My teenage kids get a kick out of playing the tone on their iPhones that only the young can hear.
And who wasn’t captivated by the bell in the Polar Express that only true believers could hear?
Isn’t that how we tend to think about hearing God? It’s not available to everyone; it requires something special and intangible.
And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord. And, behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake:
And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.
And it was so, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and stood in the entering in of the cave. And, behold, there came a voice unto him, and said, What doest thou here, Elijah?
1 Kings 19: 11-13
“If you want to capture someone’s attention, whisper.”
Whenever I read this passage I find myself leaning in to see if I can hear the God of Elijah too. Most often it is in the stillness that we hear and experience God’s whispers to our hearts most clearly.
But God isn’t that simple; he defies our best efforts to make him predictable, containable, knowable, let’s face it, more a reflection of ourselves.
A Wind-Blown, Mind-Blowing God
I got an new perspective on this story recently.
You see, just a chapter earlier, Elijah had been part of a spectacular, booming display of God’s presence when he cast down consuming fire upon drenched wood planks of Elijah’s bonfire in a “My God’s bigger than yours” style show down with followers of Baal. (1 Kings 18).
Here, God is the mountain-moving, rock-shattering, wind-blowing, fire-breathing, earth-quaking Lord of the universe, claiming all power and glory for himself and exposing the empty promises of Baal.
This is the God Elijah had faith to risk calling upon.
But God reminded Elijah, as he reminds us today, that he is neither tame nor predictable. He is not made in our image; rather it is we who are imago dei.
Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable his judgments,
and his paths beyond tracing out!
“Who has known the mind of the Lord?
Or who has been his counselor?”
“Who has ever given to God,
that God should repay them?”
For from him and through him and for him are all things.
To him be the glory forever! Amen.
How can we hear God? It depends.
Make no mistake, God is still speaking to people today.
Sometimes it is a still small voice. But sometimes it is mind-blowing.
The nature of how we hear God is not determined by our giftedness or even our faithfulness, but by God’s great, unknowing character and his wisdom about what will best bring him glory and invite others into relationship with him.
I have a great friend and spiritual leader who is a pastor. He grew up a self-proclaimed “child of hippies,” not knowing the Lord. At 21 he experienced a Saul-to-Paul moment in which he saw a visible presence and heard the Lord speak his name saying, “It’s time to come back.”
His wife says this was not because of who he was, but because it was only way through his skeptical brain. Since that time God has used his conversion to start and revive many church communities, and has called many of his children into relationship with him.
Another dear person in my life is a prayer warrior who has lived her life in lockstep with the Lord. She prays without ceasing, and has experienced seasons of great communion with the Lord as well as dry seasons when he has seemed silent. Yet in each season she keeps stepping in faith.
Recently she was oppressed by fear and anxiety about her child and cried out to God, “Lord, please take care of my baby.” And more clearly than she has ever heard him before, God spoke to her heart, “I already have.” And in that moment, and more so in the days that followed it was clear that indeed he had. The message gave her hope and confidence for the journey to come.
Ask and you shall receive. Seek and you will find. Knock and the door will be opened to you.
God meets us where we are, and reveals himself in ways that comfort, encourage and embolden us to testify to who he is and to the great things he has done, regardless of our circumstance.
While I don’t know how God will speak next to you or to me, I do know this much:
You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.
If you need God, seek God…with all your heart. And then:
Return to your house and describe what great things God has done for you