So said Lead Pastor John Burke in a sermon preached recently at Gateway Church in Austin, Texas.
The sermon text was 1 Kings 19 of course, and Elijah’s encounter with God while he was running for his life from Queen Jezebel and had taken refuge in a cave in the wilderness near Beersheba in Judah. Here’s the story:
9 There he came to a cave and lodged in it. And behold, the word of the Lord came to him, and he said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 10 He said, “I have been very jealous for the Lord, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.” 11 And he said, “Go out and stand on the mount before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. 12 And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper. 13 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 19:9-13 (ESV) (Emphasis mine)
The main point of the sermon was that just as God spoke to Elijah in a whisper, he will speak to us the same way, prompting us to do certain things, or pursue a certain course of action. When God does prompt us by ‘divine whispers’, we need to be able to discern that it’s the actual voice of God. In the Pastor’s own words:
“God will use his Word to confirm His promptings.”
There are three principles to apply in our ‘discerning’.
- are not self-centered,
- ·are aligned with scripture
- ·agree with the wise counsel of other believers
I’m not going to get into the rest of the sermon, largely a litany Bible passages ripped out of context mixed with Pastor John’s personal experiences with divine whispers from God. I just have a couple of questions..
If Ezekiel had absolutely no problem knowing it was the voice of God, both inside and outside of the cave and according to Pastor John, God whispers personally to us in the same way, why wouldn’t we know that it was God? Do you think that God would personally speak to anyone and not make it really clear that he was the one speaking?
If you can find a single instance in the Bible of God speaking personally to anyone, no matter how loudly or quietly, and the hearer not immediately knowing exactly who it was, I want to know.