“Go out and stand before me on the mountain,” the Lord told him. And as Elijah stood there, the Lord passed by, and a mighty windstorm hit the mountain. It was such a terrible blast that the rocks were torn loose, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper.
1 Kings 19:11–12 (NLT)
I found it ironic that this passage from 1 Kings popped up in a daily devotional email today. Within this week, Southern California has experienced howling winds, a 4.4 earthquake, and now, as I write this, a fire is raging in the hills near RTB headquarters. I’m ready to listen for that “gentle whisper.”
Natural disasters are a common topic for RTB. They raise questions about God’s sovereignty and the problem of evil. Where is God in natural disasters, we want to know. However, in the little thought-of-the-day that accompanied the 1 Kings text in the email, author Diane Eble makes a good point: “Here God teaches Elijah to listen for the whisper. Are you listening for God’s whisper, or looking for him only through dramatic events?”
The whole of Scripture makes it clear that God is intensely interested in the quiet, gentle, little, or everyday things of this world. He commands believers to look after widows and orphans. He defends the poor and oppressed. In the natural world, He knows every sparrow that falls and provides food for cattle and raven chicks.
Not only does God care about little things, He also gives them purpose. One thing I’ve learned from RTB is that God’s gracious provision can be found on every level of nature. For example, sea otters are the key to limiting sea urchins’ impact on carbon dioxide-absorbing kelp forests. The backwards wiring of the vertebrate retina is ideally designed to perform outstanding image processing while also protecting photoreceptor cells from damage.
This week may have been filled with wind, quakes, and wildfires, yet Scripture reminds us to not let the “dramatic events” of life crowd out the little things and prevent us from listening for God’s “gentle whisper.”
Resources: RTB scholars point to examples of God’s creative power and provision—such as dangerous DNA replications that may yield therapies for ALS—in the ministry’s latest booklet, 10 Breakthroughs of 2013.