Lesson 28: “After the Fire a Still Small Voice”

Old Testament: Gospel Doctrine Teacher’s Manual, (2001), 134–38


Purpose

To encourage class members to put God first in their lives and to find guidance and comfort in the words of the living prophet and the whisperings of the Holy Ghost.

Preparation

  1. 1.

    Prayerfully study the following scriptures:

    1. a.

      1 Kings 17. Elijah seals the heavens against rain, flees from Ahab and Jezebel, and is miraculously sustained in the wilderness (17:1–6). The Lord sends Elijah to a widow who gives him food and water (17:7–16). Elijah raises the widow’s son from the dead (17:17–24).

    2. b.

      1 Kings 18. After more than two years of famine, Elijah meets with Ahab and challenges the priests of Baal to call down fire from heaven to consume their sacrifice (18:1–2, 17–24). The priests of Baal fail in their attempts, but Elijah prays and the Lord sends down fire to consume the sacrifice he has prepared (18:25–40). Elijah prays to end the famine, and the Lord sends rain (18:41–46).

    3. c.

      1 Kings 19. Jezebel tries to kill Elijah (19:1–2). Elijah flees into the wilderness and is fed by an angel (19:3–8). Elijah goes to Horeb, where he is comforted by the Holy Ghost and instructed to continue in God’s work (19:9–19).

  2. 2.

    Ask a class member to prepare to give a brief report on Elijah’s confrontation with the priests of Baal (1 Kings 18:17–40).

Suggested Lesson Development

Attention Activity

You may want to use the following activity (or one of your own) to begin the lesson.

Share the following story told by Elder Thomas S. Monson:

“Born in poverty but nurtured in faith, [José García] prepared for a mission call. I was present the day his recommendation was received. There appeared the statement: ‘Brother García will serve at great sacrifice to his family, for he is the means of much of the family support. He has but one possession—a treasured stamp collection—which he is willing to sell, if necessary, to help finance his mission.’

“President [Spencer W.] Kimball listened attentively as this statement was read to him, and then he responded: ‘Have him sell his stamp collection. Such sacrifice will be to him a blessing.’”

Invite class members to think about how they would react if they were asked to give up all their possessions to serve the Lord. Then continue with the story:

“Then, with a twinkle in his eye and a smile on his face, this loving prophet said, ‘Each month at Church headquarters we receive thousands of letters from all parts of the world. See that we save these stamps and provide them to José at the conclusion of his mission. He will have, without cost, the finest stamp collection of any young man in Mexico’” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1978, 83; or Ensign, Nov. 1978, 56).

Explain that when we put the things of God first in our lives, the rewards we receive are far greater than anything we may have to sacrifice along the way. This lesson tells about two people—Elijah and the widow of Zarephath—who received great blessings because they were willing to follow God even when it was difficult to do so.

Scripture Discussion and Application

As you teach the following scripture passages, discuss how they apply to daily life. Encourage class members to share experiences that relate to the scriptural principles.

After Jeroboam led the kingdom of Israel into idolatry, he and his descendants were destroyed. They were followed by another succession of idolatrous kings. Of those rulers, Ahab was the king who “did more to provoke the Lord God of Israel to anger than all the kings of Israel that were before him” (1 Kings 16:33). He married Jezebel, adopted her practice of Baal worship, and encouraged his people to join him in the worship of this false god. The prophet Elijah delivered words of warning to Ahab and his kingdom.

1. Elijah seals up the heavens, is miraculously sustained, and raises a widow’s son from the dead.

Teach and discuss 1 Kings 17.

  • Because of the wickedness of Ahab and his people, Elijah declared, “There shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word” (1 Kings 17:1; italics added). Why was Elijah able to make such a statement? (You may want to compare Elijah to Nephi, the son of Helaman, who was given a similar power. The Lord’s reasons for allowing all things to be done according to Nephi’s words are found in Helaman 10:4–5.)

  • After Elijah declared that no rain would fall in the kingdom, the Lord commanded him to flee. How did Elijah respond to the Lord’s command? (See 1 Kings 17:2–5.) What can we learn from Elijah’s response?

    Elder Gordon B. Hinckley said:

    “I draw strength from a simple statement made concerning the Prophet Elijah, who warned King Ahab of drought and famine to come upon the land. But Ahab scoffed. And the Lord told Elijah to go and hide himself by the brook Cherith, that there he should drink of the brook, and that he would be fed by the ravens. And the scripture records a simple and wonderful statement: ‘So he went and did according unto the word of the Lord.’ (1 Kings 17:5.)

    “There was no arguing. There was no excusing. There was no equivocating. Elijah simply ‘went and did according unto the word of the Lord.’ And he was saved from the terrible calamities that befell those who scoffed and argued and questioned” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1971, 159; or Ensign, Dec. 1971, 123–24).

  • How did Elijah survive in the wilderness after the drought began? (See 1 Kings 17:4, 6.) What experiences have you had when the Lord has sustained you physically or spiritually?

  • Whom had the Lord prepared to help Elijah after the brook in the wilderness dried up? (See 1 Kings 17:7–13.) What can this teach us about how the Lord helps those in need? (Explain that the Lord often helps those in need through the service of other people.) How have you seen the Lord help those in need through the service of other people? What can we do to help others who are in need?

    Elder Jeffrey R. Holland said: “I know we can each do something, however small that act may seem to be. We can pay an honest tithe and give our fast and freewill offerings. … And we can watch for other ways to help. To worthy causes and needy people, we can give time if we don’t have money, and we can give love when our time runs out. We can share the loaves we have and trust God that the cruse of oil will not fail” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1996, 41; or Ensign, May 1996, 31).

  • How did the widow respond to Elijah’s request for some water to drink? (See 1 Kings 17:10–11. She went without hesitation.) What did the widow say when Elijah asked her for food? (See 1 Kings 17:11–12.) What did Elijah promise her? (See 1 Kings 17:13–14.) What did the widow then do? (See 1 Kings 17:15.) What can we learn from the widow’s response?

    Elder Holland said that the widow’s response when Elijah asked her for food was an “expression of faith—as great, under these circumstances, as any I know in the scriptures. … Perhaps uncertain what the cost of her faith would be … , she first took her small loaf to Elijah, obviously trusting that if there were not enough bread left over, at least she and her son would have died in an act of pure charity” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1996, 39; or Ensign, May 1996, 29).

  • Why do you think God commanded the widow to feed Elijah when she had so little? What blessing did the widow receive for her obedience? (See 1 Kings 17:16.) What are some things that God asks of us that might be difficult? In what ways are we blessed when we put God first, doing what he asks even when it is difficult?

    President Ezra Taft Benson taught:

    “When we put God first, all other things fall into their proper place or drop out of our lives. Our love of the Lord will govern the claims for our affection, the demands on our time, the interests we pursue, and the order of our priorities. …

    “May God bless us to put [him] first and, as a result, reap peace in this life and eternal life with a fulness of joy in the life to come” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1988, 3, 6; or Ensign, May 1988, 4, 6).

  • What did Elijah do when the widow’s son became sick and died? (See 1 Kings 17:17–22.) By what power was Elijah able to bring the widow’s son back to life? How has your life been blessed through the power of the priesthood?

2. Elijah challenges the priests of Baal and opens the heavens for rain.

Teach and discuss 1 Kings 18.

  • In the third year of the famine, the Lord commanded Elijah, “Go [show] thyself to Ahab; and I will send rain upon the earth” (1 Kings 18:1). How did Ahab react when he saw Elijah? (See 1 Kings 18:17. Point out that Ahab blamed Elijah for the famine.) What was the real cause of the famine? (See 1 Kings 18:18.)

  • As Elijah had requested, Ahab gathered all of Israel and 850 false priests at Mount Carmel (1 Kings 18:19–20). When the people gathered to hear Elijah speak, he asked them, “How long halt ye between two opinions?” (1 Kings 18:21). What do you think it means to halt between two opinions? How do we sometimes halt between two opinions? (See Matthew 6:24. Point out that the word mammon refers to worldliness.)

    Elder Neal A. Maxwell said: “The stirring words of various prophets … urge us to choose, to decide, and not to halt. … Elijah’s message has tremendous relevancy today, for all must finally choose between the gods of this world and the God of eternity” (That My Family Should Partake [1974], 22).

Have the assigned class member give a brief report on Elijah’s confrontation with the priests of Baal (1 Kings 18:17–40).

3. Elijah is comforted by the Holy Ghost and instructed to continue in God’s work.

Teach and discuss 1 Kings 19.

Angry about Elijah’s victory over the priests of Baal, Jezebel sought to kill him. Elijah fled into the wilderness and cried to the Lord, saying, “It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life” (1 Kings 19:4). The Lord blessed Elijah by sending an angel with food and water. You may want to point out that even prophets can experience despair and need the comfort and guidance that only God can provide.

  • Why was Elijah discouraged? (See 1 Kings 19:10, 14. Despite the people’s response to God’s spectacular display of power, Elijah felt that he was the only Israelite left who worshiped the true God.) What did he do to gain peace? (See 1 Kings 19:4, 8. He prayed and fasted.) What can we learn from Elijah’s experience to help us if we feel discouraged, depressed, or despairing?

  • How did God comfort Elijah on Mount Horeb? (See 1 Kings 19:9–13.) What can we learn from this about how God communicates with us? Why do you think God communicates more often through the “still small voice” of the Holy Ghost than through loud and spectacular displays of power? How can we discern the whisperings of the Holy Ghost?

    When a news reporter asked President Hinckley how he communicates with God, the prophet responded, “I think the best way I could describe the process is to liken it to the experience of Elijah as set forth in the book of First Kings. Elijah spoke to the Lord, and there was a wind, a great wind, and the Lord was not in the wind. And there was an earthquake, and the Lord was not in the earthquake. And there was a fire, and the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire a still, small voice, which I describe as the whisperings of the Spirit” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1996, 71; or Ensign, Nov. 1996, 51).

    President Ezra Taft Benson taught: “Do you take time to listen to the promptings of the Spirit? Answers to prayer come most often by a still voice and are discerned by our deepest, innermost feelings. I tell you that you can know the will of God concerning yourselves if you will take the time to pray and to listen” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1977, 46; or Ensign, Nov. 1977, 32).

  • Besides being the Comforter, the Holy Ghost is also a teacher (John 14:26; 2 Nephi 32:5). What did the Lord—through the Holy Ghost—instruct Elijah to do? (See 1 Kings 19:15–16.) How can serving the Lord help us when we are discouraged?

  • One way the Lord comforted Elijah was by telling him that there were still many Israelites who had not adopted the worship of Baal (1 Kings 19:18). How can fellowship with other faithful Latter-day Saints comfort us? What influences do you have around you that help you know you are not alone? What can you do to help others when they feel alone?

Conclusion

Testify that we will be comforted and guided as we put God first and heed the whisperings of the Holy Ghost.

Additional Teaching Idea

The following material supplements the suggested lesson outline. You may want to use it as part of the lesson.

The Spirit of Elijah

Latter-day Saints often talk about the Spirit of Elijah. This phrase refers to the work we do “to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the children to the fathers” (D&C 110:15). This work includes family history research and temple work for the living and the dead. We call it the Spirit of Elijah because Elijah restored the keys of the sealing power of the priesthood to Joseph Smith (D&C 110:13–16). Through this power, sealing ordinances can be performed that unite families for eternity.

Joseph Smith said:

“The spirit, power, and calling of Elijah is, that ye have power to hold the key of the revelations, ordinances, oracles, powers and endowments of the fulness of the Melchizedek Priesthood and of the kingdom of God on the earth; and to receive, obtain, and perform all the ordinances belonging to the kingdom of God, even unto the turning of the hearts of the fathers unto the children, and the hearts of the children unto the fathers, even those who are in heaven. …

“I wish you to understand this subject, for it is important; and if you receive it, this is the spirit of Elijah, that we redeem our dead, and connect ourselves with our fathers which are in heaven, and seal up our dead to come forth in the first resurrection; and here we want the power of Elijah to seal those who dwell on earth to those who dwell in heaven. This is the power of Elijah and the keys of the kingdom of Jehovah” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith [1976], 337–38).