That still, small voice
When Jezebel in her fury threatened to kill Elijah, he got so overwhelmed; ‘he arose and ran for his life’. He took a day’s journey to the wilderness and prayed a heart-wrenching prayer. 1 Kings 19:4 says, “And he prayed that he might die, and said, “It is enough! Now, Lord, take my life, for I am no better than my fathers!” In just the previous chapter, we read of Elijah’s Mount Carmel victory in the name of the Lord. A battle like no other – Baal’s 450 prophets against one prophet of the Lord. A divinely thrilling conquest is described in 1 Kings 18: 36 onwards. Finally, “Now when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces; and they said, “The Lord, He is God! The Lord, He is God! (vs. 39)” Isn’t it hard to keep the emotions inside on reading this text? Such a glorious display of God’s sovereignty!
And yet, Elijah, who knew the power of God and had seen the wonders of it, simply gave up. He just gave up to the extent that he even accepted death. He let his fear take over him. God already knew what was wrong. He sent his angels to care for Elijah, refreshing him with food and drink. He went in the strength of that food for forty days and nights as far as Horeb and hid in the mountain of God.
God knew and yet He asks him with a ‘still small voice’ not in the fire or earthquake – “What are you doing here, Elijah?” We know the voice of the Lord is powerful, as appears by the effect of it; for it works wonders. I love how God’s voice is described here as ‘still small voice’ as compared to how His voice is described in Psalm 29 (vs. 3 to 9). God gently asks Elijah as a father tenderly speaks to his hurt child. You can feel the pain within Elijah as he responds to his heavenly Father, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God of hosts; because the children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. I alone am left; and they seek to take my life.”
The servant of God had done everything in His power to prove to the children of Israel that God is the Lord of Hosts. He just didn’t seem to understand why his life was being threatened, he felt like he was the only one standing for God, he fled and hid in a cave. But God knew. He knew Elijah was afraid, discouraged and dejected. He knew zealous Elijah had reached the end of the rope…but little did Elijah know that it was only the beginning of hope. Elijah heard God’s still small voice, came out of hiding, stood at the entrance of the cave and listened to God. We read in the following verses as to how God gives him specific directions and instructions on what to do next. God ends with an encouraging statement (19: 18), “Yet I have reserved seven thousand in Israel, all whose knees have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.” Elijah was not alone, there were 7000 in Israel standing tall for God with him! Elijah immediately departs and goes on to do wondrous things for the Lord!
I always used to wonder, if Elijah – God’s chosen prophet – couldn’t handle fear and discouragement – how can I handle it? We may feel discouraged, defeated, dejected by the noise of sin, guilt, fear, failure, exhaustion, anxiety and pain in our lives. We all have those days when we feel like we are in the wilderness, alone and with no strength to carry on. We may feel like taking flight and hiding in a cave away from the painful reality before us. I certainly do. We may not understand why but like Elijah, may we flee to the mountain of God and wait on Him to refresh us with His word, speaking to us in a still, small yet powerful voice assuring us to, “Be still and know that I am God (Ps. 46:10)”.
Amidst all the noise going on in our lives, God whispers in our ears – do we choose to listen or do we drown His voice out in the cacophony of our despair? When we pause to listen, He tenderly and lovingly directs our paths. The sooner we focus our eyes on Him and His power, the quicker we will be released from our fear, self-pity and spiritual exhaustion. “Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him, And He shall bring it to pass. (Ps 37:5).”
What’s more? God assures us that we are not alone in our suffering, He has provided to us just as he did to Elijah, his own ‘reserved’ people, the church, who are standing with us and by us. They are “rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer (Rom 12:12)” for us “with one accord (Acts 1:14)”. Whatever it is that you are going through today, pause and listen to His still small voice.
By Ruthy Joby Varghese