God when we remember how God has previously acted through our ancestors, our mentors, our parents, our loved ones who are no longer with us.
In the silence, I hear a loving Creator who seemingly spoke to me through those who loved me. I hear the voices of Mama and Grandma who taught me to love the Lord with all my heart and not to lean on my own understanding. I hear the voice of my kindergarten teacher who empowered me to always do my best and to let God handle the rest. I hear God speaking through my ancestors who showed me how to do justice, love mercy, and to walk humbly with God.
What do you hear?
Do you hear a loving Creator who forgives us and has a genuine interest in us? Or do you hear demands on our existence? Do you hear the voice of one who accepts us where we are? Or do you hear someone who is constantly pleading with us to be successful? When you pray, do you come before God who wraps arms around you in a loving embrace or do you stand feeling condemned?
Like Elijah, I hear God telling all of us to go with specific instructions to follow. I hear our Triune God saying, “Be still and know that I am God; go into all the world making disciples, baptizing them, and teaching them to obey what Jesus taught; and remembering the Holy Spirit will always be with you.”