What doest thou here, Elijah?" The question is asked twice in less than half a dozen verses. And the prophet gives the same sad reply both times.
It is often helpful, in opening up a verse or so of scripture, to go through the passage, putting the emphasis on a different word each time—"What doest thou here Elijah?" Well, of course, he was doing nothing, just sitting at Sinai feeling sorry for himself. "What doest thou here, Elijah?" He, of all people! The man who had just come from Carmel and a glorious, miraculous victory! "What doest thou here, Elijah?" Why was he sitting in the shadow of Sinai, forty days' journey from the spear of duty, as though more edicts from the holy mount could help either him or his people? "What doest thou here, Elijah?" His name is a combination of the two primary names for God—Elohim and Jehovah—the God of creation, omnipotent in power; the God of covenant, matchless in grace. What was a man with a name like that doing at Sinai when he should have been in Samaria?
Elijah, fearless before Ahab, had fled from Jezebel. Now the reaction had set in. The day after a great victory is always a time of danger for the child of God because Satan always counterattacks. Elijah, with Jezebel's threats curdling his blood, had fled a day's journey into the wilderness. He felt himself friendless and alone. Already the baying of the blood-hounds could be heard, sounding across the desert.
His flight appalled him. "I am not better than my fathers," he moaned. "Let me die!" he said. "Come and dine," God replied. God knew His man was exhausted physically and spiritually. "Let me die!" That was self-pity speaking. After all, if Elijah had really wanted to die, all he needed to do was let Jezebel know where he was! In any case, God had something far better than martyrdom in store for Elijah.
So an angel came, cooked the prophet's supper for him, and then his breakfast. Restored physically, the prophet went in the strength of those two meals for forty days, all the way to Sinai. Now, far from where he should have been, Elijah had a fresh fit of the sulks. God challenged him: "What doest thou here, Elijah?" "I, even I, am the only one left." He moaned—something that was obviously not true. There was Obadiah and his hidden prophets to start with. They may not have been calling down fire, but they had certainly not bowed the knee to Baal either.
God had revealed Himself as a sympathizing God. Now He reveals Himself as a sufficient God.
First, we see the mount of God: "Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord," God said. Elijah's hero Moses had climbed that awesome peak of Sinai no less than seven times in receiving the Law. Now it was Elijah's turn. Up he went. And there he stood, hiding from a hurricane, from a terrifying earthquake, and from a flaming fire. Each of these awesome exhibits of God's power passed before the shaken prophet, but God was not in any of them. They were tools God had at His disposal. He was just reminding His runaway prophet that He had all kinds of instruments with which to fight Jezebel, if He wanted to use them. So, why be afraid of Jezebel?
"Yes, Elijah," God said, "I can tear, but I much prefer to teach." So the forces of nature were all replaced by a still small voice. "Yes, my child, I can perform miracles. You ought to know that, I loaned you My weapon of fire on Carmel. But miracles are not all that effective. It is My Word that produces the best results. The wind can blow, the fire can burn, and the earthquake can break; but My Word, still and small to your mortal ears, is 'quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword'" (Heb 4:12).
After all this, God asked the prophet again: "What doest thou here, Elijah?" "I'm the only one left. They want to kill me," said Elijah. Still full of self-pity the prophet repeated word-for-word what he had said before.
"That's enough!" God said. "Go and anoint Elisha to replace you. That's one you didn't know about, whose knees have never bowed to Baal. And, by the way, I have seven thousand faithful saints who have not bowed to Baal. You don't know any of them. I know all of them."
But God is very kind. He did not answer Elijah's plea to die. Not a bit of it! He allowed him to train his successor. Then, blessed be God, He sent a chariot of fire and an angel escort to carry Elijah straight into the glory! How good and gracious a God He is.