Six weeks ago, I embarked on a 5-day trip to Taos, New Mexico for some extended time alone with God. To my delight, I stayed in a beautiful house nestled on the side of a mountain overlooking the city while some relatives were out of town.
Immediately upon entering the house, I said to myself, It sure is quiet in here. No one yelling. No one telling me what to do. Apart from an occasional dog barking in the distance, the stillness was deafening.
That night as I prepared for bed, I started freaking out. Every errant sound transformed itself into an imaginary wild animal or fugitive attempting to break into the house. As I turned off the lights, I checked to make sure the bedroom door was locked.
Obviously, nothing happened, but I soon realized how ill-equipped I am to cope with silence.
Join me today as we look at the benefit of silence.
INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS
1 Kings 19:1-21. After serving as the instigator in a dramatic showdown between Yahweh and Baal, Elijah heard Jezebel had sent men to kill him…so he ran. The explanation of why Elijah ran after such a significant “God encounter” has always escaped me—so if you have some insights, please join the conversation.
Elijah shows us that no matter how powerful or godly a person may appear, everyone stands on feet of clay.
This passage is rife with parallels between Elijah and Moses—both stood on Mt. Horeb (Ex 3) and both possibly hid in the same cleft of the rock as God appeared (Ex. 33).
Acts 12:1-23. Two elements about this story of Peter’s dramatic release from prison struck me as I read this section from the Bible.
- The people prayed earnestly for Peter’s release. Verse 5 tells us that “the church was earnestly praying to God for him.” In prayer, we ask God to intervene in our everyday circumstances. This may seem pretty basic, but all too often, I witness heartless prayers that seek nothing tangible from God. It’s okay to ask God for something!
- The people were surprised when God answered their prayer. After the servant girl announced Peter was at the door, they remarked, “You’re out of your mind.”
Psalm 136. This psalm served as a recitative prayer between the leader and the people. And what is the theme? God’s love endures forever. Sometimes we need to keep reminding ourselves of this because we so easily forget. By tracing various examples of everyday life and Israel’s history, we begin to see the breadth and depth of God enduring love.
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THE WORD MADE FRESH
If God could throw lightening from heaven and bring an end to a overwhelming drought, surely he could defend Elijah from lowly Jezebel. Nevertheless, after serving as the instigator in God’s show of superiority over Baal, Elijah was burned out and desperate. He ran for his life in fear of Jezebel’s threats and then pleaded for God to take his life. So fearful was he that Elijah ran to Beersheba, the southern region of Judah on the edge of the desert. Surely Jezebel’s troops couldn’t find him there.
Elijah desperately needed an encounter with God. He needed something that would prove God was there, and that he cared. And where else should he go but the same place Moses had encountered God 650 years earlier?
There, standing on the side of Mt. Sinai (also called Mt. Horeb), Elijah waited for an experience with God he could call his own.
A powerful wind blew across the mountain.
An earthquake shook the ground underneath his feet.
Fire raged all around him.
But God wasn’t present in any of these “manifestations.”
How often do we ask God for dramatic experiences? Maybe you don’t, but I do. I want him to rescue me, heal me, deliver me. And I want it NOW!
While he has the power to do any of these—and sometimes he does—he usually appears to us in the same way as he did to Elijah.
The NIV translation of the Bible says that God spoke to Elijah in a “gentle whisper.” Most scholars, though, translate the word as “silence.”
A deafening silence.
Interestingly enough, the writer of 1 Kings tells us that Elijah heard it (see 1 Kings 19:13). Then out of the silence, God asked him, “What are you doing here?” Elijah’s answer reveals his good intensions as well as his skewed view of reality. God then gave him direction and courage to continue.
In an age of overstimulation, the idea of being still and silent is frightening. Yet perhaps that’s exactly what we need.
When we turn down the volume of the many voices vying for our attention, we create room for God to speak to our hearts.
- What spoke to you in today’s reading?
- How do you feel about spending time alone in silence? What prevents you from this important spiritual discipline?
- Why do you think it’s important to God?
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Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church with Eugene Scott in Littleton, Colorado.