First Mennonite Church
June 28 2020
A Still Small Voice that Restores Life
Text: 1 Kings 19:1-18
Hebrews 11, verse 38 has this about some of those heroes of faith listed there:
They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground.
This, in part, reflects the situation of Elijah in our passage. However, Elijah was not always on the run or scared. Chapters 17 and 18 of 1Kings narrate Elijah’s heroic acts. Elijah was a genuine hero of faith. He was a faithful and assertive man of God. He was able to bring about miracles through prayer. He raised a dead boy; called down fire from heaven. He called out for drought and summoned the rain and they came to happen. He confronted a powerful king and denounced his sins. In chapter 18, verse 21, Elijah challenged the people of Israel saying: “How long will you go limping with two different opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.”
In the last part of chapter 18, Elijah demonstrated to the prophets of Baal that the Lord was indeed God and who speaks through him, a true prophet.
Chapters 17 & 18 portray Elijah as being on the top of the world. And nothing seemed impossible for him. In light of all his great achievements we would not expect Elijah to be easily intimidated, become self-doubting, and even suicidal, as we see in chapter 19.
Our passage begins by telling us that King Ahab tells Jezebel, the queen, all that Elijah had done, specifically that Elijah had killed Baal’s 450 prophets. Jezebel is a devoted worshiper of Baal and she sends a threatening message to Elijah vowing to kill him in the next 24 hours. This threatening message prompts Elijah to flee, which is narrated chapter 19.
Elijah not only flees for his life, he is actually giving up on his call. Elijah walks for a day to a solitary place in the wilderness and lays there asking God to take his life away. “Enough is enough! Take my life away!” Elijah prays. But how does God answer his prayer?
God sends an angel, who does not question nor condemn Elijah for being where he is nor for his feeling of defeat, but feeds him instead. This is interesting. While Elijah prays to die, God feeds him to keep him alive. God can be funny at times! We might ask for something and he gives us another thing. We ask for patience and he gives us troubles, so we can develop patience. We ask for strength and he shows us our weaknesses, so that we can rely on him more.
Once fed, Elijah doesn’t go back from where he came; he walks 40 days and nights and reaches to “the cave of the rock” in Mount Horeb. And there God comes and asks him, “Elijah, what are you doing here?” After Elijah empties the burden of his heart, the Lord commands Elijah to go to the entrance of the cave for there the Lord would appear to him.
Elijah prepares for God’s manifestation. Theologians use the fancy word “theophany” when they refer to God’s manifestations. These manifestations are typically accompanied by rain and thunder storms, lightening, and earthquakes (Exodus 1916-18; Judges 5:4-5 also in Nahum and Habakkuk). Elijah soon discovers that the Lord is not present in those powerful natural phenomena. After the fire, there was an eerie calm, literally “a sound of fine silence” or “a sound of sheer silence.” The King James Version is most known, however: “A still small voice.”
This is the only time in the Biblical narratives that God manifests himself in this way. Elijah’s mind was confused. His heart was tormented by what he knows was happening in Israel under Jezebel and Ahab. He has given up all hopes of ever being able to change anything, even after God powerful manifestations through his prophetic ministry. Elijah is just as agitated as the storm and the earthquake that preceded the presence of God. But God restores Elijah, back to life and ministry, in that “still small voice” (KJV). When Elijah is worn out, depressed, defeated, God comes to him not a fearsome storm but in “still small voice.”
There in the cave the Lord asks Elijah, what are you doing here? Elijah accuses Israel of wrong-doing and blames them and the royal house for his situation. Elijah accuses Israel of destroying the places of worship. Altars were considered sacred places for divine encounter with his people. This accusation implies that Israel was breaking the bridge between God and them. Elijah also accuses Israel of killing God’s prophet, which meant Israel is trying to silence God’s voice. In other words, Israel is rejecting Yahweh. In fact, those were the reasons Elijah is where he is and for his discouragement.
We all go through times of loneliness and despair. Perhaps it is because of our ill health or due to circumstances that are beyond our control and we think that no one cares or understands what we are enduring. We might even be tempted to think that God does not care for us because we did not do something we thought God was telling us to do. You see, when we are troubled, when we feel defeated, when we cannot bear with something anymore, when our heart and mind get agitated and confused, that is when we need to be still so we could hear that still small voice of God. There are times when we need to pause and rest in the mercy of God. Just as he did with Elijah, the Lord will feed us, restore our strength and meet with us.
This story reminds us that the Lord knows how to deal with us when we are weak and down in our spirit. In the Lord’s abundant grace and mercy, he deals with us tenderly.
God still speaks to us with that still small voice. Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.”
It is important that we take, from time to time, a moment to quiet our heart and mind by resting in the Lord. In those moments of quietness and stillness before God, the Lord will speak to us with his reassuring voice.
There is another lesson here for us. Very often when we are not in a good mood, when we are down, or at fault, we blame others for how we feel or what we have done. Elijah thought he was the only faithful one remaining. He felt abandoned, lonely and scared. But the angel of the Lord came to restore his strength and did not condemn Elijah for how he was feeling.
When Elijah felt that he was done, God came to restore him so Elijah could anoint those who would take over after he was truly done. God was not yet finished with Elijah. God sent him back with a new commission.
There are times when we could feel there is nothing more we can do for the Lord or that what we do is worthless and ineffective. But the truth is that God is not yet done with us.
Today the Lord is reminding each of us that he is not yet done with us. Let us obey his voice. Let continue doing what God has asked us to do. Let us prepare those who will take over after we have truly finished our call. Amen!