It was Elijah's mission to re-establish the covenant between God and the people of Israel. He was called upon to work toward the restoration of the faith that so many had cast aside in the face of temptation. Thus Elijah returned to Mount Horeb where the covenant had first been revealed to Moses and through him to the Israelites. (1 Kings 19: 9-13)
He went to that holy place and prepared himself to hear the word of God; a God of infinite power, the creator of the universe, the mightiest of all. Gale-force winds began to blow. Surely, thought Elijah, the Lord is about to communicate with me. But the wind subsided and was followed by the roaring and venting of earthquake and fire. Elijah was convinced that this, at last, must be the overture to God's presence. As the ground trembled beneath his feet, he waited. But he was conscious of no revelation, no sudden awareness of truth or of mission. And then all was still and silent except for the faintest breeze. A period of peace and quiet followed, during which God's will was indeed made known to his servant.
Like most of us, Elijah was impressed with the spectacular and the sensational. His world was not that different from ours. We have just refined the old tools of ear-splitting commercials, desk thumping oratory and fearful weaponry.
And so it is that because God speaks to us in whispers, his voice can rarely be heard against the constant chest beating and mechanical din which is our pride and joy.
That day on the mountain, God was teaching Elijah and us a lesson which at least Elijah was quick to learn as he put aside popular expectation and went on to discover God where he really is. He found Him in a spiritual environment beyond the senses, inaccessible to natural means of perception. Elijah learned that God is visible only to the eye of faith and audible only to the ear of faith.
He learned that God is to be found in the inner solitude of an attentive soul. In a whisper that may be entirely missed by one whose life is without periods of peace and quiet, prayerful openness and a conscious awareness of being in the presence of God.
I know that many of you yearn for such moments but seldom find them. There are always things to be done and other voices demanding your attention and energy. Make space, sacred space. Just to be there, God will do the rest, quietly, ever so quietly sooner or later and, usually, in a barely perceptible manner. Don't expect obvious and direct messages from God in the form of startling revelations, voices or visions. People who hear voices or have visions are generally mentally ill or, in rare cases, singularly blessed. What the rest of us can hope for is a sense of peace, of proportion, of direction and most of all...of being in His hands.