As most of you know, I used to be part of a family logging and firewood business. My father and I would visit our logging crews together on a regular basis while our office manager took care of the office. One time dad and I were going to check on a logging crew but our office manager happened to be off that day. My mom came into the office to answer the phone when dad and I left.
The area in West Virginia we lived in has very sporadic cell phone service. There was only one area where we had service between our office and the logging job. When we reached that area, my dad said, “Call mom and make sure everything is ok.”
I called and she answered, “Hello. Clearwater Timber Resources and Frontier Firewood.” Instead of saying, “Hey mom. Is everything OK? We wanted to check in before we got out of cell range.”, I disguised my voice and said, “How much is your firewood?” Mom didn’t recognize my voice. I carried on a conversation with her and she never realized who she was talking to her.
It’s one thing not to recognize your son’s voice but it’s much more serious to miss hearing God when he speaks.
In 1 Kings 17-18, Elijah prophesied for the Lord. He also had a spiritual battle with the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel to see who could send down fire from heaven. Our God won so Elijah had the priests of Baal put to death. King Ahab and Queen Jezebel don’t like this so Jezebel threatened Elijah’s life. Elijah then fled. The Lord sent an angel to give him food and water. Then Elijah went to Horeb.
This is where our scripture lesson starts. 1 Kings 19:9b-18 says, “And the word of the Lord came to him: “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
10 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.”
11 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. 12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. 13 When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.
Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
14 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.”
15 The Lord said to him, “Go back the way you came, and go to the Desert of Damascus. When you get there, anoint Hazael king over Aram. 16 Also, anoint Jehu son of Nimshi king over Israel, and anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from Abel Meholah to succeed you as prophet. 17 Jehu will put to death any who escape the sword of Hazael, and Elisha will put to death any who escape the sword of Jehu. 18 Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel—all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and whose mouths have not kissed him.”
Since God asked him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”, it appears God didn’t send Elijah to Horeb. Elijah was fleeing from the ministries God gave him because they were difficult. All of his work didn’t seem to be accomplishing anything. People were rejecting him. He felt so alone. At this point, God decided to reveal himself to Elijah.
God is powerful enough to create the universe, give life to humans, provide them with everything they need to live and provide salvation to them. Since God is this powerful, human tendencies are to think God would reveal himself in commanding ways. He didn’t do this to Elijah. God wasn’t in a powerful wind, an earthquake or a fire. He was in a gentle whisper.
We’re a lot like Elijah. We too want God to reveal himself to us in supernatural acts of power. He usually doesn’t do that for us either. God usually whispers to us also. This means we need to learn to hear God when he “whispers.”
What do whispers from God sound like? It might come in the form of something another person says to us that is later confirmed through prayer and/or events. God speaks through Bible verses which jump off the page at us. He gives us clear thoughts that keeps coming back into our heads. God’s whisper might also be an overwhelming sense in our spirit that this is what God wants us to do.
There are a couple of important things we need to realize about God when he speaks to us. First of all, his whispers will never go against the teachings of the Bible. Once I heard about a woman who said, “God told me to leave my family so I could devote more time to him.” I don’t believe that was God speaking to her. The second thing we need to know is that when God speaks, he does it in love – even if it’s tough love. The thought that says, “You’re a failure” or “You’ll never accomplish anything” isn’t coming from God.
After God revealed himself to Elijah in a whisper, God asked him a second time, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” Elijah responded with the same answer. He didn’t understand what God was trying to teach him so God gave him specific instructions. “Go back to where you were and do the work I tell you to do. Oh, and by the way, there are 7000 other people who haven’t bowed down to Baal. They still follow me.”
This brings us to our second point about the scripture. We can’t assume we know everything God’s doing. God only told Elijah what was happening with the 7000 to encourage him. This information wasn’t actually relevant to Elijah’s ministry.
We don’t need to know everything God is doing around us either. We need to remain focused on following Jesus and spreading his love to others. God wants us to trust him and be obedient when he whispers to us even though we don’t know the outcome of our efforts.
I disguised my voice when I spoke to my mom. God doesn’t do that. It’s much easier to hear him when he whispers to us.