“And after the fire came a gentle whisper.” – 1 Kings 19:12b
Recently I was on a trip with our church’s Youth Mission Team to
to help with ’s
ongoing recovery efforts after Hurricane Harvey. When we arrived, we stopped
for breakfast at a Houston
favorite: The Waffle House. We walked in the front door of the restaurant, and
the smell of fresh waffles was amazing. But the restaurant was very, very loud.
The music was blasting, and there were no interior walls to buffer all the
noise from the kitchen. And we ended up at a table right beside the kitchen. Texas
Now, I have a certain amount of fluency in three languages: English, Spanish and Southern. But when our waitress was talking to us in her super-thick southern accent, with the dishes clanking and music blaring, I couldn’t understand half of what she was saying. Let me ask you: Do you ever feel that way about God? Would you agree that sometimes with all of the noise around us, it’s hard to hear the still small voice of God? You’re not alone. The same thing happened right before a life-changing moment in the life of the man who never died: the prophet Elijah.
At the beginning of 1 Kings 19, Elijah had just experienced a great triumph over the 450 prophets of Baal. He prayed to the LORD, and God sent down fire that consumed the water-drenched altar Elijah had set up. So he should have been riding high, right? But instead, he was down in the dumps. Why? Simply put, he was exhausted and depressed. Consider these three lessons:
Lesson #1: When we have a spiritual mountaintop experience, we must brace ourselves for the valley of testing on the other side of it. We all know that in nature mountaintops don’t connect to other mountaintops. Mountaintops are separated by valleys. This is also true when it comes to our emotions and our spiritual lives. No one can experience a permanent emotional high. I think deep down, we all know this. But for some reason we’re still caught off guard when our spiritual highs don’t last. We’re surprised when we get back from Christian camp and the next day we’re grumpy and everybody’s pushing our buttons and the dog gives us attitude. We wonder why, after a great Sunday morning worship service, we have some of the biggest arguments with our spouses on the drive home. It’s just a reality of life here on Earth: When we’re coming down off the mountain, we’re bound to enter a valley.
So, when Elijah got word that King Ahab’s wife Jezebel was threatening to kill him – again – we read that “Elijah was afraid and ran for his life” (I Kings 19:3). Now, this isn’t the first time Jezebel threatened Elijah’s life. But because he was exhausted, he wasn’t thinking straight. He ran off to the wilderness, sat down under a broom bush, and basically prayed to die. Thankfully, Elijah didn’t take matters into his own hands and end his life. Thankfully, he took a nap.
Which brings us to Lesson #2: Sometimes the best remedy for a pessimistic outlook is sleep. After he got some sleep, an angel of the Lord woke him up and gave him some food and water. Then he let Elijah sleep some more. Notice what happens next: “Strengthened by that food, he traveled 40 days and 40 nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God” (v. 8). After getting some much-needed sleep and nourishment, Elijah wasn’t out of the woods, but he was in a much better place to hear God’s voice. Sometimes when we’re depressed, it’s partly because we are not providing these basic things to care for our bodies: sleep, food and drink. And it’s worth mentioning that in some cases, if clinical depression continues to linger, medication may be needed in the short term.
After his 40-day journey, Elijah spent the night in a cave on
Horeb (also known as ).
And that’s where, at last, Elijah heard from the LORD. But first God sent a
little fanfare: “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” (vs. 11b-12). Mt. Sinai
Lesson #3: “The whispers from
are infinitely more potent than the thunder of Sinai in bringing men to
words are from the Christian scholar, Oswald Sanders, and they are so true. I
believe God sent the wind, earthquake and fire as a wake-up call to Elijah. But
when it came time to speak to Elijah, God didn’t speak to him in a big,
thunderous voice. He spoke to him in a gentle whisper. The same is true today.
Sometimes we expect God to speak to us as the worship music is blaring or the
preacher is screaming or the ground is shaking. But more times than not, God
speaks to us in a still, small voice. And we need to be still to hear it.
One final takeaway: When our mourning drags on, it becomes a pity party – and God will not endorse our pity parties. He calls us to get up and do what he’s called us to do. You’ll notice that 1 Kings 19 ends with Elijah leaving the cave and heading back to
out God’s marching orders. And when Elijah left the cave, he left his pity
party behind. Some of us need to do the same today. If you’ve been walking in
defeat for too long, get some sleep, give your body some nourishment and listen
for the voice of your great and awesome God. Then get up, brush yourself off
and start doing what God has called you to do. Israel
Dane Davis is the Lead Pastor of First Christian Church in Victorville. For more information,
visit www.YourVictorvilleChurch.com and join us for worship Sundays at 10 a.m.