Don’t Skip the Still, Small Voice of God

Pastor Jeff Struecker

I want to ask you, have you ever heard the voice of God? Would you know how to recognize it when you heard it? What does the voice of God sound like? 


I’m going to give you a quick Bible story to help to explain the voice of God. This comes from the book of 1 Kings 19. In this Bible story, there is a great prophet from the Old Testament, a guy who has watched what has been happening in his country and it’s breaking his heart. His people have stopped listening to the voice of God. They’ve started listening to other voices around them to the point that they can no longer hear God’s voice because they have been so in tune to hearing other voices.


This prophet, by the name of Elijah, decides this can’t continue. He decides something has to change, and so he calls for a showdown, quite literally, on Mount Carmel: “Bring all of the prophets of the false god, Baal, all 450 of them. Have them meet me on the mountain, and by the way, while you’re at it, why don’t you ask for the 400 prophets from the false idol, Asherah, to meet me on the mountain?” 


He gets all of Israel together, and he says, “Which one is really God? Which one speaks? Which one still moves? If it’s Baal, then worship Baal, but if it’s the God of the Bible, then worship Him.”


Elijah throws down the gauntlet and says, “Here’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to set up a sacrifice, a sacrifice to the false idol, Baal, and a sacrifice to the God of the Bible. We’re going to see which God still speaks, which God still moves today.” 


One man challenges 450, at least 450 false prophets, maybe 850. After taunting and after this raw display of power, after the fire of God falls in front of the people of Israel, Elijah says, “The God of the Bible, He is God. Now, you go grab those false prophets, and you go kill them for speaking a lie and for false prophecy.”


Elijah makes the first lady of the land very mad. She puts a death threat out for Elijah, and now Elijah is on the run. Quite literally, he’s hiding in a cave in the mountain, and Elijah is running for his life. He starts to pray. When he prays, the fire of God falls on this mountain, and if you were to go back and read 1 Kings, it’s an awesome display of power. But the Bible says the voice of God was not in the fire. 


Elijah’s in a cave. Picture this in your mind for just a second. There’s an earthquake on the mountain. I don’t know if you’ve ever been in an earthquake, but it would be pretty terrifying to be in a cave on a mountain during an earthquake. But the voice of God is not in the earthquake. Finally, a wind so strong that it’s about to split the rocks in two comes, and the voice of God is not in the wind.


If you know the Bible story, in the midst of all of this chaos happening around them, Elijah hears a whisper, what the Bible calls a still, small voice, a very small voice, and Elijah covers his head as he comes out of the cave. And the Lord speaks to him in this whisper, in a small voice. 


If you have the kind of life right now where everything is chaotic, everything is going crazy around you, and today you’re saying, “Jeff, I need to hear from the Lord today,” well, I want to give you a challenge. This is what I want you to hear from the Bible today. When we open up the Bible and we look at Amos 2, don’t be so busy that you miss it. Don’t be so preoccupied that you skip over this still, small voice from God, the voice that Elijah was able to hear when he was on the mountainside.


Don’t skip over still, small voice of God.


We’re going to learn a little bit about prophecy. In order to help you understand a little bit about prophecy, we’re going to go back and learn about this prophet, Amos. Amos is just a regular dude like you. He is a sheep breeder. He actually comes from a region called Tekoa. 


Tekoa is this ranching land in Judah just a few miles south of Bethlehem. Everything to the north is called Samaria, or sometimes referred to as Israel in the north; Judah is in the south. Amos is just doing his job, just breeding sheep, and all of a sudden, God pokes on Amos’ heart and starts to show Amos about what’s happening in the land around him. 


First, God speaks to Amos, and like it normally happens when God starts to speak to a person. Amos can’t get this voice out of his heart, and then pretty soon God starts to speak through this him. God starts to speak to the nations around him.


When you hear the word prophecy, I want you to think two things in your mind. Sometimes prophecy refers to telling people what’s going to happen ahead of time. That’s called fore-telling prophecy. But often in the Bible, prophecy is the second part; it’s forth-telling. It’s telling people what is happening and how God feels about what’s happening right now. In the Book of Amos, you see them both. You see God tell Amos how he feels about what’s happening right now and what he’s going to do in the future because of it.


Just a quick note: I think sometimes when you read about this gift of prophecy in the New Testament, I think it is much more often when God speaks through a person about how he feels right now, rather than telling people what’s going to happen in the future. 


Ghosted God


God speaks. He speaks to his people, and sometimes we can be so preoccupied that we miss it. So, I’ve got a couple of challenges for us today when God is trying to communicate with His people. Here’s the first challenge: Don’t ghost God. Don’t be the kind of person that just blows off the text or doesn’t return the phone calls when God is reaching out to us and God is trying to get our attention because in the Old Testament, God often tries to get the attention of his people through a prophet. 

 

God chose this really unusual guy, a guy just like you, to go be his mouthpiece to all of the nations around him. That takes a lot of courage when you’re talking to some really powerful kings and criticizing foreign armies. It takes even more courage for Amos to go talk to his own friends, his own countrymen. 


He’s going to talk to his own brothers, and he’s going to tell them how God feels about what they’re doing. I want you to hear how God is trying to communicate with his people. This is Amos 2. We’re going to start reading in verse four. 


The Lord says: I will not relent from punishing Judah for three crimes, even four, because they have rejected the instruction of the Lord and have not kept his statutes. The lies that their ancestors followed have led them astray. Therefore, I will send fire against Judah, and it will consume the citadels of Jerusalem.


Those words are literal when God makes that announcement at the end of verse five. You see, Amos is just doing his job. Amos is just breeding sheep, and all of a sudden, God comes to him and speaks to this man. If you missed our first message in this Bible book, I need you to go back last week and listen to that broadcast because last week we started in Amos 1:1, and we went all the way to Amos 2:3. 


Six different announcements to six different cities and countries completely surrounding Israel, and Amos explained, “God knows what’s going on. God understands how bad you’ve treated his people, and he is not going to stand for it forever. He will respond.”


I ended that sermon last week on purpose at verse three, because today, God speaks to Israel and to Judah. If you were to go compare what you hear today from last week, you would notice something very different. You see, to these foreign armies, God criticizes the way that they treated Israel; God criticizes the kings for their actions, but in Israel, in Judah, God criticizes them for the condition of their heart. 


You need to understand that God judges these people, the people of Judah, based on their relationship. God is saying, “I’m trying to communicate with you, and it looks like you just don’t want to hear from me.”In fact, this is what he’s saying today: “Instead of listening to my voice, you’ve been listening to lies and because you keep listening to lies, eventually, you don’t even know how to hear my voice. And when I try to speak to you, you can’t hear it. You can’t understand it.” 


Notice, God is saying, “I gave my children an unprecedented relationship with me, and I wanted to be close to them. I wanted to hear from them. I wanted to talk to them, and here’s what you did: You ghosted me.” If you don’t know what this phrase means, I’ve got teenagers living at home, and I have to ask them how to describe this. 


It’s basically when you blow off the text messages of somebody who keeps trying to call you. You know, that telemarketer who says, “We’ve been trying to reach you for weeks about the warranty on your vehicle that’s about to expire.” Well, it’s one thing to blow off that phone call, would y’all admit? It is totally different thing to blow off a phone call or a text message from your spouse. You don’t treat that kind of communications like you do a telemarketer. 


What God is saying is: “You would treat your spouse differently than a total stranger. I would expect you to listen to me. I would expect you to hear from me and to respond to my voice. This is the relationship above every other relationship that you should be willing to hear from and willing to respond to, and this is the relationship that you blew off.” 


You see, what God is really criticizing Judah for is not her actions; it’s criticizing the people, Amos’ neighbors, and Amos’ own cousins for the condition of their heart: “When I wanted to talk to you, you weren’t willing to listen, and the reason you couldn’t hear my voice is because you were too busy listening to lies. And when I tried to give you the truth, you couldn’t hear it.”


You see, Amos would have been a great representative of 2 Cities. He is a guy who was just living his life and doing his job when God speaks to him. And then all of a sudden, God not only speaks to him, but God speaks through him. When you hear the name, “2 Cities,” when you see that logo, I need you to understand what that name represents. 


It’s saying that those of us who belong to the Lord Jesus Christ, are living in two cities at the exact same time. Our first and our most important responsibility is to be good citizens of the city of God, to hear from our father and to listen to what he has to say, to be willing to hear his voice.


But we don’t just live waiting for heaven. We also live in a second city. We live in this city here on Earth. And while we’re here, we’re supposed to make an impact for the people around us. In fact, if you look at our logo, we’re trying to help people that are living in the city of darkness become citizens of two cities as well, to go from the city of darkness to the city of light, and belong both to the city of God and the city of man at the same time, until God calls his children home.


Amos is just breeding sheep and just doing his job when God says, “Amos, can I tell you how I feel about your brothers? Can I show you how I feel about what’s happening in your neighborhood, Amos?” When Amos feels God stepping on his chest and hears from God, he can’t sit on it anymore. He’s got to speak out and announce a very unpopular message: “Hey y’all, you have ghosted God, and pretty soon, it’s going to be too late to hear His voice.”

Lived in Lust


That’s Amos’ message to Judah in the south, but God also wants Amos to communicate to Israel in the north, and here’s what he wants Israel, God’s children in the north, to hear: “You’ve been living in lust. I wanted your heart, but you couldn’t hear from me. You couldn’t hear me in your heart because your heart was already preoccupied with something else.” 


When y’all hear the Bible word “lust,” it often refers to something of the flesh, sexual desire, but it’s not always that. In fact, sometimes the word “lust” just refers to a thing that has your heart and it has got all of your attention. There’s a good example of this in the Bible, in Colossians 3, where the word lust is associated with idolatry, impurity, and adultery. 


Sometimes we lust after things that we’re not supposed to have. Sometimes it’s lusting after a married man or a married woman, or sometimes you’re lusting after something that’s illegal. But oftentimes, if we’re honest, what we lust after, what our hearts really long for, is stuff that’s not necessarily off-limits; it’s just never supposed to be that important. 


It’s maybe a big promotion and it’s got all of your attention. Or maybe it’s fame, and you post that picture on social media that nobody else in the world should see, but your spouse. You do it because you’re addicted to the likes and all of the responses that come along with it. Your heart is lusting after something that is taking the place of God. We all have a heart that will quickly start to lust after something that it’s not supposed to if we’re not really, really careful about it.


Now, I want you to listen to the list of lusts from God’s own children in Israel to the north in Amos 2, starting in verse six, because here’s what the Lord says to Amos’ cousins living up north:


The Lord says: I will not relent from punishing Israel for three crimes, even four, because they sell a righteous person for silver and a needy person for a pair of sandals. They trample the heads of the poor on the dust of the ground and obstruct the path of the needy. A man and his father have sexual relations with the same girl, profaning my holy name. They stretch out beside every altar on garments taken as collateral, and in the house of their God they drink wine obtained through fines.


Basically, the heart here is twisted, and it’s running after money, or perhaps it’s twisted and it can only think about sex, or maybe it’s alcohol, or some kind of temporary high, and that’s all that you can think about and your heart keeps rushing after it. Until the heart changes, the actions are not going to change, and God is saying, “I really wanted to be the thing that preoccupies your heart, but your heart’s full with something else, and so it can’t hear from me.”


In the New Testament, in Colossians 3:5, this word lust as I said a moment ago, is associated with impurity. It’s associated with idolatry, worshiping false idols. It’s associated with adultery, having somebody who you’re not married to. Then the Bible says this next in Colossians 3:5. It’s fascinating what it says next: “Put to death the desires of the flesh.” 


It’s using war language, and it’s basically saying every Christian is in a gunfight, and somebody’s going to win; somebody’s going to lose. Somebody’s going to live; somebody’s going to die. The only way to really tackle lust is to treat it like this thing is going to kill me. It’s like a massive heart attack. It’s going to kill me if I don’t protect my heart from it.


So Colossians is challenging Christians: You’ve got to kill lust before lust kills you because all of us have this heart that is an idol factory, and it will start to turn any created thing into an idol if we’re not careful. Colossians says it this way: “If you’re not killing the desires of the flesh, then eventually, the desires of the flesh can kill you.”


Here’s what I just want to challenge you to do. You probably need to do this: Tomorrow morning when you wake up, before your feet even hit the floor, before you get out of bed, just simply admit something to God that he already knows:


“Hey God. I need your help today because I know my heart and I know my heart will start to chase after something that it’s not supposed to chase after and it will put that in your place. So Holy Spirit, I need Your help today. I need your help to kill what’s inside of me so that you can live in its place, because if I don’t put it to death, then you don’t live in its place. And God, I need your help today, so before I even hit the floor and before I even take off running, would you help me put this heart mine in check? God, here it is. Here’s my heart. It’s twisted and it’s wicked, and I need your help to keep this heart pure and to keep this heart holy.” 


That is a prayer that most of us need to pray every morning before your feet hit the floor because that prayer is the prayer that protects you before you end up going down a road that you really have no business going down. That’s the prayer that helps you put to death the desires of the flesh.


Rejected a relationship with Jesus   


Here’s how the chapter ends. This is God’s final announcement to the nation of Israel to the north: “The real sin is not just that you blew me off, you ghosted me when I tried to get in your attention, and you didn’t want to hear from me. It wasn’t just that your heart was full and that you had no room for me because your heart was already chasing after other things, because you were lusting after the things. The real sin here is that you rejected the relationship. -not a relationship. This is the relationship, when you rejected a relationship with Jesus”


The language that the Bible is using with “a relationship with Jesus,” is covenant language. We don’t use that word covenant very often. It usually only shows up in a marriage ceremony. It is a solemn vow for life, and if I don’t live up to my end of the vow, then why don’t you go ahead and kill me? God enters into a covenant with his people, and God wants his people to respect this covenant. Instead, in Amos 2, they broke their end of the covenant.


Let’s pick up in verse nine and just cruise through to the rest of the chapter. Here’s what God’s words are to Israel: “Hey, Israel. Let me remind you what I did for you.” Amos 2:9: 


Yet I destroyed the Amorite as Israel advanced; his height was like the cedars, and he was as sturdy as the oaks; I destroyed his fruit above and his roots beneath. And I brought you from the land of Egypt and led you forty years in the wilderness in order to possess the land of the Amorite. I raised up some of your sons as prophets and some of your young men as Nazirites. Is this not the case, Israelites? This is the Lord’s declaration. But you made the Nazirites drink wine and commanded the prophets, “Do not prophesy.” Look, I am about to crush you in your place as a wagon crushes when full of grain. Escape will fail the swift, the strong one will not maintain his strength, and the warrior will not save his life. The archer will not stand his ground, the one who is swift of foot will not save himself, and the one riding a horse will not save his life. Even the most courageous of the warriors will flee naked on that day— this is the Lord’s declaration.


God is saying, “You thought that you accomplished all of this on your own. Let me remind you of when I delivered your ancestors out of slavery in Egypt. Let me remind you of when I led them through the desert. Let me remind you, when they entered the Promised Land, they were outmatched and outgunned at every possible level, and I gave them victory everywhere. And then they took that victory and turned it into a license to live however they wanted. They blew me off, and so I wanted get their attention. This is what I did next: I raised up some of your sons as prophets and some of your young men as Nazarites.”


If you don’t recognize that word Nazarite, it’s a guy who walked through the land, and by his very appearance, you could tell this was a holy man. They weren’t able to touch the dead. They weren’t able to drink any wine. They weren’t able to cut their beards. They all looked like the guys on Duck Dynasty, and everybody knew that these guys were different. These guys represented God. 


Listen to what God says next, this is the Lord’s declaration: “But you made the Nazarites drink wine and commanded the prophets, ‘Do not prophesy.’” Those words basically say, “We don’t want to hear from God anymore.” 


God is about to crush them. “Israel, you thought that because you had a strong, powerful army, you were protected from your enemies, but that’s not the case. I was protecting you and you were trusting in your armies, so now I’m going to take away the very thing that you were trusting in. And when you don’t have the thing that you are trusting in anymore, now, you are totally vulnerable. Israel, I was calling to you, and Israel, I was trying to get your attention. Israel, I led you through the wilderness and I tried to have this intimate relationship with you, and you didn’t want it. In fact, you started trusting in your armies. I gave your armies victory when they went to war against the Amorites, people that were much bigger and much stronger. I gave them victory, and you started trusting in your armies instead of me. So I’m going to take your armies away from you. I sent people to speak to you and to try to get your attention so that you would hear my voice, and you didn’t want to listen to them anymore. So now I’m going to send foreign armies to invade you, and I’m going to get your attention, but it’s going to hurt really, really bad.” 


God is reminding his people, “I entered into a covenant with you, and that covenant said I will be your God and you will be my people. And I will speak to you, and you will listen. I will bless you, but if you break your end of the bargain, all of the things that happened to foreign armies around you, I will do this to you.”


When the people of God take communion, it is really reaffirming the covenant with God. It is saying that God paid my price with blood. He used the blood of his Son, Jesus. He used the body of his Son, Jesus, to make me right with him. That’s how much God loves me. That’s how much God wants to be in a relationship with me, and God asks me to surrender in return.


The surrender that he’s asking for from me is to lay it all down, body, soul, present, future, to turn it all over to God in return. Sometimes, even though God has purchased us and entered into a relationship with us, sometimes our attention can get turned somewhere else to the point that we no longer can hear from the voice of God, we no longer remember what it took in order for our sins to be made right.