God’s Silent Presence

After the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper. And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And behold, there came a voice to him and said, ‘What are you doing here Elijah?’” (1 Kings 19:12-13).    

- 1 Kings 19:9–18

Clearly, the book of Esther tells us that God does not have to cause cataclysmic events to do a mighty work. There was no parting of the sea, collapsing of Jericho’s walls, or any other stupendous miracle in Esther’s life. Aside from a vague reference to Israel’s sure deliverance (Est. 4:14) and a threat that no one can defeat the Jews (6:12–13), there is no clear insight beforehand that God would bless Mordecai and Esther as they risked their lives for their kin. All we see are two everyday sinners who bring about an extraordinary rescue with ordinary decisions. Nevertheless, the Lord was present and worked through them, albeit silently and invisibly.

Like Esther and Mordecai, we have no clear miracles or audible voice from above to direct us. In fact, we often live as if God is absent from our lives. Many people make decisions such as where to live and work, what to eat, where to send our children to school, and so on without feeling like God is working in a special way through us. Apart from spectacular works from on high it is easy to believe, at least implicitly, that God is not with us.

However, those who have seen the Lord work clearly and decisively through mighty acts of power do not necessarily find it easier to remember God’s presence in the ordinary or in silence. Consider the prophet Elijah. Here was a man who was able to call down fire from heaven to prove Yahweh’s preeminence (1 Kings 18:1–40). But when the Lord seemed to leave him all alone while Jezebel sought his death, Elijah could only flee to a cave and complain that God had not been with him to bless his ministry and keep him safe (19:1–10). 

In today’s passage, Elijah witnesses a great wind, an earthquake, and a fire. These are awesome sights, but God does not answer him in any of these (vv. 11–12a). Instead, God comes in a whisper (vv. 12b–14) as if to say “Elijah my servant, I, the Lord, am with you even if I am not doing the mighty things you think I should.”

Just as he dealt with Elijah, Esther, and Mordecai, God does not have to appear visibly to be present. Even if we do not feel Him, He is with us and working out His plan in unimaginable ways.

Coram Deo

The seemingly ordinary decision to take our child to Sunday school or help him memorize Bible verses might be used by God to equip that child to be a mighty warrior in the Lord’s army. Our choice to give money to a local missionary apart from any visible revelation from God may be what purchases the Bible that leads to a great revival in a foreign land. The Lord is with us in the silent, “unremarkable” moments of our lives to do extraordinary things.

Passages for Further Study

Neh. 2:9–20
Amos 5:14
Matt. 28:20b
Heb. 11:27

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way, you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, and you do not make more than 500 physical copies. For web posting, a link to this document on our website is preferred (where applicable). If no such link exists, simply link to www.ligonier.org.

Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: From Ligonier Ministries, the teaching fellowship of R.C. Sproul. All rights reserved. Website: www.ligonier.org | Phone: 1-800-435-4343