Read: Kings 19:9-21
Reflect: In the Fall of 2001 I participated in an Alfa course at a Lancaster area church. Alpha is an evangelistic course which seeks to introduce the basics of the Christian faith through a series of talks and discussions. Along with weekly evening sessions, participants are also encouraged to attend a weekend retreat which is referred to as the “Holy Spirit Weekend”.
The focal point of the retreat was a lengthy session that involved a deep study of the nature and characteristics of the Holy Spirit. This was followed by an intense quiet time of prayer and meditation when participants were expected to encounter the presence and voice of the Holy Spirit speaking to them in a real and significant way. As I traveled three hours to the retreat, my carpool companion for was a man from the host church. As we traveled, the gentleman poured out his heart to me concerning personal problems and issues in his life that he desperately desired to have resolved. He was convinced that the Holy Spirit Weekend was the perfect opportunity to confront and fix these issues and put him straight on the path of God’s will. In John’s mind he was scheduling the appointment to hear God’s voice.
In today’s reading Elijah has an appointment/encounter with God. Elijah’s encounter resulted in a very real interaction with God. Elijah had previously been no stranger to the voice of God, but in this passage divine direction first came from an angel who instructed Elijah to eat and rest. There were no specific instructions other than to physically replenish for an upcoming journey.
Elijah had been on the run fleeing Beersheba to escape the death sentence of evil Queen Jezebel. Elijah felt that he had served loyally but his work had been in vain. He considered himself utterly defeated. Discouraged, and consumed by self pity, Elijah retreated to Mt. Sinai where he could finally just put an end to his misery.
God first confronted Elijah with, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” which could be paraphrased: “Why are you fleeing in fear of Jezebel? Why are you running away when your people need you?”. God then directed Elijah to come to mouth of the cave and Elijah experienced a great wind, earthquake, and fire. To Elijah’s amazement, rather than within all the noise, God’s voice was instead found within a soft whisper. God chose to communicate in the quiet rather than in the booming sounds of nature.
With one last whimper of protest and justification for retreating to the wilderness, Elijah found himself now ready to pay attention to God’ voice. (vs.14) God’s message was not deafening; he simply instructed Elijah to leave the wilderness and return to his Kingdom work of serving God as a prophet. God used Elijah’s flight and retreat as an opportunity to set an appointment to communicate with his beloved servant Elijah.
Apply: How, where, or when do you hear the voice of God? Along with the Alfa Holy Spirit weekend, I have in the past attended other well-meaning retreats where encounters with God and the hearing of His voice was expected to be planned by man’s schedule and not by God. (pardon my cynicism). The best times when I’ve heard the voice of God is when He has scheduled the appointment, not me. He controls the how, where, and when of these encounters and they are often when I am most broken. God spoke to me through his convicting Spirit the day I made the decision to know and follow Jesus. I hear from God through pastor’s sermons that may contain a convicting message that seems tailored just for me. God has used personal advice from Sunday school teachers and comments of affirmation and encouragement from fellow believers to speak to me. Take time to reflect and meditate on how you best hear God’s voice. Just slow down and meditate – don’t force the issue – this allows God alone to schedule the appointment. By the way, John, my companion from the Alfa class, returned home from the weekend retreat disappointed. He had demanded to hear God’s voice rather than quietly wait for the whisper of God.