And He said, “Go out and stand on the mount before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper."
1 Kings 19:11-12
1 Kings 19 gives us some insight into what ancient death threats must have sounded like: “So may the gods do to me and more also, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by this time tomorrow!” That was Queen Jezebel’s blood-curdling message to Elijah after the prophet had led the killing of 450 prophets of Baal. Fairly to-the-point; wouldn’t you say?
Why is it then that I find myself so quick to give Elijah a hard time for his actions on the heels of receiving such a message? After all, his life was being threatened and Jezebel was hardly a woman to be taken lightly. Shouldn’t we cut the prophet some slack? Isn’t it somewhat justified that he ran away, mourned his solitude as one faithful to the Lord, even vocalized thoughts of ending it all?
Isn’t it somewhat justifiable then for us to live moments of our lives losing touch with God’s provision and faithfulness?
Thankfully, no it is never justified. Thankfully, the Lord loved Elijah so patiently and so thoroughly that even when it seemed that the circumstances warranted his actions, God would not let Elijah settle for failing to trust Him. So in the midst of Elijah’s despair, God meets him with provision (1 Kings 19:5–8). In the midst of fear, God meets him with the gentleness of a still quiet voice (1 Kings 19:12).
It’s probably fair to say that most of us will never face anything close to the stressful circumstances Elijah faced throughout much of his life. Being a prophet in Israel was a thankless, dangerous job. Yet all too often, we, just like Elijah, fail to trust the Lord. As Pete Deison so aptly summed up in his sermon, we fail to listen well to the quiet whisper of God and let His voice inform our attitudes and actions in life’s often-tumultuous times.
Sadly, many Christians live much of their Christian lives just this way—never appropriating all the blessings of deeper communion with our Lord. Rarely do we recognize the hard work necessary, and the growth that is possible, in being molded into Christians of great faith, who walk closely with our Lord and who listen well to His voice.
Francis Schaeffer made this point using an analogy of two chairs. He said that every human being at any one moment in his or her life is sitting in one of two chairs. Those who sit in the first chair see only the naturalism of the universe. They only believe in what they can touch, taste, see, and hear—and so they live their lives entirely for themselves, as though they are their own god. He calls this the “chair of unfaith.” The second chair is the chair of the Christian. The person who sits in this chair sees both the natural and the supernatural of the universe and constantly interprets what he or she experiences in life against the background of the truth of God’s Word. The person who sits in this chair lives their life for God. Surprisingly, he says it is entirely possible for a Christian to live most of his or her life while seated in the chair of unfaith!
Now we should probably be careful and not get too technical with an analogy like this, but the point Schaeffer is making is a good reminder to us. God loves His children more than we will ever fathom. And He longs for us to know Him intimately. He created us for this! In His grace, He makes such communion possible through the finished work of Jesus’ death and resurrection. And as we await His return, He has given us His Word. Listening well to the voice of the Lord means abiding in the Word of God. It means devoting ourselves to His revelation to us in the scriptures. It’s not in some mechanical sense of “we must have our devotions every morning for thirty minutes.” Rather, the Lord gives us His Word that we might read it and dwell upon it, that as we listen to His voice we may grow to learn the very heart of the living God. Then, more and more, we will learn to love what God loves and hate what He hates. Then, more and more, we will learn trust and peace and joy even in the most difficult times.