How God spoke to Elijah in the silence
Written by Madeline Twooney
I’m sure like me, you are no stranger to hardship. For my part, I have gone through a fair share of adversity: death, illness, financial struggle, and my own family turning their back on me.
Now, this is not a “pat on the back, admire me for what l have gone through” kind of article.
Not at all.
This is a shout-out to all of you who have gone through something or are going through something right now. In the midst of your strife, you’re seeking God, but you just can’t find Him.
Know that you are not alone.
Being in the valley is a lonely place, full of darkness and insecurity. You wonder why God allowed such things to happen to you. Moreover, when you call out to Him to help you out of your mess, your prayers and petitions are met with silence. God doesn’t seem to answer you back.
Or does He?
Being a Christian does not mean that our life turns into some kind of continuous happy-clappy revival, complete with outbursts of “Hallelujah!” and angel song in the background accompanying us all the livelong day. It certainly does not mean that as Born Again Christians we are destined to walk around with goofy smiles plastered across our faces, as we react to prejudice, injustice, and racial slurs with glorified meekness.
Being a Christian is hard. It means that life is still going to come at us with its arsenal of ill-intent; more so, because we are living ambassadors of the Most High God on earth.
Jesus confirmed this when He addressed His disciples:
‘“I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you face persecution.”’
John 16:33 (NRSV)
So, if Jesus warns us that we will experience trouble on this earth, why doesn’t God seem to answer us when we ask Him for help?
Could it be that we just aren’t listening hard enough for His voice?
The Bible contains numerous accounts of biblical heroes, who doubted God’s presence in the midst of adversity: Gideon asked God three times for divine confirmation of his calling to lead the Israelites against the Midianites (Judges 6). Thomas, one of the 12 disciples of Jesus, doubted that Christ had been resurrected from the grave until he saw physical proof (John 20:24-29). After extensive torture and calamity at the hands of Satan, Job doubted God’s goodness (Job 7:20).
However, in this article, l want to turn our focus onto Elijah the prophet, as his experience of Queen Jezebel of Samaria in 1 Kings 19 provides a beautiful example of how God reaches you in the (literal) silence .
In the previous chapter of 1 Kings, Elijah had proclaimed God’s glory through a series of events:
Firstly, Elijah had participated in a show-down in Samaria at Mt. Carmel against 450 prophets of Baal and 400 prophets of Asherah. Idol worship in Israel was rampant at that time, so Elijah was bold in his faith in making a stand against it. Through God’s miraculous intervention, Elijah was able to prepare an eye-popping sacrifice that declared God to be mightier than Baal or Asherah (1 Kings 18: 30-38) .
Secondly, with divine authority (Deuteronomy 13:5), Elijah had slain the 850 priests. These were men carefully chosen by Jezebel, the resident evil queen of Samaria, to serve her and promote her desire of idol worship in the land (1 Kings 18:40). Therefore, it took a lot of guts cutting down the Queen’s prized lackeys.
Most impressively, where a severe famine had already raged a 3-year course across the country, Elijah had prayed for rain and God had heard his petitions (1 Kings 18:44-45).
However, instead of celebrating God’s victories with a much-awaited dip in the now bursting banks of the River Jordan, Elijah freaked out after receiving an ominous message from Queen Jezebel. Apparently, she hadn’t taken too kindly to Elijah slaying her anti-God squad and she wanted Elijah dead. Full of fear, Elijah took flight.
You’d think that after all the miracles that God had bestowed upon Elijah in 1 Kings 18, that one death threat from a human would be small fries in comparison. However, this message really unhinged Elijah. Granted, Jezebel was a truly evil woman and a formidable queen, who had her husband Ahab twisted around her little finger (I Kings 21:1-16). Mind you, Ahab wasn’t exactly a saint either. Still, who was Jezebel compared to the might and power of God, the almighty Yahweh of the Israelites (Exodus 3:14-15)?
However, it is not uncommon to experience a crushing setback after a victory. It has happened to all of us, and Elijah was as human as any of us. So, Elijah hot-footed it towards Beersheba of Judah, which was over 80 miles out of Jezebel’s jurisdiction. That still wasn’t enough distance for Elijah, and he kept on moving.
It states in the Bible that Elijah “went a day’s journey into the wilderness” (I Kings 19:4). In the Bible, the wilderness symbolizes a dry season or a time of trial and testing. A good depiction of this is the Israelites sojourn in the wilderness for 40 years, which represented not only a physical dry season but a spiritual one – a result of their continuous doubt of God (Numbers 32:13).
Elijah must have been exhausted after the previous chapter’s events and then he had the added stress of Jezebel to deal with. Hence, he took rest under a broom tree where angels ministered to him (I kings 19:5-8). Even while on the run, feeling lonely and afraid, God was with Elijah.
However, it was when Elijah was in a cave that the Bible states that “Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” (I Kings 19:9). Away from the distractions of his current situation, Elijah was able to hear God speak.
In your own experience, have you ever realized that you have more perspective over your situation, when you mentally step away from it?
God further proves that He is with us in the silence. He went past Elijah as a great, strong wind that battered the mountains, as a trembling earthquake and a raging fire; and yet the Bible states that the Lord was not in any of these things (1 Kings 19:11-12).
Where was God then? He was in the still, small voice that came afterwards:
“(A)nd after the fire [a sound of gentle stillness and] a still, small voice.”
I Kings 19:12 (AMPC)
Why did God choose to speak to Elijah in a still, small voice? He could have spoken to him in conversational tones or boomed His message across the heavens, so that the mountains quaked and trembled at His very name.
But no, God chose to whisper to Elijah, because He was close to him the entire time. The devil needs to scream and shout at us to scare us into keeping our focus on our problems. But God, in His permanent proximity to us, only needs to whisper in the silence to reassure us that He is God. He is always with us and will never fail us nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5).
At the reassurance of God’s voice, Elijah was able to receive comfort and further instructions for the next phase of his ministry, which included choosing Elisha as his disciple (1 Kings 19:19-21).
Though we may be subjected to adversity in our life, God never intends for us to fend for ourselves. He is with us when we pass through the waters, and ensures that when we walk through the fires we will not be burned (Isaiah 43:2). If we doubt God’s presence during trials, it could just be that we can’t hear Him through the confusion, pain, and tension of our current circumstances.
Before l conclude, let’s go back briefly to that statement that Jesus made to His disciples in John 16:33 – however, this time, l am going to add the second part of the Bible verse.
‘”But take courage; I have conquered the world!”’
John 16:33 (NRSV)
Did you notice how Jesus stated that He has conquered the world? No matter what measure of ill launches an attack against us, it has to get through God first. So, even if something starts out as an attack against you, God will use it and turn it into a victory for you.
So, next time you find yourself surrounded by silence, know that it is part of God’s greater plan for your life. Instead of running from Him, convinced that He has abandoned you, stand still and listen attentively for His still, small voice in the silence.
Trust me, you will hear it.
gotquestions.org, “What does it mean to have a wilderness experience?”
brockwaychurch.com, “Biblical characters who doubted God”
www.learnreligions.com, “Elijah – boldest of prophets”
YouTube video: “The power to choose” from Pastor Steven Furtick