There has been more sound than most of us prefer lately. I don’t just mean the fireworks last week…or discounted fireworks this week…or music from your neighbors summer party…there is more noise being projected at us from all directions at all times. From frustrations with politicians and policies, to news commentators contributing to frustrations, to online postings about what you should or should not do or believe, to the buzz of cell phones and smart watch notifications and push alerts keeping you informed, or just the sheer increase of sound in our world. Silence is fading. Audio expert and acoustic ecologist Gordon Hempton says,“Quiet places, have been on the road to extinction at a rate that far exceeds the extinction of species.” It seems as time disappears, so has silence. I wonder if that lack of silence is doing something to us? If the constant sound is causing us to be less aware, less present, less in tune with what God has for us.
About a week ago, I taught on Elijah’s encounter with the prophets of Baal. It was this big, huge, loud and dramatic display of the power of God. It was transformative for those there as they saw and experienced who the true God was. The story almost immediately following finds Elijah on a mountain waiting for God. When Elijah is up there he prepares to encounter God. He expects God to appear in the same way as he did for Moses, or maybe as he did with the prophets of Baal; thunder and lightning, fire from heaven…but that’s not what happens…
In 1 Kings 19 it says that God tells Elijah to go and wait on the Lord…and low and behold, God shows up and passes by. Now, there was a powerful wind that tore the mountains and broke in pieces the massive rocks, but the scripture notes that the Lord was not in the wind.
Then after the wind a loud earthquake, but again the Lord was not in the earthquake.
Then after the earthquake a raging fire, but again the Lord was not in the fire.
Finally, after the fire the sound of a low whisper. When Elijah heard the whisper he knew that was his cue. So he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave where God was meeting him. And there, in that deafening silence, the Lord pierced the silence and spoke and asked, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
It wasn’t the powerful wind or the loud earthquake or the raging fire…but the low whisper, the thin silence, or the still small voice.
Elijah experiences God in the deafening silence.
Elijah hears from God after a season of chaos, after a time of running, after he has slowed down and waited on the Lord.
In that moment, God reveals to Elijah what is next, what to do, and who to pass the legacy and mission on to. He sees not only his present circumstance clearer, but he sees the future as well.
I just have to wonder. If we are people that took the bold steps and removed distractions from our life, if we waited in the silence, how would we encounter God, and what would God speak to us about? Where will He call us? What will He call us to do? How will we be changed?
I think part of the reason we don’t like silence…is we are afraid of what we will hear and what we will have to confront. Maybe when we sit in the silence and wait upon the Lord the words we hear will not be confrontational or condemning, but be more encouraging than we realize, more edifying than we expect, more supportive or reassuring than we think. God has great plans for you and your life. God is not here to destroy you and make your life miserable. Though if we don’t sit and wait upon the Lord it will be hard to hear either way and know the difference. Let us be people who can sit in the silence, wait, and listen. People who can quiet the noise and distractions and listen for that still small voice that pierces the deafening silence. For Elijah it was the next step to know where to go and what to do. I wonder if the same could be for you.