The Old Testament lesson for next Sunday is the story from I Kings of Elijah the prophet running away from the wrath of the evil queen, Jezebel. Elijah has displeased her by having a contest with the priest of Baal and then doing away with them. So, Jezebel threatened revenge upon Elijah if she could catch him. Elijah ran away to the distant wilderness area as most of us would have done also. God miraculously provided food and water for Elijah while he was in the wilderness and then God is revealed to Elijah through the world around him.
Elijah figured that a God as mighty and powerful as YAHWEH would be revealed in the power of the world around him. So, when an earthquake happened, Elijah thought God's voice would be heard in the earthquake but it did not happen that way. Then a fire appeared and Elijah thought that surely God's voice could be heard in the fire but that was not the way it would work either. After that there was nothing but sheer silence. No noise at all, just a silence peaceful assurance that Elijah would be okay.
Elijah needed God's assurance that God would care for Elijah even in the midst of the threat that Jezebel had uttered against him. He told God all that he had done to bring about righteousness in the land of Israel, despite the idolatry that Jezebel and Ahab had instituted in the land. "I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away," Elijah told God. (I Kings19:14c)
God listened to Elijah's complaint and, I believe, understood what Elijah needed in order to feel cared for by God. He needed to know that God knew what he had gone through and that he was not alone. God's word for Elijah in this instance was: ..."all the knees have not bowed to Baal..." (I Kings 19:18b) Elijah was not alone in his quest to bring worship to the One God of Israel back in existence in Israel. There were others who would assist Elijah if he needed them.
Sure enough as he went done the road toward Damascus he met the one who would be his helper, the prophet Elisha. Elisha was plowing with oxen when Elijah met him and threw his mantle around him. Then, after making peace with his family, he "set out and followed Elijah, and became his servant." (I Kings 19:21c)
We all go through times of loneliness and despair. Perhaps it is because of our ill health or due to circumstances that are beyond our control and we think that no one cares or understands what we are enduring. We may even think that God does not care for us because we have not recognized God around us in a long time. We may think that God may speak through something dramatic in our lives and expect it to happen in a thunderstorm as the lightning flashes or when the skies are threatening. Those circumstances could speak to us but more often God speaks to us in the quiet moments of life when we have the time to really listen for God's voice.
God's voice is often heard in the quiet working out of history such as when the wall of Communism fell in 1989 and suddenly people who had been held captive by an oppressive society experienced personal freedom for the first time in many years.
God's voice is often heard in the daily lives of ordinary people as we are around them. People quietly doing their jobs in the world often have something to say that encourages us and lifts our spirits, perhaps in the way they smile at us or say something cheerful to us.
God's voice may be heard in the birth of a child or a wedding or even at a funeral. God is present in joy and in sorrow and there at times that those events make us slow down enough to listen for God to speak to us.
God is still speaking, even in the midst of tragedy. I am writing this on the day after our country experienced the worst mass murder rampage by a gunman in our the history of our country. Fifty persons going about their daily lives were murdered by a crazy, hateful person whose own life was taken in the conflict also. God did not cause this event to happen but God wept for those whose lives were taken by this act of violence and hatred. And in the midst of the bloodshed and confusion, God was present and speaking through the actions of courage and bravery and love as humans helped other humans in need and as first responders worked diligently to save the lives of many who were wounded by this madman with a gun.
God still loves humanity and God still speaks even in the darkest of hours to reassure us that we are not alone. God is with us. Thanks be to God.