All Christians have certainly heard of the description of the “still small voice of God,” even although they have perhaps never actually heard it personally. Of those who have heard the still small voice of God, fewer, have actually heard the audible voice of God.
Let us read a portion of the Old Testament, 1 Kings 19:11-13 to perhaps set this into some perspective. As an introduction to the story, Elijah, the greatest Prophet of God in his day had just secured an epic victory over God’s enemy (the prophets of Baal – (see 1 King’s 18:20-40)) and vanquished them, but had then just run away in fear from a woman named Jezebel.
Elijah did not want to face Jezebel, and hoped instead to end his earthly life. When Elijah fell asleep under a broom tree, an Angel of the Lord administered to him. Then the Angel of the Lord came to him again.
“And He said, Go forth and stand on the mountain before Jehovah. And, behold, Jehovah passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains, and broke the rocks in pieces before Jehovah. But Jehovah was not in the wind. And after the wind was an earthquake, but Jehovah was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake was a fire, but Jehovah was not in the fire. And after the fire was a still, small voice.
And it happened when Elijah heard, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out, and stood at the cave entrance. And behold, a voice came to him and said, What are you doing here, Elijah?”
God talks to us in two ways: internally and externally. The still small voice is the inner voice and is the normal, certainly the more common way, for God to ‘talk’ to us. When the still small voice is talking to us, God is talking to us though His Spirit, which lies within us.
His voice is being communicated to us internally. By contrast, the less common externally audible voice of God comes via our ear drums and external pressure on our auditory systems and God voice is heard from externally.
Well, here was Elijah, having just run away from house and home; having left his servant behind and having proceeded alone into the desert for one whole day, when God found him, just as Elijah asked God to take his life (v19:4). Here, in the midst of his misery, the Angel of the Lord came and ministered to Elijah and fed him and looked after him. The woes of Elijah’s life are apparent in First Kings 19:10 as Elijah cries out to the Lord saying:
“I have been very zealous for Jehovah the God of Hosts. For the sons of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, thrown down Your altars, and have slain Your prophets with the sword. And I, I alone, am left. And they seek to take my life away.”
This was the greatest Prophet of these times, who, literally, just days before, had vanquished 450 Baal prophets on Mount Carmel. But Elijah was now in ‘flight mode.’ Now it was time for God to minister personally to His servant and in the process, show him (and us) what he had missed.
As mentioned, the still small voice of God is internal and is the Holy Spirit speaking to us in Spirit. We do not use our ears to hear it, as God is speaking directly into our spirit. As it was for Elijah, much more so it is true for us today – for in the days of the Old Testament, the Holy Spirit did not dwell in the people.
In 1 Kings 19:11, the Lord told Elijah to go and stand on the mountain before Him, and dutifully, Elijah complied. He left the broom tree shade and climbed to the top of the mountain.
Then came great and strong winds which tore into the mountains and broke the rocks to pieces before the Lord, and all around Elijah. But guess what? The Lord was not in the great and strong winds which roared around the mountain top and smashed the rocks to pieces before it. No, God was not in the wind, or the noise or the commotion.
Then came an earthquake which shook the whole mountain and the whole mountain creaked and groaned as it moved, and rocks and boulders cracked and split, as they shook and smacked into one another. But no, God was not in the earthquake either.
Then came fire, which roared all around Elijah, with flames licking up all the dry vegetation. But no, God was not in the fire or even in the silent flames.
Then, came the still small voice of God.
The still small voice of God had been there all the time; it was just that Elijah had been unable to hear it. For the voice was not coming from the outside, it was coming from the inside. It was not an external voice, it was an internal voice. As the external noises faded, Elijah was able to concentrate on the internal noises. When they faded, he heard God.
As soon as Elijah had heard Jezebels’ message, fear had rung in his ears and he was deaf to all else. Panic had set in. However, as he climbed the mountain to expecting to stand there before God, things began to change.
The fear of Jezebel which has till now had completely filled Elijah’s mind with the noise of fear itself, with panic and confusion and a lack of self worth, became more and more silent, and a righteous fear or the Lord, now began to settle in. But as he climbed the mountain his heart began to race, his pulse began to quicken. His breath became noisier as he panted. He could hear his blood rushing through his veins, echoing in his ears. He could hear his own heart thudding out its beat and he clambered over the rocks one by one to the top of the mountain.
Then, as Elijah reached the top of the mountain a sigh of relief came over him, and then God arrived. As his body calmed down internally, the winds roared around him. Then the earthquake came and shook him and then the fires burst out around, engulfing the scant dry vegetation and it. And then there was silence on the mountain. And then there was silence inside Elijah. And then Elijah heard the small still voice of God and Elijah covered his face from the Lord. For like Moses in Exodus 3:6, he dared not to look upon God.
God’s voice spoke to Elijah and said ”What are you doing here, Elijah?”
God had wanted to speak to Elijah all the time. God has been trying to speak to Elijah’s spirit all the time, but Elijah was not in talk-mode, he was in flight-mode.
Like Elijah, if we do not take the time to intentionally sit right down and be silent and wait upon God and listen for His still small voice, we will miss it. The Lord will speak to those who seek Him. His still small deep voice can be heard by those who practice love and patience and waiting upon Him.
For those of us who are not yet accustomed to hearing and recognising God’s internal voice, we need to be aware that we can easily misidentify it with the counterfeit voice which the enemy uses to keep our minds busy. Simply put, our minds are Satan’s battlefields. He wages war in our minds and we, as God’s soldiers, need to be able to recognise which is the real voice and which is counterfeit.
Unlike tongues – the language of men and angels (1 Corinthians 13:1) – which Satan can understand, the still small voice which God uses to communicate spiritually with us, is completely internal to us and cannot be heard or understood by any other party. It is a communication direct from God to us, via the indwelling of His Holy Spirit and it is private.