How do you know when God has spoken? How do we know when God has blessed, saved, disciplined, or judged? What if we are dismissing God’s voice? When do we know that God just answered?
The record-breaking rain was torrential here in Dallas, and I woke up off and on most of the night. I know rain is usually a blessing in Scripture, but it wasn’t a blessing to the people of Noah’s day. The rain on Friday night didn’t sound like a blessing, and the news on Saturday morning confirmed that, for many, it wasn’t.
I have a friend who is a mentor and teacher to me. She taught that one of the signs of the end times is an increase in damaging weather and other catastrophic events. It seems like, when I watch the news these days, the hurricanes are more devastating, the earthquakes are more frequent, and the heat and cold reach new extremes. We’ve always had rain, but now we have floods. We’ve always had earthquakes, but now they are telling Californians to prepare for a big one. Are the warnings from the people who produce the news or from God?
The reporters interview scientists who want to explain global warming and seismologists who show diagrams of fault lines and shifting tectonic plates. I am interested in hearing the scientific ideas, but the other night I kept thinking about my friend’s point of view. Is my friend right to believe that the increase in these storms and earthquakes are God’s judgment on the world? Should we be looking for the skies to open and Jesus to return? Even as I write those words, I know some will read them with nodding heads while others will roll their eyes. Who is right? Wrong?
How do we know when our circumstances are a word from God? When can we be certain that God is speaking? Last Sunday, my husband, Jim, was preaching, and he repeated a Philip Yancey quote from one of his daily articles. Yancey said: “As I travel and also read church history, I have observed a pattern, a strange historical phenomenon of God ‘moving’ geographically from place to place: from the Middle East to Europe to North America to the developing world. My theory is this: God goes where he’s wanted.” As I considered Yancey’s words, I was led to this story in God’s word.
In 1 Kings 19, the prophet Elijah is fleeing from Queen Jezebel’s revenge. After traveling to “Horeb, the mount of God” (v. 8), he had this encounter with the Lord:
“Behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks 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 the sound of a low whisper. And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And behold, there came a voice to him and said, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’” (1 Kings 19:11–13).
God led Elijah to the mountain so they could talk. Elijah wanted and needed God’s answers. God went where he, and his truth, were wanted. But how did God speak to the prophet? God’s voice wasn’t in the wind as it tore across the mountain. He wasn’t in the earthquake or the fire. God spoke in the sound of a low whisper and Elijah knew his voice. We can too.
I used to teach second grade and sometimes the noise in the classroom would reach a dull roar. The best way to get the kids to come back to attention was to raise my voice and say “five,” then, each time after, I would lower my voice a little bit more, saying, “Four, three, two.” Finally, with a quiet voice, I would say “one.” Usually, the room grew still along with my voice. When I was raising my two sometimes-rowdy boys, they learned that my shouts were to get their attention, but, if I lowered my voice, they needed to get it together now!
Have you ever noticed how your mind instantly tunes to the quiet conversations? The room can be filled with noise, but if someone is whispering, that is the information that seems most important. Maybe that is why God spoke to Elijah like that.
I wondered if God were speaking as I listened to the torrential rain. The thunder seemed to shout and the heavy rain seemed to warn. I wondered if God were speaking. When I read my Bible in the quiet early hours of the morning, I knew God’s voice and direction.
We usually tend to seek God in the crises of our lives—our kids are in trouble, a doctor has given bad news, or life has thrown us a curve ball. We all want God’s help for those moments. Elijah wanted God’s help too, and it came in the form of a quiet whisper. But, God wants to help with much more than our crises. He has a message for our good days too.
When last did you sit with God’s word and hear him whisper? The louder this world gets, the more his calm, quiet voice draws our attention. If Yancey is right and God goes where he’s wanted, where will the Lord be today?
It’s normal to want God in the storms of life. It is a spiritual discipline to want God involved in every moment. Will you listen to his whispered messages today? Reach for your Bible and listen to him whisper those words. God goes where he is wanted.