A God who Keeps us on our Toes

Photo by Nathaniel Tetteh
Much has been made of the divine whisper that Elijah hears on Horeb and not all of it is fit for consumption. Some commentators get mindlessly mystical over this.

An earthquake, a wind, and a fire all come upon the mountain. But God speaks in none of them. Finally, God speaks to Elijah in the form of a whisper. He asks what he is doing there and then sends him back up to Israel with further instructions.

Those who run meditation retreat centres tend to jump all over this one. See, God isn’t in the big, loud, and dramatic elements of life. He’s in the place of silence and solitude. Now, it is true that God often speaks to us in the quiet. It is also the experience of many Christians that it is healthy for us to regularly step away from our busy routines, calm ourselves, and be alone with God.

But there is a large leap we must take from saying that God can speak in the whisper to saying that God always speaks in the whisper or even that silent solitude is His preferred method of speaking. There exists, in our strange world of Churchianity, certain contemplative Pharisees who despise the big and the loud simply because it is big and loud and who take great pride in how many hours they can be silently aloof. Now as an introvert myself, I get this. I welcome quiet times alone. In fact, I thrive on them. But is this always the place where God shows up? Does He never show up in crowds or in relationships with other humans? Is He never noisy?

The episode on Horeb is not there to teach us that God always speaks in the whisper. It teaches us that God often speaks in ways that we do not expect. In the chapter before, God showed up in the fire. When Elijah leaves this life, it will not be a whisper that takes him up to heaven, but a whirlwind. When God confirms the work of His Son on the cross, He doesn’t send down a whisper, He sends an earthquake. At Pentecost, God births the church in wind and flame. God’s character is steadfast. But when it comes to His methods, we should be alert as we don’t know how He is going to move.

This is important for us to keep in mind both for our personal lives and for the church. When we pray for reform, we are praying for specific changes that we see which need addressing in the church. We may rightfully have a specific vision of what that change will look like. We know what Scripture says and we see where we have erred as a people.

But when we pray for revival as well, we are praying for a fresh injection of spiritual vitality into our lethargic souls. And God tends to answer those prayers in ways we do not always expect. Jesus said ‘the wind blows where it will and we don’t know where it comes from or where it is going. So are those led by the Spirit.’ The Ghost tends to keep us on our toes. 

When a fresh awakening comes to a spiritually sleepy nation, it may come through a church, a denomination, a minister, or a style of worship that is not our favourite. Sometimes grace offends. God may show up in a way that is as far from our expectations as a whisper is from an earthquake.
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This has been an extract from our book Elijah Men Eat Meat: Readings to slaughter your inner Ahab and pursue Revival and Reform 

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