The “still small voice” Bible passage is often misinterpreted. It pertains to the Prophet Elijah after his amazing victory over the prophets of Baal at Mount Carmel. He has run away to avoid the wrath of Jezebel and is hiding in a cave. The portion in bold is used to rationalize mystical practices or “nudges” that God allegedly communicates to us, often in the area of decision making.
But read the passage carefully and you’ll see something that should be obvious: The “low whisper” or the “still small voice” (King James version) wasn’t an illustration of a mystical communication. It was an audible statement. Note the extended conversation and message that follows.
1 Kings 19:9–18 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. And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And behold, there came a voice to him and said, “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 the Lord said to him, “Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus. And when you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael to be king over Syria. And Jehu the son of Nimshi you shall anoint to be king over Israel, and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah you shall anoint to be prophet in your place. And the one who escapes from the sword of Hazael shall Jehu put to death, and the one who escapes from the sword of Jehu shall Elisha put to death. Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.”
This article provides some good background and commentary (sorry, link no longer exists):
Elijah’s Mt. Horeb experience, when he heard “a sound of sheer silence”(1 Kings 19:12, NRSV), stimulated in the church a tradition of desert spirituality which pursues solitude in order to experience the divine. Practitioners of lectio divina (i.e., reading sacred things) also desire such encounters. They say: “When we read the Scriptures we should try to imitate the prophet Elijah. We should allow ourselves to become women and men who are able to listen for the still, small voice of God (I Kings 19:12); the ‘faint murmuring sound’ which is God’s word for us, God’s voice touching our hearts. This gentle listening is an ‘atunement’ to the presence of God . . . .” About Elijah’s experience of hearing God’s “still small voice”(KJV, NKJV) questions arise. Does 1 Kings 19:12 endorse contemplative spirituality? Was the prophet’s encounter with God in the cave on Mt. Horeb/Sinai a mystical “atunement”?
. . .
Ironic isn’t it, that the question the Lord repeatedly posed to Elijah contradicts the sense in which contemplative spiritualists mean to understand the “voice.” They use the prophet’s cave experience as a pretext for their retreating into the solitude of their “higher consciousness” to find mystical communion with the divine, but all the while God is asking, “What are you doing here?”
Do not take that passage out of context to rationalize what may not be from God. Just read what his word really says and use wisdom to guide your decision making.
Here’s much more on the Bible, decision making and hearing from God.
The Bible, Decision Making and Hearing from God from Eternity Matters on Vimeo
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