After the earthquake there was a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a still, small voice.
I. THE SPIRITUAL WEAKNESS OF WHAT SEEMS MIGHTY. "The Lord was not in the wind ..... in the earthquake, .... in the fire." Let us exemplify this truth -
1. By the experience of Elijah. He had done many mighty works, but the people were startled rather than reformed. No radical and abiding change had been effected. "The wind" may represent the drought, both in its coming and in its ceasing; "the earthquake," the raising of the child from the dead; and "the fire," the answer to prayer on Carmel. It was not these wonders which could change the heart of the people, but "the still small voice" speaking within for God.
2. My the miracles of judgment. Take the plagues of Egypt as specimens. Marvellous enough they were, but in the result "Pharaoh's heart was hardened."
3. By the penalties of the law. Show from the history of Israel, and from the comments made on it in the Epistles, the powerlessness of the law to put away sin. The fear of punishment may check the outward manifestation of sin, but in itself does not conquer innate sinfulness. If a child does not love his father, no orders, however stringently enforced, will make him happy. It was not John the Baptist, but Jesus Christ, who was the world's Redeemer,
4. By the events of Providence. Illness, the dread of death, a startling bereavement, a national calamity, etc., do not convert men, unless through them or after them "the still small voice" is heard. Men may be driven to alarm, to murmuring, to despair, perhaps to suicide; but their hearts are still rebellious under the influence of trouble. It is not the storm, but the voice of Jesus in the storm, saying, "It is I," that brings rest to those who welcome Him.
II. THE SPIRITUAL STRENGTH OF WHAT SEEMS FEEBLE. The still small vice, which only a listening man could hear, was more Divine and more mighty than all Elijah had witnessed before. There was all the difference between God's power and God's presence. "The Lord was not in the fire," but His was the still small voice; concerning which we observe -
1. It follows on preparation. Elijah had heard so much, had been so startled into keen listening for the wonderful, that he did not fail to hear this. So the miracles which had not converted the people had made them ready for Elisha and the school of the prophets. Similarly John preceded Jesus. It is thus in personal experience. The earthquake did not convert the jailer at Philippi, but it aroused him to ask, "What must I do to be saved?" Trouble does not save a man, but it may make him ready to listen to the words of life. Some must lose all before they find all in God.
2. It reminds of secret forces. The most mighty are silent in nature and in grace; e.g., gravitation is far more tremendous than volcanic agency.
3. It typifies the influence of the Holy Spirit. "He shall convince the world of righteousness," etc. How secretly He melts the heart to repentance, faith, and obedience, and changes the whole current of affection and thought.
4. It whispers of the love of Christ. He forced none into His kingdom, but won all His subjects man by man. Not His reproaches, but His look of love, broke the heart of Peter into penitence, after the denial. Paul's inspiration was found not in applause or success, but in this - that he could ever say, "The love of Christ constraineth me."
CONCLUSION. Wait for no resistless influences, for no startling events; but listen to the "still small voice" which speaks within, testifying of your deep necessity and Christ's glorious redemption. - A.R.
A still small voice.I. This vision ought to teach us that GOD IS OFTEN MORE REALLY PRESENT IN LITTLE THINGS AND IN QUIET AND UNOSTENTATIOUS AGENCIES THAN IN THINGS THAT SEEM TO US GREAT, AND AGENCIES THAT WE THINK THE MOST IMPRESSIVE. We are apt to look for God in the storm, the earthquake, and the fire, and to overlook God in the still small voices of nature. But God is not more in the forked lightning that rends the rock than in the sunbeam that plays with the rippling wave; He is not more in the roaring cataract than in the silent dewdrop; He is not more in the spangled heavens, whose clustered stars attract our gaze, than in the tiny flower whose unprotected beauty we trample beneath our feet. God is not more in the great events of nations than in the smallest incidents in the lives of individuals. He who counts the stars also numbers the hairs of our heads. Indeed, the most powerful agencies in nature are generally the most silent in their operation, and often work in the deepest obscurity. But this is especially true in relation to God Himself. He is the greatest agent, and yet He works in the deepest obscurity. There is a sense in which He does everything, and yet He does it so silently and secretly that there are those who say He does nothing, that in fact there is no God. As in the natural, so in the spiritual world, the strongest forces are the least seen. "The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh or whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit." There is not always the most good being done where there is the most noise. "Verily Thou art a God that hidest Thyself, O God, the God of Israel." He does not come out and sound a trumpet before Him when He is about to do a great and good work. The agencies that are even now doing the most good in society are not the most ostentatious and self-asserting. It is not by parliaments and armies and police that the commonwealth is maintained and peace preserved. A stronger force than all these is the leaven of religious life which quietly operates in families.
II. THIS VISION IS AN EXAMPLE OF THE WAY IN WHICH GOD VERY GENERALLY REVEALS HIMSELF TO MEN. He sends messengers to prepare His way. These messengers are fitted to arrest and arouse our attention, and then He Himself comes and speaks to us in "a still small voice." He said, "Go forth," etc. (vers. 11, 12). These things are an allegory and example of God's dealings. He sent the law and the prophets with all their thunderings and earthquakes to prepare the way for the Gospel.
1. He often sends to us the whirlwind of adversity.
2. God sent an earthquake. This may represent events in providence still more severe, such as bereavement, which swallowed up out of sight objects dearer to you than property, the desire of the eyes and the living treasures of the loving heart.
3. God sent a fire. That fire may aptly represent persona] affliction. This is often likened to a furnace: it consumes the health, and often brings eternity nearer to us than does even the death of a friend.
4. Then comes the "still small voice." This is pre-eminently the Voice of God. The other dispensations are only intended to prepare the way for this Voice. God does not inflict or grieve us because He takes pleasure in doing it, but because He wishes to speak to us, and we will not listen till we are thus arrested. The silvery tones of God's voice are constantly heard by those whose ears are inclined to hear.
III. THIS VISION CONTAINS AN EXAMPLE OF THE MESSAGE WHICH GOD IS CONSTANTLY ADDRESSING TO MEN.
1. It is a word of rebuke for forsaking Him. "What doest thou here, Elijah?" This is the question which you address to a man who is out of his proper place — What are you doing here?
2. This word of rebuke is also addressed to the backslider. God says to him, What are you doing here? — in sin, among husks and swine, after having eaten of the hidden manna, and been in fellowship with God and Christ and the excellent of the earth, and the powers of the world to come.
3. This word of rebuke is also addressed to the Christian who has forsaken the post of duty.
4. The message also contains a word of exhortation: "Go, return." This is what God says to the sinner: "Return — return unto Me, and I will return unto you."
I. THE ATTRACTIONS OF THE GOSPEL ARE FAR MORE POWERFUL TO SAVE THAN THE INTIMIDATIONS OF THE LAW. This is a lesson which the display of God's majesty and the subsequent effect of His mildness were intended to teach. I do not read of any impressions being produced upon the mind of the prophet by the convulsions of nature, though I can quite suppose that his very blood chilled at the awe-inspiring scene he witnessed. But I find that when the "still small voice" fell upon his ear, he was smitten to the heart and humbled at Jehovah's feet. The terrible phenomena illustrated the giving of the Law; the gentle voice the giving of the Gospel. The Law was given amid thunder and fire and earthquake; the Gospel fell from the hallowed lips of the loving Son of God. The Law threatens; the Gospel invites. The Law wounds; the Gospel heals. The one speaks of death; the other points to life. The one lays on us burdens grievous to be borne; the other calls us to duties delightful to fulfil. The one holds out penalty and the lash; the other recompense and love.
II. THE "STILL SMALL VOICE" AND ITS EFFECTS ON ELIJAH MAY BE REGARDED AS SHOWING THAT GOD WORKS MOST SUCCESSFULLY BY QUIET AND INVISIBLE AGENCIES. This is a truth daily proved to us in the natural world. There the Almighty mutely elevates His mountains, excavates His valleys, levels His plains, dimples the bosom of expansive seas, gives beauty to the heavens, guides worlds in their orbits, tints His flowers with beauteous hues, and makes His fruit nectarious. No man hears a sound or sees a motion where the Great Architect is carrying out some of His gigantic plans. How gently falls the dew, how silently travels the sunbeam, how noiseless is electricity in its movements. But what effective agencies are these! How the face of nature is gladdened and rendered fruitful by them!
1. The "still small voice" of the Holy Spirit has effected wonders. Coming to us as the Spirit of Truth, the Holy Ghost holds up before us in the written and preached word our full-length portraiture, and then unfolds to our gaze the wondrous beauties of the God-Man.
2. The "still small voice" of conscience often speaks to us. Its utterance is not audible to the outward ear, yet the stoutest hearts have quailed before it. Men who have stood unmoved before the thunderings of adversity and the whirlwind of persecution, have succumbed to the whisperings of this inward monitor.
3. God makes great use of the "still small voice" of individual influence. We have lived with some who have let their light shine before men, and that light has shone upon our hearts, revealing to us the deformity and death within.
(J. H. Hitchens.)
1. It is so in the natural world. We see God as Elijah did, rending the mountains with His mighty wind; we hear His voice in the thunder, the earthquake, and the storm; but what is the effect of all these terrible manifestations of His attributes compared with that of the "still small voice," which reaches us from every part of His works? Very frequently will it be discovered, that such terrifying manifestations of the God of nature result in no lasting moral good; while that "still small voice," which speaks to us in every smiling exhibition of His benevolence on earth, and from every bright world above us, almost compels us to adore, and causes our affections to come forth as Elijah came forth from the cave, and bend in humble reverence before a present God.
2. And again we may see our text illustrated in the providences of God. When we witness any sudden stroke of bereavement; when we see a family or an individual visited by some signal calamity, some awful and overwhelming blow, we are apt to say to ourselves, "Surely such a warning will not be in vain." But is it not often in vain? After waiting some time, do we not find that the momentary terror and agitation of the blow have all subsided; and that the greater the calamity, the deeper apparently is the stupidity of those on whom it is sent, after it has gone by?
3. And thus it is, again, in the spiritual world. John the Baptist wrought no miracles, but all men came to him; our Saviour performed so many mighty works that nearly every inhabitant of Judaea might have seen some of them, and yet to human apprehension the result was less successful. It is not unlikely that a single sermon of St. Peter, on the day of Pentecost, because attended with the Spirit's influence, may have made more converts than all the mighty works which our Saviour performed. Miracles are addressed to the understanding. They do not affect the heart; and it is the heart that needs to be moved; it is the conscience which must be awakened, before there can be any moral reformation.
(W. H. Lewis, D. D.)
2. All the great questions of reform vary but little in aim. The divergence is not the result of the want of a purpose in any one direction, so much as an intelligent insight into the causes which produce our moral disturbances. Public sentiment is ready to denounce the want of virtue or principle. Rumour is ready to carry on its steady current the moral carrion, until the putrefying mass contaminates and destroys the social order of society, and yet the cause of much of our evil is not understood nor disturbed. Christian and moralist alike forget their reason and good common sense in the excitement, and become like the lake when disturbed by a storm. Its quiet waters are ruffled and active. Its waves are high and powerful, and bear upon their crown the dignified crest of matured agitation. The elements frighten us, and we tremble with fear. But what of the storm? Need the farmers and other people upon the lake's shore deceive themselves that the waters of the lake are rising? Need they seek other habitations lest the water become so high that their farms and houses be overflowed by the great increase of water? No, no. Very soon the storm subsides. The bosom of the lake wears its usual peaceful calm. The clouds are parted, and God smiles through the warm, bright light, saying, "Peace, be still." The leaven of the Gospel which raises "three measures of meal" is quiet, insinuating power. True reforms never come in any other way. It takes time and the warm, healthy glow of united Christian hearts in society to aid it in raising the life to a place of spiritual existence.
3. The silent voice which speaks to our hearts, speaks in a language which commands our respect. We may not be able to give the thought in words. We are all sensible of deeper mysteries than our understanding can solve. The strongest convictions of life have sprung from these deeper sentiments of the soul. They furnish us food for reflection, and give us the fuel which warms the heart to an energy that will not be quieted. The noisy demonstrations of life pass by us unnoticed, and we fear them not; but silent voice awakens us. We are all attention, our hearts tremble with fear or joy. The steady onward strides of all the great forces of life are never heralded before their coming, saying, Behold, I come! They are not seen but known by that which they do, and others praise them. Strong life is quiet and modest, dignified and powerful. Light and heat, electricity, and many other agencies for good or for evil, as the circumstances may make them, work silently in the secret chambers of nature. God has made man not only in His moral image, but nature and man strongest when seemingly silent and composed. There is a dignity in the thought of such a life. There is an inexpressible awe in the presence of such a God who in the secret chambers of an eternity silently makes known to the life within us His will.
4. We leave very much of our religious faith behind us when we resort to physical rather than moral force in our work. It is then the command for solicitude is, "You must," "You shall," when the silent and all-potent influences of moral power should win. When the Church of Christ had assumed strong organisation and exercised great temporal power, as in the Dark Ages, it was because she had lost the moral force which an all-pervading spirituality furnishes. "It is not by might, nor by power, but by My spirit, saith the Lord."
5. How ready are we, as we see the weakness of the Church — her lack of success in winning many from sin — to flee to the cave of despair, as did the prophet Elijah, and thus in the confines of natural resources try to protect ourselves. This is one of the grievous mistakes of the people of God. Men are hidden in their professions, in their business, in their selfish pursuits, and seem not to have the moral courage or inclination to stand erect as men of God, saying, "Judge ye, my God is Jehovah." They are not unlike the prophet Elijah in the cave, and when the Lord says unto the soul thus neglecting God's altars, when the Lord speaks unto the man or woman who thus neglects the ordinances of God's house, the Church, the prayer meeting, the family altar, the answer comes as of old, "I have been very jealous for the Lord God of hosts: for the children of Israel have forsaken Thy covenant, thrown down Thine altars, and slain Thy prophets, and I, even I only, am left."
6. The influences which are potent in lifting from the pit to a life of godliness are not noisy or demonstrative, but silent and insinuating. All true reforms commence in the heart of mankind, and are significant in that they are spiritual, rather than materialistic. Like the air by which we are warmed when chilled, we are bathed in it, and infused with a new life ere we are aware of it. Even so God comes to you and me in the silent influences of life.
(J. M. La Bach.)I. CHRISTIANITY IS A VOICE — not only a book, but also a voice. Other religions have books: Mahometanism has a book, and a grand old book it is too, called the Koran. Some of its stories are equal in beauty to the stories of the Book of Genesis, but Mahometanism has no voice. Mahomet is dead, and his voice is silent in the tomb. Hinduism has books, and interesting books they are too, called the Veda and Shaster. They are full of hymns and precepts, some of them equal in purity and spirituality to some of the Old Testament Psalms and Proverbs, but Hinduism has no voice. The great prophets of Hinduism, who thought out the books, are dead, and their voices are heard no more. Christianity also has a book. It is more beautiful than the Koran, and more poetic and spiritual than the Veda or Shaster. But the book of Christianity is also a voice. The Prophet of Christianity is not dead. Christ is alive, and fills all the words of the Bible with a living voice. He speaks again, through His spirit, the very words which He spoke when on earth. Herein is the great difference between the Bible and every other book. The voice of Christianity is a revealing voice. God is not to be seen, only heard. "No man hath seen God at any time; the Only begotten Son which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him." And He declares Him still. As one said: "When we look, with the eye of faith, on Christ in history we behold only the man, but we hear the God." The man only is visible, but the invisible God speaks. God is not seen in the world of matter, but He is heard.
II. CHRISTIANITY IS A SMALL VOICE. Would it not be better were it a large voice filling the world with its melody, and captivating every ear with its charming music? It appears so; but when we study the subject closer we find that what appears to be a disadvantage is a very great blessing.
1. A voice for the weakest. It is a small voice, that the human ear may be able to take it in as a whole. One of the loudest noises that art can produce is the report of cannon as it discharges its perilous contents into the air, but the human ear is too small to take it in as a whole; only a small portion of the sound enters our ears as it passes by through the air. One of the loudest sounds Nature can produce is that of a thunder-clap, rending the air with its sound and echo, but only a small part of it reaches our ears, carried by the air wavelets. There are sounds too great and awful for the human ear to take them in as a whole. The voice that man can take in must be small. The voice of Christianity has been ordained small by God that the weak, small human ear may take it all in.
2. The voice of Christianity is ordained small in order that other voices may be employed to re-echo it, in preaching and living it. And as they reproduce it they are transformed into the same melodious quality.
III. CHRISTIANITY IS A STILL VOICE, or, according to the Welsh translation, which undoubtedly is better here, Christianity is a silent voice. It is a voice; it is silence — contradiction in terms, but not in the truths themselves. It is a voice to some; it is silence to others. It is a voice to the ear of faith, but it is silence to the ear of unbelief. It is a voice to the children of God, but it is silence to the children of the devil. There is a music in this world that no one can hear except those who have had their spiritual ears opened by Divine grace. The people of the world boast of the music of the opera and theatre, but they have not yet heard the conductor of heaven's choir giving the keynote to the saints upon earth. The world has not yet heard the sweetest music — the voice of Him who made the storm to sleep by His "Peace, be still." We must have our spiritual ears opened by Christ; then we shall hear His Voice. The voice of the Opener of our spiritual ears will be the first we hear, and ever will be the sweetest. The sweetest voice on earth is the voice of Christ to the saints.
1. It is a silent voice, that God may be able to tell the secret of His kingdom to His children, so that the devil, who is at the elbow, cannot hear it. God has secrets to impart to His people which no one is to hear.
2. Christianity is a silent voice, that the weak and the painful and the dying may listen to it without being hurt. There are events in human life when the voice of the world and society are too loud and harsh for us to listen to it without being pained. As I was walking, a few years ago, over the streets of Cardiff I noticed that a part of the street was covered over with chaff four or five inches deep. I stood wondering what it was good for. Failing to solve the mystery I ventured to ask a policeman, who was standing by, what was the meaning of the chaff-covered street. "In that house," said he, pointing to the other side, "there is a young woman twenty-one years of age, in the last stage of consumption, and she cannot bear the noise of the traps and footsteps going over the street, so they have covered the street with chaff that the vehicles and people may pass by in silence." I saw through the mystery of the chaff-covered street at once. The noise of trade was too loud and harsh for the consumptive young woman to listen to it without being pained; her dying ear could not bear it. But there is a voice so still and sweet that the dying young woman could listen to with pleasure — the "still small voice" of Divine love.
(R. Williams.)I. WHAT MEANING THIS PARABLE HAD FOR ELIJAH.
1. It seems to me, first of all, that the Lord would teach him that, though disappointed, he might still live to purpose, and do good work for God.
2. God would have His servant understand that He is not straitened for means, and methods, and instruments. Not by a continuation of Carmel's triumphs, but by other and simpler means God would carry out His programme.
3. Jehovah would have Elijah remember that his example had accomplished more than he had supposed.
II. BUT THIS PARABLE, SURELY, HAS A BEARING TOWARDS OURSELVES.
1. There is this truth, amongst others, that God employs unexpected means.
2. The folly of relying on outward appearances. Displays of power are not to be encouraged or rejoiced in. Eloquence, and style, and culture have all their place. The great forces of nature are silent.
3. God sometimes delays, but makes Himself manifest eventually.
4. Mercy is more potent than judgment.
(T. Spurgeon.)1. This "still small voice," for us, is both conscience and Jesus. It is Jesus, acting by His wisdom, and His truth, and His courtesy, and His gentleness, and righteousness, and holiness, on our conscience. And the "still small voice" of affection says, "Great is intellect; glorious is the pursuit of truth, knowledge, discovery; glorious the application of these things in what we call art! Glorious all that. More beautiful still, more truly human is the love of a sister for her brother, the love of a mother for her child. Love is more beautiful than even thought, glorious as thought is." Does conscience tell us that this God watches over us, that He acts according to laws? But those laws are much more manifold than we suspect, much more complicated than we suspect. It is a west wind blowing, with, I believe, a little south in it. Do you think that is an accident? It is all the result of law, laws and influences — antecedents, we may call them-that have been at work for four thousand and more years before to-day. It is very difficult to ascertain all those laws; nay, it is humanly possible and impracticable. But God has all those antecedents in His hand. To speak it reverently, think it reverently, that Great Mechanic has but to touch some of those remote and complicated links in the chain of antecedents, or cause and effect, if you like so to call them; has but to touch some of the higher, more remote, less visible, less conspicuous, less ascertainable links in the chain of antecedents, and it is changed; and you shall have, not the west or the south-west, but a northerly or an easterly wind. Does conscience speak to us of this Great Being, and of Him as shown to us in Jesus Christ, infinitely and humanely caring for us, and watching over us.
2. This voice was to Elijah articulate. "What doest thou here, Elijah? Go, return," says this voice; "go, return on thy way to the wilderness of Damascus." Strange prophet, this Elijah. Strange history, very often overlooked and not noticed at all. Go back! where to? To Jerusalem? No. Go back! where to? To the sacred cities of Israel's kingdom? No. Where to? To the wilderness. Another wilderness; not this southern one, but far off beyond thine own Gilead, north of that, east of that, go away to that wilderness, that belongs to Damascus, the chief city of the Syrian, the Gentile uncircumcised. Ah, think you God cares not for the uncircumcised, the Syrian, as well as for the Jew?
I. GOD SPAKE TO HIM. In some darksome cave, among those rent precipices, Elijah lodged; and, as he waited, in lonely musings, the fire burned in his soul. But he had not long to wait. "Behold, the word of the Lord came unto him." That word had often come to him before. It had come to him at Thisbe. It had come to him in Samaria, after he had given his first message to Ahab. It had come to him when Cherith was dry. It had come to summon him from the solitudes of Zarephath to the stir of active life. And now it found him out, and came to him again. There is no spot on earth so lonely, no cave so deep and dark, that the word of the Lord cannot discover and come to us. "What doest thou here, Elijah?" How often is that question put still! when a Christian worker, sorely needed, deserts his post, because of some unforeseen difficulty, or to secure selfish gratification and ease; to that couch of indolence, or to that forest glade where soft breezes blow, the question comes, "what doest thou here?" When one endowed with great faculties digs a hole in the earth, and buries the God-entrusted talent, standing idle all the day long among the loungers in the market-place, again must the inquiry ring out, "What doest thou here?" Life is the time for doing. The world is a great workshop, in which there is no room for drones. God Himself worketh as the great Masterbuilder. There is plenty to do. Evil to put down; good to build up; doubters to be directed; prodigals to be won back; sinners to be sought, what doest thou here? Up, Christians, leave your caves, and do! Do not do in order to be saved; but being saved, do!
II. GOD TAUGHT HIM BY A BEAUTIFUL NATURAL PARABLE. But in this natural parable God seemed to say: "My child, thou hast been looking for Me to answer thy prayers with striking signs and wonders; and because these have not been given in a marked and permanent form, thou hast thought Me heedless and inactive. But I am not always to be found in these great visible movements; I love to work gently, softly, and unperceived; I have been working so; I am working so still; and there are in Israel, as the results of My quiet gentle ministry, 'seven thousand, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him.'" Yes, and was not the gentle ministry of Elisha, succeeding the stormy career of his great predecessor, like the "still small voice" after the wind, the earthquake, and the fire? And is it not probable that more real good was effected by his unobtrusive life and miracles, than was even wrought by the splendid deeds of Elijah? We often fall into similar mistakes. When we wish to promote a revival, we seek to secure large crowds, much evident impression, powerful preachers; influences comparable to the wind, the earthquake, and the fire. When these are present, we account that we are secure of having the presence and power of God. His Spirit descends as the dove, whose wings make no tremor in the still air. Let us take heart! God may not be working as we expect; but He is working. If not in the wind, yet in the zephyr. If not in the earthquake, yet in the heartbreak. If not in the fire, yet in the warmth of summer. If not in thunder, yet in the "still small voice." If not in crowds, yet in lonely hearts; in silent tears; in the broken sobs of penitents; and in multitudes, who, like the seven thousand of Israel, are unknown as disciples.
(F. B. Meyer, B. A.)
1. First, he gained new views of God. The prophet had made a mistake. He supposed that the fire of Carmel was the only symbol by which God could make Himself known, that earthquake and thunder and storms were the expression of His essential nature. Elijah had tried to bend the stubborn wills of men by methods of force. He never thought of any other way. He magnified God's strictness with a zeal he would not own. But in the solitude and silence of Horeb, he learned the gentleness of God.
2. He gained, in the second place, new views of his work. "What doest thou here?" The cruelty of Jezebel, the apostasy of Israel, the failure of past efforts, the uncertainty of the future — none of these, nor all of them together, were sufficient to justify Elijah in abandoning his duty. God gave His servant a glimpse of the work yet to be done.
3. Above all, Elijah learned at Horeb a new method of appeal. The method of coercion had failed, the method of wonder had failed. There was a better way. Force. threats, denunciations will never avail. Men cannot be frightened into goodness. But where thunder-and-lightning methods have failed, the gradual, silent, pervasive influence of the faithful seven thousand may succeed.
(A. Moorhouse, M. A.)I. IT IS A POWER WHICH GOD USUALLY EMPLOYS TO ACCOMPLISH HIS WORK.
1. In the government of the material world. How noiselessly does He work the great machinery of nature! There is not a sound to be heard. Poets talk of the "music of the spheres"; but it is a music that has never fallen on their ears.
2. In the dispensation of Providence. We sometimes imagine we hear nothing but the stormy wind, or the terrible earthquake, levelling to the ground all our hopes. The fire of Divine disapprobation seems to rage most fiercely, and we feel ready to perish. But these are not the chief agents employed by our Father in the dispensation of His Providence. "After the fire a still small voice."
3. In the renovation of the soul. "The wind, the earthquake, and the fire," may be used as preparatory means to the great work of conversion. The influence of the Spirit on the heart is secret, silent, and effective.
II. IT IS A POWER THAT IS PRODUCTIVE OF THE GREATEST GOOD. It is folly to think that because an influence is silent it cannot be effective.
1. It awakens thought. The wind, the earthquake, the fire, sometimes disturb the slumbers of a soul in sin.
2. It operates on the heart. The noisy tempest may affect the passions, stir up the animal feelings; but it cannot reach the sinner's heart.
3. It regulates the actions. The very power that impresses the heart, will also mould and shape the actions of life. It is often remarked that "example is more powerful than precept." The reason of this is evident.
III. IT IS A POWER THAT IS LASTING IN ITS EFFECTS. Why is the power of silent influence so durable?
1. It is emblematic of the Divine presence. God was not in the awful tempest which preceded the "still small voice."
2. It becomes a living element in the new character. The believer in Christ is a new creature.
(J. H. Hughes.)I. WHEN GOD COMES TO REPROVE MEN FOR THEIR SINS, HE USUALLY MANIFESTS HIMSELF TO THEM, or addresses them, not by His works, either of creation or providence, but by a "still small voice." Thus it was in the instance before us. You have all known something of the force of the winds; you have felt your habitations tremble before the fury of the blast. And not a few of you have witnessed more terrible proofs of its power on the ocean. You have seen the billows raised into mountains, and lashed into foam. You have felt the labouring vessel reel under you, while tossed by a tempest which seemed sufficient to rend the mountains, and break in pieces the rocks; and you have seen the tempest become a calm. But, as it respected you, God was not in the wind, nor in the calm which succeeded. You saw His hand, you heard His voice in neither. If you then heard Him in anything, it was in a "still small voice" within you. Further, the globe which we inhabit, though not this particular part of it, has often been convulsed by the most terrible and desolating earthquakes. Even some parts of New England have been agitated in a degree sufficient to excite distressing apprehensions. But have the nations thus visited found God in the earthquake? Did our fathers find Him there as an instructor and reprover? Far from it. Never have the survivors been reformed by such events. The earthquakes in New England did, indeed, occasion a kind of religious panic. A writer, who was then one of the ministers of Boston, informs us, that immediately after the great earthquake, as it was called, a great number of his flock came and expressed a wish to unite themselves with the church. But on conversing with them he could find no evidence of improvement in their religious views or feelings, no convictions of their own sinfulness; nothing, in short, but a kind of superstitious fear, occasioned by a belief that the end of the world was at hand. All their replies proved that they had not found God in the earthquake. The same may be said of other means. Ministers may give voice and utterance to the Bible, which is the Word of God. Like James and John, they may be "sons of thunder" to impenitent sinners. They may pour forth a tempest of impassioned, eloquent declamation. Nothing effectual can be done unless God be there, unless He speaks with His "still small voice."
II. THAT WHEN GOD SPEAKS TO MEN WITH THIS VOICE, HE SPEAKS TO THEM PERSONALLY, or does, as it were, call them by name. This He did in the case before us. He addressed the prophet by his name, Elijah.
III. THAT, WHEN GOD SPEAKS TO MEN IN THIS "STILL SMALL VOICE," HE USUALLY BEGINS BY TURNING THEIR ATTENTION UPON THEMSELVES, THEIR CONDUCT, AND SITUATION. He said to the prophet, "What doest thou here, Elijah?" a question which was most admirably adapted to convince, reprove, and humble him.
(E. Payson, D. D.)
(J. H. Jowett, M. A.)
I. AN ANSWER TO THE EVER-RECURRING DEMAND OF THE CHURCH FOR THE MARVELLOUS. "What sign showest thou?" is the oft-repeated question.
II. AN ANSWER TO THE MATERIALISTIC TENDENCY OF THE AGE. A large class of educated people contend that the works of nature afford a sufficient scope for the human mind. Religious exercises, say they, as observed in saying prayers, singing hymns, listening to sermons, and building churches, abstract the mind from the wonders of the universe. There never was a greater mistake. How can the voice of God in the soul hinder the contemplation of His works?
III. AN ANSWER TO THE DISTRACTED SAINT. Elijah was in need of a special communication from his God. The earthquake, the storm, and the fire failed to calm his fear. The voice came to strengthen his faith.
(T. Davis, M. A.)
(J. Parker, D. D.)
(F. W. Robertson.)
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