I’m the kind of person that, if it were not for the Holy Spirit, through the loving admonition of my wife, I would buy all the study Bibles, journaling Bibles, and cool edition Bibles out there. I would download all the apps that promise to make my spiritual life better. I would buy all the books that are meant to strengthen my relationship with God.
However, recently I noticed that, more often than not, my relationship with God seems to be stagnate. My bookshelf seems to be full but my soul feels rather empty and hungry. I open Twitter to get encouragement but I leave feeling depressed. I open my leather bound version of the Valley of Vision, but I like the leathery feel more than the prayers written in there.
But somehow, the lie always gets to me; if I buy this new journaling Bible with the notes of all the cool pastors old and new, I will grow spiritually.
Recently, I took a day of solitude. I went away and brought only my Bible. The Spirit led me to read a familiar story (2 Kings 18 and 19); the account of when Elijah kills the prophets of Baal and restores the rain to Israel.
He finds out that Jezebel wants to kill him and becomes so scared that flees from Mt. Carmel to Beersheba and eventually to Mt Hor. This is over 125 miles of travel.
He was so scared and depressed he asked God to just take his life.
When he was in the wilderness, God fed him a couple of meals and then he went on 40 days and 40 nights without food on a journey to God’s mountain; Mt. Hor.
He has some interaction with God and eventually he is asked to stand on the mount before the Lord. Then something remarkable happens. The Lord passes 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. 12 And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire.”
Even though those were some impressive displays of God’s power, it says that the Lord was not in them. Elijah himself had had some really impressive displays of God’s power. God acted through him marvelously as he brought fire from heaven before the prophets of Baal. God used him to bring the rain back to Israel. But after those impressive highs in his ministry, he was experiencing lows so deep he wanted to die.
But God was pleased to show his glory and speak to him not through the crazy wind, the earthquake or the fire but in the silence.
This might not be the main point of this passage, but I really sensed God telling me to turn the volume down. To stop seeking him in my gadgets, to stop trying to listen for him in the fire, earthquake and whirlwind but to seek the silence and just listen to him. Be comforted, fed, nourished by him.
There is nothing wrong with buying yourself new fancy Bibles. But if you don’t make silence to hear God speaking to you through his word, it is just that; fancy Bibles, leather bound, with the commentaries of Mr. Famous Pastor or scholar.
God convinced me that if I want to hear him I must turn down the volume on all the things and means that I’ve accumulated for myself in order to “hear him.” I’ve been focusing too much on creating the right atmosphere to listen to God. I’ve been guilty of thinking that the typical picture of a blanket, a hot cup of coffee and a vintage Bible actually is the perfect recipe listening to God. But I’ve failed in that I’ve focused more on the form rather than the substance.
A dear friend of mine is currently in jail. He has nothing but a Bible; a gift Bible, paperback, doesn’t stay open by itself, has no notes. Just a Bible. And the Lord has challenged me through him. He has been in there for about three months and has read through the New Testament several times, has read the whole Bible a couple of times. I’ve never seen him happier. God granted him silence.
I was even more convinced that this was from God when, last night I read the chapter “a New Ambition” on Zack Eswine’s book, “Imperfect Pastor” where he encourages pastors to seek a new ambition: silence.
I don’t need more Bibles. I don’t need better commentaries. I don’t need to follow more spiritual people on Twitter. I don’t need to write more blog posts or preach more. I need to seek my Lord and savior in silence. I need to let him speak to me and stop interrupting him with fancy gadgets.
All those things have their place and are useful. But they can be so damaging when they take the place of God, when they are so loud that they are drowning God’s voice in my life.
Do you want to hear God? Turn the volume down!