|Bright knots of glowing gas light up the arms of spiral galaxy M74, indicating a rich environment of star formation. Messier 74, also called NGC 628, is slightly smaller than our Milky Way. Photo: HubbleSite|
Elijah's encounter with God on the mount Horeb after the great spectacle on the mount Carmel is a compelling episode. The variability in one's spiritual life appears to be a kind of spectrum when the road of Elijah passes through the victory on Carmel to the defeat on Horeb. Elijah was on the run when he was scared of Jezebel's murderous threats and came a long way with the power of some "angel-energy" and ended up somewhere in the wilderness to heal his wounds in a cave. We read some details from the first Kings:
And the word of the LORD came to him: “What are you doing here, Elijah?” He replied, “I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.” 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. After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. 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.King.19:9-13.
Carmel events can be compared with the modern city missions and campaigns. They are often advertised widely and street parades are organized to attract people's attention, they are drummed in the media and afterwards when the mission or campaign has passed, the results will be praised. Large numbers will be presented, how many were saved, how many were healed, and how large crowds had gathered, and how the public followed the events on TV. There will be an impression that large public celebration and ecstasy took place in the middle of a great number of miracles.
I guess what happened. There is no reason to belittle anyone's faith and the importance of coming to Christ, or anything God is doing. However -
In the light of Elijah's example such large shows and public events are somehow parallel with "the Lord who was not in the wind." The storm only heralded the appearance of God. Similarly, the earthquake and fire did the same.
All of these describe the outward events and seem to tell us the message that God is not primarily present in outward signs and does not appear through the acts of power. The fire seems to refer to the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and if you get baptized with the Holy Spirit, even this does not represent an example of the deepest knowledge of God.
Does the fire refer to our emotional lives? Many times preachers and evangelists bring up emotions to us, making us receptive to God's word. The pursuit of feelings aims at overwhelming joy and bliss. Many have experienced such joy, laughing in the spirit, crashing by the touch of God, experiencing a deep sense of inner peace, as if to get over all the sorrows of everyday life, praising God with all our being.
I have experienced these ordinary things of God's people,too. It is a blessing if faith becomes real to us at the emotional level, and the presence of God take over us from top to toe. I advise no one to shun these kinds of experiences. Still -
What does it mean at Elijah's Horeb episode when it is stated that "the Lord was not in the fire"? In the end what does it mean when it is written, "came a gentle whisper"?
You have to realize it yourself, but I will tell my own view. God does not appear to us primarily in outward events and his deepest essence will not be passed on to us even by the most ecstatic experiences. However, the spirit of God can touch our lives in our innermost hearts so quietly that it is hard to even describe in any symbolic images. "A gentle whisper" is one of the approximate values, a pale reference to the Revelation of God as his speech begins to be quietly transmitted to us from the inside.
In that encounter, our own subjective world and the objective reality of God face each other as two mixing air currents. Elijah's own experience moves aside when the reality of God's spirit begins to flow into his internal world, pure as a fresh air to ventilate the musty smell out.
Elijah's own experience was: "I am left alone and they want to kill me, too." The wind of God will bring to this subjective world of Elijah's some new light, a new perspective, a whole new readings, "you are not the only one, I have left myself 7000 men!"
Some time ago I also asked God, where all the apostolic people have gone. My own experience said that there is not a single one found in my circle of friends. Later, I had a chance to talk with a person who knew them, "infinitely" and I thought, "I guess God finally has at least 7000 apostolic people in this country - in addition to those people that I will call 'nonapostolic human beings', who nevertheless are the beloved children of God, too".
We certainly are allowed to think of matters from a subjective point of view, there is nothing short of God's permission to think and experience things from my own point of view, in the first person. After all, God himself expressed the essence of his nature by name "I am" - and we are God's images in that sense, too. However, there is also a reality of God, a much broader perspective, the clear objective truth, and we are called to hear, see, understand, experience and receive that, too.
Paul explains the presence of God and experiences the eternal pursuit of the relationship with God like this: “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’” (that is, to bring Christ down) “or ‘Who will descend into the deep?’”(that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). Rom.10:6-7 NIV.
“The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,”that is, the message concerning faith that we proclaim (Rom.10:8 NIV).
There is something deep, well crystallized. God appears to us in our internal lives through the testimony of our inner spirit, when he has given us his word and it has been merged in us by faith, and it has become the foundation of our lives and the basis of our growth that we can not possibly avoid talking about it to others.
Flag parades, campaigns and missions have their own place. Ecstatic experiences have their place. However, there is no substitute of the most important thing, of which the smith Högman said to Paavo Ruotsalainen (a Finnish Preacher of the19th century) before his actual conversion (quoting from memory): "What you are missing here, is the inward knowledge of Christ."
You can not take anything like that off the shelf, ask from a campaign office, or even build up from the ecstatic feelings of a wake-up meeting. It is a matter of growth and it needs recurrent encounters with God in the place where we give so much space for God's internal knowledge that no storm can anymore sway our faith, no earth-shattering experience will shake our peace in any way, no demon, no church is able to steal it from us. As Paul assures us, so it is yea and amen:
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Rom.8:38-39 NIV.