Elijah Noah Shekinah Rose

What a sight Elisha beheld! “There appeared a chariot of fire and horses of fire, and parted them both asunder: and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven.” The one who was left exclaimed — “My father, my father, the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof!” He felt that the people of God had lost their surest defence, although the people themselves were too blind to understand it. In like manner the saints are today the world’s most precious asset, whether men perceive it or not. Having received Elijah’s mantle, Elisha rent his own clothes in two pieces. If we, God’s present saints are truly conscious of our union with the risen Christ, we will desire that nothing of ourselves shall again be seen. Our whole deportment should speak to men of Christ.Nearly three thousand years have passed away since Elijah witnessed for God upon earth, but he is by no means a forgotten character. The ear that is divinely alert still hears, as it were, his firm step and stinging words. His stern denunciations of evil caused all classes to tremble before him. In his burning zeal for God; in his righteous indignation against the apostasy of his nation; the prophet was equally bold towards kings, priests, prophets, and people. John the Baptist resembled Elijah in this. The Lord God of Israel, against whom the chosen people were so grievously unfaithful, was a living reality to him. The knowledge of God, and the consciousness of His presence (“before whom I stand”) made him bold beyond all others in his day. Meditation upon such a character is a holy stimulus for those who would witness for God and His truth in any age. Never were uncompromising men of the Elijah stamp more needed than in this easy-going complacent Twentieth Century. “Man’s day” (1. Cor. 4:3) is rapidly drawing to a close. The judgement of God is fast approaching both for Christendom and the non-professing world. The diabolical character of present-day developments needs to be fearlessly and faithfully exposed. The sons of the prophets said of Elisha when they saw him, “the spirit of Elijah doth rest on Elisha, ” and they bowed low, respectfully before him. May it be ours to be respected, not for our learning or wealth, or social dignity, but for the power of the Spirit of Christ manifested in our lives. Elijah was a man of deep spiritual feeling; in communion with God he felt the evil of the circumstances around him. Are we like Elijah in this respect? The reader would be wise to lay down this book, and read Daniel’s ninth chapter throughout. That holy man of God “with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes,” prayed, and confessed the sins of his people and their rulers from the very beginning of their national history, and he appealed humbly to God for His mercy. Ezra and Nehemiah prayed on similar lines, each in the ninth chapter of his book. If these Old Testament saints could look back over 900 years of their people’s history, and confess their sins as their own, what have we to say concerning 1900 years of disobedience and unfaithfulness in the Church of God? Have we no responsibility concerning what lies behind us? Or are we so enslaved by denominational interests, and by the interests of “local assemblies,” that larger thoughts are quite foreign to our minds?Elijah’s long rest at Zarephath was ended by a call from Jehovah to show himself to Ahab, because He was about to send rain upon the earth (1 Kings 18:1). When the prophet told the king that there should be neither dew nor rain but according to his word, he knew not how long the drought would continue. That was in the hands of Jehovah. But the drought was long, “for it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months” (James 5:17). When the rain at last came, it was in answer to Elijah’s prayer, as in 1 Kings 18:42.

We picture the prophet arriving in the city drenched with mire, very hungry and very tired; but should he have gone there at all? He doubtless meant well even as Paul in his last journey to Jerusalem (Acts 21). The express word of Jehovah took Elijah to Cherith, to Zarephath, and twice into Ahab’s presence; but the word of Jehovah is not mentioned in connection with his run to Jezreel. Had he forgotten Jezebel? That violent woman was a force to be reckoned with, but not at all to be feared by a man of faith conscious that God was directing his steps. The Lord taught His disciples to pray, “lead us not into temptation” (Matt. 6:13); for we do not realize how weak we are until we are tested. If it be urged that “the hand of Jehovah was on Elijah,” thus giving him strength for the journey, that does not prove that Jehovah was sending him. For an angel was sent from heaven to provide a meal for him when he was fleeing to Horeb, a journey which was most certainly not undertaken by the word of Jehovah.

The path of obedience is the path of sufficiency. The disciples were without food in John 21:5 because they were acting in self-will. Instead of waiting patiently in Galilee until the Lord came to them as He had appointed (Matt. 26:32), Peter said, “I go a-fishing,” and his companions responded, “We also go with thee.” A whole night of toil yielded nothing but disappointment. Jehovah’s word to Elijah concerning Cherith was, “I have commanded the ravens to feed thee there.” He was not left to choose his own hiding place. Jehovah chose for him, and there his need was met. If we are sure we are where the Lord wants us, we need have no fear.
GILGAL, as we have seen, was the starting point. There the men of Israel used sharp knives upon themselves after they had crossed the Jordan. This was God’s way of teaching them that He can give no recognition to the flesh; it is evil in His sight beyond repair. Have we in spirit crossed the Jordan? Have we definitely accepted the death of Christ as our own, so that we can intelligently hear the apostle saying to us, “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek the things which are above where Christ sits on the right hand of God” (Col. 3:1). As surely as Elisha was appointed to represent the prophet who had gone up to heaven, so we have been divinely set to represent the glorified Christ. But in order that this may be we must be severe with all the workings of the flesh, hence the words in Col. 3:5, “Mortify your members which are upon the earth.” After the men of Israel had circumcised themselves, Jehovah said: “This day have I rolled away the reproach of Egypt from off you” (Joshua 5:9). Gilgal means “rolling.” Everything that is suggestive of the world; everything reminiscent of our ways when we were in and of the world is a reproach to us. Let us never forget this.When Elijah set out to find Ahab (no more fearing the wrath of the king than Moses before him (Heb. 11:27), he first met Obadiah who was governor of the palace. The Holy Spirit records that “Obadiah feared Jehovah greatly.” It is happy to note that this is stated before the story of Obadiah is unfolded. In like manner, the Lord Jesus commended all the good that He could see in the assemblies in Asia before rebuking that which was grievous in His sight (Rev. 2; 3). Along this line we are frequently terribly lacking in our dealings with one another. That which is evil, or at least unsatisfactory, becomes so large in our eyes that we quite overlook that which is good in those who displease us. Of Barnabas it is written years after his failures as in Gal. 2:13 and Acts 15:37: “he was a good man, and full of the Holy Spirit and of faith” (Acts 11:24).

We borrow the words of another concerning the meeting on Mount Carmel. “There are few more sublime stories in history than this. On the one hand the solitary servant of Jehovah, accompanied by his one attendant; with his wild shaggy hair, his scanty garb, and sheepskin cloak, but with calm dignity of demeanour and the minutest regularity of procedure, repairing the ruined altar of Jehovah with twelve stones, — on the other hand the eight hundred and fifty prophets of Baal and Ashtaroth, doubtless in all the splendour of their vestments, with the wild din of their vain repetitions and the maddened fury of their disappointed hopes, and the silent people surrounding all” (Dr. W. Smith). It is not quite certain that the prophets of Ashtaroth were present, possibly Jezebel was able to protect her own protégés, although the feeling amongst the people was too strong to allow her to prohibit the gathering altogether. Elijah wished the two hosts of misleaders to attend, but mention is only made of Baal’s four hundred and fifty (1 Kings 18:19, 22, 40).
Moreover, Jehovah said to Elijah, “I have commanded a widow woman to sustain thee.” We are accustomed to think of widows as needy persons who should be compassionately cared for by others. Yet Elijah was deliberately told by his God to place himself under a widow’s care! The prophet’s national instincts would be against going into a Gentile area; his religious instincts would lead him to abhor a hot bed of Baal-worship; and his manly instincts would cause him to shrink from being a burden upon a widow! But all who desire to serve the Lord acceptably in any age must of all things learn to be obedient. His servants must go where He sends; do what He bids; and deliver the messages that He gives them. Paul wrought in the spirit of this; and at a time when the dealings of God with him in service were somewhat strange, he said; “Thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and makes manifest the savour of His knowledge by us in every place (2 Cor. 2:14). He felt that he was just a captive in the Lord’s hands, being led hither and thither as seemed good in His sight; but the chains were chains of love, and all the leadings were in perfect wisdom. So long as he was to God a sweet savour of Christ, it mattered nothing to him what form the service might take, nor where that service might be rendered. Troas, Corinth — all were alike to him if it was the will of God. But oh, the grace that can transform a ravening wolf into “a sweet savour of Christ!”What a God is ours! Oh, the grace that He has revealed to us in the Gospel of His Son! The heart of God is filled with joy, and all heaven shares His joy, when even an individual sinner humbles himself in true repentance before Him. Surely we have all tasted the grace that pardons, cleanses, and reconciles all in virtue of the precious blood of Christ!

The Holy Spirit notes that Hiel was a Bethelite. His hometown had many sacred memories which should have influenced the man’s soul. Near by, Abram pitched his tent and reared his altar when he first entered the land (Gen. 12:8). There he enjoyed manifestations of Jehovah, and listened to His gracious promises of blessings for days yet to come. It was at Bethel that God spoke to Jacob in a dream, and opened out to him the future in a very full way, assuring him of His continued interest in him, even though at that moment his ways were displeasing in His sight. Jacob felt that the spot was the very house of God, although no visible temple stood there. (Gen. 28:11-22). Some years later, when Jacob was suffering at the hands of Laban, he received this precious word in a dream, “I am the God of Bethel, where thou anointedst the pillar” (Gen. 31:13). This was a sweet reminder that amidst all his troubles and vicissitudes he had to do with a faithful God. Still later, after years of wandering, “God said to Jacob, Arise, go up to Bethel, and dwell there, and make there an altar to God, that appeared to thee when thou fleddest from the face of Esau thy brother” (Gen. 35:1). This call exercised Jacob deeply. He became aware of many things in himself and family that did not suit the presence of a holy God. He charged his household to put away all the strange gods that were among them, and to purify themselves, and change their garments. To Jacob’s soul, now divinely stirred, it was impossible to take strange gods and other evil things to a spot that was to him the very house of God. The assembly is the house of God today; our exercises should be deep and thorough when we gather together to have to do with God.Dear Christian readers, do not neglect your food, your spiritual food. Let your very countenances show, as in the case of Daniel and his three friends, that the will of God is good and that its results are satisfying. Let it be clear and unmistakable that those who walk with God have an infinitely better portion than those who love the present world.

In the world’s last crisis, after the removal of the heavenly saints, heavy judgements will reappear at the call of the servants of God. In Rev. 11 we read of witnesses in Jerusalem who will perform the same terrible miracles as Moses and Elijah in the past. Also, the martyrs of that period will pray for judgement upon their persecutors (Rev. 6:10). But that period is not Christianity.

To proceed with Jehovah’s words to Elijah. “Go return on thy way to the wilderness of Damascus: and when thou comest, anoint Hazael to be king over Syria, and Jehu the son of Nimshi shalt thou anoint to be king over Israel: and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel-Meholah shalt thou anoint to be prophet in thy room. And it shall come to pass, that him that escapes the sword of Hazael shall Jehu slay: and him that escapes from the sword of Jehu shall Elisha slay. Yet I have left Me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth which has not kissed him.” The judgements which Elijah seemed to feel were necessary should be executed. The forsaken covenant, the desecrated altars, and the murdered prophets, should all be avenged; the circumstances of the judgements should be analogous to the whirlwind, the earthquake, and the fire. A ruthless destroyer from without and a fierce reformer within, should be let loose upon the guilty nation.

How painfully we limit our God! It is true that He is able to do “exceeding abundantly above all we ask or think”; but let no reader of these pages follow the bad example of careless persons who intrude a “can” into the middle of Eph. 3:20. We can ask larger things than we do ask, and we could think higher thoughts than we do think, if only our faith were more simple and active. But while all this is true, we must be careful to take note of dispensational distinctions in our handling of the Word of God. As a Heavenly people, we must not apply to ourselves words than can only properly apply to an earthly people. For example in Ps. 37:11 we read: “the meek shall inherit the earth.” This is blessing true for a faithful Israelite, but no follower of Christ in His rejection need expect to become a great landowner if he cultivates meekness, for it simply won’t happen!Elijah then turned to the prophets of Baal, and said, “Choose you one bullock for yourselves, and dress it first: for ye are many; and call on the name of your gods, but put no fire under” (1 Kings 18:25). It was important to stress the last clause when dealing with unprincipled villains. Priestly “miracles” have a bad reputation for imposture. In the calmness of faith, Elijah could afford to allow the emissaries of Satan to move first, knowing quite well that the god they served had no power.

One of the daring evils of Ahab’s reign was the rebuilding of Jericho by Hiel the Bethelite. Indeed, anything was possible in those dark days. Flesh had utterly broken loose, and all divine restraint was cast aside. “In his days, Hiel the Bethelite built Jericho: he laid the foundation thereof in Abiram his firstborn, and set up the gates thereof in Segub his youngest son, according to the word of Jehovah which He spake by Joshua the son of Nun” (1 Kings 16:34). At the time of the conquest of Canaan by the people of Israel, Jericho was the first city to oppose their progress. It typifies the world as that which would hinder the Christian enjoying his present heavenly portion in Christ Jesus. Jericho’s walls fell flat by direct divine action, and the wicked city was given to the flames. Joshua pronounced the curse of God upon anyone who should venture to rebuild it, and Joshua charged them with an oath at that time (R.V.) saying “Cursed be the man before Jehovah, that rises up and builds this city Jericho: he shall lay the foundation thereof in his firstborn, and in his youngest son he shall set up the gates of it” (Joshua 6:26). Five hundred years elapsed between Joshua and Ahab; but, during all that time, when the people of Israel frequently turned aside into paths of disobedience, no-one was bold enough to brave the divine imprecation. Its terms were serious; the daring builder, whoever he might be, would pay the penalty of his impiety in the death of his firstborn son at the beginning of his undertaking, and in the death of his youngest at its completion. In Ahab’s day Hiel the Bethelite was sufficiently infidel to dare the Almighty in this matter; but it happened to him “according to the word of Jehovah which He spake by Joshua the son of Nun.” Abiram his firstborn died when he laid the foundation, and Segub his youngest died when he set up Jericho’s gates. Truly, “God is not mocked!” (Gal. 6:7). When Obadiah crossed the path of Elijah, he was not occupied with business for God. The land was doubtless full of stricken hearts; mothers knowing not how to nourish their children; and all in a condition of despair. What precious words of consolation he should have been able to take to them from the heart of God! Instead, he was searching the land for food for animals in order to preserve the royal stud! Ahab said to Obadiah: “Go through the land, to all the fountains of water and to all the torrents, perhaps we may find grass to save the horses and mules alive, so that we may not have to destroy some of our beasts” (1 Kings 18:5, Darby). Sorry words from the lips of Israel’s king; paltry business for a God-fearing man to engage in! The divine ideal for a king is described in the Spirit-filled words of Asaph in Ps. 78:70-72: “He chose David His servant, and took him from the sheepfolds: from following the ewes great with young he brought him to feed Jacob His people, and Israel His inheritance. So he fed them according to the integrity of his heart, and guided them by the skilfulness of his hands.” God’s ideal king is thus neither selfish nor tyrannical; but a wise shepherd of the people, serving in the consciousness that the people belong to God, and that he — the king — is just God’s honoured servant in rule. In this spirit David prayed for the people when pestilence was raging. He pleaded with Jehovah to spare the sheep, and punish him instead (2 Sam. 24:17). None but the Lord Jesus have been perfect in shepherd-rule and of Him it is written: “He shall stand and feed [His flock] in the strength of Jehovah, in the majesty of the name of Jehovah His God; and they shall abide: for now shall He be great to the ends of the earth” (Micah 5:4). From Bethel the two prophets went to JERICHO. When Joshua led the hosts of Israel into the land Jericho was a key city, strongly fortified. They could not by-pass it; but they had no need of military machinery for its destruction. Jehovah manifested His power by causing the walls to fall down flat. Hiel the Bethelite rebuilt it in Ahab’s day. In like manner men are frequently seeking to rebuild that which has crashed as the fruit of their sins (Isa 9:9-10). But all the wit of man could not lift the curse which lay upon Jericho. The situation of the city was pleasant; but the residents were obliged to confess “the water is bad, and the ground barren” (2 Kings 2:19). God is the great restorer; oh, that men could understand it! Fornication, as mentioned in the Apocalypse, means worldliness, illicit intercourse with that from which all who fear God and reverence His Word should keep absolutely separate. Rome has always sought the favour of the world’s rulers for her own ends; and the rulers have too often paid court to the harlot for some supposed advantage to themselves. The going to and from the Vatican on the part of professed “Protestant ” leaders in recent years has been very noticeable and nothing but mischief can come out of it. The nations and their rulers in their present grave difficulties need GOD. Trafficking with Jezebel is more likely to deepen than to assuage His displeasure with them all. The household in Zarephath was sustained by the temporal mercies of God, which never failed; but also their hearts were sustained by the hope which He set before them. Let us look again at the message of Jehovah to the widow: “Thus says Jehovah, the God of Israel, the meal in the barrel shall not waste, neither shall the oil in the cruse fail, until the day that Jehovah sends rain upon the earth” (1 Kings 17:14). Mark the words, “until the day” — words from the very heart of a faithful God, who would give deliverance and blessing in His season. The fields were not always to be scorched, nor the trees fruitless, nor the streams dry. It was Jehovah’s gracious intention to reverse these disastrous conditions, and grant once more a happy blend of sunshine and showers which would make “the field joyful and all that is therein” (Ps. 104:12). However unbelieving might be the multitudes around them, the little group in the cottage would cherish the words of God, and wait in faith for Him to act in goodness by His almighty power.We must not leave the subject of God’s seven thousand without making its application to ourselves in these closing days of the Christian era. Some who will read these pages have taken a definite stand in separation from the growing evils of Christendom. Popery, religious infidelity (“Higher Criticism”), and other forms of disobedience to the Word of God are marching on; and these separated ones abhor them all. This is good. Beware lest you allow discouragement, or anything else, to weaken the stand you have taken. But also beware how you speak of your brethren who (unaccountably to your minds) remain where they are. God knows their hearts; you do not. They are His saints; dear to Him for Jesus’ sake. They cost Him more than you will ever fully understand, and in His own time He will cause them to shine forth in all the divine perfections of His Beloved Son. Speak no ill of them; judge them not. Some of their works, wrought amidst difficulties, are doubtless precious in His sight. It was so even in corrupt Thyatira (Rev. 2:19). It may he that the inconsistencies of some professedly separated ones have stumbled them — a most serious confederation which should cause the deepest heart-searching before God.

When Elijah found himself face to face with the widow of whom Jehovah had told him, he asked her for a drink of water, much in the same way as the Lord Jesus asked a drink from the woman of Samaria. As the widow turned to fetch it, he said, “Bring me, I pray thee, a morsel of bread in thine hand.” This request brought out the woman’s destitute condition. She said, “As Jehovah thy God lives, I have not a cake, but a handful of meal in a barrel and a little oil in a cruse; and, behold, I am gathering two sticks that I may go in and dress it for me and my son that we may eat it, an
d die” (1 Kings 17:12). Truly, a pitiful story! It will be observed that she brought in the name of Jehovah. This is wonderful! While the foolish people of Israel were turning their backs upon the one true God, preferring the false gods of the Zidonians, we have a woman who, in spite of the unholy influences around her, believed that Israel’s Jehovah was the true God. In this she reminds us of Rahab (Joshua 2:9-11). It is important to remind ourselves that, although God has never at any time entered into covenant-relationship with any nation but Israel, He has always had true saints (individuals) elsewhere. Peter was constrained to acknowledge this as he entered into the house of Cornelius (Acts 10:34-35). But the widow’s faith at the time of Elijah’s arrival was very low. She did not say “my God,” as Paul in Phil. 4:19. Her heart was indeed towards Jehovah (no other god had any place with her); but possibly she felt that He had quite forgotten her! Her language was that of despair; she was about to make her last cake; then she and her son would lie down and die!
Elijah having gone a day’s journey into the wilderness sat down under a juniper tree and spoke to God — probably his first word of prayer since he left Jezreel. “He requested for himself that he might die.” Unbelief is always unreasonable and inconsistent. If the prophet really wished to die, why did he flee from Jezebel? Why not die a martyr’s death in the midst of the people of God! Jehovah was no longer uppermost in his thoughts. The divine glory was not before his mind, but some fancied advantage for himself. Life was now a disappointment! His work in Israel had gone all wrong! How gracious of our God not to take His poor perverse servants always at their word! It was His intention that Elijah should not die at all; that he should have an exit from the world such as no-one ever had before, or has had since! Paul in Phil. 1 took a totally different line from Elijah. His work also had gone wrong (as men would judge), and he was in prison, with martyrdom threatening. Calmly in the presence of God he considered the situation. He was in a great “strait.” If he put his own interest first, he would desire to depart and be with Christ, which would be happier for him than the happiest experiences here. But he thought of the need of the saints; therefore he desired to remain on earth a little longer: but in any case his one ambition was that Christ should be magnified in his body, whether by life or by death.Omri did not secure the throne of Israel without a long struggle. Comparison of verses 15 and 23 of 1 Kings 16 suggests that the civil war raged four years. Seeing that half the nation preferred Tibni to Omri this is not surprising; but the condition of the country while these unprincipled men were contending must have been pitiful. Only a few years before, probably within the memory of living persons, the twelve tribes of Israel were a united people. They stood high amongst the nations by the goodness of God, and the sovereign was receiving the homage of all the kings round about. The country was wealthy and peaceful. Gold was so plentiful that silver was thought nothing of in the days of Solomon (2 Chron. 9:20). Now — they were divided into two mutually antagonistic nations, and two ruthless military leaders were contending for the mastery in the Northern State. Also vast amounts of Solomon’s accumulated treasure had been seized and carried away from Jerusalem into Egypt. “How are the mighty fallen!” (2 Sam: 1:27). Truly the consequences of turning away from God and His Word are disastrous! Let us take heed!

Jehovah’s reply to Elijah’s complaint is deeply solemn in all its parts. “Go return!” Every false step with any of us must be retraced. Abram should not have gone down into Egypt, and he enjoyed no more communion with God until he returned “to the place of the altar which he had made there at the first; and there Abram called on the name of Jehovah” (Gen. 13:4). But false steps and careless walking involve loss of time; so we are taught in the law of the Nazarite (Num. 6:12). Life is too short to allow of wasted time! Life on earth is our great preparation for ETERNITY!
When the first nations settled down in their lands, they threw off the knowledge of God which they had inherited from Noah and his sons, and they plunged into idolatry. Rom: 1:28 says, “they did not like to retain God in their knowledge.” Their conceptions of deity, under the deceptive influence of Satan, sank lower and lower. First, “they changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man”; soon, they set up beasts, then birds, and even creeping things. The worship of the serpent became popular. It was not naked savages who thus plunged deeper and deeper into the abyss of folly; for the ancient kingdoms of Babylon, Assyria, and Egypt (amongst others) possessed much learning. It is impossible for men to rise morally above the level of the gods they worship; accordingly beast-worshippers soon became beastly themselves in practise. Rom: 1:18-32 should be carefully pondered for it is God’s sad description of the depths of vice and folly to which men descended when they turned their backs upon Him. Let moderns beware in their increasing godlessness.

We need to exercise ourselves more than perhaps we do with reference to sickness. We are too ready when trouble comes, to send for the physician; and also when a fellow-Christian falls sick, to ask the Lord to heal him. Should we not, first, exercise our hearts and consciences before God, and enquire of Him why these things have come about? There are sometimes moral reasons why we or our loved ones are laid low. The affliction may be preventive in character, as in the case of Job, or it may be corrective. In any case, exercise of heart and conscience before God is good and cannot fail to yield blessed results. Another has said: “As long as life flows quietly, and our daily needs are met, we may live with little exercise as to much that, in God’s sight, calls for self-judgement. But under the exercise of some special trial, conscience becomes active, the vision is cleared, and much that may have been wrong in the past in thoughts, words, habits and ways, is seen, dealt with, and judged in God’s presence.”

This Zidonian Woman is one of the outstanding characters in Bible history. Nearly a thousand years after her day, the Lord Jesus made public reference to her, without, however, revealing her name. But her name is as well known in heaven as that of the woman who put her two mites into Jehovah’s treasury (Luke 21:2). In the coming day of recompense these widows will receive warm divine “commendation.” The widow of Zarephath will have a prophet’s reward for her care of Elijah when his life was in danger (Matt. 10:41). All such deeds are carefully recorded by our appreciative God. Lovers of hospitality are very agreeable to Him; and when the Son of Man sits upon the throne of His glory, as in Matt 25:31-46, He will praise to the uttermost those who have been kind to His needy messengers. What joy it will give to those hospitable folk to hear His voice, and what honour to be commended before the hosts of angels who will surround the throne of the King of Kings on that great day! Earth has witnessed many wonderful sights, but has seen nothing yet to be compared with the majesty described by our Lord Himself in Matt. 25.
It was a peaceful scene at Abel-Meholah. The rain for which Elijah had prayed had done its work, and the land was ready for ploughing. The man to whom he was sent was thus engaged. The fact that twelve yoke of oxen were in use indicates that Elisha’s father was a farmer in a large way. Elisha thus turned his back on good prospects when he accepted the call to follow Elijah. This is what God loves to see in those who serve Him. There are many in our day say they are “out in the work.” This means that they no longer evangelise after office hours, but now devote their whole time to the service. Certainly if their ambition is to go from door to door and from town to town in search for souls, it is well that they should be free from everything else. But, my brethren, what has the step cost you? Have you surrendered something substantial (as men speak) in order to serve the interests of Christ in a needy world? Many years ago a brother in an English town wrote me confidentially for advice. He could not make his shop pay, and he wondered whether the Lord would have him close it, and go forth to preach. What did I think? I replied that the Lord has no use for ne’er-do-wells. A poor grocer would not be likely to make a good preacher. If his business were at the height of prosperity, and he felt the urge of the Gospel, the Lord would be delighted with the sacrifice. A different case was that of a young Englishman who held a good post with fine prospects who had China upon his heart. Just as he was posting his letter of resignation, a notification came from his employer that he was to be promoted to higher work with a considerable increase of salary! He hesitated not, but posted his letter and in due course sailed for China. What God wants is men who are ready to tread the path of His beloved Son who “sold all that He had.”

Naboth was thus a man of faith. His father valued what Jehovah had given him, and Naboth valued it also. He would die rather than surrender what really belonged to God. The Naboth spirit seems rare in our time. Divine principles which our fathers prized, and for which many suffered the loss of everything, are very lightly regarded by their children. The worthies of past years are even regarded as over-scrupulous. A little of the accommodating spirit of the Twentieth Century would have been to their advantage! To be spoken of as a “Puritan” is considered a great reproach today!
Not ashamed of his impiety, and in no wise humbled, Ahaziah ordered the arrest of the prophet. But why send a captain with fifty men (presumably armed) against a helpless old man! Conscience told the king that there was a mysterious power connected with Elijah which must be reckoned with. But what could soldiers do against the power of God! The captain found Elijah sitting on top of a hill. He said to him: “Thou man of God, the king has said, come down.” The prophet replied: “If I be a man of God, let fire come down from heaven and consume thee and thy fifty.” The terrible thing took place forthwith. Such a disaster should have warned both the king and his officers that “it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Heb. 10:31). But a second company was sent, as numerous as the first. The second captain was irritable. “O man of God, the king has said come down quickly.” Military discipline is doubtless important. Officers and men, generally speaking, must obey their superiors; but every man, in every land, whether soldier or civilian, is first of all a servant of God and he should on no account surrender his conscience. It will be no answer in the day of judgement that the king or government commanded this or that. “We ought to obey God rather than man” (Acts 5:29). The fact that both captains addressed Elijah as “man of God” proves that they had some idea that they were contending with God. It was no secret to any in Israel that at Elijah’s word rain was withheld and fire descended: in other words, this humble man wielded the judgements of God. It was one thing to reject his testimony; it was quite another to attempt to destroy the man himself. God’s name having been brought into the matter, He must needs take up the challenge. Ahaziah’s father once benefited by the folly of the Syrians in this respect. The Syrians having said that Israel’s God was God of the hills but not of the valleys, Jehovah asserted Himself, and granted Ahab a great victory, wicked man though he was (1 Kings 20:28). Thus, in the controversy between Ahaziah and Elijah, Jehovah again asserted Himself, and made the king and his people feel the might of His hand. The second captain was less excusable than the first. Knowing of the destruction of his predecessor, he impiously attempted the same thing, with the same fatal result.In every age, the Word of the Lord should alone direct the life of the believer. When Jesus was in the wilderness, and hungry after forty days abstinence from food, He absolutely refused the tempter’s suggestion that He should turn stones into bread. There would be nothing morally wrong in doing so, and He unquestionably had the power to satisfy His need in that way; but there was something far more important to Him than “the bread that perishes.” It was the Word of God, and He had no direction from Him to do what the tempter suggested. The first man might set aside the Word of God in order to do his own will; the second Man would perpetrate no such folly. “He answered and said, it is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4). Here is our perfect example. He lived daily according to this simple principle without wavering. When He came into the world, He said. “I delight to do Thy will; O My
God, yea, Thy law is within My heart” (Ps. 40:8). As He moved up and down amongst earth’s self-willed millions, He told them, “I came down from heaven, not to do Mine own will, but the will of Him that sent Me” (John 6:38). When the cross lay just before Him, we hear Him saying in the darkness of Gethsemane, “O My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me: nevertheless, not as I will, but as Thou wilt” (Matt. 26:39). For this perfect obedience the Father loved Him (John 10:17).

No nation has ever held, or ever will hold, a position in the earth at all comparable to that of Israel. That nation forms the very centre of God’s ways both in government and in blessing. The kings and statesmen of earth do not understand this; hence the futility of all their treaties, with bitter disappointment to millions. Israel ignored: Christ ignored; God ignored! What stability can there be even in the most carefully worked-out plans for the peaceful settlement of the nations?
Why did God employ Elijah? His flaming zeal for the glory of God, and his simple-hearted faith in His Word and in His power is the answer. It is interesting to observe that there are two Elijah’s noted in the Scriptures, and the contrast between them will help us at this point. The other Elijah is found in Ezra 10:21. He was one of many priests of Aaron’s favoured line who sinned against God after His merciful restoration of a Jewish remnant from the captivity in Babylon. In flagrant defiance of the Word of God this man had taken a strange wife. Where was zeal for God’s glory in such a one? What sense had he of the blessedness of special relationship to Jehovah! Also, what neglect, or rejection, of the lessons which he should have learned from the disasters which had fallen upon the nation because of their unfaithfulness to God! Thus the instructed priest of Ezra 10:21 stands out as a model of disobedience to the known will of God. The very mention of him (although we would not ignore his repentance) makes us realize the more the loyalty and zeal of the humble Tishbite. Elijah fell asleep. Well he might, for surely he was badly over-wrought. After some time (not too soon, we may be sure) an angel touched him, saying, “Arise and eat.” Looking around, he saw a cake baken on hot stones and a cruse of water; having refreshed himself, he slept again. Here we have a truly wonderful manifestation of the kindness of God. An angel sent from heaven to provide a meal for a faulty servant who had forsaken an important post of duty, and who was now completely outside the path of God’s leading! In Isa. 59:15 we read: “Truth fails, and he that departs from evil makes himself a prey. “Obadiah was not quite willing to be a prey. In Jer. 15:19 he who would separate himself from the evil around is assured by God, “thou shalt stand before Me; and if thou know how to take forth the precious from the vile, thou shalt be as My mouth.” This is exceedingly precious: — nearness to God, and ability to give utterance to His mind to others. Obadiah, alas, knew nothing of this. What do we know of it?

The people having given their decision, and the idolatrous prophets having been slain, Elijah knew that rain was near. Accordingly he said to Ahab “Get thee up eat and drink, for there is a sound of abundance of rain”(1 Kings 18:41). Let us observe that the welcome rain did not begin to fall immediately the people shouted, “Jehovah, He is the God.” In the divine ordering, Elijah must first pray for it. He was, so to speak, God’s administrator towards Israel at that crisis. His lips pronounced the judgement; and his lips must announce the blessing; but both blessing and judgement were preceded by prayer. Thus we have the prophet going up to the top of Carmel to speak to God. Ahab, in his selfishness, prepared to go home; not to pray, but to feast. He had the feeling that the long-continued drought was ending. That was all that mattered: there would soon be food again for his horses and mules! Meantime, a banquet was more to his liking than a prayer-meeting.
It is important that we should transfer our thoughts for a while from the first book of Kings to the Apocalypse. The re-appearance of Jezebel’s name in the closing book of the Bible suggests that the gross evils which confronted Elijah long ago confront us also, although in a somewhat different form. Truly, there is nothing new under the sun, and history constantly repeats itself!The disruption of Israel followed Solomon’s death, and the breach has not been healed to this day. Ten tribes followed the lead of Jeroboam the son of Nebat; the remaining two continued with the house of David. Jehovah promised Jeroboam “a sure house” if he would walk in His ways, for Jeroboam understood that God was disciplining the unfaithful royal house through him; nevertheless, Jeroboam having no faith in God and His word, and fearing for the security of his throne if the people continued to go up to Jerusalem to worship, installed golden calves in Bethel and Dan, and presumably built sanctuaries for them (1 Kings 11:37-38:1 Kings 12:26-30; Amos 7:13). He ordained priests from amongst all classes (ignoring the special privilege of the Levites); and he instituted feasts of his own devising in defiance of Jehovah’s law as laid down in Lev. 23. Thus the people were wholly diverted from God’s centre, and from His order connected therewith. All this was more than unfaithfulness; it was open apostasy. Happily, considerable numbers abhorred these evils, for the Word of God had some authority over their hearts; they turned their backs upon Jeroboam’s evil inventions, in some cases surrendering their homes and lands, and they went south where there was still a measure of respect for Jehovah’s Word, and where at any rate they could worship in the house that was called by His name. That this large movement was a true spiritual work is clear from the following passage: “out of all the tribes of Israel such as set their hearts to seek Jehovah the God of Israel came to Jerusalem to sacrifice to Jehovah the God of their fathers. “The influence of these pious immigrants was so good that for three years the two tribes “walked in the way of David and Solomon” (2 Chron: 11:13-17). The deplorable break-up of the nation; the report of the wickedness of Jeroboam and his followers; and the coming amongst them of a crowd of pious souls (leaving their all behind them), apparently woke up Rehoboam and his two loyal tribes to the seriousness of the devilries which had been developing in the land for some years, and for a time (alas, only for a time) things went well.To the astonishment of the three disciples, Moses and Elijah appeared, and entered into conversation with the Lord. These prophets could enter more than many into the feelings of the rejected Christ; for both suffered severely from those to whose service they devoted their lives. Luke says the theme of conversation was His “decease (exodus) which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.” Here we have the only basis of blessing. Moses brought down from God the law to a people to whom he was obliged to say at the close of his life: “Ye have been rebellious against Jehovah from the day that I knew you (Deut. 9:24). Elijah appeared amongst the people at a critical time and sought to lead them back into the path of obedience. Both Moses and Elijah failed, for flesh is an evil thing. But the One who was about to give His life for sinners could not fail. A Saviour who has passed through death and risen again is the only hope of ruined men. Blessed be His holy name!

The Israelites who separated themselves from the wickedness of Jeroboam and his followers, and removed into the Kingdom of Judah desired to cleave to Jehovah’s ways as written in His Word. The innovations of unsanctified men were abominable in their eyes. Let us imitate their excellent example.
“Come near to me,” said Elijah to the people, so long led astray like foolish sheep. There is a
sound of tenderness in the prophet’s words, reminiscent of Joseph’s invitation to his guilty and trembling brethren in Gen. 45:4. Elijah would soon now lead the poor misguided people back to their long-suffering and faithful God. In their presence he repaired the long-dishonoured altar of Jehovah. He would teach them the true way of approach to God. If blessing was ever again to be enjoyed in Israel, it must be in virtue of the divinely accepted sacrifice. When the remnant returned from Babylon with Zerubbabel “they set the altar upon his bases for fear was upon them because of the people of those countries: and they offered burnt offerings thereon to Jehovah, even burnt offerings morning and evening” (Ezra 3:2-3). In their weakness they felt the altar would be a better protection than walls and weapons. They were right, for the altar and sacrifices spoke to God of Christ, and God always responses to faith of that character.Not many years after the apostate ten tribes had been carried away into captivity (for they learned no permanent lesson from the heavy divine visitations of Elijah’s day) the Southern Kingdom also was smitten with the dearth. How long it continued, we know not. But “Judah mourns, and the gates thereof languish; they are black to the ground; and the cry of Jerusalem is gone up. Their nobles have sent their servants to the waters: they came to the pits, and found no water; they returned with their vessels empty” (Jer. 14). The prophet goes on to describe the sufferings of both man and beast. The solemn feature of this infliction is that Jeremiah was forbidden to pray for the people. “Thus says Jehovah to this people, they have loved to wander, they have not refrained their feet, therefore Jehovah doth not accept them; He will now remember their iniquity, and visit their sins. Then said Jehovah to me, “Pray not for this people for their good. When they fast, I will not hear their cry.” Jeremiah pleaded on their behalf that their prophets had misled them; but Judah had been as willing to listen to false prophets as their Northern brethren in the days of Ahab. “Then said Jehovah to me, though Moses and Samuel stood before Me, My mind could not be towards this people, cast them out of My sight, and let them go forth” (Jer. 15:1). Accordingly, all the tribes have been expelled from the good land which Jehovah in grace promised Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to give them. It is a serious thing to turn away from the voice of God, and to refuse to learn the lessons of His chastening hand. Is the time near when it will be too late to pray for unfaithful Britain — when not even the intercessions of a Moses or a Samuel will avail to avert ruin?

The secret of a peaceful life is not submission to, but delight in the will of God. It should be to us “the perfect law of liberty” (James 1:25). In response to the mercies of God, we should present our bodies a living sacrifice, holy acceptable to God. All thought of conformity to this world should be abandoned. We should seek to be transformed by the renewing of our mind, that we may prove by experience “the good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God” (Rom 12:1-2). If the Word of the Lord really controls us in our private lives, in our business transactions, and in our assembly associations, we shall “walk worthy of the Lord to all pleasing, being faithful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God” (Col. 1:10). Self-will, and neglect of the Word of God, is responsible for many of our sorrows and mistakes in the various spheres in which we move.
We who believe in the Lord Jesus in this dispensation belong to the heavens — there our portion lies, and we look to see the Saviour as the Bright Morning Star before He shines forth in majesty as the Sun of Righteousness. Everyone will see the Sun (“every eye shall see Him”); but only His waiting saints will see the Morning Star. We belong in spirit to the day now “we are all sons of the light, and sons of the day; we are not of the night, nor of darkness” (1 Thess. 5:5).

Very few men have been sent back to earth after having left it. Three are noted in Scripture: — Samuel was sent (not in response to the call of the witch) to pronounce the doom of Saul (1 Sam. 28); and Moses and Elijah were sent to greet the Father’s well-beloved Son on the Mount of Transfiguration. A great honour for them, and full of meaning for us.

It was a great moment when Elijah walked into the king’s presence with his brief, but grave message: “As Jehovah the God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years but according to my word” (1 Kings 17:1). What the Lord Jesus said of John the Baptist would have suited Elijah also: “What went ye out to see? A man clothed in delicate raiment? behold, they that wear delicate raiment are in King’s houses” (Matt. 11:8). Elijah is described in 2 Kings 1:8 as a man in “a hairy garment, and girt with a girdle of leather about his loins.” John the Baptist dressed similarly (Matt. 3:4). In such attire Elijah confronted Ahab and his court. What lay behind this amazing courage? For this we must enquire of the apostle James who wrote about our prophet nearly a thousand years after his day (James 5:17). Elijah was pre-eminently a man of prayer. Being thus accustomed to have dealings with the Sovereign of the universe at His lofty throne he did not dread Israel’s petty sovereign sitting upon his throne, whatever might be the strength of the armed guard around him! Elijah’s God was a living God: and he lived, served, and testified in the consciousness of His presence.When Ahab was told by Jezebel that Naboth was dead, he went to the vineyard to take possession of it. Jehovah acted swiftly. He bade Elijah go and confront him in the blood-stained plot. The wicked king quailed before the messenger of God. ” Ahab said to Elijah, Hast thou found me, O mine enemy? And he answered, I have found thee; because thou hast sold thyself to work evil in the sight of Jehovah” (1 Kings 21:20). Ahab then had to listen to as fearful a sentence as was ever passed upon a sinner. It was in three parts. (1)” Behold, I will bring evil upon thee.” He personally must suffer. He came to a miserable end, as we know. (2) His whole family was to be destroyed, like the families of his evil predecessors Jeroboam and Baasha. He had wiped out Naboth’s family: God would wipe out his. (3) Jezebel was to be eaten by dogs. The fearful sentence concluded thus: “Him that dies of Ahab in the city the dogs shall eat; and him that dies in the field shall the fowls of the air eat.” Hardened sinner though he was, Ahab was overwhelmed as he listened, and he rent his clothes, put sackcloth upon his flesh, and went softly. He knew that there was power in the words of God as uttered by Elijah. The God of all grace responded to Ahab’s humiliation, and the greater part of the sentence was postponed in its execution. Jehovah said to Elijah: “Seest thou how Ahab humbles himself before Me? Because he humbles himself before Me, I will not bring the evil in his days: but in his son’s days will I bring evil upon his house.” God took into account the evil influence under which he lived — “whom Jezebel his wife stirred up.” But he should never have married the woman, and he must be held accountable for her iniquities (ver. 19); for the man is the divinely appointed head of the woman, whatever kind of woman she may be (1: Cor. 11:3). Let none of us overlook this!

When “the God of glory” called Abraham, and revealed to him His thoughts (Acts 7:2) His purpose was to recover and bless all the nations by the instrumentality of his seed (Gen. 12:2-3; Gen. 22:18). When Abraham was thus called the whole earth was sunk in the darkness and impurity of idolatry; indeed, Abraham’s own family “served other gods” (Joshua 24:2). It was sovereign grace therefore on God’s part thus to bless Abraham, and then make him a blessing to others. The kingdom of Israel was established as God’s witness in the earth; the people should have faithfully held aloft the lamp of divine truth for the enlightenment of all. When they descended to the level of the nations around them, their testimony was gone, and the blessing of the nations became impossible. It awaits the day of Christ. When He appears in kingdom majesty, all that has failed in the hands of Adam, Noah, David, Solomon, and others, He will take up and fulfil gloriously.
Obadiah comes upon us in the Scriptures as abruptly as Elijah; but while the one passes off the sacred page abruptly (sixteen verses, and no more!) the other lingers in the mind of the sacred historians, and his service and testimony continue right onward to the great day of the Lord!When the prophet bade him go and tell his master, “Behold, Elijah is here,” he was terrified. He feared his very life would be in danger. He poured out a veritable torrent of words to the prophet. First, he spoke of the danger to himself; then he told how Ahab had enquired of every known kingdom and nation concerning Elijah, determined to slay him if he could get hold of him. To mention the hated name to the furious king would stir his devilry to its depths. So Obadiah feared; and, as if begging to be excused carrying such a message, he pleaded his kindness to the prophets. “Was it not told my lord what I did when Jezebel slew the prophets of Jehovah, how I hid a hundred of Jehovah’s prophets by fifty in a cave, and fed them with bread and water?” It is suggestive of a low spiritual condition when any servant of God makes much of his own work. Paul says a good deal about his own labours and sufferings in 2 Cor. 11: It was the bad condition of things at Corinth that made it necessary, but he calls it “folly,” nevertheless. But how wonderfully God works! We should never have known how varied and severe were the sufferings of the apostle, had not the story been wrung from him by the ill-behaved Corinthians. It does one good to read 2 Cor. 11, it is a holy stimulus to our souls; but Paul and every other true-hearted labourer would infinitely rather speak of Christ — the glories of His person, the perfection of His sacrifice, and the greatness of His triumph — than speak of his own work, and thus seem to be magnifying himself.

If we would be useful to God in these last days, we must train our souls to look at things from God’s point of view. The deep spiritual feelings of men of old are a rebuke to us, for these are days of shallowness and superficiality. Daniel, when told of judgements yet to come (Dan. 7) says “my cogitations much troubled me, and my countenance changed in me”; when further solemn things were made known to him, in his eighth chapter, he says, “I Daniel fainted, and was sick certain days”; and in Dan. 10, when in prayer to God about His unhappy people, he mourned three full weeks, he ate no pleasant bread, neither flesh nor wine entered his mouth, neither did he anoint himself. Such deep spiritual exercise is well-pleasing to God; but are we up to it! In the light of what the Spirit has written concerning Elijah, Moses, Samuel, Daniel, Paul, Epaphras, and others, we may well ask ourselves. Have we yet learned how to pray?
Jeroboam, in spite of his wickedness, was allowed by Jehovah to reign twenty-two years. Jehovah had used him: for the chastisement of the guilty house of David; but his own evil course, in spite of his knowledge of Solomon’s sins, and also of God’s encouragement of Himself to do well, made it impossible for him to establish a new dynasty. The “sure house” mentioned in 1 Kings 11:38 could not be; for Jeroboam had led the people far away from their God. Blessed be His name, He will change everything at the appointed hour. The public manifestation of Christ, accompanied by the “many sons,” will introduce earth’s jubilee (Rom. 8:19). Then “the wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad, and the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose; it shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice even with joy and singing … in the wilderness shall waters break out, and streams in the desert” (Isa. 35:1-2, 6). “There shall be abundance of corn in the earth upon the top of the mountains; the fruit thereof shall shake like Lebanon; and they of the city shall flourish like grass of the earth” (Ps. 72:16). There was a moment in Samuel’s day when this evil was apparently sincerely judged. The prophet urged the people to put away the strange gods from amon
gst them, and prepare their hearts to serve Jehovah only. “Then the children of Israel did put away Baalim and Ashtoreth, and served Jehovah only” (1 Sam. 7:3-4). This was good, for Jehovah is a jealous God, and will not share our hearts with any other (Ex. 20:5; Hosea 10:2). Hence our Lord’s rebuke to the tempter in the wilderness, “Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God and Him only shalt thou serve” (Matt. 4:10). Jezebel’s coming into Israel put the worship of Baal and Ashtoreth upon a firm footing. It became the religion of the State with priests and prophets in abundance who ate at the royal table (1 Kings 17:19). With all this wickedness before us, this gross defiance of all the commandments of God, we can understand somewhat the fiery indignation of Elijah’s soul and the sternness with which be testified against it. Do we feel strongly concerning the widespread disobedience to God and His Word in our own time? Does it turn us to prayer? Does it lead us into complete separation to God, and do we seek courage to protest against it all by the power of the Holy Spirit who dwells within us?

When we seek guidance from God about any matter, and He delays to give it, let us remain where we are and do nothing, as the Lord Jesus did in John 11:6. The opposite of this is seen in the Jewish captains who asked Jeremiah to seek guidance for them from Jehovah when they had already made up their minds to go down into Egypt. This story of flagrant hypocrisy is written in Jer. 42, and should be read carefully by everyone.
“The day” so frequently referred to in Scripture does not mean a period of twenty-four hours. It covers the entire period of God’s suppression of evil in order that He may establish peace and blessing. The heavenly places will first be cleared of rebels: we learn this from Isa. 24:21, and Rev. 12:7-12: the clearance of earth will follow.There are some important lessons to be learned from the story of Obadiah; but first it may be well to compare him with some of his contemporaries. Elijah and Obadiah were both saints of God; so also were Micaiah the son of Imlah and Jehoshaphat King of Judah. We shall meet them all in the glory of God ere long, like ourselves, sinners saved by grace. These four men fall into two pairs, thus: — Elijah and Micaiah; Obadiah and Jehoshaphat. The first two were bold and unflinching in their testimony. Ahab called Elijah “mine enemy” (1 Kings 21:20), and of Micaiah he said, “I hate him” (1 Kings 22:8). It is really a compliment to be disliked by the wicked. “Woe to you, when all men speak well of you! for so did their fathers to the false prophets” (Luke 6:26). Obadiah and Jehoshaphat were the opposite of Elijah and Micaiah. They were not bold and unflinching, but weak, and given to compromise for the sake of advantage. Ahab hated neither of these, for they were useful to him. The Lord Jesus once said to His Own unbelieving brethren, “the world cannot hate you: but Me it hates, because I testify of it that its works are evil” (John 7:7). The Lord in His prayer to the Father in John 17 spoke of His disciples as loved by the Father, but hated by the world. The comfort of the one strengthens us to endure the painfulness of the other.

A third captain was sent against Elijah. He — wise man — fell upon his knees, and pleaded for his life and for the lives of his men. He realized that it was vain to contend with God. In David’s day three companies of men were sent by Saul to take him, and all three were equally willing for their evil work. But God had His own way of turning their efforts to folly (1 Sam. 19:21). Ahaziah’s third captain took very humble ground with the man of God. “I pray thee, let my life, and the lives of these fifty thy servants, be precious in thy sight.” (2 Kings 1:13). Submission to God, represented by Elijah, saved those fifty one men. “Thy servants”; note the words addressed by a military officer to a humble Gileadite peasant. In like manner, no sinner need perish if he will but humble himself under the mighty hand of God (1 Peter 5:6).
There was not only a voice to Elijah in the steps of his last journey; there was also a voice to Elisha, who was to witness for God in the land after Elijah’s departure. Elisha had an impression that there was a meaning — a meaning of spiritual value — in the movements of that day. Thus he kept close to the departing one, not permitting himself to be deflected, either by the words of the prophet, or by the remarks of the sons of the prophets. Three times Elijah said, “Tarry, here, I pray thee”: but Elisha replied each time with holy fervour: “As Jehovah lives, and as thy soul lives, I will not leave thee.” It was not that Elijah wished to get rid of his friend; but he would test his constancy. Barnabas counselled the converts in Antioch to cleave to the Lord with purpose of heart (Acts 11:23). Blessed counsel; may we all heed it! Both joy and power depart when we allow anything to come in between our souls and the Lord. Paul walked once from Troas to Assos — about 25 miles — alone, sending his companions round by sea (Acts 20:13). He had his own reasons for avoiding conversations just then. With Elijah and Elisha it was different. “They still went on, and talked” (2 Kings 2:11). Elisha was bent on getting the full blessing of that wonderful day. Like Paul later, he would have said: “This one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind —” (Phil. 3:13).But where was Obadiah? The Lord has taught us in Matt. 18:19 the preciousness of two praying together; but the two must be in harmony; they must both be alike in separation to God, and walking in His ways for their prayers to be effectual. Alas, there was no bond of sympathy between Elijah and Obadiah, although both were men born of the Spirit! Obadiah did not stand by Elijah when he confronted the foe, nor did he bow the knee with him when he made supplication to God. How much Obadiah missed by pandering to the world, accepting ease and honour in the midst of the ungodly! Also how much Jonathan missed by not separating himself from the divinely rejected Saul — order of things to go outside with David! He could never have written David’s psalms! “Ye are honourable,” wrote the Apostle to the ease-loving Corinthians “but we are despised” (1 Cor. 4:10). But Paul was more happy than they. Nevertheless, to stand apart from the world system is admittedly loss, as men judge; but the spiritual gain in communion with God is immense.

The manner of Elijah’s departure from this scene of toil and strife is noteworthy. We recall a moment when he sat under a juniper tree disappointed and depressed, and requested for himself that he might die. Yet the God of all grace had purposed for him a departure from this world such as no other has ever had, the blessed Son of God alone excepted. “Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and he was not, for God took him” (Heb. 11:5: Gen. 5:24); but nothing spectacular is suggested in the Holy Spirit’s brief record. We — God’s present saints — are expecting something far more wonderful than either Enoch or Elijah experienced. Not individually, but in a countless throng we shall be caught up. For this the Lord will come in person (1 Thess. 4:16-17). Oh, the unspeakable blessedness of “the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and our gathering together to Him!” (2 Thess. 2:1). What an end to all the anxieties and sufferings of earth!
Jehovah heard and answered Elijah’s brief prayer, “and the soul of the child came into him again, and he revived.” With calm dignity the prophet led the lad down from the upper chamber, and said to the mother, “See, thy son lives.” The woman’s reply is arresting: “Now by this I know that thou art a man of God, and that the word of Jehovah in thy mouth is truth.” We cannot but compare this with what the Shunammite woman said (to her husband) concerning Elisha: “Behold, now, I perceive that this is a holy man of God which passes by us continually” (2 Kings 4:9). Elisha had some
times, in the course of his travels, called at their home for a meal, and his deportment suggested the woman’s remarks. But the Shunammite was on higher ground spiritually than the Zidonian in that she discerned in her visitor a man of God before any miracle was wrought; the Zidonian needed a miracle to lead her to that conclusion. But both women are included in God’s gallery of witnesses in the words, “through faith … women received their dead raised to life again” (Heb. 11:35).Thyatira is only mentioned twice in the Scriptures, and in each case a woman’s name is connected with the city. But how great the contrast between pious Lydia, who esteemed it an honour to lodge four preachers of the Gospel (Acts 16:15); and Jezebel who sought to deceive Christ’s servants who would listen to her, and who would fain have destroyed those who refused to listen.Ahab was a weak character; Jezebel was strong and energetic. A most unfortunate combination! 1 Kings 21:27 suggests that his whole course might have been different had his wife been an Abigail instead of Jezebel. When Elijah pronounced the divine sentence upon him after the murder of Naboth, we read that “he rent his clothes, and put sackcloth upon his flesh, and fasted, and lay in sackcloth, and went softly. “This was excellent; and Jehovah so far relented towards him that the judgement was at least deferred. No man’s weakness of character excuses his wickedness; still, God in His pitifulness, does take account of the influences which surround us all. “There was none like to Ahab, which did sell himself to work wickedness in the sight of Jehovah, whom Jezebel his wife stirred up” (1 Kings 21:25). But he should never have married the woman!

Elijah was now to go to Abel-Meholah (in Naphtali) to anoint Elisha to be prophet in his room. He probably did not expect anything quite as serious as all this when “he made intercession to God against Israel” (Rom. 11:2-5). The principal lesson that he learned at Horeb was that Jehovah had seven thousand in Israel that were still true to Him, and refused Baal. Elijah had seen the terrible evils which covered the land, but somehow he had over-looked the good that was there. Had he known that Jehovah still had thousands of true hearts in Ahab’s dominions, he would scarcely have said: “I, even I only am left!” Self-occupation is a spiritually ruinous thing, whatever form it may take; but it is highly objectionable when it leads any servant of God to imagine that he is the last true man upon earth! The testimony of God has never yet depended upon the slender thread of a human life, and it never will. God Himself will take care of the testimony; and in His own infinite wisdom He always knows where to find instruments through whom He can speak to the consciences and hearts of the people. The prophet said nothing in response to the solemn words of Jehovah. What could he say?
The honour of the God of Israel having been fully vindicated, Elijah was told by the angel to go with the captain, fearing nothing. Behold then the prophet with his rough hairy mantle going with his considerable military escort to the royal palace! To his face he told the wicked king that there would be no recovery for him; he would surely die. “Thus says Jehovah.” Unmolested the prophet walked out!

It has been said that Elijah was now to be superseded by Elisha. This seems hardly correct. Jehovah still had use for him as subsequent chapters show. But meantime He would teach His servant that the testimony was in no real peril, and He granted him the honour of training the man who should continue it. In the days (or perhaps years) that followed, Elijah had the comfort of Godly companionship. His sense of loneliness had been too much for him, and had bred unbecoming thoughts in his mind. It is written of Elisha that “he poured water on the hands of Elijah” (2 Kings 3:11). Simple imagery, telling us how the younger man refreshed the elder. Paul experienced something of this in the loving ministrations of his son Timothy (Phil. 2:19-22).

When we compare this angelic ministration with the prophet’s experience at Cherith the conclusion is this: — when he was right with God, it was simply the need of his stomach which had to be considered, and the ravens sufficed for that service; but when he was all wrong with God, something more serious than his stomach was in question; God would reach his heart. The attentions of the angel would be a definite assurance to Elijah that Jehovah loved and cared for him still spite of his deep failure. Elijah should have learned from this, God’s feelings towards His erring people Israel. The prophet’s complaints at Horeb will tell us that he did not feel towards the people as God did. A second time the angel awoke him, saying, “Arise and eat; because the journey is too great for thee.” A journey that he should never have undertaken!
Several days before the Lord took Peter and John and James to the mountain top He sought to prepare His disciples for a life of self-denial and daily cross-bearing. For their encouragement He spoke also of a day of recompense when He will come in glory, and then added, “Verily I say to you, there be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in His kingdom” (Matt 16:24-28). These words give us the key to the great vision of glory. It is a picture in advance of the Millennial kingdom, presented more particularly in its heavenly aspect. Matthew and Mark say “after six days”; Luke says “about eight days after.” Six is man’s number; it speaks of his week of labour; it is refreshing to know that after all man’s toil and travail there will be an era of rest and glory. Eight is the number of resurrection; the risen Christ will bring the blessing in, and make it divinely secure. Matthew, says “and His face did shine as the sun.” How suited to the Kingdom Gospel! For God’s King, when He appears, will be “as the light of the morning when the sun rises, a morning without clouds” (2 Sam. 23:4). To the God-fearing remnant of that day He will “arise as the Sun of righteousness, with healing in His wings (Mal. 4:2). Mark and Luke dwell upon our Lord’s clothing. Mark tells us that “his raiment became shining, exceeding white as snow; so as no fuller on earth can white them.” Mark and Luke present our Lord in His lowly character as Man and Servant; hence the emphasis on that which suggests His perfect purity. John — the only one of the four Evangelists who witnessed the glory on the holy mount — omits all reference to it; for it was to him given by the Spirit of inspiration to set forth, not our Lord’s conferred glory, but the glory of His divine person.

Finding himself a sick man through his fall out of a window, Ahaziah sent messengers to enquire of Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron whether he should recover (2 Kings 1). This was flagrant, for the recognition of Baal had been discouraged in the land, and Jehovah was (at least nominally) Israel’s God. When Ahab’s false prophets encouraged him to go to war with the Syrians, it was not Baal’s name that they used, but the name of Jehovah (1 Kings 22:6). Baal-zebub means “lord of flies.” The belief that flies carried disease led blind heathen to turn to this particular god for help: but Ahaziah should have known better. To enquire at Ekron was really to enquire of demons. Idols are nothing in themselves, but there are demons behind them, as 1 Cor. 10 teaches us. Traffic with demons is painfully common in our day. Men call it Spiritualism; “demonism” would be a more correct name for this great sin. This is unpardonable where Bibles abound, and where the Gospel of Christ is freely proclaimed. The moral and spiritual consequences of this unholy traffic are very serious.
“Farewell, Elijah! In our meditations we have followed thee through storm and calm up to the rest and peace of the home of God. It was a great day when thou wast carried upwards in the whirlwind; it was a great day when thou wast sent back to earth for a moment to greet the Son of God: it will be a still greater day when in a mighty throng we shall all surround the throne of God and the Lamb, and fall prostrate before the Lamb, and pour forth the new song that will never grow old: “Thou art worthy..for Thou wast slain. and hast redeemed us to God by Thy blood out of every kindred, and tribe, and people, and nation” (Rev. 5:9). No more moments of depression and discouragement; no more peevish longings to die; no more self-occupation; all hearts concentrated upon Him who was the centre of the glory on the holy hill, and who will be the centre of still higher glory for ever. AMEN!”Not only was Naboth murdered, but his sons with him (2 Kings 9:26). The wicked elders would make certain that no heirs should arise to challenge what they had done.We must linger a little longer by the brook Cherith, and examine yet further Jehovah’s dealings with His servant. Note the words, “I have commanded the ravens to feed thee there.” This sufficed for every need. Whatever the conditions around, the unprecedented barrenness, Elijah would not starve, for no word of God can ever fall to the ground. The alarm of the disciples when upon the stormy lake was groundless, for the Lord had said, “Let us pass over to the other side” (Mark 4:35). There could be no doubt about the issue of the voyage with such a One on board; He had spoken, therefore “the other side” was sure.Omri was apparently an able man, as the world speaks, for he brought order out of chaos, and after twelve years reign he left the throne of the ten tribes unchallenged to his son. He seems to have overhauled the laws of the nation. In Micah 6:16, long after Omri’s death, Jehovah complained that “the statutes of Omri” were preferred to His holy ordinances. “The statutes of Omri are kept, and all the works of the house of Ahab, and ye walk in their counsels; that I should make thee a desolation, and the inhabitant thereof a hissing: therefore ye shall bear the reproach of My people. “It is no uncommon thing for the professing people of God to prefer human rules and regulations to the plain teaching of His blessed Word. The Lord Jesus told the religious leaders of His own time: “Full well ye reject the commandment of God that ye may keep your own tradition … making the word of God of none effect through your tradition which ye have delivered” (Mark 7:9-13). Since the Lord spake thus, the Scriptures have been completed; the whole revelation of God is in our hands; yet the great majority of souls in Christendom are far more subject to ecclesiastical regulations and human dictation than to the wholesome Word of God! Brethren, let us seek to be subject at all times to the controlling hand of God. Let us never move without His guidance and when we get it, let us go forward, like Paul and his friends in Acts 16:9-10, when they crossed the sea from Troas into Macedonia. One of the vital principles of Christianity is the presence on earth of the Holy Spirit in testimony to the absent Christ. He employs as instruments whomsoever He will, and He is the true Director of all the operations. If we go where we should not, either for service or for pleasure, we may hear the divine challenge. “What doest thou here?” and what can we say in reply? To return to our Lord’s public reference to the
widow of Zarephath. When He stood up in the synagogue in Nazareth, and read Isa. 61:1-2, telling the people that this Scripture was being fulfilled amongst them by His presence, they presently said contemptuously, “Is not this Joseph’s son!” The Lord warned them that such unbelief would drive the blessing of God elsewhere, and He forthwith reminded them of two notable instances when the blessing of God reached Gentiles to the passing by of the seed of Abraham. Naaman the Syrian was cleansed from his leprosy at a time when there were many lepers in Israel who had not the faith to seek healing from God. Also — and the Lord was very full about this case — “I tell you of a truth, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elias, when the heaven was shut up for three years and six months, when great famine was throughout all the land; but to none of them was Elias sent, save to Sarepta, a city of Sidon, to a woman that was a widow” (Luke 4:25-26). The Lord’s way of stating the case suggests that it was a great honour that was put upon the Gentile widow; and the sequel proved that she received rich blessing from the God of Israel in one of the darkest periods of Israel’s history. This being true, Elijah has been justly called “the first apostle to the Gentiles.” But our Lord’s mention of the widow and of Naaman in the synagogue of Nazareth only aroused the anger of the people, and they forthwith sought to kill Him. The very suggestion that God would take any notice of Gentiles (unless to destroy them) was anathema to them. Even the prophet Jonah to some extent felt similarly.The presence of a prophet in Israel pre-supposes a condition of failure. Had God’s order operated as it should, there would have been no need for special divine intervention. When kingship was established in the person of David (after the complete break-down of the priesthood) Jehovah intended that the king should henceforth be the link between Himself and the people. The king should be His mouthpiece to them. Kingship soon failed spiritually — even the richly gifted Solomon led the way in idolatry; but God, who is never without resource, raised up prophets from time to time, who delivered His messages to the people independently of the king, from whose oppressive hand God’s faithful witnesses frequently suffered. What the conditions were in the Northern Kingdom of Israel during several reigns, we have seen; there was indisputably urgent need for a stern witness, and Elijah was the man chosen by God for this service. Abraham neither spoke nor wrote predictive matter, so far as Scripture speaks; although when in normal condition his spiritual vision enabled him to look far ahead, and see with joy the day of Christ (John 8:56). A prophet was simply a man who had the mind of God, and was able to utter it. Thus in Ps. 105:15 other patriarchs are called prophets as well as Abraham. They were men in touch with God and could give forth His mind as no others could in their day. Although the epistles were addressed to assemblies then existing, the fact that they have been accorded a place in a prophetic book suggests that the scope of their teaching goes beyond what was merely local. The number seven is in itself significant. From amongst many assemblies in Proconsular Asia these were divinely selected because their varied conditions furnished a prophetic sketch. In Rev. 2 and 3 we have an outline of the extended history of the professing Church from the days of John down to the end. In Ephesus things were orderly, false pretenders (male or female) had no footing there; but love had grown cold. In Smyrna we have persecution; and in Pergamos we find the Church making her home where Satan’s throne is; i.e. in the world; Thyatira follows with Jezebel. It does not call for much knowledge of Ecclesiastical history to see in these circumstances a picture of what has actually taken place in the Christian circle. First, love grew cold; then God allowed the times of persecution in order to revive the affections of His saints; then when persecution ceased early in the fourth century, and the Government began to patronise the Church, worldliness became characteristic; and out of that condition Popery developed, of which the woman Jezebel is the apt symbol. Until He comes, and men with one accord, humbly acknowledge Him, all schemes of reconstruction are in vain. The diligent builders of to day will be the mad destroyers of to-morrow! There is a driving force behind men of which they are but little conscious. They speak and write of the futility of war yet spend time, energy, and wealth in preparation for and in the prosecution of it! Surely Satan, the malign and astute deceiver and destroyer, laughs at his dupes! Yet the multitudes prefer him to the Christ of God! When our blessed Lord was here, and cast a legion of demons out of a desperate man who was the terror of the district, “the whole multitude of the country of the Gadarenes round about besought Him to depart from them” (Luke 8:37). Apparently not a single voice was raised in gratitude to Him for the immense benefit He had conferred upon the neighbourhood, and none desired Him to remain! This is still the attitude of benighted man — no God, no Christ! Thus slaughter and devastation continue, becoming ever more serious. We must think of Elijah exercised before God in the solitudes of Gilead about the appalling condition of His people. The prophet’s words to Ahab, however unexpected and startling, were no mere spasmodic outburst. He had doubtless spent much time before God about the nation and its ways. He loved the people; he longed to see them right with God; but the grossest evils had become so deeply entrenched, that he felt something drastic was required in order to bring the people to their senses. So he turned to prayer. Acceptable prayer must be based upon the Word of God, and the prophet doubtless remembered Deut. 11:16-17: “Take heed to yourselves, that your heart be not deceived, and ye turn aside, and serve other gods and worship them; and Jehovah’s wrath be kindled against you, and He shut up the heaven, that there be no rain, and that the land yield not her fruit; and ye perish quickly from off the good land which Jehovah gives you.” With such words before him, the distressed prophet cried out of the depth of his heart, “O God, stop the rain!” Being fully assured that he had the mind of God about the matter he went into the presence of Ahab, and said, “There shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word.” God responded to His servant’s faith, “and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months.”Wherever the brook Cherith may have been (and the locality has not been satisfactorily identified), Elijah must have traversed many miles of country roads before he reached Zarephath. He would thus see for himself some of the havoc wrought by the drought. He could not have said with the Psalmist: “the pastures are clothed with flocks; the valleys also are covered over with corn; they shout for joy, they also sing” (Ps. 65:13). Instead, he would see barren fields, leafless trees, and dry water-courses. The prophet might have said with Joel: “how do the beasts groan! the herds of cattle are perplexed, because they have no pasture: yea, the flocks of sheep are made desolate” (Joel. 1:18). As one who loved the people, Elijah could do no other than lament to see such conditions in the land of Jehovah’s choice, of which He said a little before the conquest: “it is a land of hills and valleys, and drinks water of the rain of heaven: a land which Jehovah thy God cares for: the eyes of Jehovah thy God are always upon it, from the beginning of the year even to the end of the year” (Deut. 11:11-12). But sin always yields bitter consequences. Let us beware lest we fall in some way under the disciplinary hand of God.

The home in Zarephath was probably quiet and peaceful for many weeks. There was s
ufficiency there, and a sense of Jehovah’s special interest and care. Then suddenly the cloud arose. Sickness entered the home which terminated in the death of the widow’s only child. How many homes of believers in the Lord Jesus have had the same painful experience! How often have we said at the throne of grace, “Lord, behold, he whom Thou lovest is sick”; then perhaps later we have been constrained to say through our tears, “Lord, if Thou hadst been here … !”
When God’s governmental hand lies upon any nation, His own saints have to share, at least in measure, the circumstances of the ungodly, whose evil has brought down the stroke; but God’s saints may always have the sweet assurance that He cares for them, that His eye is upon every one, and He will not suffer any of His children to be tried beyond what they are able (1 Cor. 10:13). Thus, while others perhaps writhe and even curse under the hand of God, His own exercised children learn valuable lessons, and get much blessing out of adversity.

Elijah built his altar of twelve stones “according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, to whom the word of Jehovah came, saying, Israel shall be thy name.” This act is proof of the prophet’s spiritual perception. The twelve tribes were no longer walking in unity: their unity has not been restored to this day, nor will it be until the kingdom of the Lord Jesus (Ezek. 37:21-23). Elijah was standing on ten tribe ground: but his twelve stones tell us that he entered into God’s thoughts about His people. The people were still one in His mind. Although the temple in Jerusalem was now only recognised by two tribes, the High Priest still bore the names of all the children of Israel on his breast plate before Jehovah, and twelve loaves were still placed on the table of shewbread in the holy place (Ex. 28:29: Lev. 24:5-8). Two centuries after the great gathering on Mount Carmel, Hezekiah, king of Judah, at the Passover that he held in Jerusalem commanded that atonement should be made for all Israel (2 Chron. 29:24). Yet only two tribes acknowledged his sway, and the deportation of the Northern tribes had already begun! After the return from Babylon “the children of those that has been carried away, which were come out of the captivity, offered burnt offerings to the God of Israel, twelve bullocks for all Israel (Ezra 8:35). Six centuries later still, James addressed an epistle “to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting.” All this was very precious to God as showing that Elijah, Hezekiah, Ezra, and James entered into His thoughts concerning His faulty people. Are we as spiritually intelligent today? As we look around us, we see Christ’s members, not in two parts as Israel in the days of the kings, but in division almost innumerable. Do we sorrow about this before our God and do we seek to contemplate His saints (however faulty they may be) as He contemplates them? Do we refuse to sanction this unholy confusion? Are we able to say in faith “there is one body and one Spirit, even as we are called in one hope of our calling!” (Eph. 4:4).
God has not been pleased to tell us when the greatest of all days will open — the turning point in the history of man and the earth: but we hear the Holy Spirit’s words: “The night is far spent, and the day is at hand” (Rom. 13:12). All God’s ways from the moment sin came into the world have been leading onward to “the day” of which we speak. The Man of God’s purpose will act for Him, and He will do the will of God perfectly. Isa. 24-27 have been called “Isaiah’s little Apocalypse.” It would do every reader good to lay down this book for an hour, and read those four chapters carefully. They speak of sorrow and judgments yet to come upon Israel and the nations, but they also speak of the healthy exercises of faith through which godly ones will pass, whose hope is in God, and who long for “the day.”We may perhaps wonder that Elijah, a man so morally superior to Ahab, should run before his chariot from Carmel to Jezreel — no mean journey. He would “honour the king,” as we are exhorted to do in 1 Peter 3:17. This is always the becoming attitude of God’s saints towards the supreme ruler, irrespective of what his personal character may be. The ruler, whoever he may be at any time or in any land is God’s representative. He may be too ungodly to understand this himself; but faith understands it and acts accordingly.

All that we see and hear around us which is so displeasing to God is also displeasing to us, for we have been born anew, and also have the Holy Spirit dwelling within us. We feel that we are living and moving in an uncongenial atmosphere: but our hearts nevertheless go out towards men in all their sorrows, and we are glad to be assured by the Holy Spirit that “the creation shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the liberty and glory of the children of God” (Rom. 8:21).
When Paul and Silas went to Philippi there was insurrection against them, and it was said. “these men do exceedingly trouble our city” (Acts 16:20). But “these men” had carried into Philippi the Gospel of the Grace of God; they were telling men and women who were living in the darkness of Heathenism, and who were hastening to perdition, of the Saviour who died for the ungodly. They were putting immense blessings in the way of the people, all “without money and without price.” They were proclaiming the true and only remedy for all creature ills. Those who received their words would become supremely happy, even as Paul himself was when he wrote his Epistle to the Philippians a few years later. No truer friends of the people ever visited the city, yet the preachers were charged before the magistrates with being troublers, and were forthwith flogged, and cast into prison!The Lord Jesus set before Martha the power that resides in His person: “I am the Resurrection and the Life: he that believes in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and he that lives and believes in Me, shall never die” (John 11:25-26). Whether the sorrowing woman to whom He addressed Himself understood Him or not, in the light of such a revelation as that in 1 Cor. 15 His meaning is blessedly clear. As the Resurrection, He will raise all His sleeping saints at His descent into the air: and as the Life, He will change the mortal and corruptible bodies of His living ones, and will make them like His own body of glory (Phil. 3:22). These latter will never die at all. Rom. 8:11 speaks of those whom the Lord will find at His return waiting for His coming: “if the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, He that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies because of His Spirit that dwells in you.” From this wonderful passage we learn that one reason why believers will be changed at the Lord’s coming is that our mortal bodies are the very habitation of the Holy Spirit. Thus they have a sacred character in the eyes of God. Death should not be an object of dread to the Christian; but it wore a different aspect to the saints who lived prior to our Lord’s great victory. “Through fear of death they were all their lifetime subject to bondage” (Heb. 2:15). Our position differs from theirs in that we are able to look back at the empty sepulchre of the Son of God, and then look up to the throne, and behold Him seated there, crowned with glory and honour. To John in Patmos, the Lord said, with His right hand laid upon His trembling servant: “Fear not; I am the First and the Last and the living One: and I became dead; and behold, I am living to the ages of ages, and have the keys of death and Hades” (Rev. 1:17-18 — Darby’s Translation). Having to do with such a One, we are consciously on the side of victory. “Death is yours,” wrote the Apostle exultingly to the Corinthians (1 Cor. 3:22); and to the Romans he wrote that nothing can separate us from the love of God, not even death! (Rom. 8:38). We note the word “doest.” “What doest thou here?” Great stirrings were taking place in the land of Israel; for the mig
hty events on Mount Carmel must have made a deep impression upon the minds of the people. Jehovah was now the confessed God of Israel, and no longer Baal. How useful Elijah might have been as a worker and instructor amongst the masses at such a time; and there was indeed no-one else who could have done the work. But here is Elijah far away from the habitations of men and sheltering in the quietness of a cave! When the Lord says to His servants, “Come ye apart and rest awhile,” it is the right thing to cease labour and retire (Mark 4:31); but no such words had been addressed to Elijah. He was an absentee from an important post of duty at one of the most critical moments in his nation’s history. Philip left Samaria when the tide of blessing was in full flow, and went down to a desert road; but the angel of the Lord directed him there, and he went unhesitatingly, although he probably wondered why (Acts 8:26). 
In the early days of the Nineteenth Century holy men with hearts aflame to learn the will of God, recovered for us priceless treasures of truth which ecclesiasticism had long obscured. Once more God’s saints (or at least a remnant of them) realized their union with Christ risen and glorified, and became detached in heart from things here. The blessed hope of His coming for His Heavenly saints was disentangled from the judgements of God. The Church re-appeared to their soul’s vision in its true relationships. It is Christ’s body, to be in intimate association with Him in His glories, but meantime it is a vessel for the manifestation of His perfections here amongst men. It is God’s house, the temple of the Holy Spirit in which He graciously dwells, and where He delights to work sovereignly for the blessing of the members of Christ. Dr. C. I. Scofield, in the introduction to his well known Bible, refers with appreciation to the “intensity and breadth of interest in Bible study unprecedented in the history of the Christian Church.” Thus our “fathers” have handed down to us a priceless heritage; but do we value it? Have we sought to develop it further? Do we pore over the sacred page individually? Is it to us more to be desired than gold, and sweeter than honey and the honeycomb? (Ps. 19:10). Also do we delight to read it collectively; or have we sunk so low that we need to be entertained? Conferences, Rallies, Lantern lectures, and Solos are poor substitutes for the quiet, reverent, conversational Bible Readings in which our “fathers” delighted … and from which they drew their strength. Have we in contrast with Naboth, sold our inheritance for “a better vineyard,” or for money? Brethren, where are we? Have we really gone forth to Christ “without the camp, bearing His reproach” (Heb. 13:13); or have we merely exchanged a “Church” for a “Hall?””Ahab his son reigned in his stead — Ahab the son of Omri reigned over Israel in Samaria twenty and two years.” The new king exceeded his father and all others in transgression against Jehovah. “Ahab did more to provoke Jehovah the God of Israel to anger than all the kings of Israel that were before him” (1 Kings 16:28-33). Things were thus ripening fast for the heavy stroke which fell upon the nation with such devastating effects by the instrumentality of Elijah. Rome’s idolatry is notorious. Her images, pictures, shrines and relics are abundant. The Lord in His mercy has given her ample opportunity to repent of her manifold and long continued transgressions; but she repents not. Terrible judgements are determined upon the harlot, and upon all her admirers. Ahab’s greeting is very suggestive. “Is it thou, thou troubler of Israel!” (1 Kings 18:17 R.V.). We have here a clear illustration of how Satan beclouds the minds and perverts the judgement of men who believe not. There certainly was trouble in Israel; but apparently it did not occur to Ahab’s mind to trace it to the idolatry which had spread everywhere. Temples, altars, prophets, and priests of an evil character covered the land. There was no disposition either in king or people to get down before Jehovah, and acknowledge the wickedness of all this, with the determination to put it all away. Accordingly, Ahab blamed the servant of God for the widespread distress. Had Satan not blinded his eyes he would have perceived that the fault lay with the king, not with the prophet.Elijah having built his altar, made a trench around it; and when he had laid his burnt sacrifice upon it, he commanded to pour four barrels of water over it. He repeated this three times, until the bullock and the wood were drenched, and the trench became a moat! He would thus appear to put every possible difficulty in the way that the impending miracle might be the more convincing. The prophets of Baal did not venture to use water thus, but Elijah used it freely. He then drew near and offered his simple prayer: “Jehovah, God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, let it be known this day that Thou art God in Israel, and that I am Thy servant, and that I have done all things at Thy word. Hear me, O Jehovah, hear me, that the people may know that Thou art the Lord God (Jehovah Elohim), and that Thou hast turned their heart back again” (1 Kings 18:36-37). It should be observed that the prophet sought no honour for himself (unlike Simon of Samaria who gave out that himself was some great one” — Acts 8:9): he kept his true place as a mere servant acting at the Word of his God. Like Paul, he would have said, “I am nothing” (2 Cor. 12:11; 1 Cor. 3:7). Do not miss the lesson, good reader!

Prayer, to be of any avail, must come from prepared hearts, and be definite and pointed. “Elias was a man of like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months. And he prayed again and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit” (James 5:17-18).
If any would enquire why Elijah’s prayer is not mentioned in the book of Kings, the answer is that the Scriptures are a great whole, and it does not always please God to tell us all that could be told about any matter in a single book. Every detail has been placed in its own suited setting by the all wise Spirit of God. Thus, in Num. 13 we have Jehovah commanding Moses to send twelve men to spy out the land of Canaan; but in Deut. 1 we learn that the people in their unbelief demanded this. Both statements are true. Reading both we have God’s side and man’s side of the matter. In Deut. 1 we have the record of the people’s unfaithfulness, and in Num. 13 we are reminded of God’s ceaseless interest in them spite of their unbelief. Another example will be found in the life of the apostle Paul. The brethren in Antioch, after there had been much disputation with teachers who desired to put Gentile Christians under law, requested Paul and Barnabas, with some of their own number, to go up to Jerusalem about the question; but in Gal. 2:1-2 Paul says, “‘I went up by revelation. “There were thus two sides to the matter — the brethren’s request, and the Lord’s direction. We have to think of Elijah as being lonely for perhaps several months. Those were not days of pocket Bibles, nor of magazines, nor of expository works; and we have no reason to believe that the prophet saw a human face all the time he sojourned at Cherith, but he had GOD! Should we be satisfied to have no one to speak to but God? What days and weeks of quiet reflection! What opportunities for prayer, for himself, and for his disobedient and suffering nation! How absolutely were all the discordant sounds of earth excluded! But matters were now to be brought to an issue. Jehovah was about to display His power, to the confusion of Ahab and all his idolatrous prophets. Such striking miracles, as the calling down fire from heaven upon the sacrifice on Mount Carmel, and later upon the captains and their fifties (2 Kings 1) were not wrought in the kingdom of Judah
. There Jehovah was still acknowledged, although some of the Kings were evil men, and led the people astray; but the prophets who witnessed there could at least appeal to the Word of God. In the Northern Kingdom another line was necessary. The people were in open apostasy; Jehovah was no longer acknowledged as the God of Israel. This being so, God who was still interested in His erring people (“how shall I give thee up, Ephraim?” Hosea 11:8) sometimes put forth His power, thus bringing home to the people that He is God, and mightier than all the deities of the heathen. Jehovah was now about to assert Himself on Mount Carmel, on an occasion that will be memorable as long as the earth remains.John 21 furnishes with another instance of a meal provided by divine love for disobedient servants. It was not an angel but the Lord Jesus Himself, who prepared that fish breakfast. Cold, wet, and hungry, the seven disciples who went fishing in self-will instead of waiting patiently for their expected Lord, were warmed and fed with no word of censure from His holy lips! God spoke again to Elijah. “Go forth, and stand upon the mount before Jehovah.” Great manifestations of divine power followed. “Jehovah passed by, and a great strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before Jehovah; but Jehovah was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake: but Jehovah was not in the earthquake, and after the earthquake a fire; but Jehovah was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice” (1 Kings 19:11-12). Manifestations of power are from God, but they must not be confounded with God himself. Elijah had witnessed His power at Carmel; but because he no longer beheld such displays, it seemed difficult for him to realize that God was working at all. But he presently learned that a quiet gracious work was proceeding in many hearts in Israel of which he was unaware. God had use for the whirlwind, for out of it He spoke in majesty to Job and his friends (Job 38:1; Job 40:6) and Nahum tells us “Jehovah has His way in the whirlwind and in the storm.” He has use “for the earthquake”: What blessed results followed the shaking at the midnight hour in Philippi (Acts 16). An earthquake was one of God’s witnesses to His Son at the moment of His death (Matt 27:51). He has also use for the fire, as the people of Israel had so recently proved on Mount Carmel. But although Elijah witnessed at Horeb the great and strong wind, the earthquake, and the fire, it was the still small voice which made him feel that he was having to do with God. The poor human heart is slow to understand grace. Both Peter and Paul possessed miraculous powers, they could even raise the dead, but never once did either call down judgement upon his persecutors. With meekness they accepted all that came upon them for Jesus’ sake, assured that in the wisdom of God everything would turn out to the furtherance of the Gospel. The cross of Jesus explains this. That blessed One could easily have smitten His foes; the fact that His captors fell to the ground at the sound of His voice was a warning to them as to this (John 18:6). When Peter became violent in the garden, He told him that a word of prayer to the Father would bring twelve legions of angels to His aid. But such a prayer He would not offer (Matt. 26:53).

Many years ago, a newly-converted Methodist was taken to the prayer-meetings of some special friends of mine. After he had listened to three wordy prayers which told God many things that He knew already and which asked for nothing in particular, the young man arose, and cried out, “O God, teach these good men how to pray!” The elder brethren were annoyed at the intrusion; but my sympathies are with the young man!
In Elijah’s case, Jehovah was not merely sending him out of Israel’s land, He was sending him into the kingdom of Jezebel’s father. Israel’s calamities throughout Ahab’s reign proceeded principally from Zidon. This is the more remarkable when we go back somewhat in Scripture. Zidon — “called great Zidon” — was a part of the promise to Abraham, and at the time of Joshua’s conquest, was actually allotted to Asher, but Asher never had sufficient faith and energy to extirpate the evils which had their seat there, and take possession of the city. Judges 1 is a miserable chapter of slothfulness and indifference; and Asher is specially mentioned in verses 31 and 32 as having failed to drive the Amorites out of Zidon, and various other cities. (Read also Joshua 11:8 and Joshua 19:28). Let us not miss the lesson of Asher’s failure. If we do not in faith get the mastery over evils within ourselves, they will acquire terrible influence over us as the years pass.Jezebel! One of the most sinister figures in the Word of God! This wicked woman not only wrought incalculable mischief amongst God’s chosen earthly people in the days of Elijah’s testimony; her name is used by the Holy Spirit in Rev: 2:20 as the symbol of a frightful system of evil which has intruded itself into a more sacred circle than Israel ever was. One of Ahab’s many sins was his marriage with idolatrous Jezebel. “It came to pass, as if it had been a light thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat that he took to wife Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal, king of the Zidonians, and went and served Baal, and worshipped him” (1 Kings 16:31). The Israelites were expressly forbidden to inter-marry with the corrupt nations of Canaan; “thy daughter shalt thou not give to his son, nor his daughter shalt thou take to thy son. “The inevitable consequences of disobedience in this respect were divinely stated: “they will turn away thy son from following Me, that they may serve other gods: so will the anger of Jehovah be kindled against you, and destroy thee suddenly” (Deut. 7:3-4). Here there is no suggestion that a God-fearing husband or wife might win for the truth an ungodly partner; the very opposite result in sure. The influence of a woman over a man is considerable; it is of the greatest importance therefore that every one who knows God should be divinely mated. Many a man besides Ahab has been ruined by a marriage contract entered into in defiance of the Word of God. A great contrast to Jezebel is found in Abigail. Well might David, after she had restrained him from violence, say, “Blessed be Jehovah the God of Israel, which sent thee this day to meet me, and blessed be thy advice” (1 Sam. 25:32). Happy is the man who in any age and in any land, meets an Abigail!Such a prayer as Elijah uttered over the dead child, had probably never ascended to heaven before: “O Jehovah my God, I pray Thee, let this child’s soul come into him again.” Wonderful! There is no previous record in Scripture of any person, Jew or Gentile, old or young, ever having returned from the dead. Yet the prophet prayed thus! His faith was in advance of Abraham’s on Mount Moriah, when he laid Isaac upon the altar “accounting that God was able to raise him up from the dead: from whence also he received him in a figure” (Heb. 11:19). Both Abraham and Elijah believed that nothing was impossible with God, and that even death would present no difficulty to Him; but it was one thing for Abraham to reckon that God could raise a lad from the dead, and quite another for Elijah to ask definitely that this great miracle might be wrought.On the eastern side of Jordan Elijah said to Elisha “Ask what I shall do for thee before I be taken away from thee.” A test question, assuredly, reminding us of Jehovah’s word to Solomon in 1 Kings 3:5. Elisha’s reply was prompt and decisive: “I pray thee, let a double portion of thy spirit be upon me.” Elijah spoke with authority. At this point he typifies the risen Christ who has boundless blessings to bestow upon His own. Elisha could have what he desired on one condition; he must see Elijah when taken from him. Faith now sees Christ risen and glorified. Had we known Christ after the flesh, i.e. as a living Messiah, we know Him as such no longer (2 Cor. 5:16
). He has “gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God” (1 Peter 3:22). We are “in Him” there. This makes us heavenly as He is heavenly (1 Cor. 15:48). Elisha did see his master taken up, and received his mantle as it came down upon him. The risen Christ has sent down to us the Holy Spirit (John 16:7). We thus have the same power for life and testimony as the man Christ Jesus had when here amongst men.After Jericho, Elijah and his friend reached the Jordan, and by the power of God they passed through the river dryshod. Jordan being a type of death, Elijah and Elisha typically passed through death that day on to resurrection ground. The lessons of all these places should be grasped by our souls if we are to be efficient witnesses for the absent Christ. The badness of the flesh which calls for the knife continually (Gilgal); the faithfulness of God (Bethel); the power of God over all the might of the enemy (Jericho); and the great lesson of death and resurrection with Christ as taught in Col. 2 and 3.

God might use Jeroboam to chastise Solomon and his house; He might use the Kings of Assyria to chastise Jeroboam’s subjects; and He might use Nebuchadnezzar to chastise Judah and its kings: but all these in their turn God has been obliged to judge, for these rods of His anger (Isa: 10:5) were no more faithful to God than those against whom He employed them.Elijah left Horeb, and started on his long journey Northward with the words of Jehovah ringing in his ears (and we may hope in his heart also): “I have left Me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth which has not kissed him.” God has always had a loyal remnant, even in the darkest days of Israel and of Christendom. In Thyatira, where blasphemy and wickedness prevailed there were those who had not “this doctrine,” and had not known the depths of Satan (Rev. 2:24). To the angel of the Church in dead Sardis the Lord said: “Thou hast a few names which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with Me in white; for they are worthy” (Rev. 3:4). When the tide of evil is flowing strongly, some timid souls fear to declare themselves. Joseph of Arimathea believed in Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews. Nicodemus was somewhat like him; but the appalling wickedness of the crucifixion gave these men courage, and brought them out into the light (John 19:38-42). Our Lord’s chosen disciples who had professed loyalty to Him, one of them being particularly strong in his protestations, were all missing at the critical hour. One of the twelve — Matthew records — that when John the Baptist was murdered “his disciples came, and took up the body, and buried it” (Matt. 14:12). Surely Matthew’s heart smote him as he penned those words! He and his fellow-disciples did not do for the Lord Jesus what the disciples of John did for their teacher. It is undisputably the will of God that those who revere His name and value His truth should stand forth boldly in testimony, whatever the danger may be: but if in their timidity any lack courage for this, God does not despise the true faith which reigns in their hearts.

When God sent drought into Egypt He laid His whole plan before Joseph in advance. This Joseph communicated to Pharaoh. There were to be seven years of plenty before the seven years of drought. The pagan king was thus made to feel that the God of heaven was greater than all the gods of Egypt. They could neither foretell the circumstances, nor provide for them when they came (Gen. 41). But it did not please Jehovah to tell Elijah and the widow when the longed-for day would dawn. They waited in faith for Him to fulfil His word, and they were not disappointed. In God’s gracious time everything around them would smile once more. Meanwhile, His “until the day” would ring in their ears, and rejoice their hearts. God’s “untils” should be noted as we read the Word, for they suggest hope. He who has all things at His command tolerates evil “until.” Read Rom. 11:25: Isa. 32:15In the pursuit of this humiliating business, Obadiah met Elijah. Using modern terms, the two men were brethren; but there was no cordial greeting, as when Moses met Aaron and kissed him (Ex. 4:27). Obadiah was troubled, and Elijah was cold and reserved. Although the one was an exalted Government official, and the other a humble villager, Obadiah trembled before Elijah; and indeed he fell upon his face, saying, “Is it indeed thou, my lord Elijah?” Communion with God, and obedience to His will imparts moral dignity to anyone. We see this in Stephen when confronting the Jewish Sanhedrim: and in Paul when standing before royalty and political and military leaders in Caesarea (Acts 7:26). In each case the prisoner took full command of the situation! Obadiah lacked this. With all his honours and high salary, he felt that the man who stood before him in hairy clothing was his superior. Else, why should he address Elijah as “my lord”?

In some respects Elijah was unique amongst the Old Testament prophets. He was the first to raise a dead person, he passed out of the world without tasting death; he left an immediate successor behind him in Elisha; and he had a moral successor in John the Baptist (Luke 1:17; Matt. 17:12). Moreover, Elijah was sent back to earth with Moses to do honour to the Lord Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration, and his work is even yet unfinished. His voice will be heards again in the land of Israel (Mal: 4:5).
A form of evil suggested in Hiel’s open defiance of God which has become painfully common in our day. The judgements of God are openly challenged; from many modern pulpits eternal punishment is never mentioned; and multitudes say impudently that they do not believe in Hell. We cannot but recall Satan’s first move against our race. Adam and his wife were placed by the generous Creator in a garden of abundance and delight, with one single prohibition. There was a tree in the midst of the garden of which they must not eat, or the judgement of death would ensue (Gen. 2:17). The serpent approached Eve, as we all know, challenging God’s word as to this, saying definitely. “Ye shall not surely die” (Gen. 3:4); but the Word of God stood nevertheless, and so it must ever be. “By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned” (Rom. 5:12).The prophet who three and a half years previously, prayed “Withhold the rain,” now prays “Send the rain.” But even so (and doubtless Elijah had intercourse with Jehovah about the matter before the great gathering took place), the answer to his prayer was not immediate. He said to his servant (was it the widow’s son whom he had raised from the dead?) “Go up now, look toward the sea.” He returned saying, “There is nothing.” It frequently pleases God to test the faith of His people; but He encourages us to “continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving” (Col. 4:2); also to “pray always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit” (Eph. 6:18). The widow of Luke 18:2-5 was probably not a mere parabolic character, but an actual person whom the Lord had observed. Her perseverance attracted Him. She had a grievance, and she took it to the judge; but he was not disposed to burden himself with the matter. But the woman persevered. Morning after morning when the doors of the Court were opened, in walked that widow! Let no reader misunderstand the application. God is not indifferent, and unwilling to bless; and certainly He would not despise a suppliant because she was poor and a widow; it is the woman’s perseverancethat He bids us remember and emulate. One wonders what would happen if some person accosted us when coming away from a prayer-meeting, and were to ask what we have prayed for? Could we always give a coherent answer! The widow could have given a very plain reason why she attended the Court.