WELCOME

Welcome to worship once again this morning. Today we are going to be looking at a passage in the Old Testament that will show us how to hear God’s voice. Hint: you might have to turn up your hearing aids!

As this summer of 2020 marches on and the cases of COVID seem to be reducing every day, we look forward to many more of you joining us once again in person very soon. Until then, know that you are missed, and that you can continue to worship with us in spirit.

Psalm 46 - New International Version

1 God is our refuge and strength,
    an ever-present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
    and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
3 though its waters roar and foam
    and the mountains quake with their surging.
4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
    the holy place where the Most High dwells.
5 God is within her, she will not fall;
    God will help her at break of day.
6 Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
    he lifts his voice, the earth melts.
7 The Lord Almighty is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress.
8 Come and see what the Lord has done,
    the desolations he has brought on the earth.
9 He makes wars cease
    to the ends of the earth.
He breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
    he burns the shields with fire.
10 He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
    I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth.”
11 The Lord Almighty is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Prayer

Prayer of Invocation: Be Still

O God who is greater than the most powerful forces in this world,
enable us to be still and know that You are God.

O Lord who answers out of the whirlwind of everyday life,
breathe in us Your Holy Spirit to strengthen, comfort, and guide us in the midst of the storm.

O still, small voice, speak to us this hour
that we might become makers of Your peace
in our homes, in our communities, in our world.
We pray all this in the name of the One who calmed the raging sea. Amen.

 posted on My Redeemer Lives website.

Song: Be Still My Soul – Kari Jobe

Today's Message: A Powerful Whisper

Introduction

I would be easy for us to look around whatever room we are in this morning and wonder, “Just what is it that God is doing?” Left to our feelings, it is difficult not to conclude that He has left the building.

For those at home reading this worship service or even watching a video of someone preaching, it isn’t the same as gathering with God’s people and experiencing it together. It may be the best we can do at the moment, but is certainly can’t compare to the real thing.

Those few who have made the choice to come back to our services in the sanctuary probably don’t feel any differently; probably don’t feel like things have gotten back to normal at all. There are masks that make it impossible to even smile at someone, the lack of singing during the service, and the general feeling of discomfort and stress that seems to follow us whenever we leave our homes. We can do a lot more today than we could a month or so ago, but when we do it doesn’t always seem like it is worth the effort.

It would be easy for us to begin to believe God has forgotten about us, even abandoned us. Easy to slip into despair as we wonder, “Did we do anything to deserve this?” or “How permanent are these changes?”

Passage

Our situation connects with the situation that the prophet Elijah found himself in in the Old Testament book of 1 Kings. The passage I will read this morning and focus on is really the end of the story. Before I read it, the lead up goes like this:

  • Elijah was appointed by God to be His messenger to the northern Kingdom of Israel
  • King Ahab was described as one who, “Did more to provoke the Lord, the God of Israel, to anger than did all the kings of Israel before him.”
  • Ahab ruled Israel along with his famously wicked wife Jezebel
  • God told Elijah to tell Ahab that a severe drought and famine was about to begin, a time of great hardship that would last for a number of years
  • Elijah did his job and informed the King, then fled first to the far eastern border of Israel in Kerith Ravine where God sent ravens to bring him bread and meat. Later, when the river dried up, Elijah fled north the Zarephath in Phonecia where he stayed with a widow and her son, far from Ahab’s reach and influence
  • While there, God kept the 3 of them alive by ensuring that the widow’s jar of flour and jug of oil never ran out, even though they were both almost empty before Elijah even arrived.
  • At one point, Elijah was empowered by God to raise the widow’s son from the dead
  • When the time came, God sent Elijah back to Ahab in Samaria, where a contest was set up between him and the priests of the pagan god Baal, who most of the country had been worshipping.
  • Both Elijah and the priests of Baal set up alters with sacrifices on them, and the deity who sent fire to their alter first would be the winner, and the only God that Israel would worship from that point on.
  • Elijah and the Lord clearly won the contest, and the prophets of Baal in attendance were killed.
  • Queen Jezebel was not happy when she heard about this, and vowed the death of Elijah by the next day, causing him to once again go into hiding.
  • Elijah’s first stop was under a broom tree in the desert, where he asked God to take his life, saying, “I have had enough Lord. Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.”
  • But God didn’t take his life. Instead He cared for Elijah, giving him food and rest before sending him to a cave in Mount Horeb; God’s holy mountain.

It is at this point that we finally come to this morning’s passage. As I read this, close your eyes and place yourself right beside Elijah; imagining you are experiencing what he would have been experiencing.

1 Kings 19:9-18  New International Version

9 There he went into a cave and spent the night.
And the word of the Lord came to him: “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
10 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.”
11 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. 12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. 13 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?”
14 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.”
15 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. 16 Also, anoint Jehu son of Nimshi king over Israel, and anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from Abel Meholah to succeed you as prophet. 17 Jehu will put to death any who escape the sword of Hazael, and Elisha will put to death any who escape the sword of Jehu. 18 Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel—all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and whose mouths have not kissed him.”

When I hear the story of Elijah, I am both impressed with his bravery and faith as he stood up to King Ahab and the prophets of Baal; but perplexed by his fear of Jezebel and his longing to die. Here was a man who had been literally kept alive by God in a number of miraculous ways; a miracle worker himself who brought the widow’s son back from the dead; a man who believed God would send the drought and who bravely announced that bad news to the King; and a man who went to that king who wanted him dead to announce that the drought was over. Such a mix of faith and fear; boldness and withdrawal.

We sometimes believe that if God showed Himself to us through some big, unexplainable miracle, we would finally drop everything and follow Him without reservation. I have definitely had those thoughts myself. I read these chapters in 1 Kings and wonder, “What is wrong with Elijah?”

Reflect

Have you ever felt that way? Have you ever said to yourself that you would give God your everything if only He would only show Himself clearly to you? Do you really think you would?

God’s True Reveal

I am glad this isn’t the end of the story of Elijah. I am glad God doesn’t grant him his wish and let him die in peace in the desert. Instead, God showed His true self to Elijah, making sure that he understood how to make the deepest connection with Him.

You see, God didn’t reveal Himself as the powerful, flashy and impressive Deity outside of that cold mountain cave. He didn’t want Elijah to think of Him as the wind that shattered the rocks, or the earthquake, or the fire. Imagine how Elijah would have felt as he experienced these – terrified, expecting to be bowled over by the overwhelming power of God. The same God he had seen send enough fire from heaven to devour the sacrifice set out at Mount Carmel.

But instead, God revealed Himself to Elijah as a gentle whisper. The King James Version translates it as “a still small voice.” Clearly, in order to hear the voice of God, you need to be listening for it. Those other things – the wind, earthquake and fire – they were just there to get Elijah’s attention. It is natural for us to stop there and think that all this power must be God, but that would be stopping too soon. God’s voice is more like the sound of a whisper!

Application

And so, are we listening for the whisper of God’s voice, or do we think we can see Him in the turmoil and storms all around us that grab and hold our attention? It is so difficult these days to not become problem focussed in the midst of all that is happening around us.

It is true that many of us have never had more time to sit with God and listen for His voice, yet the noise around all of us, along with the noise in our own heads, still has the potential to block Him out. In our moments of honesty, we can admit this is exactly what happens!

This passage calls us to silence, if our desire really is to hear the whisper of God. In almost every book I have ever read on Spiritual Formation, the practice of learning to be silent before God is ground zero. It is the first discipline to master. Failure to do this renders most other attempts to draw near to God ineffective. Bible study without listening for God’s voice in the text is just learning facts. Prayers without a heart stilled and tuned to God are just words. Serving without slowing down to see the face of God in those we serve, is just doing good deeds. All of these are good things to do, but God is calling us to so much more.

How can you do this? How can you begin to embrace silence enough to hear God’s whisper? The best place to begin is to just begin! To just begin to get used to silence. It sounds like an easy thing to do, but if you give silence an honest try, I guarantee you will be amazed how difficult it is to stop long enough to hear a whisper – a whisper that does not come on command. Set a timer in a comfortable place and remove as many distractions as you can. Pay close attention to your breath as it goes in and out. Thank God for the life it brings with no effort at all on your part. Repeat a verse or part of a verse to quiet your mind. Focus on a simple prayer. Learn to be without doing.

Silence isn’t something we do very well without practice. Even those who don’t talk very much are often very chatty when it comes to their inner dialogue that occurs in the privacy of their own heads.

Stop and listen for the still small voice of God. The Gentle whisper that will reassure you of His presence, and His love.

CLOSING REMARKS & PRAYER

As we approach prayer once again this morning, we will start with a time of silence; enough silence to probably make some of us uncomfortable. In that silence, listen with as open a mind and heart as possible for that gentle whisper of God. You may or may not hear it; God may or may not speak to you. Our calling isn’t to make God speak, but to simply listen.

(silent prayer for up to 5 minutes if you are comfortable – longer if you can)

We are grateful, Lord, that you are with us. We confess that too often we act as if we are alone. We also confess that we often look for you in the big and spectacular, but forget to listen to your still small voice; your gentle whisper. Forgive us Lord, and draw us back to You. Give us ears to hear.

(before ending, consider continuing the posture of prayer as we hear the song, “Word of God Speak;” a song written as a prayer to God.

Song– Word of God Speak – Mercy Me

Benediction

Psalm 46:10-11

10 He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
    I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth.”

11 The Lord Almighty is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress.