Lou: But what about some other instances in the Old Testament where God uses force? Let’s go back to Mount Carmel and Elijah. What about the fire that comes down, burns up the sacrifice and even the stones, and licks up the water in the trench. That’s pretty dramatic.
Graham: Now that’s a classic case because it’s so dramatic, the fire consuming everything. I remember as a boy thinking of the stones burning and the water being lapped up. It’s significant, though, that when all the excitement dies down, Elijah himself is depressed. The impact of dramatic events doesn’t last long, it doesn’t have staying power. And so Elijah ran away and hid in a cave. Then his spirits rose again when he felt the earthquake, and he heard the wind, and he saw the fire, and he thought God was approaching. So it’s very significant that the Bible says God was not in the wind, He was not in the earthquake, and He was not in the fire. After these things came the sound of a small silence, “the still small voice.” And Elijah was informed that that was the sound of God approaching. God is willing to use dramatic means when the circumstances call for it. But when He has a friend, there is no more wind, earthquake, and fire. Just the still, small voice of truth. And I’m impressed that soon after that Elijah was ready to be translated to heaven.
Lou: Does that same principle provide answers for some of the other stories that people have raised questions about?
Graham: There are stories like that seemingly without number. If this picture didn’t fit consistently, I wouldn’t find it very believable.
Lou: Well, what about the plagues of Egypt then? Think of the tension there! Isn’t judgment involved?
Graham: Yes, among other things. When God speak or acts He is usually saying several things at once with great skill. The Israelites themselves were tempted not to trust God, because in those days you measured your god by success on the battlefield or by personal and national prosperity. What kind of a God would be the God of a people in captivity? Meanwhile, the Egyptians thought their gods were stronger, because they had tyrannized the Israelites and their God. So the plagues came. Certainly it encouraged the Israelites to believe that maybe God could do something for them after all. As for the Egyptians, many of the plagues were directed toward their deities. So Exodus itself says that God was judging the gods of Egypt (Exod 12:12). Through the plagues He was demonstrating the weakness of the gods there. So God encouraged the beginning of Israel’s trust with a show of power. We often need to be convinced that He’s infinitely powerful before we will be willing to listen to him and follow Him, even when He speaks in a still, small voice. But why does God take so long to move from the thunder to the silence? Because some people prefer thunder all their lives.