In a previous post I wrote about guidance from God. This present post must be understood within the context of that broader article. In the previous article I spoke of God’s guidance coming through God’s word, God’s voice, God’s reason, God’s people, and God’s circumstances. Today I would like to write about one part of how God guides those who seek him and submit to his will: God’s voice. How do we listen for God’s voice?
1 Kings 19:9-13 falls within a long section in which Elijah plays several key roles. It is hard to pull one part out from the rest. Elijah was a very complex prophet; but, read this section and ask yourself one question: “What does God’s voice sound like?”
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?” 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. . . .
Hebrew scholars note that one possible translation of the word that is here represented as “a quiet whisper” could also be “a silence.” The emphasis is on God being faint, subtle, restrained. He is not in the powerful wind, he is not in the earthquake, and he is not in the fire. He is much more subtle with Elijah in this situation.
When we consider God’s guidance, and in particular, God’s voice, how do we hear him? What might his voice sound like to us? I stress again that we listen to his voice within the context of his word (the Bible), his reason (logic placed in our brains), his people (the community of faith), and his circumstances (the indications we have that point us in a certain direction). God’s voice will likely sound different to each of us as he uses our personalities and nature through which he speaks. The key is we must carefully listen for the subtle voice and carefully separate that voice from all of the other things that might distract us from his voice.