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culiar character of some of those events. That part of his history in particular which is now before us, will hereby become divested of the strangeness of its first appearance.
2 KINGS I. 5-17.
" And when the messengers turned back unto him, he said unto them,
Why are ye now turned back? And they said unto him, There came a man up to meet us, and said unto us, Go, turn again unto the king that sent you, and say unto him, Thus saith the Lord, Is it not because there is not a God in Israel, that thou sendest to enquire of Baal-zebub the god of Ekron ? therefore thou shalt not come down from that hed on which thou art gone up, but shalt surely die. And he said unto them, What'manner of man was he which came up to meet you, and told you these words ? And they answered him, He was an hairy man, and girt with a girdle of leather about his loins. And he said, It is Elijah the Tishbite. Then the king sent unto him a captain of fifty with his fifty. And he went up to him: and, behold, he sat on the top of an hill. And he spake unto him, Thou man of God, the king hath said, Come down. And Elijah answered and said to the captain of fifty, If I be a man of God, then let fire come down from heaven, and consume thee and thy fifty. And there came down fire from heaven, and consumed him and his fifty. Again also he sent unto him another captain of fifty with his fifty. And he answered and said unto him, O man of God, thus hath the king said, Come down quickly. And Elijah answered and said unto them, If I be a man of God, let fire come down from heaven, and consume thee and thy fifty. And the fire of God came down from heaven, and consumed him and his fifty. And he sent again a captain of the third fifty with his fifty. And the third captain of fifty, went up, and came and fell on his knees before Elijah, and besought him, and said unto him, O man of God, I pray thee, let my life, and the life of these fifty thy servants, be precious in thy sight. Behold, there came fire down from heaven, and burnt up the two captains of the former fifties with their fifties: therefore let my life now be precious in thy sight. And the angel of the Lord said unto Elijah, Go down with him: be not afraid of him. And he arose, and went down with bim unto the king. And he said unto him, Thus saith the Lord, Forasmuch as thou hast sent messengers to enquire of Baal-zebub the god of Ekron, is it not because there is no God in Israel to enquire of his word ? therefore thou shalt not come down off that bed on which thou art gone up, but shalt surely die. So he died according to the word
of the Lord which Elijah had spoken.” Thus ends the narrative which commenced with the mission to Ekron.
“Our God is a consuming fire !” “God is not mocked !” “ It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God !” Let us pause, and consider the marvellous contest here related. Here is, I. Ahaziah's attempt against Elijah ; II. The prophet's victory; and, III. Ahaziah's awful overthrow.
1. The messengers of the king are already on their way to Ekron. Leaving the guilt of their mission with their master's conscience, they proceed with alacrity on their journey, and have already settled in their own minds the time when they shall arrive at Ekron. But the Lord knoweth the thoughts of man, that they are vain. Another oracle comes forth to meet them, from a quarter quite unlooked for. All at once a living barrier stands in their way. A man suddenly appears before them, of a majestic figure, clothed in a hairy mantle. Here is no troop of angels, no nor any mailed band of men ; nothing but an individual fellow-man, without armour or weapons. Yet astonishment seizes the courtly messengers at the sight of him, and their train and equipage are obliged to halt.
“ The Tishbite !" is the word of alarm from one to the other; and, before they have time to inquire and advise together, the venerable stranger confronts them, and discharges his Divine commission: “ Is it not because there is not a God in Israel, that ye go to inquire of Baal-zebub the god of Ekron ? return, and tell your master, Thus saith the Lord, Thou shalt not come down from that bed on which thou art gone up, but shalt surely die !” The stranger, having spoken these words, turned about and went his way.
may well imagine the consternation occasioned by this unexpected encounter ; how the men looked fearfully at each other, and knew not what to say. Little had they dreamt of carrying back to their prince such a speedy answer to his inquiry, and this too without money and without price. But from whom does it come? Oh they are conscious that it comes from an oracle that cannot lie. They have no heart to proceed on their journey to Ekron; they dare not do it. They know too well this terrible man, the fire-attested messenger of Jehovah's displeasure. They turn about in haste, as if the least delay were dangerous, and return with awful apprehensions to Samaria. Verily, it cannot always be foreseen what may happen on such journeys as those to Ekron or to Endor. It is a fearful thing to pass by God and his word, and to turn aside to lying vanities. In courses like these, how many have met with such disclosures as might well both make their ears tingle, and their hearts quake. Many a one, by having recourse to refuges of lies, has for ever lost sight of the light of truth, and lived and died under strong delusions. Let us, therefore, never forget the exhortation of the apostle: “Little children, abide in him ; that, when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming,” 1 John ii. 28.
II. King Ahaziah, lying upon his couch, supposes his messengers to be on the road to Ekron. But, lo! unexpectedly the door of his apartment opens, and the messengers stand before his bed. Almost before he has time to wonder what this
can mean, they begin to relate to him what has happened to them on the
way. “ There came a man up to meet us, and said unto us, Go, turn again unto the king that sent you, and say unto him, Thus saith the Lord, Is it not because there is not a God in Israel, that thou sendest to enquire of Baal-zebub the god of Ekron ? therefore thou shalt not come down from that bed on which thou art gone up, but shalt surely die.” Terrific as was this message, ihe king collects himself sufficiently to inquire, “ What manner of man was he which came up to meet you, and told you these words ?” “ He was an hairy man,” answered they, “and girt with a girdle of leather about his loins.” This portrait was well known to the king.
Yes,” says he, with as much composure as he could assume, “I thought so; it is Elijah the Tishbite !" The king dismisses his messengers.
“ Send me hither one of my captains,” cries he, with stified fury and resentment. The captain appears in the sick man's chamber, and reads in the features of his lord the nature of his cominission. with your troop,” says Ahaziah, “ seize Elijah the Tishbite, and bring him to ine!” The captain bows obediently, and hastens to fulfil the king's orders. Let us reflect a moment on the monstrous presumption which the sick monarch here exhibits ! He knows who the man is whom he is about to attack. He has seen the mighty acts with which the Lord had borne testimony to this his own messenger. He knows that God haul a second time, in Elijah's case, “ hearkened to the voice of a man,” and that this redoubted champion of truth has the Almighty himself for his shield; yea, that the thunder and fiery flame of heaven has been at his command. Yet all this pre.. vents him not from taking the field against the prophet, and thus virtually declaring war against the King of kings. Impiety renders him frantic, and his feverish fury robs him of his understanding. A handful of chaff would now contend with the fire, and a fleeting vapour would combat with the storm ! Surely all this is no longer merely natural. Strong satanical delusion has taken possession of this senseless transgressor, and it is evident that he is become judicially blind.
The captain with his fifty departs upon his commission, and it is not long before he meets the enemy. On the summit of a mountain-probably on Carmel—they come in sight of the prophet. There he sits, solitary and silent, immersed in sacred meditations. But he sits there, like a king upon his throne, secure in his God, and surrounded by an invisible guard. He beholds the host approaching him with glittering weapons, and
easily imagines who has sent them, and what is their errand. But he is not afraid, in his invisible but impregnable fortress. He is well able to confront them under the banner of his God, and quietly suffers them to come against him. They approach. nearer and nearer, to surround him as their prisoner ; but something in his appearance, or in their thoughts of him, keeps them still at a respectful distance. It seems as if they had a presentiment of peril, should they venture to seize him. The captain, therefore, contents himself with imperatively declaring his master's order. “ Thou man of God, the king hath said, Come down.” The prophet feels a holy indignation for the honour of his God. He opens his mouth, with a faith which would have removed mount Carmel into the midst of the sea, had it been necessary, and exclaims, “ If I be a man of God, then let fire come down from heaven, and consume thee and thy fifty !” No sooner had he uttered the words, than Jehovah heard them; for to prayers which seek only his honour and glory he refuses not his Yea and Amen! The fire descends from heaven, and the captain, with his fifty, lie dead below the prophet's feet.
When this terrible event is notified to the king of Israel, he becomes so infatuated with rage, that instead of perceiving what power he was fighting against, he sends forth a second captain with his fifty, seemingly more daring than the first ; who finds Elijah still in the same place. He draws near, at the head of his fifty, to the servant of the Lord, and with astonishing presumption, addresses him, in sight of the slain around him, “O man of God, thus hath the king said, Come down quickly." “ If I be a man of God," answers Elijah, the second time, “let fire come down from heaven, and consume thee and thy fifty !” And the fire of God came down from heaven, and consumed him and his fifty. ·
One would suppose that the intelligence of this second defeat would have caused a change in Ahaziah's mind, and have induced him to conclude a truce in this impious war ; but, no ! he is resolved to hold it out to the last. He sends out a third captain with his fifty, for the purpose of bringing the prophet to him as his prisoner. The captain departs with his company of soldiers, and there is a fearful prospect of the wrathful judgment being repeated a third time. Elijah still sits in the same place upon his eminence. He is not afraid of
thousands; for he knows that he has sufficient strength in his God to lay any army in the dust that might come against him. But when the third captain, at the head of his company, arrives at the mount, and beholds the man of God, and the dead bodies of the slain lying below, he is seized with a feeling of reverential dread, which he in vain labours to overcome. He feels that it is bearing arms against the Almighty himself to bear them against his ambassador; and, overpowered by the awe with which the presence of the holy man inspired him, and by the conviction that Elijah's God is the true God, he puts up
his sword into the scabbard, approaches the prophet with reverence, falls on his knee before him, and exclaims, “ O man of God, I pray thee, let my life and the life of these fifty thy servants, be precious in thy sight. Behold, there came fire down from heaven, and burnt up the two captains of the former fifties with their fifties: therefore let my life now be precious in thy sight!” Oh how must Elijah have rejoiced at this submission to the living God, which saved him from the mournful necessity of vindicating the honour of Jehovah a third time with consuming flames of fire! For he had no pleasure in the death of the wicked ; but it was his delight, even as it is the delight of his Lord, that the sinner should turn from his ways and live. Doubtless, it caused him no little pain, when he was compelled to call for the sword of the Almighty to be unsheathed, and his fire from heaven to descend. But when this did take place, it was his divine vocation ; and the holy object of his mission required it, for the extirpation of idolatry, and the re-establishment of that Divine law which had been trodden under foot, and of that faith of the fathers which had become extinct. The weapons of ijah's warfare were, therefore, not carnal. They were wielded by that queen of passions—an ardent love to God and his cause—and they were brandished in obedience to a holy zeal for the glory of Jehovah's name. It was because the canker of idolatry had eaten so deeply into the heart of the chosen people, that such severe remedies were required for the healing of the people.
In considering such narratives as the present, we should ever remember that the times of the Old Testament were very different from those of the christian dispensation ; and that much which it became Elijah to perform, would be far from proper
for a subject of the new covenant. Our Saviour, in Luke ix. 54—56, expresses himself significantly as to the distinction between the old dispensation and the new. When the disciples, James and John, said to him, “ Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to fall from heaven, and consume them even as Elias did ?” our Lord replied, “ Ye know not what manner of spirit ve are of.
For the Son of man is not come to destroy men's