The First Book of Kings tells of God speaking to Elijah in a “still, small voice.” Specifically, 1 Kings 19:11-13 says, “And, behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake 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: And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.”
We often think of God speaking to us in dramatic, cataclysmic fashion: Moses and the Burning Bush, for example, or the Temple Veil being torn in two at the moment of Christ’s death on the cross. Often, however, God speaks to us is in a “still, small voice,” evident in the most subtle ways. One only must listen to hear it.
When I was a very young child, my mother would read stories to me at bedtime. Many of these were Bible stories. I was always intrigued by these. There was a mystic quality to each of them, a prevailing undercurrent of something greater. One of the stories which most intrigued me was the tale of Abraham being asked by God to sacrifice Isaac, his only son—and of his being willing to do so.
The idea seemed horrific to me. I imagined my own father, to whom I was very close, being asked to do that— I could not see him going through with it, not for anything in the world.
“Why would Abraham be willing to do that?” I asked.
“Because he loved God. And he had faith that the God would provide for him as long as he obeyed.”
“That still seems awful,” I said, imagining my father, his eyes oddly dark and maniacal, brandishing a long, silver-bladed sacrificial knife.
“Well, God did not make Abraham go through with it. But God did send Jesus, his only son, to sacrifice Himself for our sins.”
“Why did God do that?”
“Because He loves us,” she said.
“Why does God love us?”
“Because we are his creation. God loves us all just because we exist.”
“Even the bad people?” I asked.
“Even the bad people,” Mama said.
The fundamental concept of love can be a difficult one for humans to grasp. All too often, in modern society, love and physical attraction are inextricably intertwined. The ancient Greeks spoke of different types of love: Eros, which is derived from sexual passion; Philia, or affectionate regard, the sort of love one has between friends; Storge, or the love between a parent and child; Philautia, or self-love, expressed as the ability to have regard for one’s own happiness and advantage; and Xenia, which is simple hospitality, often to strangers, as a moral obligation. But God’s love for humanity is something different. It is an amalgamation of several of the non-sexual types of love, an unconditional regard for each of us as living creatures. It illustrates our worth both to God and to one another. And it is that sort of love that is the foundation of the Christian faith.
The seminal part of this is contained in John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.”
God’s love for us is reflected in the unconditional love a mother has for a child, or grandparents for their grandchildren. It is the essence of Christian charity, the foundation of compassion, and the flame which illuminates all good relationships. Without love, life has little meaning. With love, life is exhilarating, boundless and eternal, transcending all mortal boundaries. I have only to see the broad smile on my granddaughter Violet’s face as she runs to greet me to understand the singular nature of love’s vital miracle. It is a gossamer thread which binds us to one another inextricably, defining us both as Christians and as human beings.
Indeed, Love is the actual “Word of God.”
- Mark Murphy
Click here to listen to Perry Como sing "A Still, Small Voice."