My son Joel is a student at Talbot Seminary. Many years ago God called him into ministry and he is now in training for that calling. About 10 years ago Joel was on a mission’s trip in the Philippines with the youth group from our church. At one point in the trip, Joel was having a conversation with a young Filipino pastor about ministry. The pastor said to Joel, “When you are a pastor, you will know.” That comment reverberated in Joel’s mind for many weeks and months later. Joel said, “What struck me was the pastor said when you become a pastor, not if.” God used that comment to whisper in Joel’s ear “I want you in ministry.”
In the book of 1 Kings we find God whispering to his prophet Elijah. Elijah is God’s appointed prophet for this appointed time. After Solomon’s reign the kingdom had been divided in two. The northern kingdom was Israel and the southern kingdom was called Judah. Israel was ruled by Ahab and he did “what was evil in the Lord’s sight, even more than the kings before him.” (I Kings 16:30) Ahab was married to a princess Jezebel who turned his heart even farther away from God.
God uses Elijah to show Ahab, Jezebel, and the people of Israel that He alone is God. With Ahab watching, Elijah instructs the worshippers of Baal to prepare an offering of a bull and set it on an altar. The prophets of Baal are then instructed to pray to their god to set fire to the offering. All day they pray for fire but it never comes. Finally Elijah prays to God and immediately the Lord sends fire down from heaven to consume the bull and everything around it.
Ahab goes home to Jezebel and tells her what Elijah has done. Jezebel threatens to kill Elijah and so he flees to the mountains and hides in cave. Discouraged, he tells God that he has had enough. This man of God who watched the Lord do mighty miracles is now cowering in a cave. Then the word of God came to him: “So Elijah, what are you doing here?”
“I’ve been working my heart out for the God-of-the-Angel-Armies,” said Elijah. “The people of Israel have abandoned your covenant, destroyed the places of worship, and murdered your prophets. I’m the only one left, and now they’re trying to kill me.” Then he was told, “Go, stand on the mountain at attention before God. God will pass by.” A hurricane wind ripped through the mountains and shattered the rocks before God, but God wasn’t to be found in the wind; after the wind an earthquake, but God wasn’t in the earthquake; and after the earthquake fire, but God wasn’t in the fire; and after the fire a gentle and quiet whisper. When Elijah heard the quiet voice, he muffled his face with his great cloak, went to the mouth of the cave, and stood there. A quiet voice asked, “So Elijah, now tell me, what are you doing here?” I Kings 19: 9b-13 (The Message)
Elijah had a misconception of God’s presence in his life. He tended to believe that God was present if he could see his power revealed through mighty acts, such as what he had just witnessed with the consuming of the offering by fire from heaven. Elijah thought that God spoke only in big and mighty ways. But God showed Elijah that He also speaks in the quiet whisper. In our day we often do not hear the quiet whisper because we are too busy or our lives are too noisy to hear God speak. God spoke to the boy Samuel in I Samuel chapter three when Samuel was still and attentive. We must learn to still our minds and be attentively listening for God’s voice.
God speaks to us through His Word. I have found that the time I hear God the clearest is right after reading or hearing God’s Word. Many years ago I attended a conference in Nashville. After a weekend of hearing God’s word taught, I clearly heard the voice of the Lord calling me to a new ministry. It was not an audible voice, but a confirmation in my spirit from the Holy Spirit that God was going to take me in a new direction in the future. I did not know when that would be but I had that assurance. It was more than a year later when I finally got the go ahead from the Lord to step into that ministry.
In most of our lives God speaks to us in quiet ways. The unsettling of our spirit when we have sinned against another, the urging of our hearts to say a kind word or do a kind deed are all ways in which God speaks with a whisper. When we respond to God’s voice, He is glorified and we are blessed. Sometimes he speaks to us directly and sometimes He uses other people to speak to us. In the book of 1 Samuel, God spoke to the boy Samuel directly and then used Samuel to speak to the priest Eli.
My friend Chris was driving with his son Tyler one day when they passed a homeless man who held a sign that read, “Hungry. Can you spare some food?” Tyler is nine years old and it is already evident his spiritual gift is mercy. He had some candy that he had saved for later in the day. Realizing that this man was hungry, Tyler insisted that Chris turn the car around so they could give the candy to the homeless man. Chris did not want to discourage his son’s mercy and generosity so they did indeed turn around. Tyler handed the man his candy. The homeless man took the gift of food, looked Tyler in the eyes and said, “God is with you.” Tyler’s mouth dropped open and he turned to his dad and said with astonishment, “How did he know!”
From our adult point of view we may think that the man says that to everyone. But to Tyler it was as if the words came from God himself. Perhaps Tyler was responding as Samuel did to the voice of God when he felt compelled to give that homeless man his candy. As result, Tyler himself was blessed. And the homeless man blessed Tyler by affirming that God had indeed spoken to him and was with him……a huge lesson for a little boy.
Is God whispering in your ear? Perhaps He is asking you to come out of your cave and serve Him. Elijah finally left his cave per God’s instructions and found Elisha and anointed him as God’s next prophet. Keep your ear finely tuned to hear God’s whisper through His Word. You never know when your obedience to the Lord’s voice might feed a hungry person or affirm a calling.