Home Commentary A Low Whisper: Fighting the Noise to Hear God’s Voice

A Low Whisper: Fighting the Noise to Hear God’s Voice

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By Mary Capalbo

It’s Sunday morning at our church, and the kids begin filing back into their pews following the children’s program downstairs. They are just bursting to share what they learned and to present a picture or craft to their parents. It’s then that I hear it, the inevitable, “shhh…please try to whisper!” which is followed by the predictable and ever-earnest reply, “I am whispering!” 

This exchange is a weekly occurrence amongst many families in our congregation, and while I’m sure it causes angst for some parents, it always brings a smile to my face. Whispering really is just a skill that kids are learning, but the other side of a whisper is just as important: listening. Listening to a whisper isn’t just everyday listening, it’s learning how to tune-out all the other noises and distractions so you can focus on the nearly inaudible message being directed towards you (they’ll learn to whisper one day, parents, I promise!).

There is an incredible story in the book of 1 Kings about a prophet of God named Elijah who defeated the prophets of the false god, baal. No matter how much pleading and begging they did, no response came when the prophets offered a sacrifice to their gods. Then it was Elijah’s turn, and God showed up mightily when he offered up his sacrifice. Despite the bull and altar being soaked with the 16 jars of water Elijah had poured on it, “…the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench” (1 Kings 18:38). After this incredible miracle, Elijah has all the false prophets killed.

What does this have to do with whispering you might be asking yourself? Hang on just a minute more, we’re getting there. Right after this incredible experience with the sacrifices, Elijah predicted that it would rain on a cloudless day. This wasn’t just any ordinary rain. This shower would end the long drought and famine that they were experiencing (remember Elijah asking his servant to keep reporting on that tiny cloud that kept getting bigger?). Elijah had been warning Ahab (the leader of Israel) of God’s impending judgment for quite some time. After witnessing this miracle of rain, Ahab realizes the power of Elijah’s true God and he is terrified. He runs back to tell Queen Jezebel and to share that Elijah had killed the prophets of baal. She did not follow the Lord, and was so angry that she vowed to have Elijah killed.

All this to say, we are now in 1 Kings 19 and Elijah is running for his life. God provides him with food and rest and he finally arrives at Horeb, the mount of God. Let’s pick it up in verse 9,

“There he came to a cave and lodged in it. And behold, the word of the Lord came to him, and he said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” He said, “I have been very jealous for the Lord, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.” 

And he said, “Go out and stand on the mount before the Lord.” And 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” (1 Kings 19:9-12).

Did you catch that last word? Elijah recognizes the voice of the Lord in that low whisper, and what follows is God commanding him to return to his mission, and complete what God had prepared him for.

After all the ways Elijah witnessed God’s power in the last few months…defeating nearly 900 false prophets, sending rain to end a drought, providing nourishment in the desert, this final scene we are witnessing here in scripture may be the most remarkable. Elijah is told to stand out on the mount before the Lord. The Lord passes by and right after a great wind tears the mountain apart, an earthquake shakes the very ground he is standing on and a consuming fire surrounds him. But the Lord is not in any of those magnificent forces. It’s in the sound of a low whisper that Elijah hears His voice and he is strengthened. He remembers Who he serves, and returns to the mission God has sent him on.

A low whisper…a still small voice; God’s way of speaking to Elijah, and God’s way of speaking to you and me today. But are we being still enough to hear Him? Are we waiting for Him to use a mighty wind, an earthquake or a fire to get our attention and direct us to where we should go? I don’t believe that’s how God often speaks to His children (talking to Moses through a burning bush may have been the exception!). 

We need to master the art of listening by making space, silencing distractions, and leaning into the heart of our heavenly Father. Do you feel distant from the Lord, or are you wondering why He hasn’t answered your prayer? Are you listening? My guess is that just like Elijah, He’s telling you to continue on and to not be afraid of the Jezebel’s in your life. To faithfully walk with Him moment by moment, and trust that through His Word, through other believers, and through His low whisper, He will guide you forward.

So yes, let’s teach our children how to whisper, but even more importantly, let’s learn together the beauty of listening closely to the Lord’s low whisper. And then let’s walk on, remembering His faithfulness in the past, and trusting His faithfulness for the future. Let’s surrender our plans and our fears, and return to the mission He has set before us.

Mary Capalbo is the Communications Director at Grace Church in Ridgewood, NJ. To read more articles from Grace Church, visit the Words of Grace blog on Substack.