“Go out and stand before me on the mountain,” The Lord told him. And as Elijah stood there, the Lord passed by, and a mighty windstorm hit the mountain. It was a such a terrible blast that the rocks were torn loose, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper.
1 Kings 19:11-12 (NLT)
How often do we look for God in the storm, the quake, and the fire? He can and has appeared in those things, but He also comes in a gentle whisper. Too often, we get so caught up in watching for the big and loud that we completely miss out on the soft and quiet. On a daily basis, we’re so surrounded by sound we would never hear a whisper unless we were intent on doing so. Yet Elijah heard it—even after the noise of the storm, the quake, and the fire died down. With all that noise ringing in his ears, he would have had to be listening closely to hear the gentle whisper.
It wasn’t just that Elijah was listening for the whisper, he’d put himself in a place to do so. I’ve seen people stumble into church fifteen minutes late, frazzled by the effort it took just to get there, and then walk out in a huff because they didn’t get what they wanted from God.
Prior to the mountain, Elijah was on the run. Jezebel had made a solid threat to end his life, so he, like any other sane man, ran from the crazy lady. He planned to die in the wilderness, but God had other plans and sent an angel to feed him.
Then the angel of the Lord came again and touched him and said, “Get up and eat some more, for there is a long journey ahead of you.”
So he got up and ate and drank, and the food gave him enough strength to travel forty days and forty nights to Mount Sinai, the mountain of God.
1 Kings 19:7-8 (NLT)
Elijah’s mountaintop experience didn’t just happen. He wasn’t taking a scenic hike when God just decided to interrupt him. He was there on purpose. It took him forty days and forty nights to get there. We act like God should shower great blessings on us just because we managed to make it to church before the service ended and here, Elijah travelled for forty days and nights on two meals.
It doesn’t take any effort at all on God’s part to reach us no matter where we are, but I firmly believe that He is looking for great effort on our part to reach Him where He is. Our response to Him is often akin to Elijah had he politely declined the food and water the angel brought to him. No thanks, I’d rather die in the wilderness than eat this miraculous food because I know God will ask me to do something I’m probably not willing to put in the effort to do.
After forty days and nights of travelling, Elijah could have given up when God wasn’t in the the storm. He could have started back down the mountain when He wasn’t in the quake (be honest, would you stay on a mountaintop after an earthquake?). He could have seen the glow of the fire from a distance. And he would have missed the whisper entirely.
When we put in the effort we think is required of us to hear from God, our patience can often run thin. We get to where God wants us and then expect Him in the storm and check out because God was not in it. In reality, it is our hearts that are not in it.
In his weariness from the long journey, having almost been swept away by the storm, tossed down the mountain by the quake, and consumed by the fire, I’m sure the only thing Elijah could hear was his heart. Pounding in his ears. But he stayed where he was. Maybe he was frozen in fear and couldn’t move, but when God finally spoke, he was listening.
The next time you’re ready to walk away because you don’t see God in it, check your self. Make sure you are in it. Then wait. Listen closely for the sound of a gentle whisper.
Daily Bible reading: 1 Kings 19-20, John 2