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  • Writer's pictureAllison Wilcox

A Sound of Sheer Silence

At (Horeb, the mount of God, Elijah] came to a cave, and spent the night there.


Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” He answered, “I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away.”


He said, “Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking 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; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. Then there came a voice to him that said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” He answered, “I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away.” Then the Lord said to him, “Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus; when you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael as king over Aram. Also you shall anoint Jehu son of Nimshi as king over Israel; and you shall anoint Elisha son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah as prophet in your place. Whoever escapes from the sword of Hazael, Jehu shall kill; and whoever escapes from the sword of Jehu, Elisha shall kill. Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.” ~ I Kings 19:9-18


I always remember how the King James translation phrases the climax of this scene: that God came to Elijah in a "still, small voice."


Still small voice, gentle whisper, or as the NRSV has it: the sound of sheer silence...however you term it, is that how you imagine God's voice?


And if God's voice is so small and still or even silent, how do we hear it?


How do we hear God's voice above all the loud noises in our lives? Even in church we seem to prefer the noisy: with singing and spoken prayers.


In fact there are places in our prayers of intercession during worship where silence is called for. But most of the time we just skip over it to get to the words.


So when do you allow silence in your life?


When do you set aside time to listen for God's still, small voice?


Is God calling you to slow down? Is God calling you to listen?


I'm pretty sure that's the direction I'm being called toward. I am constantly guilty of trying to fill in the silence.


And when I do, I'm clearly missing something important.



Keep me quiet so that I can hear you, Lord. Amen

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