Storms are dangerous for many reasons and so often can be unpredictable. Some of us may enjoy watching them from the safety of shelter, but others of us are not keen on that and would be more prone to pull a blanket over our heads until the storm passes and we feel surer we are safe from its destructive power. I am one of those who is not a fan of storms. There are several specific occasions when a storm has unexpectedly developed (once while driving and another at a stadium on a 4th of July) that seemed perilous and left me feeling exposed.
When I think of storms, I recall the story in 1 Kings 19:9-18 when Elijah faced a trial. King Ahab tells the fearsome Jezebel all the things Elijah has done and Jezebel vows to destroy him. Despite all the times God had proven himself to Elijah, this powerful prophet ran into the wilderness. It was in the wilderness that God met him, fed him, and encouraged him to rest. After he had done that, he went to Mt. Horeb and hid in a cave.
This man of faith, used powerfully by God, faltered and then God speaks to him and asks him a question.
“There Elijah went into a cave and stayed all night. Then the Lord spoke his word to him: “Elijah! Why are you here?”1 Kings 19:9 (NCV)
In other versions of the text, God asks Elijah why he is hiding. Not unlike God, we know He already knows the answer to that. He often asks a question for us to own the truth of something so we (He and we) can address it. So, Elijah pours out his lament to God and He tells Elijah to go stand at the entrance to the cave.
If I were Elijah, I would be trembling more than ever, uncertain of what God would do.
In the text God shows up in powerful ways that would grab Elijah’s attention as well as any of ours. First there is a terrible windstorm that tears up the mountain rocks and shatters them. Next an earthquake shakes the mountain and everything in the area and then fire, but those are not when God speaks. They are what He uses to get Elijah’s attention so he can hear God’s voice above his fear and circumstances and be reminded of the truth Elijah lost track of with the other voices shouting at him and creating intense fear.
God longs to speak to us, but often He needs to first get our attention.
In this series about Much Afraid in Hannah Hurnard’s epic book, Hinds Feet on High Places, Much Afraid must learn to hear and know the voice of the Chief Shepherd to overcome the voices of her fearing relatives that have become a part of her, so she hears their messages even when they are not with her. She faces many storms on the journey to the High Places. She learns to hold more tightly to the strong hands of Sorrow and Suffering. She also sees how they respond to the difficulties and danger of the trek.
In one scene, the storm has passed and still the mist and clouds shroud the mountain slopes and paths ahead. All three are aware there is no turning back as they have come too far now. The voices of her relatives continue to pursue her reminding her of how foolish it is to trust the Chief Shepherd, telling her that he will leave her in danger and never take her to that place to give her hinds feet and the new name he promised.
On the trip Much Afraid has heard the sound of rushing waters in streams and powerful waterfalls. Often, they have sounded like singing to Much Afraid and she has heard Sorrow and Suffering sometimes singing, but she had never joined them because she believed she had a very “unmelodious voice.”
But one day when Much Afraid would have said she was more crawling and slithering along the path the the voices of fear were repeating in her thoughts, she recalled there were a couple of times she had risked singing when the Chief Shepherd had done so because he was able to keep her more in tune, so her voice was not so awful to hear. Much Afraid felt as if she could not handle the taunts of her relatives any longer so she made a decision.
“It was not pleasant to think of her relatives now having the opportunity to entertain themselves at the expense of her very unmelodious voice, but she decided to risk their ribald comments. ‘If I sing quite loudly,’ she told herself, ‘I shall not be able to hear what they say.’ The only song she could think of at the moment was the one which Sorrow had taught her in the hut, and though it seemed singularly inappropriate she lifted up her voice and sang quaveringly…
There was perfect silence as she sang. The loud sneering voices of her enemies had died away altogether.”Hannah Hurnard
How very much like God as He seeks to remind us of the power of praise and worship. Here is just one example:
“When they began to sing and praise, the Lord set traps against the men of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir, who had come against Judah. So they were destroyed.”2 Chronicles 20:22 (NLV)
Some of you also know the worship song taken from Psalm 68:1:
“Let God arise,
Let His enemies be scattered;
Let those also who hate Him flee before Him.”Psalm 68:1 (NKJV)
Our own Chief Shepherd might remind us as well that our singing of praise and worship can drown out the fearsome voices that can assault us and the challenges we all face on our journey to the High Places.