What is the still small voice?


By BibleAsk Team

The concept of the “still small voice” originates from a profound narrative in the Old Testament, specifically in the book of 1 Kings in the Bible. To understand the meaning and significance of the still small voice, it’s essential to delve into the context of this passage, examine its broader theological implications, and consider its relevance for contemporary spirituality.

The Still Small Voice

The story of the still small voice is found in 1 Kings 19:11-13, where the prophet Elijah encounters God on Mount Horeb:

“Then He said, ‘Go out, and stand on the mountain before the Lord.’ And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces 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. So it was, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood in the entrance of the cave. Suddenly a voice came to him, and said, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?'”

This passage follows a dramatic confrontation between Elijah and the prophets of the pagan god Baal on Mount Carmel, where Elijah demonstrates the power of the true God by calling down fire from heaven. However, immediately afterward, Elijah flees for his life when Queen Jezebel threatens to kill him. He ends up in the wilderness, deeply discouraged and feeling abandoned by God.

In his despair, Elijah seeks an encounter with God, and God responds not with grand displays of power, but with a gentle whisper—a still small voice. This quiet voice contrasts sharply with the preceding manifestations of wind, earthquake, and fire, highlighting the intimacy and subtlety of God’s communication with His prophet.

The significance of the still small voice lies in its representation of God’s presence and communication in moments of stillness and quietude. It suggests that God is not always found in the spectacular and the extraordinary but often speaks to us in the ordinary and the mundane. The still small voice speaks to the heart through His Word rather than the senses, inviting reflection, discernment, and receptivity to God’s guidance.

Theological Insights

The story of Elijah’s encounter with the still small voice offers several important theological insights:

  1. God’s Transcendence and Immanence: The passage underscores the paradox of God’s transcendence and immanence. While God is sovereign and majestic, capable of commanding the forces of nature, He also draws near to His creatures in intimacy and gentleness through His Word.
  2. Divine Communication: The still small voice exemplifies one of the ways in which God communicates with humanity as they reflect on His Word. Although God can speak through extraordinary signs and wonders, He often chooses to speak through quiet whispers, prompting us to cultivate attentiveness and sensitivity to His presence and His revealed will in the Scriptures.
  3. Humility and Surrender: Elijah’s response to the still small voice—covering his face with his mantle—reflects an attitude of humility and reverence in the presence of God. It symbolizes the need for surrender and openness to God’s leading, even when it comes in unexpected ways.
  4. Listening: Elijah’s role is characterized not only by boldness and confrontation but also by receptivity and listening. The still small voice reminds us of the need not only to speak the truth but listen for God’s voice in the quiet moments of reflection and prayer upon His holy Word.
  5. God’s Personal Concern: The question God poses to Elijah—”What are you doing here, Elijah?”—reveals God’s personal concern for His servant. Despite Elijah’s despair and self-pity, God reaches out to him with understanding and compassion, inviting him to articulate his feelings and concerns.

The story of the still small voice has profound implications for spiritual growth and discernment in the Christian life. It is not always the most powerful presentation of God’s truth that convicts and converts the soul. Not by persuasive arguments or logic are men’s hearts touched, but by the sweet influences of the Holy Spirit, which falls gently and transforms the soul and develops a new character.

It challenges us to cultivate practices of silence, solitude, and contemplation on the Scriptures, creating space for God to speak to us in the depths of our souls. It also encourages us to pay attention to the subtle ways in which God may be guiding and directing us, even amidst the noise and distractions of everyday life.

New Testament Perspective

In the New Testament, Jesus often withdrew to solitary places to pray and meditate upon God’s Word (Luke 5:16), modeling the importance of stillness and communion with the Father. Similarly, the apostle Paul encourages believers to “be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10), recognizing the transformative power of encountering God in moments of quietude and reflection.


Practically speaking, cultivating attentiveness to the still small voice requires discipline and intentionality. It involves creating space in our lives for prayer, meditation, and reflection on the Scriptures, away from the noise and distractions that often drown out God’s voice. It also entails developing the capacity to discern between the still small voice of God and the competing voices of our own desires, fears, and distractions.

Moreover, the still small voice challenges us to listen not only to God’s voice speaking to us individually but also to the collective voice of the Spirit speaking through the Bible believing church. This communal discernment helps to safeguard against individual biases and misconceptions, ensuring that our understanding of God’s will is grounded in the wisdom and discernment of the body of Christ.

In conclusion, the still small voice represents a transformative aspect of God’s communication as His children contemplate on His Word. It reminds us of God’s presence and accessibility in the quiet moments of our lives, inviting us into deeper intimacy with Him. As we cultivate attentiveness to the still small voice of the Holy Spirit, may we experience the transformative power of encountering God in the depths of our souls, guiding and directing us in the paths of righteousness and truth.

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In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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