Meditations

God can speak loudly to you in the sounds of silence

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The prophet Elijah had had it! He had done what God asked him to do: give God’s message to God’s people. And now what did they want to do? They wanted to kill him!

So, Elijah runs away, angered by the peoples’ response, and by God, who got him into this mess. In 1 Kings chapter 19, Elijah decides he’s pretty much as good as dead and tells God he’s ready to go. He falls asleep but is quickly woken by an angel, who brings him bread and water and sends him on yet another journey, this time to Horeb, otherwise known as the mountain of God.

It takes Elijah forty days to get there, and when he does, he finds a cave so he can get some rest. But soon God speaks to him, asking Elijah why he is there and telling Elijah to stand outside of the cave, for God is about to show up!

So, Elijah does. First, he is met by a wind so strong that it splits rocks, but scripture says “the Lord was not in the wind,” and after the wind came an earthquake, but “the Lord was not in the earthquake” (v. 11), and after the earthquake a fire, but “the Lord was not in the fire” (v. 12)!

It was quite a day for natural phenomena up on Mount Horeb, apparently, but still God did not show up.

After the fire, scripture says, was the sound of sheer silence. When he heard it, Elijah covered his face with his scarf and inched his way forward. And God said, in verse 13, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

Where do you look for God?

We love to imagine God shows up in big, exciting ways. Tornado-like winds and earthquakes and fires seem as though they are God-sized activities, right? The same is true with the “big” stuff that happens in life. We, that is, God’s people, love to generalize these events as the time that God’s action takes place, as the space where God shows up. Biblically, this is true: many of us know the story of the plagues on Egypt that God sent!

But this short story of Elijah shows us God shows up other ways, too. Not in the big, God-sized natural disasters, but actually in silence. Sheer silence, scripture says, is what really gets Elijah’s attention.

Where do you look for God? Scary events can make us wonder about God, where God is, if God exists, if God cares. Silence can make us wonder this as well. But I find comfort knowing that God speaks in the silence, too. I find comfort in knowing God was waiting for Elijah, that God addresses him by name, that God knew Elijah was coming. God follows our paths, our journeys. God meets us in unexpected ways. Are we listening for God, even in the sound of sheer silence?

Peace to you this week.

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