1 Kings 18 contains the brilliant story of Elijah’s contest with the prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel. This is one of my favorite stories. There is action, comedy, and drama. By way of reminder, Elijah suggested that each group take an Ox and place it on an altar and whichever god sets the sacrifice ablaze, that god is the real God. After the prophets of Baal make fools of themselves all day (and Elijah mocks them) it is Elijah’s turn. He sets up the altar, he douses it with water (to make the sign even more impressive), and he prays to Yahweh. Fire comes down from heaven consuming the sacrifice, licking up the water, and burning up the altar.
After this, Elijah commands that the prophets of Baal and the Asherah be killed. And then the chapter reminds us of who was on the throne in Israel at that time – Ahab. But it was not Ahab who was in charge, it was Jezebel and she was mad. Jezebel wants Elijah dead just like many of the other prophets of Yahweh. At this news, Elijah gives up hope. He sits down under a Juniper tree and asks God to take his life.
God does not take his life – God strengthens him by giving him food. But God wants to strengthen him spiritually as well. God tells Elijah to go to Mt. Horeb. When Elijah gets there he is downtrodden about his condition – surely he is the only prophets still alive and he has sacrifices everything. It is at this point that there was a whirlwind, Elijah thought God may speak to him from the whirlwind, but God did not. Then an earthquake, but God was not in the earthquake. And then a fire – surely God would be in the fire. The connections between God and fire are very prevelent (Moses at the bush, Nadab and Abihu, God had just consumed the sacrifice with fire). But God was not in the fire. And finally, after the fire, there was a “still small voice” (NKJV). And it was in this “still small voice” that God spoke.
Elijah expected God to be in the great and marvelous works – the whirlwind, the earthquake, and the fire. But God was not. I want to tell you that the gospel is the same way. Too often we expect God to show Himself in magnificent ways, but He speaks through the simple message of the gospel. The religious world wants grandiose things, blazing signs, and exciting excursions, but the truth is in the “still small voice.”
I am reminded of Revelation 5, when John sees the book and weeps because no one is worthy to open it. And then the elders see the Lion from the tribe of Judah. John turns to see this great site, but he sees a lamb. When it comes to salvation, we often want brilliant things, but the simple truth of the gospel is that we are saved by a lamb hanging on a tree. As John the Baptist said, “Behold the lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.”
While God is capable of brilliant, powerful, and shocking things – the gospel is like the still small voice. It is simple. It is humble. But it is the most powerful thing we will ever hear!