Reflection for Today ▶️ ⏩ ⏹️
Stillness in the storm. Image from pixabay.com/istock
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.
— 1 Kings 19:11-12
After three years of drought, Elijah successfully proves to King Ahab that the God of Israel is more powerful than his wive Jezebel's god, Baal. A dramatic display of rain, wind and fire in the mountains has the God of Israel emerging the clear winner in this bizarre competition, and Elijah and Ahab going their separate ways—for now, Elijah knowing in his heart it is not over while Jezebel lives and plots. In despair he calls upon God for a sign. Given all that recently occurred, perhaps Elijah expects a sign of equal force and drama to prove God is with him. God does not give him that. He does the opposite, bringing everything down to a whisper, a still small voice.
We like drama today just as much as the ancients did, always seeking leaders tall in stature 1 with loud voices and forceful personalities—with some controversy thrown in for spice. We like war too. Leaders who go to war are in general much more popular than those that do not. Indeed, it seems that the more deaths of its own people a USA leader presides over, the greater their popularity. 2 Despite the electorate's claim that we seek leaders to keep us safe and secure, it would seem that drama has a higher value than safety. This makes sense of course. We can see war, witness it, cheer for it, get actively involved in it. Peace, by contrast, is invisible. We merely live it.
Elijah called for a sign, and looked to the wind, the thunder, the earthquakes, the fire. Elijah looked to all the forces of destruction God was capable of causing. He didn't find God in any of those places. Elijah had perhaps forgotten what God truly was, which is why God needed to give him an experience to remind him of that, rather than just instruct. We learn through experience far more than we do through information.3 Elijah's experience then was one of listening, and not until he was able to listen in the right way did he find the voice of God. Those times when we feel forsaken, perhaps we are just looking for God in all the wrong places.4
We live in a loud, visually stimulating world, where our orientation response is triggered dozens, if not hundreds of times every day by our mobile phones, social media alerts, televisions, radios, grocery store announcements, people yelling, cars honking, screeching, trains thundering by, flashing lights, adverts splashed across roads and in people's windows, and in many countries the skies filled with threatening machinery. Finding the still, small voice gets harder and harder as we become more and more 'civilised'. Elijah reminds us to slow down, to quieten down, to be still ourselves in order to hear the voice of God, the voice of love.
1 Looking up to leadership: Do you have to be tall to be U.S. president?, Maclean's, 2017
2 Is War What Makes a President 'Great'?, NYU, 2016
3 I wrote about this a few days ago, in Learning, 26/4/21.
4 A similar theme was touched on in the post Ritual, 3/2/2021