Sunday, January 24, 2016

Sheer Silence

The story of Elijah is one of the Bible's most fascinating stories.  He stands for God on the mountain against 450 prophets who belong to Baal and never flinches.  (I Kings 18)  He is the picture of boldness and courage.  He is the man of God with no fear.  And, then when the battle has been won and all the prophets of Baal are dead, the story takes a strange twist.  Upon hearing of her husband's humiliation on the mountain, Jezebel, the queen, puts Elijah on her "hit list" saying that he will be dead within 24 hours.   And how does this bold and courageous man of God respond?  Full of fear he runs away to hide.  A man who took on 450 prophets of Baal runs for his life when confronted with a woman's fury.
Now, some may think they can understand how such a thing can happen, but given what has just happened, it is still strange.  But, God uses the moment for His purposes.  He directs Elijah to the Mt. Horeb, also known as the mountain of God and also one where Moses walked to see the burning bush.  When told that God was going to pass by the mountain hiding place of Elijah, the prophet goes to the opening to his cave where he witnesses a wind so strong rocks are split, and then an earthquake, and finally fire.  In the past these things had been the medium of divine revelation, but this time there were only a part of the prelude.  When things settled down, the Word says that there was a sound of sheer silence and in that moment the prophet covered his face for he knew he was in the presence of the Almighty.
Sheer silence.  A means of divine revelation.  Sheer silence.  It sounds like the epitome of emptiness.  Silence is one thing; sheer silence is another.  Elijah would have figured that God would show up for him like he did Moses, but it was not to be.  We, too, are often guilty of having our own expectations about how God must come to us.  The ending to the story reminds us that He can and will come in a divinely created silence that can only be heard by those who are willing to put the distractions of life aside and stand fearfully in it.

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