Posted by: Brad Stanford | April 24, 2010

Obedience To The Whisper: A Prerequisite

Let’s look again at Elijah’s encounter with God:

11 The LORD said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by.”
Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. 13 When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.
Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
-1 Kings 19

While God sometimes has a thunderous voice (see Job 40:9; Isaiah 33:3, and John 12:29 for example), here we see something about a whisper. Notice after Elijah hears it, he knows to go before the Lord at the mouth of the cave where a voice speaks to him, that being the voice of God.

The Whisper
So what’s this whisper here? My opinion: it’s the Spirit telling Elijah what to do to in the presence of the Lord, like a heavenly protocol interpreter. Notice what Obadiah says to Elijah about the Spirit of the Lord:

9 “What have I done wrong,” asked Obadiah, “that you are handing your servant over to Ahab to be put to death? 10 As surely as the LORD your God lives, there is not a nation or kingdom where my master has not sent someone to look for you. And whenever a nation or kingdom claimed you were not there, he made them swear they could not find you. 11 But now you tell me to go to my master and say, ‘Elijah is here.’ 12 I don’t know where the Spirit of the LORD may carry you when I leave you. If I go and tell Ahab and he doesn’t find you, he will kill me.

Look at how Philip gets around in Acts 8:

39When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him again, but went on his way rejoicing. 40Philip, however, appeared at Azotus and traveled about, preaching the gospel in all the towns until he reached Caesarea.

The Spirit has a tendency to put people where the Father wants them. Sometimes it’s a surprise to the person, as in Philip’s case. As a prophet, Obadiah understood that people in tune with the Spirit could only be found wherever God wanted them at the moment. Jesus in the temple as a boy, the wilderness, and in the garden are all examples of what it looks like to walk in the Spirit of God, being where He wants you to be at all times.

I’m not saying get ready to be transported. I’m saying that the Spirit’s job is often to tell us what position to be in to hear God in the moment. You practice positioning yourself to hear the whisper. when you hear the whisper, there will be specific instructions.

Think of it this way: say you have an old radio with a tuning knob on it. To tune in a station, you first make large moves to get to the vicinity of the station you’re looking for. Then, when in the neighborhood, you make very fine adjustments to try and hear where the strongest signal is. When you find it, you let go of the knob, and listen – because the whole point was listening to the station, not finding it! (Note, though, for some like me and raymack there is great joy in just being a master with the tuning knob!)

So, there is an art to tuning a radio, there is an art to fine tuning a radio, but the voice that comes over the radio has nothing to do with your skills. Even if you’re a poor tuner, you’ll still get enough signal to hear it. This is the small whisper.

So positioning yourself is like the skill of tuning. But once you learn to tune in, the question is what to do with what you hear.

The response we must develop is “Yes!” This is a matter of trust, really. Most often we doubt what we hear because we understand that we are the weak link in this spiritual chain. We develop a response of “no” because we first doubt that God is speaking to us. We want to hear God, so it must be our own voice, so I’ll wait for a great wind, a fire, or an earthquake to be sure. But the Lord was not in those events. Those events occurred as His glory made way for Him to pass by.

Mental note: when stuff starts going crazy, get ready to encounter God. You may have to hide your face, but God is pushing His way into your situation, which looks like:

  • circumstances that would knock us over like a mighty wind
  • people who would flame us for trusting in “god”
  • our self-made foundations being shaken out from under us

When that happens, it’s time to be listening for the Whisper. More than likely, you have tuned in well, and the enemy doesn’t want you to hear. He’s clawing at the situation, trying to keep God from giving you breaking news. The Spirit tells you when God is ready to speak, so you can know for certain where God is, and which voice is His.

Obedience Vs. Appearance
We often read about the prophets without taking into account how society looked at them. Have you ever wondered why John the Baptist wore camel hair clothes and ate bugs? This would’ve been a very clear indication to the Israelites that those weird prophets were back, and God had something to say. But that characteristic weirdness is because they trusted God to the point of obedience. They looked foolish often. Laying on your side in the street for a year playing with a little model of Jerusalem looks really strange (Ezekiel). Marrying a prostitute is even more difficult (Hosea). So fair warning: Maintaining your image with friends, family, and church folk will not be an option. You have to die to your self image. Daily.

Being transformed by the renewing of your mind is much like open-heart-surgery in installments. It’s bloody, painful, you’re not done yet, and you’ll never be the same again. Recall that you are in the process of becoming a new creature. That metamorphosis has a few non-caterpillar/non-butterfly stages. The idea is to not let doubt slow the changes, but believe that God knows what He’s doing.

Here’s an example of looking foolish: some of my strongest moments are when the enemy is trying to bring doubt, and I speak out loud with the truth: “No! God has gone to great lengths to prove who He is, and what His plans are for me. How can I dishonor Him with doubt?!” It’s awkward just to speak the truth out loud by yourself, but it’s precisely what we need to be doing, by ourselves, with our families, in our churches, and even in public. The world needs to see people who are so inebriated with the Spirit, that they don’t care how foolish they look.

Next Steps
Last time I also wrote about obeying what you hear. You might think I was ahead of myself, but it’s just difficult to practice hearing without doing.

This time, though, the question is, “How can I practice obedience?” Well, there are plenty of commands to obey that don’t require us to hear God in the context we’ve been discussing. It’s right there in Scripture waiting for you to obey. Practice obedience, and you will find it’s easier to obey the Whisper when you start to recognize it.

Some suggestions:

  • Love your neighbor. Do something for someone else. Something that means something to them, rather than you.
  • Be a peacemaker. Be the one that backs down first.
  • Apologize. Get rid of grudges.
  • Husbands, treat your wives like Christ treats the church.
  • Wives, make it easy for your husband to do so.
  • Agree with God. Walk away from that same old sin.
  • If you don’t already go the speed limit in every instance, try doing that. All week. Or as a lifestyle. Even if it makes you late. (No, there’s not a “speed limit command” in the Bible. The point is to practice obeying something.)

I didn’t say it would be easy. Before you get depressed, imagine how God – a perfect Father – will respond to you trying to obey these things – just like a dad watching a baby takes his first steps! He enjoys it when you want to contribute your own effort to what He was already doing in you, just like we earthly parents enjoy obedience in our children.

Remember – humble yourself, and He will lift you up. Don’t try to lift yourself up into obedience. Go low, and let the Spirit reposition you. It’s what he does.

Once we know how to tune in, hear, and obey, then what? Well, you begin to hear God’s voice in places that you’ve never heard it before. Next time we’ll talk about what reading scripture is like when you’re dialed in.


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