A Still Small Voice
1 Kings 19:1-18[i]
Elijah was a man of God. In 1 Kings 17, he announces a famine. God is trying to get the attention of Israel. Israel has been consistently unfaithful by worshipping idols and participating in religious practices that God never sanctioned. In 1 Kings 18, Elijah takes on the king and the prophets of Baal in front of the whole nation of Israel. He boldly challenges them to a contest to see who is the true God.
The Lord God answers Elijah’s simple prayer with fire from heaven, demonstrating that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is the true God. In response, the people proclaim that the Lord is God, and Elijah boldly takes charge and has the people of Israel slay all the prophets of Baal.
Elijah has won. The people have acknowledged that the Lord is God. (1 Kings 18:39) Therefore, Elijah prays for rain, and God sends rain. Elijah warned Ahab of the coming rain, and outran Ahab's chariot to Ahab's hometown.
Surely, this is the beginning of reform, a return to the God of Israel.
However, this is not to be. 1 Kings 19:1 tells us that when Ahab got home he told Jezebel everything Elijah had done, including the way he had killed all the prophets of Baal.
Ahab had a habit of getting Jezebel to do his dirty work. Therefore, this is what he does. 1 Kings 21:25 tells us, “There was never anyone like Ahab, who sold himself to do evil in the eyes of the LORD.” (NIV)[ii] His heart was not moved by the demonstration of God’s power. Consequently, he goes home and tells Jezebel his troubles. How that bad old “troubler of Israel” killed all his prophets of Baal. Jezebel then sends a message to Elijah. “May the gods strike me and even kill me if by this time tomorrow I have not killed you just as you killed them.” (1 Kings 19:2) She was not king. She could not have done this without the king’s support. However, Ahab was afraid of the people. The people had followed Elijah in slaying the prophets of Baal. The people had proclaimed, “The Lord is God!” Ahab insulated himself from the consequences of taking action by getting Jezebel to do it for him.
However, Jezebel was not stupid. She sent a message. If she had sent soldiers or someone to kill Elijah, they would most likely have been stopped. After all, Elijah had just killed 450 people.
1 Kings 19:3 tells us, “Elijah was afraid and fled for his life.” Up to this point in the life of Elijah, he acted on the word of the Lord. In this case, he responds in fear. He took his eyes off the Lord his God. This reminds me of Peter, when he saw Jesus walking on the water. He said to Jesus, “Master, if it is truly you, command me to come to you on the water.” Jesus said, “Come.” Peter stepped out of the boat and walked on the water until he took his eyes off Jesus, saw the storm and noticed the wind and the waves. Then, he sank and had to be rescued by Jesus. We see this same response in Elijah. He took his eyes off the Lord his God and ran.
How often do we do the same thing? Do we wait patiently for the Lord, or do we panic and run?
Circumstances look threatening. In response, we take action before taking our concerns to the Lord and seeking His will.
Elijah panics. He went to Beersheba. He ran 120 miles south. He is in Judah, which should be a safe place. However, he does not stop there. He leaves his servant and continues alone into the wilderness. He finally reaches the end of physical endurance, lies down under a tree and prays to die. In this, we get a glimpse into his frame of mind. He says, “Take my life, for I am no better than my ancestors who have already died.” (1 Kings 19:4) He is thinking about his ancestors. We also know that he goes to Mt. Sinai, the Mountain of God where Moses received the Law.
When Elijah gets to Mt. Sinai and the Lord asks Him, “What are you doing here?” we see more of Elijah’s frame of mind. He says, “I have zealously served the LORD God Almighty. But the people of Israel have broken their covenant with you, torn down your altars, and killed every one of your prophets. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me, too.” (1 Kings 19:15)
Elijah remembered the great demonstration of power at Mt. Sinai and the powerful leadership of Moses and felt sorry for himself. He had expected an entirely different result from his ministry at Mt. Herman. He ministered with a passion to see his people return to the Lord his God. He is angry with God. His statement that he is the only one left is an accusation pointing at God. He went back to the place where it had all started, Mt. Sinai. That is where the covenant that had been broken was established.
Have you ever been disappointed with God?
Have you ever worked hard, served the Lord and then met with what you perceived as failure? I have.
“God, I worked hard for you. I was faithful, and look what is happening now!”
At this point, Elijah is nowhere near where he should be. Twice, God asks him, “What are you doing here?”
Have you ever found yourself in a place where you have no business being? I have. Do not worry. Many people have. Abraham found himself in Egypt, where he had no business being. Jonah found himself in the belly of a big fish. David found himself in Philistia. Peter found himself running away, weeping after having denied Jesus. Disappointment and frustration with God seems to be a part of the life of the one who would follow God. It is not the fact that God is good that upsets us. It is the fact that His ways are not our ways. Elijah wanted a revival. Jonah wanted Nineveh judged. David wanted safety from Saul. Peter wanted the Kingdom of God. All wanted good things, but the desired results did not happen when and how the man of God wanted.
These men got mad at God, threw a fit and went their own way. How did God respond?
He sustained them. He fed Elijah heavenly food. He kept Jonah from drowning and provided transportation back to dry land. He provided a home and protection for David. He protected Abraham and made him rich. He chose Peter to lead his Apostles and the Church in Jerusalem.
How does God respond to you when you get angry, frustrated, disappointed and lack faith? He sustains you. He provides you with heavenly food. He carries you through the storm to dry land. He provides safety and shelter. He gives you blessings you do not deserve. Hebrews 12:5-6 make it clear that God disciplines His children. This is important. He treats us as His children, because that is exactly what we are. We are His children. John 1:12 tells us:
But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God.
God used a famine, and fire from heaven to speak to Ahab.
Ahab was not God’s child. He made himself God’s enemy
God used plagues, death and destruction to speak to Pharaoh.
Pharaoh was not God’s child. He made himself God’s enemy.
God uses earthquakes, plagues and disease to get the attention of those who set themselves against Him. In the book of Revelation, God says He will use earthquakes, plagues and disease to speak to those who set themselves against Him. However, this is not how God speaks to His children.
To Adam, He said, “Where are you?” To Elijah, He said, “What are you doing here?”
God reminded Elijah that He could smash rocks with wind, shake the earth and bring fire from heaven. What happened in Israel was not up to Elijah. God gave Him an assignment. “Go back the way you came.” Elijah was to anoint Hazael king of Aram. Hazael would be the wind that would smash the rocks of Israel. Elijah was to anoint Jehu as king of Israel. Jehu would be the earthquake that would shake the foundations of Israel, removing the family of Ahab from the face of the earth. Elijah was to anoint Elisha as his own successor. Elisha would be the fire that purified the nation.
However, the wind, earthquake and fire were not for Elijah. God does not speak to His children that way. God spoke to Elijah in a still small voice. The Hebrew is literally “a sound of gentle stillness.” God tells us, “Be still and know that I am God!” (Psalm 46:10) God speaks to His children with impressions, through His word and through thoughts. Psalm 16:7 tells us that even at night our hearts instruct us. This, along with examples in scripture, leads me to believe that He speaks to us even in our dreams.
Jesus has saved us from the wrath of God. As His children, we do not live in fear. We live in the glorious triumph of the grace of God. The warning of wrath and judgment are for a world that sets itself up in opposition to God. For us, His children, we need to listen and in the stillness hear the sweet sound of His still small voice. When God needs to shout to get someone’s attention, then there is a serious need for repentance and contrition.
God speaks to His children. Are we listening?
[i] Unless otherwise noted Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation. Copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Steam, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
[ii] Scripture quotations marked NIV are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.