I might get in trouble for saying it, but today’s Old Testament lesson (1 Kings 19:9-18) drives me crazy. Actually, it’s not the lesson itself that drives me crazy. It’s all the spiritualistic religious types who love the bit about God being conveyed through silence. I love silence. Really, I do. But I cannot stand all these church-people who act like the author of Kings was some new-age hippie who understood that we need to listen for God in untraditional means.
Yes, it’s true that God reveals himself in ways we might not expect. And yes, it’s true that sometimes God is revealed in silence rather than earthquakes or fire. But this passage also expresses the fact that God’s will is revealed through the relentless slaughter of thousands of individuals—all of whom God orders his prophets to put to death by the sword.
This passage isn’t about God speaking to us in silence. It’s about Elijah running away from God and coming to grips with God’s call on his life in a moment of quiet wrestling. In other words, when we try to run away from God, he will pursue us—whether in bold ways or through a quiet nagging. And what is scarier—God shaking the ground violently or God keeping us up at night because we’ve tried to ignore him?
God is persistent. I think God was in the wind and in the earthquake and in the fire. But Elijah couldn’t perceive it. Sometimes it’s easier for us to ignore the big, bold signs. But when we can’t get any sleep—when we can’t find peace—that’s when God get us. When even the “empty” times are filled with God’s call, we can’t help but listen.