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nis bitterest enemy, and the territory of her father, a furious tyrant, also in alliance with Ahab. And, behold, I have commanded a widow woman there to sustain thee.” Strange comfort this to mere natural reason! A woman, who has herself lost her chief earthly sustainer; a phenician, who might be a heathen, against whose idols Elijah was so zealous. Besides, amongst so many widows in the land, how is this widow to be found? This, indeed, was “bringing the blind by a way that they knew not,” Isa. xlii. 16. But, “ Be still, and know that I am God,” Psa. xlvi. 10. His footsteps are not known! Yet most of the paths by which he conducts his servants, though they commence in darkness, or at best in twilight, become brighter as they proceed; by and by the dayspring begins to dawn, and their course shines more and more unto the perfect day.
Zarephath, which was midway between Zidon and Tyre, may signify “ a place of smelting furnaces,” serving to remind us of the furnace of affliction whereby the Lord tries and purifies his people. The prophet's whole route seemed to lie directly towards this furnace. But it was a Divine direction: it was the Lord's will ; and, therefore, it was right to go forward in his
The prophet, perhaps with sorrow, bids a last farewell to his quiet hiding-place, where he had experienced such signal tokens of the help of God's countenance: he girds up the loins of his mind, takes his pilgrim-staff of the Divine word in the hand of his faith, and sets out for the heathen land. Rough as was his path, it was a way of holiness ; no lion was there, nor any ravenous beast could come up thereon. The Lord was with him all the way that he had to go, even Jehovah, who threshes the mountains, rebukes the winds and waves, and revives the spirit of the humble.
III. We soon find him in the neighbourhood of Zarephath, and the Lord, who was there before him, had prepared and arranged all for his reception. He had come near the gate of the city, and lo, the widow woman was there gathering sticks for fuel ! The Spirit, perhaps, intimated to him that this was the woman to whom he was directed. Poor as she appeared, by the occupation which now engaged her, his faith could tell him, that if the Lord had appointed her to sustain him, she would have wherewith to do it. With God, who had fed him a whole year by the ministry of ravens at the brook Cherith, he knew that nothing was impossible. And does not God often take a method of helping us which surpasses all reason and expectation, doing for us exceeding abundantly above whatever we could ask or think,
and sending us deliverance by means which appeared altogether inadequate ; that we might learn to give the praise to Him, and that his own name might be glorified. Thoughts like those we have mentioned no doubt passed through Elijah's mind; and while he fully confided in the Lord as the God of the widow and the fatherless, he found no difficulty in regarding their humble roof as an appropriate dwelling for himself. "He," therefore, called to her and said, Fetch me, I pray thee, a little water in a vessel, that I may drink.” Her readiness to go seems to have encouraged him ; for as she was going to fetch it,” he added, “ Bring me, I pray thee, a morsel of bread in thine hand.” His additional request, however, opened afresh the wounds of this
poor widow's heart; she could no longer conceal her feelings. She answered, “ As the Lord thy God liveth, I have not even the smallest loaf of bread: all I have is but a handful of flour in a barrel, and a little oil in a cruse; and lo, I have been gathering a stick or two for a fire on my hearth, that I might dress it for myself and for my child, as our last meal in this world, that we might eat it and die !" Oh how affecting and heart-rending was this simple tale! We feel it so, while we read it. But what says Elijah to it?
Can he still believe that this is the widow woman whom the Lord has appointed to sustain him? Yes, he is now certain of it. Be it that she is a widow in peculiar distress, having no other companion but her helpless child: all this creates no difficulty in his mind; “ Jehovah-jireh, the Lord will provide, Gen. xxii. 14. And, besides, she seems to know his name, for how has she addressed me? As the Lord thy God liveth. What an unusual and sweet sound is this, in a strange land, in an idolatrous country! Perhaps she is a secret worshipper of the living God—a rose in the midst of thorns a hidden dove in the clefts of the rock-a converted soul-one of the few among the heathen whom the word of the Lord has reached. Oh happy thought, to find a brother or a sister in the land of Mesech! And whence does she know that Jehovah is my God, and that I am his servant? Oh, the marvellous disposal of Divine providence !”
None but those who have felt it, can know how delightful it is, in a strange country, where there are no ways that lead to Zion, or where they lie waste and deserted, to discover unexpectedly among the children of this world, and as it were by the waters of Babylon, some citizen of the Holy Land, some brother or sister in the Lord. Yes, it is an unspeakable delight, and to meet with only one such person, makes the desert seem to rejoice and blossom as the rose. At such seasons, we learn by experi
ence, that the children of God are not so deficient in love as they are often supposed to be; we taste the blessedness of that communion in the love of Christ, by which he has enjoined that all men should know we are his true disciples; and occasions of this sort serve to make it manifest. Yes, what we may here
suppose to have been Elijah's joy, is still tasted in our world. God be thanked, that in every known region of the earth, and even where wolves abound, and hirelings profess to feed the flock of Christ, the Good Shepherd has his sheep, the Lord has hidden ones who know him, and who follow him. And as sheep that pasture on barren plains often bear the finest fleeces, so is it often with the sheep of Christ; and as they know their Shepherd, or rather are known of him, so it is as wonderful as it is delightful to find how readily they know and acknowledge one another.
Elijah perceiving that this was the widow of whom God had spoken to him, hesitated not to address her in the most encouraging manner. He said unto her, “ Fear not; 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. For thus saith the Lord God of Israel, The barrel of meal shall not waste, neither shall the cruse of oil fail, until the day that the Lord sendeth rain
the earth.” And now she evinced that she was indeed the widow whom the Lord God of Elijah had appointed to sustain him ; for “she went” in faith, "and did according to the saying of Elijah; and she, and he, and her house, did eat many days." How blessed is the way of faith!
Behold, then, this man of God cheerfully sitting down in her solitary cottage. Surely " the voice of rejoicing and salvation is in the tabernacles of the righteous ;” for “ the right hand of the Lord" on their behalf doeth valiantly," Psa. cxviii. 15. They rejoice together, not only on account of temporal blessings, but much more on account of those which are spiritual. Israel had lost Elijah, and a poor widow in a heathen land had found him. Thus often does it fare with a people who, though they have been privileged with the most faithful preaching of the gospel, will not turn unto the Lord, with all their heart, and walk uprightly before him. They are cursed with a famine of the word of God; the children's bread is taken from them, and imparted to others whom they account no better than dogs, who however “ will receive it," and are languishing for it. Indeed our Lord himself thus applies this part of sacred history to the case of the people of Nazareth, who refused to receive his ministry. 4 I tell
you of a truth, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elias, when the heaven was shut up three years and six inonths, 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 iv. 25, 26.
Here then the prophet dwells quite happy under the widow's roof. All distress has disappeared. The meal is not diminished in the barrel, nor fails the oil in the cruse, according to the word of the Lord, which he spake by Elijah. Neither does their spiritual sustenance fail. Well might this poor widow rejoice in the privilege of sitting daily at the feet of this man of God, for instruction in divine things! Can we doubt for a moment that the prophet most gladly opened his mouth in divine wisdom, to impart it to the soul of this simple believing sister ? Can we doubt that they prayed together, that they read together out of Moses and the prophets, that they conversed together of the day of Christ, which Abraham saw with gladness? And would they not, think you, occasionally raise a spiritual song to the honour of their Lord and Saviour? How swiftly and how pleasantly must the hours have passed with them; and well might the angels of God have rejoiced, as no doubt they did, over this little church in the wilderness! Behold here then, my brethren, the bright egress and happy termination of a path, which commenced in such thick darkness ! Only let all the children of God implicitly follow his guidance, and he will assuredly conduct them to a glorious end.
It is a noble testimony which is here borne respecting Elijah, when he was commanded away from his retreat at Cherith. It is said of him, “ So he arose and went to Zarephath.” Let it then be equally said of you, to whatever duty the Lord may call you away, “ He arose and went !" Be the way ever so laborious or dangerous, still arise, like Elijah, and go.' Go cheerfully, in faith, keeping your heart quietly dependent on the Lord, and in the end you will assuredly behold and sing of his goodness. Though tossed on a sea of troubles, you may anchor on the firm foundation of God, which standeth sure. You have for your security his exceeding great and precious promises, and may say with the psalmist, “Why art thou cast down, O my soul ? and why art thou disquieted within me? hope thou in God : for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God I" Psa. xlii. 11.
IV.-RAISING THE WIDOW'S SON AT ZAREPHATH,
The portion of the narrative which we have now to contemplate, is a striking exemplification of that saying of our blessed Lord,
Every branch that beareth fruit, He purgeth that it may bring forth more fruit.”
I KINGS XVII. 17-24.
“ And it came to pass after these things, that the son of the woman, the
mistress of the house, fell sick; and his sickness was so sore, that there was no breath left in him. And she said unto Elijah, What have I to do with thee, O thou man of God ? art thou come unto me to call my sin to remembrance, and to slay my son ? And he said unto her, Give me thy son, And he took him out of her bosom, and carried him up into a loft, where he abode, and laid him upon his own bed. And he cried unto the Lord, and said, O Lord my God, hast thou also brought evil upon the widow with whom I sojourn, by slaying her son ? And he stretched himself upon the child three times, and cried unto the Lord, and said, O Lord my God, I pray thee, let this child's soul come into him again. And the Lord heard the voice of Elijah; and the soul of the child came into him again, and he revived. And Elijah took the child, and brought him down out of the chamber into the house, and delivered him unto his mother: and Elijah said, See, thy son liveth. And the woman said to Elijah, Now by this I know that thou art a man of God, and that the word of the Lord in thy mouth is truth.”
HERE we have another specimen of God's manner of guidance, and one of those ways which, though wonderfully dark and mysterious, lead us ultimately to a clearer experience of the Divine goodness and faithfulness.
Come, and let us behold a remarkable work of the Lord, with its glorious results. Here is, I. The pruning of a branch that bore fruit; II. Its bearing more fruit ; III. The satisfaction and joy that ensued.
I. We still find the prophet Elijah in the peaceful and humble dwelling of the widow of Zarephath. He has now passed several months in his quiet retirement. Praise and prayer; holy discourse, and offices of kindness; contemplation of God's word and works, occupied his swiftly gliding days; and these were blessed with renewed manifestations of Divine loving-kindness