The Spirit’s small voice
”And after the fire came a gentle whisper.”1 Kings 19:12
I am learning to be more attentive to the Spirit’s voice in my life. It is an amazing wonder that God comes to live in us by His Holy Spirit, and that same Spirit is alive and active in our hearts to change us by His grace. If I am to live by the Spirit, and keep in step with the Spirit (Galatians 5:25), then I need to listen to the Spirit speaking and guiding.
But that raises a question in my mind: why is the Spirit’s voice so quiet?
Of course, the Spirit has spoken, and still speaks, clearly and loudly through the pages of Scripture. If I am to hear His voice then I begin by opening my Bible and looking intently into the life-giving word.
Yet, at the same time, the Spirit takes the unchanging words of Scripture and applies them to our lives; he enables the life-giving truth to give life to our particular hearts and situations. He is the one who says “This is the way, walk in it” (Isaiah 30:21). My ears need to be attuned to the voice of the Spirit speaking life into my life.
Yet, in my experience, the voice of the Spirit is very quiet. He speaks, but often in silence, and is easily drowned out by distractions, by a noisy world, by the busyness of my own mind. It seems as if the Spirit, when He speaks, is no louder than the ‘gentle whisper’ that Elijah heard on the mountain when he was waiting for God to reveal himself.
Surely it would be much easier if the Spirit shouted! I know my own tendency not to listen to the things of God, and so I doubt that is much of a surprise to God either! If the Spirit wants to speak then, in my thinking, it would be much better for Him to shout than to whisper. Why doesn’t the Spirit shout his truth to my heart, shout over the din of the world’s distractions and the racket of my own ungodly thoughts.
As I was thinking about this, I noticed something that the headteacher of our local school does. When she addresses the school, she speaks softly rather than loudly. Instead of blasting over the chatter of schoolchildren, she speaks quietly – and the children respond. In a short space of time, the chatter dies down and the children pay attention. Rather than overcome the noise with more noise, she draws pupils to listen by drawing them away from the conversation and distractions to place their attention on her.
It strikes me that this is perhaps a good picture of the work of the Spirit in our lives. Could the Spirit shout his truth into our hearts? Absolutely, and he probably does do that from time to time. But for the most part, the Spirit speaks quietly. He doesn’t compete with the other noise and distractions; he does try to shout louder than the world or ourselves.
Instead he speaks softly, quietly, in a whisper. He draws us out, turning our attention away from the world and toward himself. He does not compete for attention. He woos us, romances us, entices us to come away with him, to listen to him, to shut out the roar of the world and listen to the Spirit who gives life.