Breathe through the heats of our desire Thy coolness and Thy balm; Let sense be dumb, let flesh retire; Speak through the earthquake, wind, and fire, O still, small voice of calm. (John Greenleaf Whittier 1872)
One of my favorite accounts in the Old Testament is about Elijah. He had gotten carried away in his jealous defense of God’s covenant and had been forced to flee for his life to escape Jezebel. Finally, in utter self-abandonment, he sat under a tree in the wilderness and asked to die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors” (NIV 1 Kings 19:1-12). Such despair. Such well-earned guilt.
But God didn’t give up on Elijah. He sent an angel to bring him to Horeb, “the mountain of God.” After Elijah confessed his guilt again, he was called to “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.”
First, “a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks.” Then there was an earthquake, and then a fire. In antiquity, earth, water, air, and fire were the four basic elements of nature. But, says the Old Testament, “the Lord was not in” these.
His Presence came, instead, as “a still small voice” or “gentle whisper.” Elijah, who had killed other prophets in “the heats of [his] desire,” Elijah, who had fled in fear when he thought his own life would be taken. That same Elijah experienced the cooling balm of the Lord’s forgiveness and blessing.
It’s comforting to know that the Lord isn’t going to give up on us, you or me. Through all the turmoil in our lives, the clamor of nature and the roar of our sensuality and selfishness, God breathes into us, into each human heart, the gentle whisper “of calm.”