Be Still and Listen
There are a lot of influences that make an impact on the development of your faith when you are young. Most of those influences come from people who are important in your life. Their faith is communicated and becomes the foundation of what you believe. You grow up being taught Bible stories and being a part of a church family.Or, maybe, you grow up with very little religious influence in your life. I grew up hearing Bible stories. Being a part of a church was a central element of almost everything we did. When I was 12, our Methodist minister gave me a Bible as a part of a summer class on learning the fundamentals of faith. As a condition of receiving a free Bible, we were challenged to read that it every day that summer. His purpose was to establish a habit that we would continue. As a result, I have read the Bible almost every day since. He planted a huge seed of faith for which I will be forever grateful.
My sisters were both Methodist clergy. One of them was my youth minister. I had a great foundation for growth. And yet, in the 1960's, there were a lot of influences that would try to lead me in other directions. The assassinations of John and Robert Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King were very public. Race riots and burning cities were seemingly in the news every night. The "God is dead" movement was very vocal. Protests against the Vietnam war were everywhere. Free thought, free love, rejection of authority and questioning of everything that was established was in vogue. Against that backdrop, it was a challenge to maintain your childhood beliefs and develop a faith that was your own.
Witnessing a single, undeniable miracle would have made a huge difference. The confirmation of my beliefs that would have resulted would have been game changing, or so I thought. The latter chapters of I Kings and the book of II Kings make me wonder how much lasting difference it would have really made. The magnificence of the temple was always there. There were prophets who they could consult about God's will in any situation, yet they created their own priests who would consult with a god of stone who would always agree with the king. Would a miracle from God have made a major impact? Less than 40 years after Solomon started the worship of idols, we find the stories of Ahab and his wife Jezebel. His reign is described in I Kings 16:29-33:
Ahab son of Omri began to rule over Israel in the thirty-eighth year of King Asa's reign in Judah. He reigned in Samaria twenty-two years. But Ahab son of Omri did what was evil in the Lord 's sight, even more than any of the kings before him. And as though it were not enough to follow the sinful example of Jeroboam, he married Jezebel, the daughter of King Ethbaal of the Sidonians, and he began to bow down in worship of Baal. First Ahab built a temple and an altar for Baal in Samaria. Then he set up an Asherah pole. He did more to provoke the anger of the Lord, the God of Israel, than any of the other kings of Israel before him.
It is no accident that the story of Elijah's fleeing Jezebel and going into hiding in the cave on Mount Sinai is a part of this narrative. After all the powerful demonstrations of God's power and control, God appears to Elijah through a whisper as recorded in I Kings 19:9-13:
There he came to a cave, where he spent the night. The Lord said to him, "What are you doing here, Elijah?" Elijah replied, "I have zealously served the Lord God Almighty. But the people of Israel have broken their covenant with you, torn down your altars, and killed every one of your prophets. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me, too." "Go out and stand before me on the mountain," the Lord told him. And as Elijah stood there, the Lord passed by, and a mighty windstorm hit the mountain. It was such a terrible blast that the rocks were torn loose, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And a voice said, "What are you doing here, Elijah?"
God has the power to cause great storms and burn offerings with fire from heaven, but his power is equally great when he comes to us with a tiny voice. That was a message for Elijah, but it is also a message for us. The times when we hear the voice of God are, most often, in moments of quiet reflection. We seek to hear that small voice. Our faith grows when we follow that voice and we see the results. We do not need to see great displays of miraculous power. We just need to be still. We need to listen and trust and obey.