First Kings 19 and the “Still, Small Voice” of God

If you’ve followed Stand to Reason for a good amount of time, you’ve likely heard us talk about Greg’s material on decision making and the will of God. Here at Stand to Reason, we promote the wisdom model of making decisions (i.e., we learn God’s moral will and wisdom from the Scriptures and then apply what we learn to our life decisions in light of our gifts and desires) rather than the model of learning to recognize and interpret personalized instructions from God. This can be somewhat controversial (to say the least), but I think it better reflects the teaching we find in the Bible. (I encourage you to read Greg’s “Does God Whisper? Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 to learn more about this.)

Over at The Heidelblog, R. Scott Clark has responded to one proof text—the story of Elijah hearing “the still, small voice” of God in 1 Kings 19—that’s often used to promote the view that we need to learn how to interpret the specific directions God is giving us.

Elijah laid out his complaint to the Lord, that he, Yahweh, was falling down on the job by allowing his prophets to be killed and persecuted (vv. 9–10). Yahweh responded by instructing him to stand on a mount “before Yahweh.” A great wind passed by, an earthquake shook the earth, and fire raged but Yahweh was said not to be “in” them. Counter intuitively, he was, however, in “the still, small voice.”

The point of the passage is that Yahweh defied Elijah’s expectations. He was no less sovereign than he had been when he slayed the prophets of Baal or when he had defeated Pharaoh. His point was that, despite Elijah’s unbelief and fear, he was fulfilling his promise. He was with Elijah. He was not done saving his people. He had not abandoned them. Elijah was wrong. He was not alone. There were yet 7,000 who had not bowed the knee to Baal (v.18).

The intent of the passage is not to teach a doctrine or practice of secret revelation or private guidance. The point of the passage is Yahweh’s faithfulness to his promises. Nothing in this passage suggests that we should be listening for a “still, small voice” from Yahweh. The point is the salvation comes in unexpected ways….

At the conference the objection was made that God is still able to speak in still, small voices. Certainly but the objection misses the point. He is also able to use his prophets to slaughter false prophets, of chasing his prophets into the wilderness, and of using his prophets to install kings. He is also capable of speaking into nothing and making worlds. God is what he is. What God is able to do is beside the point. What matters here is what God has promised to do and what he has commanded us to do.

He has nowhere promised to reveal himself privately, directly, specifically apart from his Holy Scriptures. God’s Word written is sufficient for the Christian faith and the Christian life. Sola scriptura. Everything we need to know, to believe, is revealed in his Word. Everything we need to know to live the Christian life, all the guidance we need is in his Word....

Asking God for special, extra-biblical revelation is not only unwise, it marginalizes God’s Word and seeks to know what is secret, what is hidden (Deut 29:29) at the expense of what has already been revealed….

The good news is that God has revealed his Word and his moral will and we are free in Christ to follow that Word and to obey his will, in union with Christ, in communion with his church.

Read the rest here.

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Amy K. Hall

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