The Lord said (to Elijah), “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.
1 Kings 19: 11-12, NRSV
How did Elijah know that it was time to come out of the cave and into the open to meet God? Scripture tells us that when he heard that gentle whisper, Elijah wrapped his face with a scarf and came out of the cave and stood at the entrance to meet with God. Elijah saw God in all His grandeur and majesty. He saw God come through in some of the most spectacular powerful victories recorded in the Bible.
It was Elijah who witnessed the awesome manifestation of God’s work in the bottomless flour canister and in the miracle of the oil jar that never ran dry. It was Elijah who saw God breathe life once again to the widow’s only son. It was Elijah who saw the heaven roof split open and cause fire to burst forth to burn the saturated bullock and the wet wood. Not only that, it also caused the rocks to be split into dust relaying a symphony of victory among the people shouting `Jehovah is God’. It was Elijah who finally prayed to God Almighty for rain to fall in the land that lay desolate for three years and lo and behold, it rained.
The spectrum of supernatural experiences is always intriguing as it is exciting. Yet, even in the midst of such grandeur, there is more.
Yes, Elijah knew God to be powerful. He knew Him as the Omnipotent, Omnipresent, and Omniscient Creator and yet he also knew Him in a whole different way. As Elijah waited on Mount Horeb, trying to escape the feat of the angry Queen Jezebel, one might expect another dramatic display from God? And the spectacular display did follow. There was a strong wind, a mighty earthquake, and then a consuming fire; but with each of these cataclysms the writer repeats: The Lord was not in the wind, or the earthquake or the fire.
Instead, Elijah encountered God in a gentle whisper. Gentle, like the whisper of a midnight breeze, Gentle like the touch of a new born babe, Gentle like the flight of a dove. Gentle. Intimate.
Elijah was chosen to be a mighty warrior and so He was. But beyond all that Elijah could ‘do’ for God, he had a relationship with God, one of intimacy, communion and friendship. God and Elijah could get together to wage war in the heavens but they retreated time and again, in quietness. God spoke and Elijah listened. Elijah spoke and God drew near. Their souls were one, their mission united and their friendship birthed in gentle giving.
Sometimes we are caught up in the notion that God’s supernatural Power can be witnessed only in big services, crusades or conventions. We sign up quickly for mega conferences and are willing to adjust our busy calendars for ‘healing crusades’. True that these are also avenues where God’s manifest greatness is made known; but Grace is also found in stillness and quietness.
Grace is found in our ordinary.
Grace is found in the faces and charitable acts of our brothers and sisters. And Grace is found the moment we whisper His Name.
Like Elijah, there are moments when we experience mountain top ecstasy and God’s manifest power at work, nevertheless we are to be prepared for days when the supernatural will cease. As we trod on the mountains and valleys of life, despair and disappoints will make for fitting companions and the noise of failed expectations will clutter our minds.
It is for this, that we are called to retreat into silence and seek strength for troubled days ahead. We need this fuel to energize on days we want to give up. We need this comfort when we are tempted to believe the lie that ‘Jezebel’ will have an upper hand.
God is at work, more behind the scenes than He is seen in the front. He never stops working.
He who neither slumbers nor sleeps, sees our rising and our going out. More than the works of His hands, God steers us to lift our eyes to the mountains, where our help comes from, more often than not, in silent whispers, comforting our drooping spirits in ways more refreshing than any powerful display we will ever witness in our lifetime.