Possibly in the same cave where Moses saw God (Exodus 33:17-23; 34:4-7), Elijah finally vocalized to God why he had fled to the wilderness: In his zeal he felt alone, rejected, and ineffective (verse 10). By God's blunt response, it seems that He had decided that Elijah needed a quick and effective dose of reality.
In the tremendously powerful wind, earthquake, and fire, God showed that though He causes or allows great works that destroy, punish, or expose the ungodly, His greatest work is elsewhere. He was in the "still small voice" (verse 12). He does His most astounding and effective work in the background, working His salvation in (Psalm 74:12), and giving His gifts, His grace, to His people (Ephesians 4:7). In a sense, He told Elijah He is "not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance" (II Peter 3:9).
Undaunted, though humbled, Elijah still insisted that he was alone, rejected, and ineffective (verse 14). Almost curtly, God gave the prophet something to do, though nothing on the scale of his former work (verses 15-17). But before He sent Elijah away, God reminded him that in his self-absorption he had forgotten all the other people with whom He had been working. "Yet I have reserved seven thousand in Israel, all whose knees have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him" (verse 18).
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Elijah's Dose of Reality