Elijah the Tishbite
1 Kings 17-20
Elijah the Prophet
Israel's Evil History
The Rival Captains
Omri and Ahab
The Great Drought
By the Brook Cherith
The Widow of Zarephath
The Meal and the Oil
"Until the Day"
The God of Resurrection
Prophet and King
Prophet and People
The Prophet and His God
At the Mount of God
God's Seven Thousand
Ahaziah and His Captains
On the Holy Mount
Elijah the Prophet
Nearly three thousand years have passed away since 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.
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 heard, again in the land of Israel (Mal: 4: 5).
Do we all understand the meaning of the word "prophet"
The prophets of God did not necessarily predict future events: some did so,
notably Isaiah, whose Spirit given predictions are exceptionally rich and
full; but many others such as Elijah dealt exclusively with existing conditions
amongst the people. It is a simple rule in Bible study to examine the Holy
Spirit's first mention of any matter for we thereby learn its general significance
throughout the Book of God. Someone has said: "God graciously hangs
up the key just inside the door." We first meet with the word prophet
in Gen. 20: 7. It is applied to Abraham! In the teaching of the New Testament
two ante-diluvian witnesses Abel and Enoch are called prophets (Luke 11: 50-51;
Jude 14). but it is nevertheless true that the first man specifically called
a prophet in the Old Testament is Abraham.
Let us seek to understand the Holy Spirit's use of the term.
Apart from divine guidance, Abraham went down to sojourn in the Philistine
city of Gerar. To avert possible danger to himself he said of Sarah, "she
is my sister." Abimelech the King attracted by her, took her into his
house; but God intervened, saying in a dream, "Restore the man his wife:
for he is a prophet, and he shall pray for thee, and thou shalt live." Remarkable
certainly, for the whole story suggests that at that time there was more pious
fear of God in the mind of Abimelech the Philistine than in Abraham the Hebrew-"the
friend of God." Yet Abraham was a prophet, and possessed intercessory
influence such as Abimelech had not! Incidentally we may learn from this that
even when our spiritual condition is low, our privileges as saints, priests
etc. are not withdrawn from us, although for the time being we are not in
enjoyment of them, and are unable to exercise them for the blessing of others.
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.
The words of the woman of Samaria in John 4: 19 will help
us here. She said to the mysterious stranger who was conversing with her,
"Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet." Yet He had not spoken
to her either of future glories or of coming judgements, but His unexpected
words concerning her five husbands, and the man with whom she was then living,
made her feel that He was speaking to her directly from God. Indeed, He was
God manifested in flesh, although she had no sense of this mighty fact at
There were prophets also in the New Testament (Eph. 2: 20:
Eph. 4: 11). There was no resemblance between their ministry and that of such
men as Isaiah and Jeremiah. It was not the future that occupied them; it was
theirs to give forth the mind of God concerning the new wonderful work in
Christianity, the Scriptures being not then complete. We even read in Acts
21: 8 of four women, daughters of Philip the evangelist "who did prophesy."
But their service would be rendered in private (1 Cor: 14: 34-35).
Of Elijah's antecedents nothing is told us. Concerning his
parentage, his age, and his upbringing nothing is stated, unless his name,
which means "Whose God is Jehovah," is meant to indicate a pious
father who named his son in faith. God is silent also concerning other prophets.
Of Haggai and Malachi for example, we know nothing beyond their bare names.
But what matters! The object of the Spirit of God is not to occupy us with
men, but with the messages they carried, and which will continue to have spiritual
value until the world's end. Let us remember this when we have to listen to
men speaking in the name of the Lord in the assembly or elsewhere. We may
conceivably get something very definite from God, even though but "five
words" (1. Cor: 14: 19), from a speaker quite unknown to us, and whose
attainments may not favourably impress us. Look not at the messenger but at
the message. "Quench not the Spirit. Despise not prophesyings; but prove
all things, hold fast that which is good." (1 Thess: 5: 19-21).
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Israel's Evil History
Elijah's abrupt appearance in public, with his terrible announcement
to king and people, calls for some explanation Walking boldly into the king's
court, he said, "As Jehovah the God of Israel, liveth, before whom I
stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word."
(1 Kings 17: 1). What a message from the God who at another time said, "When
Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called My son out of Egypt"
( Hosea 11: 1). What was the meaning of the fearful chastisement, probably
without precedent in the world's history, which was thus announced by Elijah?
Ahab was apparently stunned by the boldness of the messenger, and the terribleness
of the message, for he attempted nothing against Elijah at that moment. Yet
Ahab had no scruples about shedding innocent blood! In order to understand
the situation, it is necessary to consider how Israel stood in relation to
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?
The divinely appointed place of Israel is described thus:
"Jehovah shall make thee the head, and not the tail, and thou shalt
be above only, and thou shalt not be beneath, if thou hearken unto the commandments
of Jehovah thy God" (Deut: 28: 13). When the descendants of Noah, with
their diverse languages, scattered abroad, and seized upon lands here and
there as it pleased them, the invisible hand of God guided them to where He
would require them when Israel came upon the scene. No one understood this
divine working at the time. God may have spoken of it to Abraham and to others;
hence the words of Moses when he placed the international position before
Israel's tribes shortly before they entered the land of Canaan: "Remember
the days of old, consider the years of many generations: ask thy father, and
he will show thee; thy elders, and they will tell thee. When the most High
divided (or, assigned) to the nations their inheritance, when
He separated the sons of Adam, he set the bounds of the people according to
the number of the children of Israel" (Deut: 32: 7-8). Men may at any
time lay violent hands upon territories that they desire, but only by divine
permission can they obtain them. The all wise Creator sees some way in which
the wrath of man will serve His purpose. There is thus an over-ruling hand
which controls the movements of nations, little as men perceive it. This was
true in the earliest days, and it is true still.
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: 18 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.
The country whose divinely-given title is "the land
of Israel," and which God says is "the glory of all lands":
(Ezek: 20: 6), was occupied by seven other nations when the people of Israel
arrived upon its frontiers. The gross corruptions with which those Rations
filled that land were amply sufficient to deprive them of any decent title
to further possession. In Abraham's day the cup of their iniquity was not.
full (Gen 15: 16); but it was overflowing when Israel's hosts came upon them
as God's executioners. To anyone who doubts the righteousness of dispossessing
those nations to make room for Jehovah's chosen people, it is sufficient to
quote Lev: 18: 25: "the land is defiled: therefore I do visit the iniquity
thereof upon it, and the land itself vomiteth out its inhabitants."
The land was promised unconditionally by Jehovah to Abraham,
Isaac, and Jacob, and in the Kingdom-age the seed will possess it from the
Nile to the Euphrates. But in Joshua's day they entered Canaan under the Sinai
covenant on the ground of responsibility. The law's conditional "ifs"
became their ruin. When Moses the Mediator finished his course, he
left no successor, properly speaking. The High priest was established as the
link between Jehovah and the people, and the civil leader was placed under
his guidance. "He shall stand before Eleazer the priest, who shall ask counsel
for him after the judgement of Urim before Jehovah: at His word shall they
go out, and at his word they shall come in, both he, and all the children
of Israel with him" (Num. 27: 18-23). When the priesthood became morally corrupt
(1. Sam. 2: 29-30), God spoke of a king. Leaving aside the disastrous episode
of Saul, the people's choice, David was God's appointed king, and the priesthood
fell into a secondary position. The kingdom reached the height of its power
and splendour under David and Solomon. These kings were both typical of Christ,
the only true hope of Israel and the nations. David typified Him as the man
of war, victorious over all His people's foes; and Solomon typified Him as
the man of peace. Glory and prosperity unexampled filled the land during Solomon's
reign; but, alas! that most gifted monarch became leader of the people in
serious departure from God. To gratify his many foreign wives he filled the
land with strange gods (1 Kings 11).
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.
The disruption of Israel followed Solomon's death, and the
breach has not been healed unto 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 priest 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 o Israel such as set their hearts to seek Jehovah the God
of Israel came to Jerusalem to sacrifice unto 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
The movement of these Northerners who desired to continue
faithful to Jehovah when the mass became apostate has a message for us today.
Israel's history has been "written for our admonition" (1 Cor.
10: 11). We who stand in Israel's place in testimony for God in the earth
should profit by the Holy Spirit's records. How do matters stand with us at
this time? We open our Bibles at the early chapter of the Book of Acts, and
we read with delight how Christianity began. What love! 'What devotedness!
What close attachment to the teaching of the Apostles, who were God's mouthpieces
for the new regime!
The merest glance at the intervening centuries tells us that
the spiritual decline has been terrific. Unity has been thrown to the winds.
Rival "churches." National and otherwise. have arisen; positive
idolatry is practised throughout the greater part of Christendom; and even
those communities which profess to abhor Greek and Roman superstitions are
themselves honeycombed with deadly heresies. The call to separation rings
out clearly in the Word of God. notably in 2 Cor. 6: 14-18; and 2 Tim: 2:
15-26. Do we heed it! But separation, to be acceptable to God, must be thorough
and complete. It must enter into all the circumstances of our lives. The great
call to religious separation in 2 Cor. 6: 14-18 is followed with an earnest
appeal to "cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of flesh and spirit,
perfecting holiness in the fear of God" (2 Cor. 7: 1). This is very
far reaching. It is possible to turn resolutely from fellowship with the world
in religious matters, and to speak very strongly against conformity thereto.
and yet walk unconcernedly with the world in other respects, so deceitful
is flesh, even in God's saints! For example, is it consistent to condemn fellowship
with unscriptural religious systems, and yet voluntarily seek fellowship in
a Co-operative Society? Again, how can we justly blame the Roman "priest"
for burning incense before God (he may possibly do it with a good conscience
quite ignorantly), if we ourselves burn tobacco before God and before men?
Many speak severely (and not too severely) of a "Sunday religion";
let us beware of a mere "Sunday separation!" Our baptism teaches
death to sin and the world (Rom. 6); are we prepared for this?
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.
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The Rival Captains
It seems difficult to realize that little more than half a
century had passed since the death of Solomon when Elijah came across the
Jordan from the wilds of Gilead with his terrible announcement of the coming
drought! In order to understand the gravity of that moment, we must keep before
us the evil doings of the ten tribes after they broke away from the house
of David, and also forsook Jehovah for the gods of the heathen. God bore with
much patience the doings of those years, but the time had now come for drastic
punishment. Jehovah in His righteous government was constrained to assert
Himself, and in order to bring home to the people the folly of idolatry, and
the gravity of disobedience to His Word.
After the disruption, the Northern Kingdom continued about
260 years. Then the Kings of Assyria destroyed it, and deported the people.
Nineteen kings in all reigned over the ten tribes; alas, there was not a single
good king amongst them, although some were admittedly more desperate in their
wickedness than others. As we examine their history, we find frequently the
dismal refrain: "he walked in all the way of Jeroboam the son of Nebat,
and in his sin wherewith he made Israel to sin." (1 Kings 26: 26 etc.)
The Southern: Kingdom outlived the Northern by 130. years. The King of Babylon
was the instrument used by God for its extinction The people were carried
away into captivity. "and the land enjoyed her Sabbaths, for as long
as she lay desolate, she kept Sabbath, to fulfil threescore and ten years"
(2 Chron: 36 Nineteen kings and one queen ruled over the two tribes several
of them as wicked as any who polluted the Northern Kingdom, while other kings,
such as Jehoshaphat, Hezekiah and Josiah, were really excellent men. The "salt"
of these pious leaders preserved the decaying kingdom from ruin for many years.
Alas, for the day when Jehovah could no longer permit any of Israel's tribes
to continue in the land. His righteousness demanded that He should expel them
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.
Who can God entrust with power but Christ? He who was faithful
and obedient in the days. of His humiliation will be equally faithful and
obedient in the golden Kingdom- age when God will place all things beneath
His feet (Heb: 2: 8). At the end, "He will deliver up the kingdom to
God, even the Father: when He shall have put down all rule and all authority
and power. When all things shall be subdued unto Him, then shall the Son also
Himself be subject unto Him that did put all things under Him, that God may
be all in all" (1 Cor: 15: 24-28). The Perfect Administrator, seeking
the glory of God, and the blessing of all His creatures!
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.
Jeroboam's son Nadab reigned two years only. (1 Kings 15:
5). He was then murdered by one of his captains-Baasha while they were at
war with the Philistines, and were besieging Gibbethon. Baasha occupied his
bloodstained throne twenty-four years, and he became Jehovah's instrument
for the extermination of Jeroboam's vile family. Baasha's son Elah succeeded
his father, but was murdered two years later by an officer named Zimri. This
man hoped to establish himself in Tirzah the capital of the ten-tribe kingdom.
But another captain-Omri-aspired to the throne, and within a week he captured
Tirzah, Zimri perishing in the flames of the royal palace, which he himself
set ablaze when he perceived that his cause was hopeless. But even this did
not settle the country. Yet another aspirant to the throne appeared Tibni
the son of Ginath. "Then were the people of Israel (i.e. the
ten tribes) divided into two parts: half of the people followed Tibni
the son of Ginath, to make him king; and half followed Omri. But the people
that followed Omri prevailed against the people that followed Tibni the son
of Ginath: so Tibni died, and Omri reigned." (1 Kings 15: 21-22) Deplorable
record! We are speaking, not of pagan nations, but of God's chosen people,
for whom He had done great things from Egypt onward, and to whom He had made
known His holy will. They were still dear to his heart-"beloved for
the fathers' sake" (Rom. 11: 28). At a much later date, Jehovah, when
pronouncing judgement upon His people spoke of Israel as "the dearly
beloved of My soul" (Jer. 12: 7). Israel possessed the Scriptures;
no other nation was so privileged. Yet what a story of lawlessness and transgression
is written in the Books of the Kings! Ambitious captains plunderers and murderers,
contending for supremacy in God's inheritance, with no thought of glorifying
Him, nor of doing good to His poor people. Jehovah might well have challenged
those ruthless leaders as in Jer. 13: 20: "Where is the flock that was
given thee, thy beautiful flock!" Yet not a trace of exercise of conscience
is discernible in the land concerning this condition of things; none crying
out in the anguish of faith: "How long, O Jehovah. ... Help us, O God
of our salvation, for the glory of Thy name: and deliver us, and purge away
our sins for Thy name's sake (Ps. 79: 5-9). A downward course is always
slippery. Let us all beware of the smallest beginning of departure from the
revealed will of God. "Hold Thou me up, and I shall be safe, and I will
have respect unto Thy commandments continually" (Ps. 119: 117.
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Omri and Ahab
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!
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!
In the middle of his reign Omri decided to transfer his capital
from Tirzah to a preferable site which had attracted his attention. Being
a man of military genius, he desired for his seat of government a place of
greater strategic value than Tirzah had proved to be when Zimri endeavoured
to hold it. It could not sustain even a week's siege! (1 Kings 16: 18). "So
he bought the hill Samaria of Shemer for two talents of silver, and built
on the hill, and called the name of the city which he built, after the name
of Shemer, owner of the hill, Samaria" (1 Kings 16: 24). Such a memorial
of his reign would suit the vanity of Omri, besides making for greater security
in time of war. Although firm rule, and a new up-to-date Metropolis may be
considered desirable thing in men's eyes, it is the moral and spiritual condition
that counts with God; and Omri became a more wicked ruler than even his bad
predecessors. "Omri wrought evil in the eyes of Jehovah, and did worse
than all that were before him." He continued the worship of Jeroboam's
golden calves. and added fresh devilries of his own devising. When he died,
he was buried in the new city which he had created on the hill of Shemer.
But "there shall be a resurrection of the dead. both of the just and
unjust"(Acts 24: 15).
"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.
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 riseth up and buildeth 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.
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).
Hiel the Bethelite, and his wife with him (if she were living),
surely felt the bitterness of beholding both the eldest and youngest of their
sons laid low in death. Why not abandon the mad enterprise when Abiram died.
Alas, for the stubbornness of flesh! Satan was ready enough with some natural
explanation of the young man's death, and so the building operations continued
to the predicted tragedy. Let all the cavillers in Christendom beware! whatever
Satan and his agents may say, there is a "Hell of fire that never shall
be quenched, where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched"
(Mark 9: 44, 48).
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 unto Jacob, Arise,
go up to Bethel, and dwell there, and make there an altar unto God, that appeared
onto 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.
When Jacob arrived in Bethel, "he built there an altar,
and called the place El-Bethel: because there God appeared unto him when he
fled from the face of his brother." Note again how Jacob connected
the presence of God with the place. In calling it "El-Bethel,"
which means "the God of the house of God," he took much higher
ground than when he built an altar near Shechem, and called it "E1-eloheh
Israel," i.e. "God the God of Israel" ( Gen. 33: 20).Self
was the centre of his thoughts when he said the latter, the expression of
his trust that God would look after him; but at Bethel he rose to the thought
of having to do with God in His own house, and thus everything connected with
himself must be in suitability to the holy One who dwelt there.
Hiel might well have learned great lessons from these memories;
but his mind was too utterly alienated from God to learn anything. Bethel
in his time horrible to say-was one of the chief seats of idolatry. There
stood Jeroboam's golden calf, glaring proof that the early sin of Ex. 32 had
never been truly judged. Let us not miss the lesson of these Old Testament
records. "They were written aforetime for our learning" (Rom.
15: 4). From whence comes the repudiation of God's judgements in our day!
From those circles which claim to know God, and where the term "house
of God" is freely used; in other words it is not so much the non-professing
world which speaks against the judgements of God, as the leaders and teachers
of those "who profess and call themselves Christians." The results
of this widespread denial of the judgements of God are disastrous; morality
everywhere declines, and deceived souls glide carelessly down to eternal ruin.
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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 unto
his son, nor his daughter shalt thou take unto 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!
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 mans 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 unto 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 .
Idolatry was no new evil amongst God's favoured but faithless
people Israel. Their whole course in this respect is traced with much detail
in Ezek. 20. In Egypt, before the deliverance, they worshipped the gods around
them (ver. 8); they worshipped idols in the wilderness, although perhaps covertly
(ver. 13), and they worshipped idols in the land (ver. 28 ). The worship of
Baal in particular is noted in Judges 2: 11-13; Gideon was instructed by God.
to throw down the altar of Baal which his father had erected, and also to
cut down the Asherah which stood by it (Judges 6: 25): just before Jephthah
was raised up for the people's- deliverance, they confessed that they had
forsaken God, and served Baalim (Judges 10: 10).
The "Groves" so frequently referred to in the
history of Ahab and Elijah were really statues of Ashtoreth. Baal seems to
have represented the sun, and Ashtoreth the moon. In the divine indictment
of the Northern Kingdom, when the people were carried captive into Assyria,
we read: "they left all the commandments of Jehovah their God, and made
them molten images, two calves, and made an Asherah, and worshipped all the
host of heaven, and served Baal" 2 Kings 17: 16 Note how "all
the host of heaven" is here linked with Baal. In Jer. 7: 18 Ashtoreth
is called "the queen of heaven." From Job 31: 26,27 we gather
that homage to the Sun and moon was the earliest form of idolatry.
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 amongst 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?
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
The epistles to the seven assemblies in Asia are familiar
to all Bible readers. There were doubtless assemblies in the places named,
and in each case the message sent was what was needed at that time. Jezebel's
name figures in the epistle to Thyatira. The Lord said, "Thou sufferest
that woman Jezebel . . . . and she teaches"(R.V.). There is a two fold
rebuke in these words. which the Authorised Version obscures. First, there
was toleration of a wicked person, in defiance of 1 Cor. 5: 13; and second,-
the person-a woman was allowed to teach, contrary to the prohibitions of 1
Cor 14: 34 and 1 Tim. 2: 12. What a condition of things in the very first
century of our era! What early departure from the revealed will of God! The
Thyatiran woman called herself a prophetess; i.e., she claimed to teach by
divine authority but her teaching was vile, and intended to lead souls astray
We need not suppose that her name was really Jezebel; the name is used symbolically.
On the same principle Jerusalem is called in Rev. 11: 8 "spiritually
Sodom and Egypt." This means that that which should he the holy city
of God will be in the world's final crisis just Sodom and Egypt repeated The
Jezebel of Thyatira, whatever her real name, is just the reproduction of the
vile Sidonian princess with whom Elijah had to do.
Thyatira is only mentioned twice in the Scriptures, and is
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
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 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.
Here is the Lord's description of the "Christian"
Jezebel. "She calleth herself a prophetess, and she teaches and seduces
My servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed to idols.
And I gave her space to repent of her fornication, and she repented not"
(Rev. 2: 20, 21). in the religious system which Jezebel represents it is affirmed
that "the Church" teaches, and that everyone should obey their
voice under pain of eternal judgement. The very principle is false. The Church
is never represented in the Scriptures as a teacher at all, but as taught-by
the gifts given by the Head for that purpose (Eph. 4: 11). Seven times in
Rev. 2 and 3 we read, "He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit
saith unto the Churches;" therefore, instead of hearkening to the Church,
he that would be true to the Lord must hearken to the voice of the Spirit
speaking to the Church, frequently in terms of censure. The divine voice is
heard in the Scriptures, which "are profitable for doctrine, for reproof
for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may
be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works" (2 Tim. 3: 16,
Fornication, as mentioned in the Apocalypse, means worldliness,
illicit 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.
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
From Rev. 2 we must pass briefly to Rev. 17, where we see,
Babylon the Great, mother of the harlots and the abominations of the earth
"riding upon a scarlet coloured beast." The "mystery" woman is the final development
of Jezebel after all true saints have been removed to the father's house On
high. The fact that the woman is shown riding upon the beast suggests that
the religious power will acquire considerable influence over the governments
at the time of the end. But the harlot 's supremacy will be short-lived. The
infuriated kings will, when the moment is ripe for it, turn upon her, "make
her desolate and naked, and shall eat her flesh, and burn her with fire."It
is the will of God, little as the kings mean it so (Rev. 17: 16-17). This
is the end of that which calls itself "the Roman Catholic Church," largely
augmented in its last stage by much that is at this moment distinct from it.
Ahab's Jezebel had a gruesome end (2 Kings 9: 33-37) That which has reproduced
her amazing enormities, and practised them in the name of "Him that is Holy,
Him that is true"(Rev. 3: 7) will have a fearful end also. Meantime God would
have all who love His truth stand in stern separation from everything that
is even remotely suggestive of Jezebel and Babylon (Rev. 18: 4).
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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.
The sovereignty of God in His choice of instruments for His
work is noticeable throughout the Scriptures. Take the scriptures themselves:
the first writer had the status of an Egyptian prince, "and was mighty in
his words and his deeds"(Acts 7: 22): the last writer was a Galilean fisherman
and between these two we find kings, priests, prophets, a military commander.
a Prime minister, a herdman, a tax-gatherer, and a doctor ( besides others).
We have seen that there was urgent need for a testimony to Israel in Ahab's
day yet God did not send an Aaronite priest from Jerusalem, nor a man otherwise
notable; His sovereign choice was a simple countryman without any official
or social standing, and apparently without literary accomplishments. In the
same sovereign way of acting, when God desired to send a peculiarly solemn
testimony to Israel in the early days of our era, He did not use an apostle,
but took Stephen from his humble service amongst the widows for His purpose
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.
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 liveth, 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). 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.
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.
In 1 Kings 17 we have Elijah's public action, which probably
startled all who heard it; and in James 5 we have his private dealings with
God before he came forth into public. The connection in James's epistle concerns
us intimately; we are all exhorted to pray for one another, and the Apostle
adds, "the ardent and energetic prayer of the righteous man has great efficacy"(Darby's
Translation). Let no-one miss the seriousness of this. Every Christian has
access to the throne of grace: but the man who would pray for others must
be himself a righteous man; he must look well to his own conduct, and examine
carefully his own ways, ere he ventures into the Sanctuary. Even then prayer
must not be a mere utterance of words, the whole spirit of the man must be
"ardent and energetic." Here we have the secret of successful prayer.
Many years ago. a newly-converted Methodist was taken to the
prayer- meetings of some special friends of mine. After he had listened to
tree 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, "0 God,
teach these good men how to pray!" The elder brethren were annoyed at the
intrusion; but my sympathies are with the young man!
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
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 giveth 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."
When the disciples asked the Lord Jesus why they were unable
to cast out a demon (although they had been sent forth with divine authority
so to do- Luke 9: 1), He replied, "Because of your unbelief. . . . this kind
goeth not out but by prayer and fasting" (Matt. 17: 19-21).
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
600 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!
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
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The Great Drought
It delights God as Creator and Governor of the universe, to
lavish His bounties upon men, spite of their unworthiness and ingratitude.
"Jehovah is good to all, and His tender mercies are over all His works"(Ps.
145: 9). The Lord Jesus, when bidding His disciples to love their enemies,
said, "that ye may be the sons of your Father which is in heaven: for He
maketh His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the
just and on the unjust"(Matt. 5: 45). When the foolish pagans of Lystra desired
to offer sacrifices to Barnabas and Paul as gods come down to earth in the
likeness of men. these faithful men ran in amongst them, and bore testimony
to the one true God. Of Him they said, "He left not Himself without witness,
in that He did good, and gave you rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons,
filling your hearts with food and gladness" (Acts 14: 17 ). The regularity
of the seasons, as they come and go, are the abiding evidences of God's gracious
interest in His creatures. Faith, perceiving this, cries out: "O Jehovah.
how manifold are Thy works! in wisdom hast Thou made them all: the earth is
full of Thy riches" (Ps. 105: 24). What then does it mean When He forbids
showers to fall, or the sun to shine!
It was doubtless with a heavy heart that Elijah turned away
from the King's palace after the delivery of his heavy message, and went into
retirement. He certainly did not desire the ruin of the nation. Had there
been prompt repentance, so that the threatened stroke might be averted, his
heart would have danced for joy. In this he was unlike Jonah, to whom the
repentance of a threatened people was a real annoyance! (Jonah 4: 1). It touched
his dignity that he should have uttered a sentence which a merciful God did
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!
Before the children of Israel moved away from Mount Sinai
Jehovah had a plain talk with them about their future. Lev. 26: should be
read. "If ye walk in My statutes, and keep My commandments, and do them; then
I will give you rain in due season. and the land shall yield her increase.
and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit. And your threshing shall
reach unto the vintage, and the vintage shall reach unto the sowing time:
and ye shall eat your bread to the full, and dwell in your land safely" (vv.
3-5). This would be prosperity indeed! "But if ye will not hearken unto Me,
and will not do all these commandments; and if ye shall despise My statutes....I
will do this unto you....I will break the pride of your power: and I will
make your heaven as iron and your earth as brass: and your strength shall
be spent in vain; for your land shall not yield her increase, neither shall
the trees of the land yield their fruits"(vv. 14, 16, 19, 20) Nearly forty
years later. Jehovah addressed the new generation in similar terms but even
more solemnly, and at greater length Read Deut. 28. Every blessing should
be theirs in the land to which they were going, and they would be the envy
of the surrounding nations, if they would hearken diligently unto the voice
of Jehovah their God, to observe and to do all His commandments (10: 1). "But
it shall come to pass, if thou wilt not hearken unto the voice of Jehovah
thy God to observe to do all His commandments and His statutes, then heaven
that is over thy head shall be brass. and the earth that is under thee shall
be iron" (vv. 15 24). No word could be plainer. With these words ringing in
their ears as it were, Israel's tribes entered the good land. It is a blessed
thing to be in relationship with God, but it is also very solemn. "You only
have I known of all the families of the earth therefore I will punish you
for all your iniquities" (Amos 3: 2) The nearer to God the more severe the
discipline. In Elijah's day Jehovah still recognised the people as His own
although they (the ten tribes) no longer recognised Him as their God Hence
the judgement of the great drought, while other nations as idolatrous and
vile as Israel, were not smitten thus. So now "the time is come that judgement
must begin at the house of God" (1 Peter 4: 17). Those who profess to own
the lordship, of Christ are therefore amenable to special divine discipline.
There were doubtless many liars in Jerusalem in the days of Ananias and Sapphira,
but none were specially singled out for the judgement of God, but these who
knew His will (Acts 5). Many ill-behaved Corinthians were made sick, and some
even died, while there were almost certainly persons in the same city (as
men would judge) guilty of more and graver transgressions, yet they were suffered
to live! Solemn thoughts these for us all! But the Apostle adds: "If we would
judge ourselves, we should not be judged But when we are judged, we are chastened
of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world" (1 Cor. 11: 30-32).
The world's judgement is sure; every sin will be remembered even the secrets
of men's hearts will be laid bare; but from all that the grace of God has
exempted those who believe. Our judgement under His governing hand, is here
and now. (Cp. 1 Peter 1: 17).
When Solomon led Israel in prayer at the dedication of the
temple he thought of every kind of trouble which might come upon the people
in the future, including the stoppage of the rain. "When heaven is shut up,
and there is no rain, because they have sinned against thee; if they pray
toward this place, and confess Thy name, and turn from their sin because Thou
afflictest them: then hear Thou in heaven, and forgive the sin of Thy servants
and of Thy people Israel, when Thou teachest them the good way in which they
should walk, and give rain upon Thy land. which Thou hast given to Thy people
for an inheritance" (1 Kings 8: 35-36). Mark the words, "if they pray towards
this place." Israel did nothing of the kind in Elijah's day. Their hearts
were stubborn; there was no sense of guilt; and they were in no mood for humiliations
before God. As for His loved centre, they had definitely turned their backs
upon it. Bethel and Dan with their golden calves, were more to the taste of
Ahab's followers than Zion where Jehovah dwelt in the midst of His people.
with the atoning blood ever upon the mercy seat under His holy eye.
What a contrast between the happy condition of the people
in the early days of Solomon's reign and in the reign of Ahab and Jezebel!
In Solomon's day "Judah and Israel were many, as the sand is by the sea in
multitude, eating and drinking, and making merry" (1 Kings 4: 20). In Ahab's
day, a consuming drought for three years and six months! Who can imagine the
conditions of the country, and the privations of the people. It gives God
no pleasure to smite the children of men, whoever they may be, nor does it
please Him to blight the landscape. The Son of God, when upon earth, said,
" Consider the lilies, how they grow: they toil not, they spin not; and yet
I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of
these" (Luke 12: 27). In His gracious condescension, He could take notice
of one of the humblest of flowers, and draw attention to its simple beauty,
which, being divine handiwork, was more lovely in His sight than the man made
robes of Israel's wealthiest king. As we write, vast areas in Europe, Asia,
and elsewhere are in an appalling condition of devastation as the result of
men's sin and folly. If men in their hardness of heart do not feel the grievousness
of all this. God does.
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. 122: 16).
Lord, Lord, Thy fair creation groans; The earth, the air,
the sea, In unison with all our hearts, And calls aloud for Thee. (Sir Edward
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.
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 mourneth, and the gates
thereof languish; they are black unto 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 saith Jehovah unto this people. they 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
unto 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 unto 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?
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By the Brook Cherith
The wise man tells us "there is a time to keep silence. and
a time to speak" (Ecc. 3: 7). Elijah had delivered his message in Ahab's court,
and in due course be would speak for God to the nation and its idolatrous
priests; in the meantime there was nothing to be said, the time of silence
had come. The prophet's experience during his period of inactivity is as instructive
to us as all his movements in public service; and we doubt not that Elijah
reaped as much blessing in retirement by the brook Cherith as Moses did when
he led Jethro's flock to the backside of the desert of Sinai (Ex. 3: 1). Moses
had been too hasty in his desire to deliver God's people Israel (Ex. 2: 11-14).
Doubtless during his forty years of quiet shepherd-service he learned the
great lesson of dependence upon the wisdom and power of God. Forty years in
God's school taught him that God has no use for fleshy energy in the carrying
out of His purposes of love. Elijah had not been hasty; but, like Moses, his
life was in peril. Both men must be divinely preserved for important services
yet to be rendered.
Saul of Tarsus spent a season in Arabia soon after his conversion.
When he learned the mighty truth that the despised Jesus is the Son of God,
he preached Him in this character in the synagogues of Damascus (Acts 9: 20).
But he soon went away for a term of quietness in Arabia (Gal. 1: 17). The
wisdom of this is clear. The Lord's commission to him was very comprehensive
in character; his teaching was to reach all classes, from the highest to the
lowest; and his path would lie through much suffering ( Acts 26: 16-18; Acts
9: 16). What a revolution was being wrought in his life! The bitter antagonist
of Jesus was to be His foremost witness to men! A term of quietness, in which
he could revolve these things in his mind in the presence of God, was most
desirable. Saul was soon in danger, as Moses and Elijah before him, for the
world will not tolerate a faithful witness for God.
The word of Jehovah came to Elijah saying, "Get thee hence,
and turn thee eastward, and hide thyself by the brook Cherith, that is before
Jordan" (1 Kings 17: 2-3). We first meet with the formula "the word of Jehovah"
in Gen. 15, and there it occurs twice. Abram was being addressed. But whenever
God is pleased to speak, He expects to be obeyed.
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
perisheth." 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 proceedeth 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).
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 unto 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.
Elijah's obedience to the word of the Lord comes before us
in the sacred history, and we feel rebuked as we ponder it but, wonderful
and devoted servant of Jehovah though he was, he broke down utterly when Jezebel's
murderous threat reached him, and without any word from Jehovah, he ran for
his life (1 Kings 19). How much better to have spread out the trouble before
God in faith as Hezekiah spread out Rab-shakeh's blasphemous and angry words
at a later date (Isa. 37)
At the risk of being thought tedious, it seems desirable to
say a little more about the will of God, and its bearing upon our lives. Same
Christians who appear to be honest and sincere, nevertheless ask in bewildered
tones how the will of God may be known, for they find it so difficult to ascertain
it. None of us need expect God to speak to us in the same way as He spoke
to Elijah. Such words as, "Hide thyself by the brook Cherith"; "Get thee to
Zarephath"; and "show thyself unto Ahab" could not possibly be misunderstood
God speaks to us now in the written Word. We are privileged to hold in our
hands the complete revelation of God; moreover we have dwelling within us
the Holy Spirit, who delights to guide willing minds into all truth. So full
and complete are the Scriptures that there is something there to suit every
circumstance in which any saint may be found at any time. But we must be at
home in the book of God, or obviously we shall be at a serious disadvantage
in the hour of need. The blessed Lord Jesus, when tempted by the Devil, know
exactly where to put His finger upon the three passages in the book of Deuteronomy
that suited His purpose. But in seeking guidance from God through the Scriptures
we need not look for such injunctions as "Thou shalt not go to London on Monday."
or "Thou shalt not smoke," or "Thou shalt not join a Co-operative Society."
God does not deal with us as though we were infants but rather as intelligent
persons, standing before Him in the dignity of sonship, and endued with the
Holy Spirit. In many matters there are indeed plain commandments, and the
Lord Jesus says, "He that hath My commandments and keepeth them, he it is
that loveth Me" (John 14: 21); but much more frequently we learn the mind
of God from the great principles of truth which we have pondered, and stored
up in our affections. Every department of Scripture truth-typical, historical,
prophetical-contains important principles which are of immense value to the
soul that desires to be altogether for God's pleasure in an evil world. Hence
our Lord's words in John 14: 23. "If a man love Me, he will keep My word".
This goes far beyond keeping His commandments. A simple illustration may help
here:-a child who truly loves his parents, and delights in their company,
will know instinctively what will please them without being told in specific
terms. In like manner, if we are walking humbly with God, with flesh judged,
and with one simple desire, to know His will and to do it, the whole path
will be clear. When our Lord declared His intention of going into Judea when
Lazarus died, the disciples expressed their surprise, because they knew that
there was conspiracy there against Him; but He replied, "Are there not twelve
hours in the day? If any man walk in the day, he stumbleth not, because he
seeth the light of this world. But if a man walk in the night, he stumbleth,
because there is no light in him" (John 11: 9-10). Having but one desire before
Him-to do the Father's will, he did nothing for two days after He heard of
the sickness of His friend; but having learned the Father's will, He went
forward unhesitatingly. Practically, He was walking in broad day-light, and
thus every step was clear. So will it be with us if we "walk as He walked"
(1 John 2: 6).
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.
Elijah's experience should be a real help to true hearts.
He went to Cherith by the word of the Lord, and there he remained until he
received further instructions. The water of the brook became less and less
as the days passed and the drought continued; but he waited. in faith, assured
that the One who sent him there had not forgotten him. In due time a fresh
word came, and he moved away to Zarephath. Elijah's God is our God; but with
this difference-we know Him as Elijah could not know Him; to us He is Father,
blessedly revealed as such in the Son of His love. Let us trust Him fully.
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 unto 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.
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. 36: 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.
It is interesting to observe in the Bible history how obedient
the humblest creatures can be to God in contrast with rebellious man.-the
milch kine who went straight to Beth-shemesh with the ark of God, although
their calves were at home, is an example of this. The pagan Philistines were
impressed with it, and they acknowledged the hand of the God of Israel (1
Sam. 6). Another example is seen in the untrained colt who willingly bore
the Lord Jesus into Jerusalem amidst tumultuous crowds ( Luke 19: 35). The
ravens were carnivorous birds, yet they carried bread and flesh to Elijah
daily. In Luke 12: 24, the Lord Jesus expressly mentioned these unclean creatures
as objects of divine care.
How blessed it is to have to do with One who is "Lord of heaven
and earth" ( Matt. 11: 25), and who thus has all things at His command! The
food reached Elijah regularly; the same God who provided manna every day for
Israel in the wilderness (Ex. 16) sent the ravens to Elijah with "bread and
flesh in the morning, and bread and flesh in the evening, and he drank of
the brook." Our God loves regularity. Unpunctuality and disorderly ways do
not please Him. When the Lord fed five thousand men besides women and children,
He commanded them to sit down "in ranks by hundreds and by fifties." (Mark
6: 40). If any reader is disposed to be unpunctual and slovenly, these facts
should be remembered.
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!
The times become increasingly restless, and the children of
God are more or less affected by the influences around them. Newspaper reading,
and "listening in" are the settled habits of many, to their spiritual hurt.
One shudders to hear a large Conference gathering sing with fervour- "Oh the
pure delight of a single hour Which before Thy throne I spend, When I kneel
in prayer, and with Thee, my God, I commune as friend with friend!"
The question naturally arises. How many of these people have
ever spent a single hour at the throne of grace? Yet their words imply that
it is their custom so to do! Do they all devote even a few minutes daily to
Scripture reading and prayer in the home? Brethren, let us watch against every
form of unreality. It is possible to utter grievous falsehoods in the presence
of God by means of a Hymn book!
David wrote in Ps. 4: 8: "I will both lay me down in peace,
and sleep, for Thou, Jehovah, although in solitude (R.V. margin) makest me
dwell in safety." Elijah at Cherith could have said the same; no wild beast
or other enemy could harm the lonely man who was there by the word of the
Lord, and abiding under His watchful eye.
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The Widow of Zarephath.
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.
It is not given to angels to lodge the servants of their Lord,
although they may, and do, care for them in other ways. If we cannot now prepare
a meal for the Lord Himself as Martha did, we can perhaps prepare one for
some hungry man Who seeks to serve Him in the Gospel of His grace. Such messengers
are described in 2 Cor. 8: 23, as "the glory of Christ." "We therefore ought
to receive such," writes the Apostle John to his friend Gaius, "that we may
be fellow helpers to the truth" (3 John 8). Dear Christian retailer, open
your doors wide to those who go forth in the Lord's name, and be assured that
He regards loving attentions to them as done to Himself. Do not compel the
preacher to say on his return home, "They received me as an angel of God.
It never occurred to them that I needed food!"
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, so 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 unto none of them was Elias
sent, save unto Sarepta, a city of Sidon, unto 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.
Jehovah's instructions to Elijah at this juncture demand careful
attention: they were most extraordinary, and Elijah was probably surprised
when he received this fresh communication from God. He had waited patiently
at Cherith until the brook dried up, confident that Jehovah would remember
his need in good time. Here is the fresh word of the Lord to him: "Arise and
get thee to Zarephath which belongeth to Zidon, and dwell there; behold, I
have commanded a widow woman to sustain thee" (1 Kings 17: 9). Our God is
not always pleased to explain Himself, but He expects His saints to trust
Him. Philip was called away from a great work in Samaria to go down to a desert
place (Acts 7: 26, As an obedient servant "he arose and went."It is not that
our God resents a humble inquiry from a perplexed messenger. Ananias of Damascus
was startled to be told to call upon a man called Saul of Tarsus, and he said:
"Lord, I have heard by many of this man, how much evil he hath done to Thy
saints at Jerusalem: and here he hath authority from the chief priests to
bind all that call on Thy name" (Acts 9: 13-14). This was no spirit of rebellion
in Ananias; he was just surprised and perplexed, and quite frankly said so
to his Lord, who answered him very graciously. What a Lord is ours! What a
contrast to the petty tyrants of earth!
Elijah, when he received his instructions from Jehovah, "arose,
and went to Zarephath." He asked no questions, and made no difficulties:
but surely thoughts arose in his mind! Jehovah expressly said that Zarephath
"belonged to Zidon." He was thus sending His servant outside Israel's land
for bread! When Abram went down into Egypt in a time of famine, he did wrong,
and nothing but trouble came out of it (Gen. 12: 10). When Elimelech and Naomi,
with their family, went into Moab in another time of famine, they also did
wrong. and they all suffered deeply for it (Ruth 1: 1-5). On the other hand,
when the Shunammite woman with whom Elisha had to do, went with her household
into the land of the Philistines when bread was lacking in Israel, she did
right, for she had a "thus saith the Lord" for the step that she took (2 Kings
8: 1, 2).
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.
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 unto God, who always leadeth us in triumph in Christ, and maketh 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 unto 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!" "To God be the glory; Great things He
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The Meal and The Oil
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" (Ch. 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 drinketh water of the rain of heaven: a land which Jehovah thy God careth
for: the eyes of Jehovah thy God are always upon it, from the beginning of
the year even unto 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.
As Elijah drew near to Zarephath he would naturally wonder
with whom he was to lodge. He had been given no address, and there were probably
many widows in the place! How should he find the right one. Presently, he
saw a woman gathering sticks. Did he speak to God in silent prayer as Nehemiah
did? (Neh. 2: 4). This is a holy habit that we should all cultivate at every
stage of our wilderness journey. (A beautiful example of pious exercise will
be found in Gen. 24: 42-48). Did Jehovah indicate His will to Elijah as He
did to Samuel in the house of Jesse! Samuel was sent there to anoint a king
over Israel. All Jesse's five sons passed. before him, but the prophet had
to say, "Jehovah hath not chosen these"; then, when the unthought-of David
was fetched in from the fields, Jehovah said, "Arise, anoint him, for this
is he" (1 Sam. 16: 1-12).
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 liveth, 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, and 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
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.
How true is the saying, "Man's extremity is God's opportunity!"
Great blessings were now to be enjoyed in the widow's home. She will remember
throughout Eternity Jehovah's dealings with her, and the story of those dealings
has been a stimulus to the faith of God's saints for well-nigh three thousand
Elijah said to her: "Fear not (oh, how blessed are God's Fear-nots!):
go and do as thou hast said; but make me thereof a little cake first, and
bring it unto me, and after make for thee and for thy son." If the prophet
had said no more than this, his words would have sounded heartless and selfish.
With only enough meal left to make one cake, he asked her to make him one
first! The word "first" should, of course, be noted. Elijah stood before the
woman as the representative of the Great God, and his request really meant
that she was to put God first, even at this grave crisis in her life. The
Lord Jesus taught this in Matt. 6: 33; and when a man once asked Him to let
him "first" go and bury his father, He rebuked such an attitude towards His
call (Luke 9: 59). God must stand first with every one of us, and where He
has His rightful place in the affections and lives of His saints, blessing
Now let us examine what Elijah's apparently strange request
was founded upon. He gave the poor widow a direct and definite message from
God. "Thus saith 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
sendeth rain upon the earth" (1 Kings 17: 14). He who pledged Jehovah for
judgement with Ahab, now pledged Him for blessing with the widow. Her flagging
faith promptly responded, "and she went and did according to the saying of
Elijah"; i.e. she made first a cake for him: and then found to her delight
that there was sufficient meal in the barrel to make another cake for herself
and for her son. She found God true to His word, and for a whole year the
household of three was thus divinely fed. We need not suppose that either
the barrel or the cruse ever filled up. She would probably be always working
on the bottom; but day after day there was sufficiency for them all.
On the principle of Heb. 13: 5, 6 we are entitled to build
our own expectations upon the word of Jehovah to the widow of Zarephath. In
Heb. 13: 5. the writer quotes words addressed to Joshua (Joshua 1: 5). "I
will never leave thee, nor forsake thee"; hands them on, as it were to us;
and then encourages the Christian to boldly say, "the Lord is my helper. and
I will not fear what man shall do unto me." He who was faithful to Joshua,
the military commander with great responsibilities resting upon him. and who
was faithful to the widow and her child, can be trusted to be faithful to
One verse from God sufficed at Zarephath. Without hesitation
the hungry woman acted upon it. She proved God's word true; and it is always
true. We must pause here and take account of ourselves. We have, what the
widow had not. the whole Word of God. It is said that in the English Bible
there are 31,173 verses. What spiritual wealth! There are messages from God
for our souls in every direction; but have we appropriated them. Are we feeding
upon faithfulness. (Ps. 37: 3 R.V.). Saints of earlier ages really put us
to shame. They had so few words from God; but how much they were to them!
The whole of Ps. 119 might well be pondered in proof of this. The widow of
Zarephath gave her all on the strength of one verse from God; Abram in Gen.
15: 5 built all his hopes on five words from God-"so shall thy seed be"; Matthew
surrendered all on the authority of two words "Follow Me"-from the lips of
the Lord Jesus; and Peter risked his life at the sound of one word-"Come" -from
the same blessed lips. (Matt. 9: 9; Matt. 14: 29). Peter jumped out of the
boat and walked upon the sea, feeling that he would be as safe there as on
the fish quay in Capernaum; and he would never have even begun to sink had
he not turned his eyes away from the Lord. and looked at the wind and the
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!
We may picture to ourselves a happy contented household in
Zarephath. The meal and the oil failed not, and the woman and her son had
the benefit of Elijah's profitable conversations and of his prayers. There
was no home on earth more divinely favoured at that time. The food is suggestive
of that which nourishes the souls of the saints today; the meal speaks of
Christ, and the oil of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit's ministry of Christ through
the written word keeps God's saints well nourished and happy in the midst
of a discontented and unhappy world. 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
Back To Contents
Until the Day
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 saith 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
sendeth 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.
What a picture we have here of our own position today as believers
in the Lord Jesus! The world is in a sorry plight: vast regions have been
blighted by the ravages of war; and famine and pestilence deepen the misery.
The conditions are beyond the wisdom and power of man to correct; and yet
there is HOPE. In God's word-in both Old and New Testaments-we meet frequently
with the words "the day." The context in almost every case will show that
this gave confidence and strength to men of faith, both in Israel and in the
Church. What is meant by "the day?" It refers to a point of time to which
God has been looking forward through the ages when He will publicly intervene
in the affairs of earth, and clear away everything that is offensive in His
sight. and which has brought suffering to both man and beast.
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).
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 of corruption into the liberty
and glory of the children of God" (Rom. 8: 21).
"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.
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: 15
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."
Politicians may promise their people "a new and better world";
and they may be quite sincere in what they say. but the true remedy for all
the ills of creation is in the hands of the Lord Jesus Christ. When He shines
forth in glory, and all His saints with Him (all sinners saved by grace),
Satan's malign rule over men will end, and the will of God will be done on
earth as it is done in heaven. In the light of "the day," which will bring
recompense and honour to all who serve loyally now, let us watch our steps,
and labour with godly care: "for the day will declare" what manner of servants
we have been here for God (1 Cor. 3: 13).
Hope of our hearts, O Lord, appear, Thou glorious Star of
day! Shine forth, and chase the dreary night, With all our tears, away. (Sir