In Troublous Days Of Anguish And Rebuke

And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire:
and after the fire a still small voice. 1 Kings xix. 12.

~The Rev. John Keble


IN troublous days of anguish and rebuke,
While sadly round them Israel’s children look,
And their eyes fail for waiting on their Lord:
While underneath each awful arch of green,
On every mountain-top, God’s chosen scene,
Of pure heart-worship, Baal is adored:

’Tis well, true hearts should for a time retire
To holy ground, in quiet to aspire
Towards promised regions of serener grace;
On Horeb, with Elijah, let us lie,
Where all around on mountain, sand, and sky,
God’s chariot wheels have left distinctest trace;

There, if in jealousy and strong disdain
We to the sinner’s God of sin complain,
Untimely seeking here the peace of Heaven—
“It is enough. O Lord! now let me die
E’en as my fathers did: for what am I
That I should stand where they have vainly striven?”—

Perhaps our God may of our conscience ask,
“What doest thou here frail wanderer from thy task?
Where hast thou left those few sheep in the wild?”
Then should we plead our heart’s consuming pain,
At sight of ruined altars, prophets slain,
And God’s own ark with blood of souls defiled;

He on the rock may bid us stand, and see
The outskirts of His march of mystery,
His endless warfare with man’s wilful heart;
First, His great Power He to the sinner shows
Lo! at His angry blast the rocks unclose,
And to their base the trembling mountains part

Yet the Lord is not here: ’Tis not by Power
He will be known—but darker tempests lower;
Still, sullen heavings vex the labouring ground:
Perhaps His Presence thro’ all depth and height,
Best of all gems that deck His crown of light,
The haughty eye may dazzle and confound.

God is not in the earthquake; but behold
From Sinai’s caves are bursting, as of old,
The flames of His consuming jealous ire.
Woe to the sinner should stern Justice prove
His chosen attribute;—but He in love
Hastes to proclaim, “God is not in the fire.”

The storm is o’er—and hark! a still small voice
Steals on the ear, to say, Jehovah’s choice
Is ever with the soft, meek, tender soul;
By soft, meek, tender ways He loves to draw
The sinner, startled by His ways of awe:
Here is our Lord, and not where thunders roll.

Back, then, complainer; loath thy life no more,
Nor deem thyself upon a desert shore,
Because the rocks the nearer prospect close.
Yet in fallen Israel are there hearts and eyes
That day by day in prayer like thine arise;
Thou know’st them not, but their Creator knows.

Go, to the world return, nor fear to cast
Thy bread upon the waters, sure at last
In joy to find it after many days.
The work be thine, the fruit thy children’s part:
Choose to believe, not see: sight tempts the heart
From sober walking in true Gospel ways.