And behold, the word of the Lord came to him, and he said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 10 He said, “I have been very jealous for the Lord, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.” 11 And he said, “Go out and stand on the mount before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. 12 And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper. 13 And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And behold, there came a voice to him and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 14 He said, “I have been very jealous for the Lord, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.” 15 And the Lord said to him, “Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus. And when you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael to be king over Syria. 16 And Jehu the son of Nimshi you shall anoint to be king over Israel, and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah you shall anoint to be prophet in your place. 17 And the one who escapes from the sword of Hazael shall Jehu put to death, and the one who escapes from the sword of Jehu shall Elisha put to death. 18 Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.”
19 So he departed from there and found Elisha the son of Shaphat, who was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen in front of him, and he was with the twelfth. Elijah passed by him and cast his cloak upon him. 20 And he left the oxen and ran after Elijah and said, “Let me kiss my father and my mother, and then I will follow you.” And he said to him, “Go back again, for what have I done to you?” 21 And he returned from following him and took the yoke of oxen and sacrificed them and boiled their flesh with the yokes of the oxen and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he arose and went after Elijah and assisted him.
In the Gospel according to John, at several points people recognize who Jesus is because of what he says or does. Often he is doing the sorts of things that only God does. After he changes water into wine, the disciples believe in him (Jn 2). In the ancient world they did not understand yeast and the process of fermentation. Wine making was a mystery, something God did. After he opens the eyes of the blind man, the blind man worships him (Jn 9). After he raises Lazarus from the dead, the religious leaders seek to move against him. John calls Jesus’ miracles “signs.” The people are reading the signs which point to the truth about Jesus.
Did you notice the repetition in this passage from I Kings? The Word comes and asks Elijah a question, “Elijah, what are you doing here?” After that, when God manifests Himself in powerful wind, earthquake, fire, and finally in a stillness, God asks Elijah the exact same question. I think we sometimes pass over these things too quickly as we read our English Bibles. Reading Hebrew is a much more deliberate process which must be done more slowly. Probably because it does not include any vowels in the text, forcing the reader to sound out every word and think about just what it is. The Word and God ask the same question. What could that mean?
I Kings 19 is making a point like what John is making. The Word of the LORD and God do the same thing. Jesus made wine, healed blindness, provided food, and raised the dead. Those are things which God does. The Word in this passage is God. It is the same One who asked the same question, first as the Word and then as the powerful Creator outside the cave. John begins his Gospel account with these words, likely familiar to us, “In the beginning was the Word, the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” The Word comes to us as well, speaking God’s message of judgment on a sinful world and grace in our Lord Jesus Christ. It is God speaking to us in that Word, whether we are reading it, hearing, or swallowing it in the Sacrament. Elijah listened and did what it said. Go and do likewise.