A man who has been accused of stealing a goat, so the proverb goes, does not serve goat meat to his guests. Elijah had to learn this the hard way. Zealous for God’s honour, Elijah thought God withholding the rain and dew would show that Baal was no King of Rain and Dew. Surely the Israelites, realizing that Baal was impotent in the face of Yahweh, would return to the God they had forsaken so shamelessly. How disappointed he was to find that after 3 dry years interjected by a day of nonstop miracles, the nation’s leadership was increasingly eager to snuff out the flickering light of truth.
Mount Horeb was the place where Moses had encountered God in the ‘Burning Bush’. A short while later, it was the site on which God had descended and forged the Israelite nation with peals of thunder and smoking flame. This was the place Elijah had fled to wait for God’s voice. Dejected and lonely he waited. Like the Israelites, he had been fed miraculously by God on his way there. After earthquake, wind and fire (all of which had occurred when God had appeared to Israel) Elijah heard the voice of God in a still small voice.
God had brought Elijah to the scene of a most spectacular theophany to teach him that God would not win the war against Satan by displays of power. Having been accused of having too much power, God could certainly not try to win by showing off His power. Had not the Israelites danced before a golden calf six weeks before they’d piously promised to follow Jehovah? God’s laser light shows can only grab attention; they do not effect lasting change. Something more is needed if God is to change sinners… a still small voice.
Salvation is to be found in a conversation with God. It is not to be sought in the extraordinary interventions that God makes in our lives (wonderful though they may be), rather, salvation is to be sought in a calm conversation with God. It is here in which God’s immense wisdom is shown, for without gimmicks he simply talks a wayward sinner into a humble child.
What was it that God whispered into the Elijah’s ear? Strategy. God’s capability is seen in His unassuming calm control over the whole world. Elijah could only see Israel through his binoculars yet God was looking at countries around Israel (even their enemies). Yet God didn’t hog the vision; he invited Elijah to take part. So it is, even in our day, that we seek to fold God into the boxes we’ve prepared for Him when he would rather invite us to participate in his expansive work.
It is interesting to note that when Elijah, understanding the character of God, could jump at the whisper of God and take part in God’s larger work, he was ready for translation to heaven. Could it be that perfection for us is to be found in the willingness to jump at the mere sound of God’s whisper? The ability to move forward without being prompted by the proverbial carrot and stick? I think so.
The longing however, for One who would not turn and flee in the face of danger is still there. Could there be One who would stand fearlessly yet humbly (unlike Elijah) teaching us to listen to the still small voice instead of hoping for consuming fire? Time would tell. The controversy would continue.