I Kings 19:12,
"And after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire: and after
the fire a still small voice."
This morning, our mind is drawn to a subject that is increasingly difficult to practice in our "busy" world. Today, information is so accessible, events so noticeable, and technology so pliable that there is always something ready and available to engage us or take up space in our daily activities. During such an escalated time as we are in, moments of quiet and repose are not nearly as commonplace as they were in my youth, and certainly much less than years ago before I was born. Times of quiet and stillness are important for God's children since He appears so often during these times. Many times, we miss His appearing (spiritually) since it takes quietness to see. Paul instructs the Thessalonians to "study to be quiet" (I Thessalonians 4:11), and this study of quietness keeps us not only from being busybodies but also more fit to receive fellowship with God. Therefore, let us look into quietness a bit and seek to find times to draw nigh unto
Him day by day and moment to moment.
Elijah is in the midst of one of his "down times." He has complained to God (albeit somewhat incorrectly) about his current circumstance, and we today do the same. What Elijah saw the day the Lord appeared to him was a shortsighted view of God's workings among the people he lived among. Elijah correctly saw that they sought his life, had torn down God's alters, slain His prophets, and forsaken His covenant. What Elijah incorrectly saw was that he was the only one left. (Verse 10) One of Satan's greatest tools to any child of God (and especially ministers) is that of discouragement and feelings of isolation. Elijah felt it, and God reproved it. Elijah was not alone, no matter how much he felt to be. Whether we see the "others" or not, they are there, and the Lord sometimes mercifully shows things to us to assure us again of the journey and race that we are engaged in.
As the Lord finishes reproving Elijah, four things pass before him. They are: wind, earthquake, fire, and still small voice. We are told unequivocally that God was not in three of the four things. While not our thought today, this should drive the death nail into the coffin of an absoluter mindset. The fact that God is, at times, in these things is undeniable. He clearly was in the earthquake that opened the earth to destroy Korah and his company (Numbers 16:23-33), the wind that rolled back the Red Sea (Exodus 14:21), and the fire that destroyed portions of the congregation for disobedience. (Numbers 11:1-3) However, we learn from this account that such things are not always directly moved by God. Indeed, they are the result of His first cause of setting natural proceedings in motion, and they can be halted, altered, or accelerated according to His pleasure. However, these natural motions can come without direct impulse from God as they did in
Elijah's day. But, the last thing that comes was from God.
The point of the lesson, to me, is that there are other "noisy" things in our lives that God is not in. When the noises of fiery information, windy events, or quaking technological advances occur in our lives, sometimes the Lord is not in those things. They are most assuredly within His control of things, but He may not be directly moving them in such a way. However, these noisy events can hinder or obscure the small voice from our senses. It is for this reason, imperatively, that we need to find times of quiet to listen for Him and to Him. How many hours of our day are spent in quietness? How many of us actually enjoy times of quietness? Today, I am afraid, most people are seeking things to prevent quietness from ever being around them. The void in a conversation, leading to a quiet room, is a phobic thing for some.
One of the things that I remember very clearly about my late father was that when he spoke, there was a reason. Should he have no reason to speak, he was silent. I have heard from many (and confess the same for myself) that his silence many times thundered. Sometimes his quietness was unsettling to those in the room, but one thing I learned from experience was he was perfectly content and at ease when in quiet. Although I never asked him, I do believe that he was quietly listening for the Lord's voice and direction. When we study, is it in quietness? When we pray, is it in quietness? There are times, I realize, that we cannot have it, but how much should we seek for it?
One of my biggest failings is "talking with God." Sometimes we pray to Him without really "talking to/with Him." He knows our every need, but we should still talk with Him. Enoch was a man that "walked with God." (Genesis 5:22, Hebrews 11:5) While we can take the expression "walked" many different ways, I do believe that he looked for occasions of quiet to walk with his Maker and speak with Him. If he could not find a restful scene, he departed to find one. Perhaps one of these quiet times walking with God was the circumstance when the LORD took him and translated him. When we pray, may we do so with the knowledge that we are addressing One that knows all, understands all, but is still pleased when we speak with Him (not at Him).
As One that can thunder from the heavens and make the mountains quake, He is pleased to appear so often in a voice that can only be heard by quiet listeners. In fact, as our Shepherd, He even leads us to places where stillness of waters are found. (Psalm 23:2) Our soul is restored by still waters and green pastures, and they can only be found away from the "hustle and bustle" of life. While not trying to be offensive to any, these days are seen more often than not with cell phones in everybody's ear all the time. A large portion of the waking hours are spent talking on them with no rest and repose. May we find times to lay these things aside to speak with our God, listen to His voice, and enjoy quiet fellowship with each other.
What the still small voice eventually told Elijah was that the LORD had reserved 7,000 that had not bowed the knee to the image of Baal or kissed his feet. (Verse 18) Even though Elijah, from all accounts, was never directed by God to these men, he was still assured by God of the fact that he was not alone. Rather, the LORD directed him to someone that would accompany him until his translation: Elisha. (Verse 19) The LORD mercifully gave him a companion in travel for the rest of his days. Many times, our quietness with God will lead us to people that are companions with us here in our walk and fight of faith. Their presence assures us that we are not alone, and God gives us fellowship with each other as a blessing for comfort and strength for our journey.
Paul instructed the Hebrews about this in Hebrews 12:1-2. We have a cloud of witnesses both from the past (through the record of inspired Scripture), in the present (through our fellowship with one another), and in the future (meeting people for edification that we previously did not know). As ministers travel among God's heritage, we meet people previously unknown to us (like Elisha was for Elijah), but some of them end up being our strongest companions and friends going forward. This blessing for our race of life is immeasurable. Our walk of faith is described as a race, and those that know me know how much I dislike running. My idea of running is either chasing someone or being chased by someone (fight or flight). However, as much as I dislike it, one thing I know about it is that running is always easier with someone to run with and talk with. The distance traveled and energy exerted always seems less.
Therefore, may we draw nigh unto Him in quietness, appreciate the fellowship we have with one another, and seek His face going forward without trying to "tell Him how things are." Friends, He knows us better than we know ourselves, so may we never try to acquaint Him with our plight but talk with Him about how we feel. He knows that too, but He is pleased when we talk with Him about it. Further, may we find time in our lives to dwell in quietness, listen for Him, listen to Him, and walk with Him. Walking a mile with Him will seem like an inch, and an hour spent in His presence will seem like a minute.