Thursday, June 09, 2016

A Tiny Whispering Sound

By Colleen O’Sullivan

At the mountain of God, Horeb, Elijah came to a cave, where he took shelter.  But the word of the Lord came to him, “Go outside and stand on the mountain before the Lord; the Lord will be passing by.”  A strong and heavy wind was rending the mountains and crushing 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 there was fire – but the Lord was not in the fire.  After the fire, there was a tiny whispering sound.  When he heard this, Elijah hid his face in his cloak and went and stood at the entrance of the cave.   (1 Kings 19:9a, 11-13a)

Hear, O Lord, the sound of my call;
have pity on me, and answer me.
Of you my heart speaks; you my glance seeks.
R.  I long to see your face, O Lord.
(Psalm 27: 7-8a)

We have been following the story of the prophet Elijah for the last few days.  On Wednesday, we read about the contest between the prophets of Baal and the prophet of God, Elijah.  For all their crying out, the prophets of Baal were powerless.  We are told, “there was not a sound; no one answered, and no one was listening.”   When Elijah, on the other hand, cried out to the Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, the sacrifice was immediately consumed.  This was the one true God.  Elijah then executed all the prophets of Baal.

But now, he has had to flee for his life from Jezebel, who brought the worship of Baal with her when she married King Ahab.  She has vowed to kill Elijah.  The prophet traveled all the way to Mt. Horeb, where the Book of Deuteronomy tells us Moses received the Ten Commandments from God.

Alone in a cave, Elijah is huddled, depressed, in today’s reading.  He had hoped in vain that the contest would draw God’s people back to their faith.  Failure weighs heavily upon him.  As is so often the case, God doesn’t wait for the prophet to seek him out; he goes in search of Elijah.  He tells Elijah that the Lord will be passing by, so come on out of the cave.

Through earthquake, wind and fire, there is no sign of God.  It’s only in the ensuing silence that Elijah hears something.  In a tiny whispering sound, easily missed, the prophet hears the voice of the Lord.

Having just returned from a week-long, directed, silent retreat, this part of today’s Scripture reading really resonated with me.  I don’t think God said anything new to me over those seven days.  But in the stillness, absent the earthquake, wind, fire and other chaos that sometimes fill my life, I was able to hear what the Lord has been saying to me for months.

How often do we miss that soft whisper that is the voice of God?  Most people I know lead very busy lives.  Many of them are doing great things for God.  But how can any of us know what it is God desires of us or for us if we don’t carve out some quiet in the midst of all the doing?

Perhaps the thought of a week of silence makes you break out in a cold sweat.  How about a day or an hour?  Praying is as much or more about listening as it is about talking.  If you don’t routinely spend quiet time with the Lord, how about trying it today?  Listen.  What do you hear?

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