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?”
– 1 Kings 19:11-13
Is this not a beautiful passage? I love this passage.
For those of you who are well versed in the Bible, you will know this passage, and you will know it is signifcant that God comes at the end in the form of a gentle whisper (NIV), or gentle blowing (NASB). But do you remember why this is significant? And just as importantly, do you listen for the gentle whisper of God’s voice in your daily life?
I want to start by focusing on the relationship between God and Elijah. In v. 11 God tells Elijah to go stand on a mountain and wait for Him. Elijah goes. Then in v. 13, Elijah approaches the mouth of the cave after hearing the gentle whisper. As he is about to meet with God, he pulls his cloak over him to shield his face.
Some questions come to mind when I ponder what I have just written. How does Elijah know that God is in the “gentle whisper”? Why does he pull his cloak over his face?
After some deliberation here is what I think:
1) Elijah trusts and obeys God. God tells him to go wait in a mountain so he goes and waits!
2) Elijah has respect and fear for God. The powerful wind is gone. The giant fire is gone. So there’s no need for Elijah to cover his face from ashes or dust or anything. He shields his face in God’s presence as an act of humility and reverence.
3) Elijah really knows God. The passage does not say, “an earthquake came and Elijah peeked out the cave to see if God had shown up yet.” It says simply, as if it were common knowledge, that the earthquake came but the Lord wasn’t in the earthquake. The sentence structure implies that Elijah can recognize the voice of God.
If all these qualities of Elijah are true, then it follows logically how Elijah knew instantly that God was in the gentle whisper. Like God’s own custom ring tone on Elijah’s cell. Ok sorry that was a stupid analogy. But I think Elijah still had to listen very closely and carefully for God. Even if he knew God would be in a gentle whisper, or a rustling leaf, or some ripple in a pond, he would still have had to pay attention in order to perceive it. Why?
First, there was a powerful wind that “tore the mountain apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD.” This sounds more like a violent tornado to me. Basically pieces of mountain are coming off and rocks are flying at you like bludgers. I would find this pretty distracting.
Next there was a tremendous earthquake. So the earth. Quaked. I have been in a few earthquakes in my short lifespan, and they are by no means silent. Even the smaller ones have a powerful rumbling that causes your hearing and mental prowess to be disturbed. A large earthquake was probably deafening, especially in a mountain cave where everything echoes.
Finally we have a fire. If you live in the Conejo Valley area or Malibu or somewhere there in Southern California, you will know all about mountain fires. The ash will spread over a ten mile radius and no one will breathe properly for the next few days. I am imagining this occuring on Elijah’s mountain. Perhaps his eyes teared up, perhaps he coughed a little.
Despite all these catastrophes, in the end Elijah is still sensitive to the sound of a tiny wind. But he doesn’t just hear God in the wind. And after hearing it, he boldly leaves the cave! He didn’t fear any more natural disasters that might come again. Elijah’s faith in God, his yearning to meet with God, was so great that he left all worries of impending doom behind.
Maybe some of this analysis was a little dramatic. But you get the idea. So how should we emulate Elijah?
1) Closeness – As mentioned before, being able to hear God’s will really takes a close relationship with Him. Otherwise, on a mountain all by ourselves, we would surely be blown away by powerful winds or become lost in a fire.
Starting a new chapter of my life in college can really make me feel like I am standing on a mountain alone with wind and noise all around me. If I relied on my own strength, I would surely fail! But fortunately, God is there, and God comes to us if we just look past all the noise and listen.
I really believe spending time in prayer and alone time with God brings us closer to Him. And the best way to know God is to read about Him through the Word. Plus knowing God will give you more trust in God. Elijah never questioned why God wanted him to go on a mountain. He knew God and trusted God’s perfect goodness.
2) Submission/Acceptance – Once we can hear God’s voice, it’s possible He is telling us to do something that we are afraid of or that is not our will. But really God’s will is the perfect will.
3) Action! – Don’t just hear His voice and go back to sleep. Elijah was both anxious and eager to meet with God. No natural disaster could have stood in his way. And there ain’t no mountain high enough to keep him from getting to God :) So when we hear God, let us joyfully meet Him where He leads us!