1 Kings 19:11-12
11Then He said, “Go out, and stand on the mountain before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces 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; 12and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice.

Before the events described in this passage, Elijah had witnessed God send fire from heaven to burn up two bulls in a ‘duel’ with the Baalic prophets. Now, possibly hiding in a cave from an adversary, God told Elijah to stand “before the Lord.” As Elijah did, it appears nature itself reeled from God’s passing presence: a strong wind tore the mountains apart, an earthquake occurred, and a fire broke out.

What is relevant for us in this theophanic encounter is that although Elijah, in his prior confrontation with the prophets of Baal, saw God send fire down from heaven, now in this passage, God was not “in” any of the terrestrial phenomena Elijah had just witnessed. The Lord came with a “still small voice.” There is an immense difference between strong terrestrial disruptions and a small voice.

Perhaps Elijah needed to learn that theophanic signs and wonders do not always indicate the intimate presence of God. On an intimate level, God is more likely to come to us in stillness and quiet. And since He neither shouts nor always make a grand entrance, our alertness becomes crucial.

We need to learn how to recognize God’s still, small whispers to our hearts because those manifestations of His presence are just as breathtaking as the earthly eruptions caused by God’s glory. God wants to speak to us intimately—what a remarkable thing! God can move mountains before us and the spectacle may only provide an impersonal encounter. But when God speaks to us in a “still small voice,” this reveals how intimately He wants to commune with us. In fact, it is not fallacious to say that God wants to speak to us much more often in the context of intimacy than through the extravaganzas that can cause goose pimples to erupt on our skin.

What about those in the Old Testament that witnessed God’s presence daily, in fire by day and a cloud by night? Exodus 40:34-38

Imagine someone seeing the presence of God in such awesome splendor. Imagine their seeing it each day and every night. Is it possible that such a sight would become common or ordinary to the degree that it no longer filled the viewers with awe as when they first saw it? Is it possible that some days they would not even look to see God’s manifest presence because they’ve seen it several days in a row? And is it possible that one day, when they finally looked to see it again, it would be gone? Now what? God moved on, and because of their complacency of experience, or their lack of lasting awe, they missed it when He did. Now what do they do? How will they know where to go?

We need to develop a “vigilant adaptiveness” to His presence—a holy and humble acknowledgment that God can sovereignly choose how He speaks to us and leads us. We also need to avoid becoming routinized in how we expect to experience God’s presence. When these two criteria are met, we will be less likely to miss the sweet presence of God when He manifests Himself to us, in one way or another.

Understanding our acceptance by God because of the blood of Jesus, being aware of God’s universal and indwelling presence, actively seeking His manifest presence, and being alert to the varying unveilings of Himself to us will help us to experience more of God, more frequently.


For further study:
Exodus 40:34-38

Personal declaration for the day:
I will seek and be alert to God’s presence. I will not be married to just one method of His manifestation.

Questions for you to reflect on
In what ways have God revealed himself to you?