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Root & Vine in the Word

R&V In the Word: God of the Gentle Whisper

Storm hovers over the mountain top. Image: Nathan Anderson.

And the word of the Lord came to him: “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

He replied, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”

The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.”

Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the 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 came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.

Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

He replied, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”

The Lord said to him, “Go back the way you came, and go to the Desert of Damascus. When you get there, anoint Hazael king over Aram. 

1 Kings 19:9b-15 NIV

Elijah was tended to for forty days and nights preceding his climb up the mountain, and yet when God asked him what he was doing there, Elijah was still anxious and overwhelmed. The storms that he had faced back in the valley were still with him on the mountain: even though I’ve done everything I can for you, everything is still awful. No one is listening to me. My very life is at stake.

But God is not in the storms.

Do you feel caught up in the storms of life right now? The winds are loud, the earthquakes are shaking the very foundation of your life, the fires of dissent are consuming friendships, family bonds, neighborly relationships, and more. But God is not in any of that.

Listen for the gentle whisper. The Lord is in the gentle whisper, the whisper that woos you into rest, the whisper that gives you peace, the whisper that you are worthy and loved and cared for, more than many sparrows, so do not worry (Matthew 10:31 NIV).

Even when we know this is true—that God is in the gentle whisper—the circumstances of our lives are still filled with storms. Elijah repeats his lament to the Lord a second time. It is exactly the same as the first lament: Everything is still awful. No one is listening to me. My very life is at stake.

And God gives Elijah the right next step. He gives Elijah help. He shows him there are more people standing with him than he thinks. He shows him that he isn’t alone. He shows him a way forward.

When it feels like we’re all alone in our storms, we have a God who hears our lament. We have a God who meets our needs. We have a God who gently whispers, “What are you doing here?” We have a God who shows us we are not alone. We have a God who makes a way.

Points of Reflection

  1. Have you ever felt alone in your personal storms? What has God done or who has God provided to meet you in that season?
  2. How does it make you feel to know that God is not in the storms, but that he is instead a gentle whisper? 

For the Kids

  1. What do the wind, earthquake, and fire in today’s verses have in common?
  2. How do you think Elijah was feeling when he first talked to God? How do you think he felt after he heard God’s gentle whisper?
  3. How did God respond to Elijah’s complaint?

Action

Think about the spaces you inhabit that feel like storms in your life and which spaces are a sanctuary from those storms, the spaces that you can go to hear the gentle whisper of the Lord. Make time to enter that sanctuary space this week. When we make time to retreat into our sanctuary spaces, the gentle whisper of the Lord reinforces your foundation so that you can reenter the storm and “stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand” (Ephesians 6:13 NIV).

Readings

Braving the Wilderness by Brené Brown explores what it means to truly belong in an age of increased polarization. Brown writes, “True belonging requires us to believe in and belong to ourselves so fully that we can find sacredness both in being a part of something, and in standing alone when necessary. But in a culture that’s rife with perfectionism and pleasing, and with the erosion of civility, it’s easy to stay quiet, hide in our ideological bunkers, or fit in rather than show up as our true selves and brave the wilderness of uncertainty and criticism. But true belonging is not something we negotiate or accomplish with others; it’s a daily practice that demands integrity and authenticity. It’s a personal commitment that we carry in our hearts.” This powerful and practical book helps us do what Elijah demonstrates: stand firm in what we believe and show up as our true selves, guided by God’s gentle whisper that speaks to our souls.

Listen or read online through your local library’s Libby app, or buy on Amazon.com or through a local independent bookstore near you.