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all who saw it that it was divine. Miracles are the proof that God speaks through man. God answers by fire now through the work of the Holy Spirit. The conversion of men, and the work of the Gospel in changing and elevating nations, is more marvellous, and a greater proof that the Gospel is from God, than fire from heaven, like this for Elijah, could be.
Illustration. The Gospel, with its supernatural energies, is doing what no other religion, what no philosophy ever did or can do. We may confidently appeal to this test: “The God that answereth by fire!” A friend of the writer was asked to enter on a public discussion with some secularists. He replied, “When you can find me twelve families who were once Christian, but by embracing your views have become more virtuous, useful, contented, and happy, better and happier in this present life, according to your theory, I shall think it worth while to argue with you, and not before; for I can find you one hundred families who were once living only on your theory, and for this present world, but who, by Christianity, have become better husbands and wives, better parents and children, or better neighbors and citizens, more virtuous and sober and happy." Yes, let religion be tested by its purifying power. “The God that answereth by fire, let him be God!" — Newman Hall in S. S. Times.
III. THE SECOND ANSWER (vers. 39, 40). The people convinced, and immediately committed to the true cause by being set to work to destroy the destroyers of their country. This illustrates a great principle, – the moment any impression is made on the feelings, crystallize it in action.
IV. ELIJAH'S PRAYER FOR RAIN (vers. 41-44). (1) A prayer for what had been promised; (2) prayer with watching; (3) prayer with the answer delayed; (4) persevering prayer.
V. THE ANSWER (vers. 44-46). This answer came by natural law, as the other came by miracle. God controls nature, and its work is his work.
LESSON VIII. — AUG. 23.
ELIJAH AT HOREB. — 1 KINGS 19:1-18. GOLDEN TEXT. — And after the fire a still small voice. — 1 KINGS 19: 12. TIME. - B.C. 907, directly after the last lesson.
PLACE. — Wilderness of Beersheba, in the south of Judah; and Mount Horeb, in the Sinai Mountains.
RULERS. — Ahab, king of Israel. Jehoshaphat, king of Judah.
PRONUNCIATIONS. - A'běl-měho'läh; Běěr' -shēbá or Bēčrshe'bă; Dămăs'củs; Eli'shă; Hăz'ăěl; Hoʻréb; Nim'shi; Shā'phát; Si'năi (Si'nă or Si'năi).
INTRODUCTION. After the great moral victory on Carmel, Elijah went that same evening to Ahab's sum. mer capital, where Queen Jezebel lived, seemingly in high hopes of a complete moral reformation of king and people, - idols overthrown, idolatry abolished, the worship of Jehovah established, his native land prosperous and happy under the favor of God. He waited outside of the city to see what would be the effect of Ahab's report to his heathen queen, of the Lord's mighty doings upon Carmel. The unexpected outcome of that wonderful day is recorded in to-day's lesson. - P.
1. And Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and withal how he had i slain all the prophets with the sword.
11 Kings 18:40.
EXPLANATORY. I. The Discouraged Prophet. — Vers. 1-4. 1. And Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done. We can readily understand with what a sense of humiliation and shame the weak and excited king would recount the day's proceedings to his imperious and headstrong consort, and with what intense mortification and rage she must have heard of the 'triumph of the proscribed religion and of the defeat and death of the priests of Baal. — Pulpit Com. There was no thought in her of repentance, but only of anger and revenge.
2. Then Jezebel sent a messenger unto Elijah, saying, "So let the gods do to me, and more also, if I make not thy life as the life of one of them by to morrow about this time.
3. And when he saw that, he arose, and went for his life, and came to Beersheba, which belongeth to Judah, and left his servant there.
1 Ruth 1 : 17. 2 Kings 6:31.
2. Then Jezebel sent a messenger unto Elijah. Either she sent this messenger privately, unknown to King Ahab, or if he knew it, he was too vacillating and too much under her influence to prevent it. Away from her, he may have been half convinced of the truth. Only a strong character, thoroughly convinced and decided to do right, could, when under the positive influence of such a character as Jezebel, withstand its power. Positive, strong, undoubting convictions are a mighty power for good or evil. — P. So let the gods do to me. A common oath at that time. If I make not thy life, etc. If I do not have you slain before another day. This message was sent the evening of Elijah's arrival with Ahab at Jezreel.
Why did the queen send this warning, and so allow Elijah to escape? (1) It is barely possible, that, as Keil and Lange suggest, “it was nothing more than a scheme for ridding herself of the presence of Elijah.” (2) It is more likely that it was a sudden outburst of rage that vented itself on the spot, without taking into account the possibility of his escape. (3) Elijah was within her dominions, surrounded by her minions; and she may have felt confident that she could find him when she wished.
3. And when he saw. When he perceived the state of things in the capital; how Jezebel was not convinced, but exasperated. — P. The rapid movement of the original is lost here. The Hebrew runs: “And he saw, and he rose, and he went for his life.” — Spence. And came to Beer-sheba. Beer-sheba is about 95 miles from Jezreel, on the very borders of the southern wilderness, or desert of Tih. Elijah cannot possibly have reached it until the close of the second day. It seems implied that he travelled both night and day, and did not rest till he arrived thus får on his way. - Cook. Which belongeth to Judah. Originally assigned to Simeon, it was absorbed into the Kingdom of Judah. On this further verge of the rival Kingdom of Judah, he would be safer than in any part of Ahab's dominions. And left his servant there. Perhaps the attendant was unwilling to go farther, for Elijah chose a new attendant on his return. Or, having escaped the most pressing dangers, Elijah would now be alone with God. He was too near despair to desire human company.
DID ELIJAH DO RIGHT IN FLEEING FROM DANGER? There are two views. FIRST View. It is evident that for the moment Elijah had lost faith in God, otherwise he would certainly have waited for the "word of the Lord,” which had hitherto invariably guided his movements (1 Kings 17: 2, 8; 18:1). — Pulpit Com. He who had experienced the sufficiency of the Lord's protection from prince, prophets, and people, now shrinks at last, at the crisis of his highest duty, from the face of a woman, whom his Master could, if he had seen fit, have cut off in a moment. He fled; and, lacking their great guide, and the prime leader in this auspicious movement, the people became discouraged, and the impression made upon the king's mind rapidly cooled down, both relapsing into nearly their former state. Truly in this did Elijah show himself “a man of like passions as we are.” — Kitto. SECOND VIEW. The removal from Jezreel into the wilderness should not, as is so often done, be looked on as properly a "flight," a lack of faith, courage, and firmness. He recog. nized in the threat of Jezebel a providential admonition, which, however dark and hard it might appear to him, he did not believe himself at liberty to resist, since no higher direction to remain had come to him. For him, the strong man, firm as a rock, heroic in temper, it was an infinitely more difficult and humiliating duty to give up to the anger of a godless, wicked woman, than to bid her defiance, and make trial of the Lord. He bowed beneath the inscrutable decree, as becomes a true servant of God; and so his going away was an act of faith no less than his appearing before the persecuting Ahab (18:15 sq.). - Lange. To force martyrdom upon himself, of his own choice, without necessity, he did not consider a part of his calling, nor did he regard it a great and holy act, nor has this ever been the case with the prophets and apostles. In behalf of the truth and the glory of God's name, the prophet would have given up his life with joy; but at the present crisis this end would not have been attained through his death; it would have been a triumph for Jezebel. Menken.
4. But he himself went a day's journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper tree : and l he requested for himself that he might die ; and said, It is enough ; now, O LORD, take away my life ; for I am not better than my fathers.
5. And as he lay and slept under a juniper tree, behold, then an angel touched him, and said unto him, Arise and eat.
6. And he looked, and behold, there was a cake baken on the coals, and a cruse of water at his head. And he did eat and drink, and laid him down again.
1 Num. II : 15. Jonah 4:3, 8.
4. He himself went a day's journey into the wilderness. Elijah did not feel himself safe till he was beyond the territory of Judah, for Ahab might demand him of Jehoshaphat (1 Kings 18:10), with whom he was on terms of close alliance (1 Kings 22:4). He therefore proceeds southward into the desert, perhaps not yet with any particular place in view, but simply to be out of the reach of his enemies. — Cook. And sat down under a juniper tree. It is agreed now, on all hands, that the tree here mentioned (the rothem) is not the juniper, but a species of broom (Genista monosperma), called rethem by the Arabs, which abounds in the Sinaitic peninsula. It grows to such a size as to afford shade and protection, both in heat and storm, to travellers. — Cook. It is the most longed-for and most welcome bush of the desert, abundant in beds of streams and valleys, where spots for camping are selected, and men sit down and sleep in order to be protected against wind and sun. — Robinson, Pal. vol. i., p. 203. O Lord, take away my life. He who fled to save his life, now asks that he may die. He is now in the very depths of the Slough of Despond. I am not better than my fathers. That is to say, “I am a mere weak man, no better nor stronger than those who have gone before me, no more able to revolutionize the world than they.” — Cook. These words clearly reveal the great hopes Elijah had formed as to the result of his mission, and his terrible disappointment. — Spence.
REASONS FOR ELIJAH'S DESPONDENCY. (1) Reaction after great excitement and strong emotions. (2) Exhaustion of physical and nervous energy. “Even the gigantic strength of Elijah underwent a terrible strain on Carmel,” especially when followed by seventeen miles of running before Ahab's chariot. (3) Want of human sympathy. He felt himself to be utterly alone. (4) The smiting of conscience for having forsaken the post of responsibility. (5) Enforced inactivity. All went well so long as he was busy. “The man who can dare and do anything finds it specially hard to wait and to suffer. Similar temptation to despondency comes to those who are laid aside by illness, or removed from a happy sphere of service” (Rowland.). (6) He was off his guard, after his glorious and heroic work. “ It has been observed of the holy men in Scripture, that their most signal failures took place in those points of character for which they were remarkable in excellence. Moses, the meekest of men, 'spake unadvisedly with his lips.' John, apostle of charity, sinned in intolerance; Peter, the brave, in cowardice. If there is anything for which Elijah is remarkable, it is superiority to human weakness. It was this man, so stern, so iron, so independent, that in his hour of trial gave way to a fit of petulance and querulous despondency" (Robertson). (7) Disappointed hopes. He looked for a great and permanent reformation. He saw, in the vision of his hopes, an enthusiastic people sweeping away every vestige of idolatry, and his native land prosperous and holy. And the vision had vanished“ like the baseless fabric of a dream.” The cup of success had been dashed from his lips just as he was about to quaff its heavenly nectar. — P.
II. First Cure for Discouragement, -- Physical Relief. – Vers. 5–8. 5. As he lay and slept. Refreshment and rest through sleep was his first need. “So he giveth his beloved sleep” (Ps. 127:2). Then an angel touched him. God's angels are still “ministering spirits sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation” (Heb. 1:14). The unseen spirits are not all evil, but more and mightier are the angels who have all through man's history been his helpers.
“Flitting, flitting, ever near thee,
Sitting, sitting by thy side;
Angel beings guard and guide." 6. And behold, ... a cake baken on the coals (or embers). It is not implied that Elijah found a fire lighted and the cake on it, but only that he found one of the usual 7. And the angel of the LORD came again the second time, and touched him, and said, Arise and eat; because the journey is too great for thee.
8. And he arose, and did eat and drink, and went in the strength of that meat 1 forty days and forty nights unto 2 Horeb the mount of God.
9. And he came thither unto a care, and lodged there ; and, behold, the word of the LORD came to him, and he said unto him, What doest thou here, Elijah?
1 So Ex. 34 - 28. Deut. 9:9, 18. Matt. 4:2. ? Ex. 3:1. baked cakes of the desert, which form the ordinary food of the Arab at the present day (" Eothen," p. 1-86, 5th edition). — Cook. And a cruse (or bottle) of water. Whether these provisions were prepared immediately by the angel, or by some traveller whom God led that way, we need not discuss, for either was possible. — Whedon. Observe also how God prepares a table in the wilderness. It is not the first time he has given angels' food in the desert (Ps. 78: 25; Neh, 9:21; Deut. 8:16). — Rowland. For us, too, and for our hours of lack of faith and despair, God has prepared bread and water which will nourish and quicken the soul. This bread, this water, is his Word, the everlasting Word of God, which is the life of God and strength of God (Matt. 4:4). - Wirth. And laid him down again. This shows how thoroughly exhausted the prophet was.
7. The journey is too great for thee. The journey he had already taken, and that which was yet before him. This is a suggestive incident. Our physical nature is as truly an object of divine thought and care as the spiritual. God will not fail to supply the meaner wants of his children. – Rowland.
VALUE OF THIS CURE. It is well to mark the divine method here, both for our own sake, and for our dealing with others. The same method, divinely employed here, was used by Jesus Christ. He was continually curing and helping the bodies of men, in order to benefit their souls. So far as the unhappy and desponding state of mind grows out of the state of the body, the cure is in healing the body. Dr. Pond used to say that a cup of tea was often a means of grace. There is a physical basis for our spiritual work. Our bodies are temples of the Holy Ghost, and we must keep those temples in repair. Our spiritual life is like a tree which "grows more from heaven than earth," and yet must be well rooted in the ground, if it would bear good fruit. This is not the whole cure; the spirit can triumph over the body, and much more is needed than a healthy body. But the wise man never neglects or despises this part of the cure. — P.
8. Went in the strength of that meat forty days. Without obtaining anything further than what the wilderness might afford. It was like the 40 days' fast of Moses, and the 40 days' fast of Christ in the wilderness of temptation. And probably for the same reasons. — P. Just as the 40 years' sojourn in the desert had been to Moses a time for the trial of faith and for exercise in humility and meekness (Num. 12:3), so was the strength of Elijah's faith to be tried by the 40 days' wandering in the same desert, and to be puriñed from all carnal zeal for the further fulllment of his calling, in accordance with the divine will. What follows shows very clearly that this was the object of the divine guidance of Elijah. - Keil. Horeb (dry, desert) the mount of God. The same as Mt. Sinai, called the Mount of God because God here gave the law to Moses. — Palmer. Horeb is but 200 miles (Keil) from Beer-sheba, so that it would take but a few days to go there directly; but Elijah was probably meditating in the wilderness, and slowly wandering along.
III. The Second Cure, — the Revelation of God's Method of Working Moral Changes. — Vers. 9-13. 9. Unto a cave. Many commentators identify this with the clift of the rock" where Moses was concealed while the Lord “passed by" (Ex. 33: 22). What doest thou here, Elijah ? Those who think that Elijah was perfectly justihed in fleeing from Jezebel see no reproof here, and no complaint in Elijah's answer. But most think that as Elijah fled “in terror and bitter disappointment and sheer distrust of God, it does look as if the words conveyed a gentle reminder that he had deserted the post of duty, and had no right to be there." - Spence. His work was waiting (ver. 15). Therefore Elijah was not to remain in the cave any more than the disciples were to dwell on the mount of transfiguration.
The inquiry should pursue others who have fled to caves in which they would fain hide themselves from responsibility. (1) It comes to the impenitent in the cave of concealment of their sin. (2) li comes to the penitent in the cave of despondency. (3) it comes to the indolent in the cave of sloth. (4) It comes to the sorrowful in the cave of murmuring. 10. And he said, 'I have been very ? jealous for the LORD God of hosts : for the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and 3 slain thy prophets with the sword; and 4 I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.
11. And he said, Go forth, and stand 5 upon the mount before the LORD. And, behold, the LORD passed by, and 6 a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake 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 a still small voice. 1 Rom. 11:3. Rom. 11:3.
Num. 25:11, 13. Ps. 69:9.
31 Kings 18:4. * 1 Kings 18:22. Rom. 11: 3. S. 99:9. Ej : :..
CONCLUSION: The Lord speaks to all. “ To-day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts." — A. Rowland
10. And he said, I have been very jealous (or zealous) for the Lord (Jehovah). Intensely desirous that all should worship and honor God, and utterly opposed to all idol worship. The Lord God of hosts. Of the hosts of angels, of the hosts f created beings, of the hosts of stars, and of the hosts of Israel. For. Here the prophet lays the facts before God as they appear to his own mind. Who ought not to be discouraged at such a state of things? Notice the fourfold accusation. First. They have forsaken thy covenant. Their agreement to obey God's laws, on which condition God had covenanted to bless and prosper them. Second. Thrown down thine altars. Such as they found in their own country (ten tribes). There had been one at Ramah, others at Mizpeh, Gilgal, Bethlehem, Carmel, and there might be more. On these the pious people had sacrificed, not being permitted to go to Jerusalem. — Reading. And they had done all they could to destroy God's altar at Jerusalem. Third. Slain thy prophets. Jezebel had incited a great persecution against them (1 Kings 18:4). And I, even I only, am left. In his despondency he forgot Obadiah, and the one hundred prophets he had preserved in caves. Or he felt that those who hid away and kept silent were hardly worthy to be mentioned as prophets. Fourth. And they seek my life. They were not willing that one true prophet should remain.
II. Go forth, and stand upon the mount. That is, just outside of the cave. This was not fully done till after the still small voice. He began to go forth, went towards the opening so as to see the storm and the fire, but not so far as to feel their effects. When he heard the voice he went out of the cave (ver. 13) and stood in front of it in the open light. The design was that he should receive, as Moses did (Ex. 33: 18–34:7), a revelation of the real nature and character of God through the language of outward symbols and manifestations. — Todd. And, behold, the Lord passed by. Ewald and others include vers. 11 and 12 in the divine address to the prophet. In which case the fulfilment of the words is implied. But it seems best (so Cook) to regard the description as beginning with these words, "and, behold." The Lord passed by in the syinbols of his power. A great and strong wind. A hurricane, a tornado. Rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks. I write this almost within sight of the effects of such a tornado, in the White Mountains. Such winds were common in the region of Sinai. The Lord was not in the wind. This was not his marked and peculiar manifestation. The Lord in one sense is everywhere, but these wild, devastating powers are not the best symbol of his nature nor the greatest expression of his power.
12. Fire. Lightning, vivid, continual, terrible. And after the fire a still small voice. Literally, " a sound of soft stillness." — Cook
GOD IN THE Still Small Voice. This represents the silent, hidden working of God, which is mightier than his more demonstrative manifestations. (1) This is true of God in nature. The great changes in the physical history of the world have been by slow and silent forces. Earthquake, fire, and storm have done their work, but the greatest changes have been made almost imperceptibly. This is true of the geological history of the world. It is true of the coming of each spring and summer. (2) This is true of God in history. We know little of the real life of a people if we judge by ihe events which usually are recorded in history, - the wars, and revolutions, and changes of dynasty. We miss the real causes at work in any revolution, in the progress of the world, in the reformation of the church, if we