The desperation of some of us, at various times, to hear from the Lord can be one of the weightiest pressures experienced in the Christian life. We beg for Him to speak into our lives, especially in times laden with struggles, and are made to wait when we don’t hear His response or feel His presence. In 1 Kings 19:11-12, a passage where God appears to Elijah, “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.” There are so many insights into these two verses that their power to enlighten and encourage are astounding.
First, the procession of the windstorm, the earthquake, the fire, and that all three “natural disasters” are said to not have the Lord in them. These are all under the control of God as He can bring them into our world at His pleasure, but He was not in them here. We can’t see the cause behind the winds, the earth quaking, or the fire burning, but we can feel the effects of them all. All the same, although we can’t see the God who brings them to be, we can feel Him. And when we’re in His presence, quiet and stilled, we can hear Him. Perhaps this was why Scripture tells us that He was not in each of these natural occurrences, because it was in the gentle whisper that God spoke to Elijah. God communicated the procession from all powerful elements that are still present this day to the words in a whisper, a gentle whisper, a method of communication still present this day. Can we hear Him throughout the disasters, natural and providential, we face? Or do we have to wait until each one passes to find the stillness to hear His whispers?
This leads into another way we could view these two verses. God’s desires to deeply commune with His children are unceasing. He will pursue us at any cost, the pinnacle of cost being the sacrificial death of Christ at Calvary. We are an unrighteous and dull people, and His pursual of our allegiance to Him alone had to be brought to fruition by Him alone. Even now, blessed by our Savior, He still confronts us with the expectation that we’ll seek first His kingdom and His righteousness (Matthew 6:33). However, we don’t. It’s then that He may decree that our lives are upset by the effects of a powerful windstorm, blowing us about as we try to get our footing. Or maybe He’ll rock our selfish and prideful worlds with a quake that’ll jerk us into seeking Him. Or even a fire, brought upon us to feel the heat of our failures. One that burns at the core of our misplaced worship to show us that He is Lord. All of this He may ordain, only to speak to us when we can finally hear Him through the busyness and self imposed overscheduling, or the trials and suffering brought onto us by His will; maybe then, we can hear His gentle whisper calling us to seek Him first.
If you’re to read the entire passage in 1 Kings 19, verses 9-18, it’s interesting to see that Elijah repeats his pleas to God exactly twice and using exactly the same words (v. 10 & 14). His duplicated replies come after duplicated questions from the Lord, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” The first time God asks (v. 9) this question, Elijah must not have been able to hear God rightly so it is then that He directs him to go out and stand on Horeb, the mountain of God (v. 8), and the wind, earthquake, and fire confront and subdue him. Then the Lord asks the same question and Elijah answers with the same reply, but this time the Lord responds, in great detail, with instructions and insight for Elijah to follow and rest in (v. 15-18). Is it plausible that God needed to bring on these dramatic happenings for Elijah to be humbled, specifically quieted, enough to hear when God spoke?
To be sure, God still speaks to us today. Sometimes we can’t hear Him through the storms, but He is there. Sometimes we can’t feel His presence in the disasters, but He is there. Sometimes we can’t see His reasons for causing these these trials, but we can feel the effects of them. During these effectual periods, He is speaking to us, undoubtedly, but if we’re continually overwhelmed by our circumstances, unwilling to sit still and listen for His words, we may miss the weight of our worlds being lifted off when He offers us a whisper of assurance in Him. His whispers are, at times, gentle and pleasing to our souls. They can be burden lifting to the point that we will no longer care to focus on the causes or effects of the storms raging, but we’ll be forever seeking to sit still and hear them until the day when we get to stand before Him in all His glory and finally see Him.