What was the Lord's reasoning†for showing Elijah the wind, earthquake and fire in I Kings 19:11-12? Why does the text say the Lord was not in the wind?
"Then He said, "Go out, and stand on the mountain before the LORD." And behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces 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; and after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice. So it was, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood in the entrance of the cave. Suddenly a voice came to him, and said, "What are you doing here, Elijah?"" (I Kings 19:11-13).
Elijah had a perception problem. He triumphed over the prophets of Baal in a very dramatic way in I Kings 18. He thought he had turned the people back to God, but then he realized that nothing really changed. Jezebel was still wanting to kill him (I Kings 19:1-2) and the people were still following after idols. Elijah despaired that he was the only follower of God left in the world. "And he said, "I have been very zealous for the LORD God of hosts; because the children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. I alone am left; and they seek to take my life"" (I Kings 19:14).
God's presence isn't seen in the dramatic. Every once in a while I hear someone say that if God just did some major miracle, the whole world would convert. God does have power beyond our imagination, but displays of that power aren't where you'll find God.
""Is not My word like a fire?" says the LORD, "And like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?"" (Jeremiah 23:29).
God created the universe with just His word (Genesis 1). It is in the teachings of God where the power of God is displayed. "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek" (Romans 1:16).
Elijah thought he was useless, but God showed him that the power of God is seen in the words of God. When the message is spread, it will change the world. "So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it" (Isaiah 55:11).
And the odd thing is that Elijah knew this deep in his heart. He knew God wasn't in the wind, the earthquake or the fire, but when he heard the voice, he prepared himself to meet God.
"For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence. But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God -- and righteousness and sanctification and redemption -- that, as it is written, "He who glories, let him glory in the LORD"" (I Corinthians 1:21-31).