And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?’ –1 Kings 19:12b-13

Elijah was one of the most powerful prophets who ever lived. He declared the stopping of rain, called fire from Heaven, and raised the dead back to life. Yet he was still so incredibly human. He feared for his life when Jezebel wanted to kill him and became depressed to the point that he asked God to take his life. Right after a spiritual victory, this mighty man of God was in his most vulnerable state.

It is because of this state that I find his time with Yahweh very important. Elijah stood on the mountain, waiting for God’s next set of instructions to him when three powerful things happen. First, a great powerful wind tore the mountains apart, shattering the rocks. Then, an earthquake came. After that, fire charged the atmosphere. These were powerful demonstrations, so characteristic of the explosive power that the prophet was used to.

After this, the opposite happens—a gentle voice is heard; a gentle whisper. Even if the voice is gentle, Elijah is aware that it belongs to the God of the universe. The volume does not diminish the glory and majesty of Yahweh. In fact, it heightens it. To hear a whisper means to go close; to lean one’s ear to the source. It is a picture of intimacy. After all the power plays of Elijah; all the demonstrations, the utmost thing that mattered now was this: precious intimacy with the God of the universe where both parties could open their hearts to each other. Elijah comes out of the mouth of a cave, covering his face with his cloak. God’s presence is certainly glorious that the cloak must wrap Elijah’s face.

There is nothing wrong with the supernatural, powerful displays of God; nothing wrong, too, when His children give their lives to the service of the Great King. However, miracles and ministry can never substitute for intimacy.

As human beings, our lives will have moments of sadness, loneliness, fatigue. And in these moments, it is good for us to stand before God, bask in His presence, and listen to Him speak. After all, aren’t miracles and ministry all about Him?

How much do we seek God? How much do we crave His presence? When we continue on with the story of Elijah, we find that the one thing—the one material, tangible, thing— that Elijah leaves with Elisha (the prophet chosen to continue Elijah’s work in Israel) is his cloak (read 2 Kings 2). This very cloak or mantle that had covered Elijah’s face when God spoke to him is the cloak that Elisha swings to divide the Jordan River.

When Elisha swings the cloak, he asks, “Where is the LORD, the God of Elijah?” The Bible says that Elisha moved in the double portion anointing of Elijah. I do not doubt that Elisha knew of the secret of Elijah’s powerful life. In his hands was left a piece of the story; a key pointing to the secret: an intimacy with Yahweh where the voice of Yahweh is loved and known. Of course, having the cloak did not mean that intimacy could simply be passed down. Like any relationship, intimacy with God had to be cultivated PERSONALLY in Elisha’s life, just as it has to be cultivated personally in our lives. There are no shortcuts to seeking the face and the voice of God.

Power and service should never substitute for intimacy with our God. As believers, we must never forget that.