So often, the stories that pop up from the Old Testament are full of big flash and all kinds of special effects. Just yesterday I looked at the Plagues of Egypt and how God specifically used these major events to communicate something very deliberate about the gods of Egypt and to encourage the Egyptian king to let His people go. We love special effects. Games we play are full of big flair and powerful exhibitions. Being huge, larger than life characters with awe-inspiring power feels great! What I find fascinating is that sometimes the big and flashy takes a back seat to something more deep and real. This is most clearly depicted in one of my favorite stories of the Old Testament.
“The angel of the Lord came back a second time and touched him and said, ‘Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.’ So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God. There he went into a cave and spent the night. And the word of the Lord came to him: ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’ He replied, ‘I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.’ The Lord said, ‘Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.’ Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. 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 19:7-13 NIV)
Elijah was a prophet of God, which means that he was tasked with speaking for God and working in His interests on Earth. He is specifically honored as one of the greatest prophets of the Old Testament and one of the most well known stories of his legacy is when he challenged a bunch of priests of Baal to a pray-off and called a fireball from heaven to completely incinerate a stone altar dowsed in gallons of water. So suffice to say, Elijah was very familiar with special effects. This story actually takes place right after the big fireball battle and Elijah was immensely depressed that Israel continued to reject God even after Elijah had demonstrated God’s presence and authority so powerfully. And here he finds himself on a mountain where God is going to show up in a bodily sense (which people normally believed if they were to see God their face would melt Raiders of the Lost Ark style, hence why Elijah is covering his face up when he goes outside at the end of the story). There are loads of special effects in this narrative, but what is fascinating to me and is worth taking an idea from, is the fact that there are all these major world shaping actions of the natural world around Elijah, but the thing that indicates God’s nearness and His powerful presence was a gentle whisper. That phrase is translated several different ways, also seen as a quiet voice or the sound of sheer silence. It is in the small and the quiet that God makes Himself known to Elijah and I find that very interesting.
The general assumption is that the powerful and mighty are often big movers and shakers and have all the special effects that major power can afford. But it is unsettling and unusual to see great power heralded with quiet and stillness. Using a still, quiet voice for beings of immense power can establish a sense of separation and otherness. Those who are strong don’t necessarily have to have some kind of extreme volume or impressive visage. Judge me by my voice do you? And well you should not. Other than Yoda’s sterling example of this idea, there is something subtle and gentle about having power partnered with humility. So while you are crafting powerful characters or opponents, think about what role a still quiet voice can communicate about that power or in other words carry a big stick and maybe speak a little softer. It could be unexpected and change the tone of your game and what you are saying about the very nature of power.