I woke up today after falling asleep to very blustery winds. The weather men said some gusts were up to 50 mph — very strong fierce winds indeed. Yet though it was a little unnerving, the wind posed no real danger. We knew it was coming — thank you weather men — so we were snuggly home. Our walls and roof are sound.
So suddenly I realized that for Elijah, tucked in a cleft of the rock, wind so strong “it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks”; earthquake; fire — all very dangerous. For the people below in a valley, any of these events would have been unpredictable, dangerous, terrifying. My study bible’s footnote on this whole passage is really complex. In part, essentially, wind, earthquakes, fires: this was traditionally how you knew a God was about. The power of destruction.
So our God, Elijah’s God, could have been saying: see what I can do? But “the Lord was not in the wind”, or the earthquake or the fire. And then in the aftermath, when there was “a sound of sheer silence”, God could be saying: and see I am there. I am.
Or God could be saying: I’m not in the silence either. I’m quite different from any human understanding.
Or maybe: I, God, can use all these tools, but “I am” not the tools.
Regardless of exactly what all this means, what God does is this: he asks Elijah another question. He had already asked, before all the sound and fury on the mountaintop, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
Now God asks: “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
Yep, He asks the same question again. He gives Elijah a second try — Elijah kind of muffed the first one.
But Elijah replies exactly the same as he did the first time, word for word! I’ve done all this for you God, but it is useless and I am alone and they are going to kill me.
This time God doesn’t respond with displays, or a lack of display, of power. He doesn’t respond with words of comfort. He just gives Elijah his marching orders: Go, anoint Hazael as king over Aram; Jehu son of Nimshi as King over Israel, and Elisha as prophet in your place, and some other orders. I’m stripping it down, read it for yourself 1 Kings 19:15-18. It’s almost like God is really tired of Elijah and moving on.
However Elijah felt about any of this, he obeys the Lord. He goes out and finds Elisha and they do the anointing. There are more run ins with Ahab. I think it worth noting in 2 Kings 1:11-12 Elijah calls on god to send fire and “Then the fire of God came down from heaven and consumed [the king] and his fifty.”
My next step will be to look at 2 Kings, where Elijah is taken up to heaven by a whirlwind. Then I think I’ll take another, comforting, look at John the Baptist.