I wonder if God’s gentle whisper completely surprised the prophet Elijah. It’s possible he had only known God’s justice. For God had called him to confront an evil king, his court, and corrupt priesthood. Elijah’s call wasn’t easy, but with it he experienced God’s awesome might and power, like the time God flashed fire from heaven (1 Kings 18:36-38). God not only worked miracles through Elijah, but would also whisk him away in a moment’s notice to the next mission (1 Kings 18:12). Up until hearing God whisper, Elijah’s interaction with Him seems to highlight His wrath. Maybe Elijah didn't know God's mercy.
After defeating Baal’s prophets, Elijah fearfully ran from the furious Queen Jezebel to Beersheba, then into the desert, and finally to Mount Horeb, which was also known as Mount Sinai. One doesn’t have to be in a crowd to hear noise. Besides the loud beating of his heartbeat, I imagine Elijah’s initial adrenalin rush filled his head and heart with the noisy anxious thoughts that spiraled into his state of despair.
But why was Elijah set on going to Sinai? Why travel over 200 miles‒in a state of exhaustion‒to a mountain that literally shook violently from God’s presence centuries earlier when the nation of Israel returned and received God’s laws (Exodus 19:1-3,18)?
This sacred mountain was a constant reminder of God’s words and promises. It was here that God met Moses and commissioned him to lead Israel out of Egypt (Exodus 3:1-10). (Interestingly, centuries later, Moses, Elijah, and Jesus would once again meet together on a mountaintop, Luke 9:28-36.)
Even though God questioned Elijah twice, “What are you doing here?” first on his solo trek across the desert, and then again at Mt. Sinai, He knew Elijah’s heart. God’s question brought clarity to Elijah’s troubled mind.
Lonely and discouraged, Elijah believed the lie that he was the only one left who was still true to God. In desperation, he determined to hear God’s voice, even if it meant an arduous journey to this sacred place, Mount Sinai, where his ancestors heard from God.
And though God knew Elijah was immersing himself in self-pity, I think it pleased Him that Elijah was seeking after Him. He sustained him by counseling him to take a good nap, and then eat supernatural food, angel food cake. 🙂 Thus giving him energy for the forty days and nights journey, (1 Kings 19).
Upon arrival at Sinai, Elijah obeyed God by standing on the mountain in His presence. As he waited and experienced the terrifying wind, earthquake, and fire, he realized that God wasn’t in these dramatic displays. He also realized, perhaps for the first time, that the sound of the gentle whisper was God’s voice.
God doesn’t reveal Himself only in dramatic, powerful ways. How many times do we miss Him when our focus is finding Him in big rallies, conferences, churches, and/or highly visible leaders?
How many times have I missed God’s voice from my own busy activities? How many times have I rushed through my Bible reading and prayer requests without taking time to quiet my thoughts and be still, allowing God to speak to me? Too many times. . . too many forfeited blessings.
Thankfully, we don’t have to trek to a mountain to meet with God. As born again believers, we have His indwelt Holy Spirit who is always with us. The location of worship and fellowship with God isn’t nearly as important as our attitude.
Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross proves His deep desire is for us to know Him and commune with Him. Do you struggle to hear God’s voice? If you haven’t already, try implementing these practical steps:
Spend time with God every day. It takes time and work to develop a relationship. The same is true with God. “In the morning, LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly,” Psalm 5:3
Pray. Ask God to help you hear His voice; to show how He speaks and that He would reveal himself to you. Ask Him to reveal any unconfessed sin. If He does, ask for forgiveness and turn away from the sinful activity that has broken fellowship with Him.
Join a church. Grow together with other believers.
Journal. What is God is laying on your heart? Record it in a notebook. Be slow to judge a thought or impression too quickly. After a few weeks or months, read it again. Does it align with God’s character? A trusted mentor or Christian friend can sometimes be helpful in discerning experiences.
Study the Bible. This is God’s infallible, anointed WORD. We need to be in it on a regular basis to know what it says. Join a Bible study group. Follow a daily Bible reading plan. When God’s Word is your foundation, you can discern if what you’ve heard is from God or not. If it doesn’t align with Scriptural principles, it isn’t from God.
Pray about everything you’ve heard the Lord say. Do I need to take action now? Is this something in the future? Do I need to surrender something? Ask the Lord what He wants you to do with His revealed word.
Be patient. Like anything else in life, it takes time and work to discern God’s voice. I’ve never heard God’s audible voice, but He speaks to me often. He brings peace, comfort, guidance, and even conviction.
“Lord, thank you for your incredible patience. Thank you that you want to fellowship with me. Although you are powerful and mighty, You are also a friend of silence. Your very creation‒flowers, trees, the moon and stars‒not only witness to your powerful creativity, but also grow and move in silence. Quiet my rumbling anxious thoughts. Help me to wait on you, humbly listen, and then obey.”