In 1 Kings 19, following Elijah’s confrontation with the prophets of Baal, he flees from Queen Jezebel, finding solace in the wilderness. Overwhelmed by despair and feeling like a failure, he seeks refuge under a broom tree and falls into a deep sleep. During his slumber, the angel of the Lord appears, bringing sustenance and quenching his thirst, renewing his strength for the journey ahead. (I have heard people refer to this as a reminder to “never underestimate the spiritual power of a nap and a snack”) Empowered by this divine provision, Elijah continues his trek to Mount Horeb, also known as Sinai, in search of divine guidance and purpose.
When he reaches the holy mountain, God poses a profound question to Elijah, “What are you doing here?” This is a nudge to redirect Elijah’s focus and reevaluate his purpose. In his desolation, Elijah believes himself to be the last remaining faithful servant of God, overlooking the presence of any others who share his devotion. His despair has become intertwined with pride and arrogance, blinding him to the full story of what is happening.
Instead of manifesting through grand displays of power, God chooses to speak to Elijah in a whisper—a voice of sheer silence. Through this gentle voice, God reminds Elijah of his mission and instructs him to anoint new leaders who will continue the work of faithfulness. It is a challenge to Elijah’s despair and a call to empower others, shifting the focus from his individual role to the collective efforts of a faithful community. However, it is worth noting that the text never explicitly shows Elijah carrying out these orders. Perhaps he has found new strength and courage during his encounter with God.
More importantly, God reveals a significant truth to Elijah—he is not alone. Despite his feelings of isolation, there remain 7,000 faithful Israelites who have not joined the worship of Baal. This revelation dismantles Elijah’s claim of being the sole remnant, dispelling his sense of despair and offering him an unseen network of support.
In our current context, where the Church may appear diminished and where isolation can breed despondency, we need to guard against the temptation to believe we are the last surviving bastions of faith. Despair can fill our hearts with pride and prevent us from recognizing the steadfastness of others around us.
In order to hear God’s voice of sheer silence amidst the chaos, we need to focus on humility and openness. By acknowledging the wider community of believers, both seen and unseen, we discover a renewed sense of hope and strength for our individual faith journeys. It is a reminder that we are part of a collective pursuit of faith, united by our devotion to God’s calling. We need to listen for the gentle whispers of God. We need to share our support with the wider community of believers, trusting in our interconnectedness and finding comfort in the knowledge that we are never truly alone on this journey of faith.