The Still Small Voice

Last Updated on June 16, 2023 by GMC

“The Still Small Voice”
A reflection on 1 Kings 19:9-18
Friday of the Tenth Week in Ordinary Time (Year II)
©️2022 by Gloria M. Chang

Why Are You Here, Elijah?

The God of Moses on Mount Sinai revealed himself in thunder, lightning, smoke, and fire (Exodus 19:16-18). Elijah’s thunderous showdown with the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel seemed to match the divine style. Yet afterward, Elijah became deflated and downcast.

Why? Had he not proven that “the Lord is God”? When the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt offering, the Israelites prostrated and cried with one voice, “The Lord—he is God! The Lord—he is God!” While the mob was on his side, Elijah seized the opportunity to slay the prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18:39). 

Not to be outdone, Jezebel threatened, “So may the gods do to me, and more also, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by this time tomorrow” (I Kings 19:2). Elijah fled to the wilderness and collapsed in despair, begging for death (1 Kings 19:4). An angel fed him, then the fugitive trekked to Mount Horeb (Sinai) where the Lord finally broke his silence.

At the mountain of God, Horeb, Elijah came to a cave, where he took shelter. But the word of the Lord came to him: Why are you here, Elijah? He answered: “I have been most zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts, but the Israelites have forsaken your covenant. They have destroyed your altars and murdered your prophets by the sword. I alone remain, and they seek to take my life.”

1 Kings 19:9-10

The Still Small Voice

The shallow conversion of the Israelites, coupled with Jezebel’s hardened heart, disturbed Elijah’s soul. His defensive lamentation, “I have been most zealous” and “I alone remain,” expressed his feeling of isolation.

Then the Lord said: Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord; the Lord will pass by. There was a strong and violent wind rending the mountains and crushing rocks before the Lord—but the Lord was not in the wind; after the wind, an earthquake—but the Lord was not in the earthquake; after the earthquake, fire—but the Lord was not in the fire; after the fire, a tiny whispering sound.

I Kings 19:11-12

The “tiny whispering sound” or “still small voice” revealed the mysterious and ineffable nature of the Lord God of Israel. Any attempts to put him into a box were upended.

When he heard this, Elijah hid his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. A voice said to him, Why are you here, Elijah? He replied, “I have been most zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts, but the Israelites have forsaken your covenant. They have destroyed your altars and murdered your prophets by the sword. I alone remain, and they seek to take my life.” 

I Kings 19:13-14

I Will Spare Seven Thousand in Israel

In the footsteps of Moses, Elijah shielded his eyes from the Lord, “for no one can see me and live” (Exodus 33:20). The divine whisper eluded Elijah and he repeated his lamentation. 

The Lord said to him: Go back! Take the desert road to Damascus. When you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael as king of Aram. You shall also anoint Jehu, son of Nimshi, as king of Israel, and Elisha, son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah, as prophet to succeed you. Anyone who escapes the sword of Hazael, Jehu will kill. Anyone who escapes the sword of Jehu, Elisha will kill. But I will spare seven thousand in Israel—every knee that has not bent to Baal, every mouth that has not kissed him.

1 Kings 19:15-18

The Lord shook the prophet out of his illusion of isolation by directing him to anoint two kings and Elisha as his successor. Elijah was not the only faithful servant in Israel; the Lord recognized seven thousand others.

Prelude of the Spirit

God’s “still small voice” whispered hidden secrets yet to be revealed. Thunderous manifestations of the divine presence will eventually yield to the nonviolent ways of the Good Shepherd.

Jesus, unlike Elijah, refused to call fire down from heaven (Luke 9:54). Nor did he come down from the cross when taunted (Matthew 27:40). Dramatic healings, signs and wonders failed to convert the masses. Spiritual conversion beyond superficial impressions requires a spiritual solution. At Pentecost, the Holy Spirit descended to guide and enlighten persons from within.

The “still small voice” is a prelude of the Spirit, the divine whisper within the heart of every baptized person. From the giving of the law in thunderclaps to the gift of the Holy Spirit, humankind leaped into the depths of God, who dwells within.

Tempests, quakes, and fire shock the senses.
God’s still small voice disarms defenses.

4 Replies to “The Still Small Voice”

  1. Dear GMC, thank you for coming yourself as a soft whisper to help us to live in the Spirit and invite us to listen to the Lord who is always passing by in our life. I thank God for you!

  2. Again He speaks to my aching spirit through these words of yours. I have been Elijah for far too long, so very zealous… yet I remain alone. But I hear the whisper…He is sending help, someone to pick up what I must let go of. Thank you, Lord. Forgive my fear, strengthen my trust. If I have You, I have everything.

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