The prophet Elijah was having a bad day. He was hiding in a cave and commiserating about how tough things were. He was exhausted from a confrontation with the prophets of Baal and was emotionally spent. He had just heard from one of Jezebel’s messengers that she was going to kill him by the next day. He panicked and fled into the wilderness where he found this cave. Things were so bad that he asked the Lord to kill him.
While he huddled in the recesses of the cave, God came to him and asked him what he was doing there. Elijah whined a bit and then the Lord told him to go outside and look around. Once outside he saw a great wind arise and tear up some rocks. Then he felt an earthquake shake the ground. Then he watched a fire roar by. He assumed God wanted to tell him something so he kept looking and listening for some message in the spectacles. But he heard nothing. Everything went quiet.
That’s when he heard a whisper, a still small voice. He went back to the mouth of the cave to check it out. He was now intently focused of hearing from God. What he heard was the exact same message that God had given him earlier, but Elijah heard it this time with a different receptiveness. The Lord told him to get up and get back to work. He had things for Elijah to do and there was no reason to fear Jezebel.
Whispering is an effective way to communicate. It helps to focus the hearer’s attention. It allows the listener to hear the message differently, from another point of view. A few years ago, my wife Colleen was suffering from a laryngitis-like affliction. All she could do was whisper. Every time she spoke to me, I would lean in, look directly at her, and listen intently. (Things I should have been doing without her whispering.) I also did something I didn’t realize I did until she pointed it out. And I did it each time we had a conversation. I whispered back.
Why did I whisper back? Were we sharing secrets? Was the room bugged? Well, we weren’t sharing secrets and this was long before the NSA was listening in. I whispered because she did. It just seemed appropriate. I felt like I was yelling otherwise. Every time she said “Dave, you’re whispering” it would catch me by surprise and make us both laugh.
The tone of her speech affected our conversation. This is a small application of what Solomon meant when he wrote, “A soft answers turns away wrath.” It is hard to yell at someone when they are whispering and it’s hard to speak angrily to someone who is speaking to you with love.
Our emotions elevate our volume and intensity, and not necessarily in a good way. No matter what we are saying, how we are saying it sends a message as well. In the wrong setting, raising our voices can make things worse – it prevents the other person from hearing.
I wonder how many times the world is yelling at us because we are yelling at them? Maybe their attitudes toward us are not always a response to our status as God’s children. Sometimes we are just a pain in their necks. We like to believe that it is our light that makes them recoil and that it is their sin that makes them dismiss our witness. I think we’d be surprised if we knew how often it was our tone and volume that provokes their response.
Biblical truth doesn’t always need to be shouted from the rooftops. Some times, it is best delivered in a still small voice. If we lower our voice, maybe they will raise their ears.