1 Kings 19:12
And after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.
Describe the stupendous scenes amidst which Elijah stood. A wind came shrieking up the mountain ravines, unseen yet instinct with secret force; an earthquake made the solid ground heave and reel; fire glared from heaven, like that which had fallen on the sacrifice at Carmel, or on a subsequent occasion consumed the captains and soldiers of Ahaziah. Amidst this war of the elements the prophet was unmoved by fear; indeed, probably a wild exultation filled his heart as he saw this stormy reflection in nature of the conflict within him. (Compare Shakespeare's splendid description of King Lear in the storm.) The uproar in nature was succeeded by a solemn calm; and as Elijah waited for the next marvellous display of Divine power, "a still small voice" broke the silence, and the prophet knew that it was the voice of God. He who till now had been undaunted and unmoved, now reverently covered his face with his mantle, and bowed in humble worship in the felt presence of Him before whom angels veil their faces. This strange and weird experience evidently had reference to the work which Elijah had attempted, and over which he was now so despondent. When he learnt that the Lord was not in the wind, the earthquake, or the fire, he re-fleeted that permanent religious reformation might not result from the material signs of Divine power, displayed in the withholding of the rain, the raising of the dead, or the fall of fire on Carmel, but from the more quiet testimony of his own devout]fie, and from the fidelity of the "seven thousand who had not bowed the knee to Baal." In effect, the message to him and to us was this: "Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord." We are taught, in the first place -
I. THE SPIRITUAL WEAKNESS OF WHAT SEEMS MIGHTY. "The Lord was not in the wind ..... in the earthquake, .... in the fire." Let us exemplify this truth -
1. By the experience of Elijah. He had done many mighty works, but the people were startled rather than reformed. No radical and abiding change had been effected. "The wind" may represent the drought, both in its coming and in its ceasing; "the earthquake," the raising of the child from the dead; and "the fire," the answer to prayer on Carmel. It was not these wonders which could change the heart of the people, but "the still small voice" speaking within for God.
2. My the miracles of judgment. Take the plagues of Egypt as specimens. Marvellous enough they were, but in the result "Pharaoh's heart was hardened."
3. By the penalties of the law. Show from the history of Israel, and from the comments made on it in the Epistles, the powerlessness of the law to put away sin. The fear of punishment may check the outward manifestation of sin, but in itself does not conquer innate sinfulness. If a child does not love his father, no orders, however stringently enforced, will make him happy. It was not John the Baptist, but Jesus Christ, who was the world's Redeemer,
4. By the events of Providence. Illness, the dread of death, a startling bereavement, a national calamity, etc., do not convert men, unless through them or after them "the still small voice" is heard. Men may be driven to alarm, to murmuring, to despair, perhaps to suicide; but their hearts are still rebellious under the influence of trouble. It is not the storm, but the voice of Jesus in the storm, saying, "It is I," that brings rest to those who welcome Him.
II. THE SPIRITUAL STRENGTH OF WHAT SEEMS FEEBLE. The still small vice, which only a listening man could hear, was more Divine and more mighty than all Elijah had witnessed before. There was all the difference between God's power and God's presence. "The Lord was not in the fire," but His was the still small voice; concerning which we observe -
1. It follows on preparation. Elijah had heard so much, had been so startled into keen listening for the wonderful, that he did not fail to hear this. So the miracles which had not converted the people had made them ready for Elisha and the school of the prophets. Similarly John preceded Jesus. It is thus in personal experience. The earthquake did not convert the jailer at Philippi, but it aroused him to ask, "What must I do to be saved?" Trouble does not save a man, but it may make him ready to listen to the words of life. Some must lose all before they find all in God.
2. It reminds of secret forces. The most mighty are silent in nature and in grace; e.g., gravitation is far more tremendous than volcanic agency.
3. It typifies the influence of the Holy Spirit. "He shall convince the world of righteousness," etc. How secretly He melts the heart to repentance, faith, and obedience, and changes the whole current of affection and thought.
4. It whispers of the love of Christ. He forced none into His kingdom, but won all His subjects man by man. Not His reproaches, but His look of love, broke the heart of Peter into penitence, after the denial. Paul's inspiration was found not in applause or success, but in this - that he could ever say, "The love of Christ constraineth me."
CONCLUSION. Wait for no resistless influences, for no startling events; but listen to the "still small voice" which speaks within, testifying of your deep necessity and Christ's glorious redemption. - A.R.
Parallel VersesKJV: And after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.