Good Listeners Are Risk Takers
Pastor Jerry Donovan
Under King Soloman, all was well, and life was good. However, the wealth and splendor of Soloman’s wealth was conditional on his obedience to God, as He warned Soloman in 1 Kings 9:1-9. God states without qualification, “If you will walk before me, as David your father walked, with integrity and uprightness…then I will establish your royal throne over Israel forever.” However, he also warns in “If you turn aside from following me…then I will cut Israel off from the land”
I Kings 11 tells how Solomon allowed himself to be drawn away from God because of his many wives, 700 royal wives and 300 concubines. Political marriages were common in the Middle East, and Solomon had relied on these arrangements to unify his reign. When Solomon became old, his wives shifted his allegiance to other gods from their lands; he was not wholeheartedly devoted to the Lord his God, as his father David had been.
Upon the death of King Solomon, Israel is torn in two. Israel in the north composed of 10 tribes, and Juddah in the south – composed of two tribes. The Northern Tribes continued disobeying God and worshipping other gods’ idols. God sent prophets to warn the Israelites of the consequences of disobeying God. Elijah was one of them. The prophet Elijah directly confronts all the prophets of the god Baal and destroys them by calling down fire from heaven in 1 Kings 18. However, in the very next chapter we see him fleeing for his life and asking to die.
This may seem odd or inconsistent. However, I think this narrative is quite natural to the human experience. Each one of our stories are made up of highs and lows; top of our game all the way to burn out. In chapter 19 Elijah is spent. He has given everything he had to give and he has nothing left. This is something we all should understand, being at the end of our ropes, done, toast, nothing left to offer. Everyone has been at this point at one time or another. In our time, there are more people experiencing anxiety and depression than ever before.
Eventually, Elijah comes to the sacred mountain of Horeb, where he spends the night in a dark cave. He is commanded to go out and stand on the mountain. God will pass by him. First, three awesome examples of God’s power are demonstrated to Elijah. Being the model of spectacular action for God, Elijah naturally expects to see God in the wind, the earthquake and the fire. But God was not in any of these things. There follows one of the most memorable verses in scripture: ‘after the fire (came) a sound of sheer silence’. The NRSV says ‘sheer silence’, but most people recall the KJV’s ‘a still small voice’. The meaning is that God is not encountered in the sound and fury of loud and spectacular events. While that was the case in the time of Moses, it is no longer so. God will not be conjured up by the zealous activity of the prophet who now stands quiet and broken on the mountain-top. Elijah discovers that God is encountered when the activity ceases and the words stop. When his mind and heart are finally empty of ambition and self-promotion, God is heard.