Sometimes God Sends Fire, Sometimes He Whispers
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. 1 Kings 19: 11-12
I hear voices—not audible ones, but insistent ones. No, I’m not going insane. You’ve probably heard those voices too. “You’re no good,” and “You can’t do it,” they say. “Nobody cares. You’re all alone.” When I shrug off one, another replaces it.
Maybe the prophet Elijah heard similar voices after God had used him in a mighty demonstration of power in a contest with the priests of Baal (an agricultural god that many people worshiped at that time). In answer to Elijah’s prayer, God sent fire down from heaven to consume the offering Elijah had prepared (1 Kings 18:16-38).*
But Elijah wore himself out physically. After his wonderful experience on Mt. Carmel, a threat from wicked queen Jezebel sent the prophet running for his life. She was angry about the defeat and death of her four hundred fifty prophets.
Did Elijah hear voices say, “She’ll kill you. She’s killed hundreds of God’s prophets. You’re next”? Is that the reason he ran to hide in a cave?
At the cave, Elijah heard another voice: God saying. “What are you doing here, Elijah?” (1 Kings 19:9). God knew why Elijah cowered in the cave, but he questioned his prophet’s sudden lack of faith. Why hadn’t Elijah prayed about Jezebel’s threat just as he’d prayed about the contest with the priests?
God told the prophet to stand on the mountain and wait for him to pass by. Elijah didn’t hear God in the strong wind or the earthquake or the fire (1 Kings 19:11–12). God’s voice came, not as a loud insistent voice that caused him to fear but as a gentle whisper. God reassured Elijah that he wasn’t the only prophet still alive. Then he gave Elijah another job to do.
I’ve learned that I’m more susceptible to hearing the wrong voice when I’m tired. The insistent voice of the devil tells lies and instills paralyzing fear. God’s voice is strong but gentle, giving encouragement and guidance. If we pray for wisdom, God will enable us to distinguish between the voices.
Even though it’s possible to be in God’s presence and hear him even when surrounded by noise, do you find times to be still and listen to the right voice—God’s gentle whisper?
Besides the mountain climbing, where else had Elijah been? See 1 Kings 18:45–46 and 1 Kings19:1–8. How had he traveled? Describe a time when you wore yourself out and found solace in a gentle word from someone or from God.
God’s gentle voice came as a contrast to Elijah’s sometimes volatile ministry. What was about to happen? See 1 Kings 19:15-18?
See also Elijah’s Mt. Carmel experience:
and others in our series: Elijah and Elisha: Empowered by the Holy Spirit.
Nancy J. Baker