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full of joyful hope; and scarcely had they lifted up their eyes, when every region of the sky seemed to reply, "Yea, and amen; abundance of rain!" Dark thunder-clouds ascend out of the sea, one after the other; the heavens become black, the wind sets all the sea in motion, roars through the forest, and a violent storm pours down upon the land. O welcome streams! refreshing floods! The face of the earth is renewed, and all nature rejoices. A breath of life breathes over the fields, wood and meadow are clothed with new verdure, the birds resume their music in the branches, and man, and beast, and every thing seems as if resuscitated. The voice of rejoicing is heard in the dwellings of the righteous, and joy fills the hearts of the godly. Ahab is already seated in his chariot, and on his way to his royal seat in Jezreel. But" the hand of the Lord was upon Elijah." Jehovah invigorated him with supernatural bodily powers, so that the prophet, girding up his loins, ran before Ahab's chariot, which doubtless was at full speed, on account of the deluging rain. The prophet was now a living memorial to the king, to remind him of all the great things which the God of Israel had brought to pass by his prophet; that Ahab might not easily forget them, but carry the fresh impression of them to Jezebel. Elijah therefore outran the chariot before his eyes, through all the torrents of rain and tempest, till he came to the entrance of Jezreel.
"And Elijah,” saith the apostle James, " was a man like 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." And why does the apostle notice this? He adduces this instance of Elijah's success in prayer as an encouragement to us to persevere in prayer, and to believe that we also shall not fail of being answered, if we only pray in faith; because, "the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much," James v. 16. And indeed, who can recount all the wondrous instances in which the truth of this declaration has been realized! Through prayer, Moses turned away the fierce wrath of the Almighty from Israel; and with outstretched arms he smote the host of Amalek. Manoah, by the voice of his cry, drew down a visible manifestation of the Divine presence in human form, Judg. xiii. 8. Through prayer at Mizpah, the prophet Samuel smote the army of the philistines, and caused the thunder of terror to roll over Israel's foes, 1 Sam. vii. 9-12. Through prayer, Josiah the prince died in peace, 2 Kings xxii. 19, 20. Through prayer, fifteen years are added to Hezekiah's
life; the three men were preserved in the burning fiery furnace ; and to Daniel it was said by Gabriel, "I am come because of thy words." At the prayer of the brethren on the day of Pentecost, the heavens were opened; and, another time, after they had prayed, the place where they were assembled was shaken, and all were filled with the Holy Ghost, Acts iv. 31. Prayer burst the fetters of Peter, and broke open the doors of his prison. Prayer rebuked storms, healed the sick, and brought back the dead to life. And what shall I say more of the power, the wonders, and the performance of prayer? The whole Scripture is full of them. And our church also would be full of themall christendom would be full of them, were there more prayer in our Israel, and more of this incense on our public, family, and private altars. But prayer sleeps amongst us; for what we call praying, morning and evening, according to custom—the sleepy, dull, and heartless repetition of devotional languagedoes not deserve the name of prayer. Keep these ceremonious compliments to yourselves, the Lord does not want such service. The confessions of the broken and contrite heart, the cry of the humble, the expression of real godly sorrow, the opening of our cares to our heavenly Father, the breathings of grateful love, the acknowledgment of dependence on the name of Jesus these are the things which go to constitute true prayer.
Brethren, pray that the Spirit of grace and supplication may be poured out upon you; and then ask what you will, it shall be done for you. He that "cannot lie" has promised it. Only ask in His name, as the children of God, by faith in Christ Jesus, trusting in God's faithfulness to his promises, and you will certainly succeed at last. If six times the answer should be, "There is nothing;" yet wait on. The seventh time, which is the proper and the Lord's time, will give the answer you need. Too often we omit to notice God's answer to our own prayers; otherwise how frequently should we find, to our glad astonishment, that, as in the case of Daniel, at the time of our supplication the commandment had gone forth to help us. Therefore let the call to prayer be ever regarded by us as the invitation to an unspeakable privilege. "Continue instant in prayer." Pray in the Spirit, in the Holy Ghost, and not in your own self-sufficiency; and you will pray with power. Pray for yourselves, pray for all, and pray with faith and expectation; for in the immutable word, that word which must survive both heaven and earth, it stands recorded, " Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you," John xvi. 23.
X-FLIGHT INTO THE WILDERNESS.
"HE that cometh from heaven, is above all," was the testimony of the Baptist to Him, whose shoe's latchet he deemed himself unworthy to unloose. And the whole course of our Lord's ministry confirms this testimony. It is the glorious manifestation of one who is "above all," and wherever we see the Saviour appearing and acting, in the narrative of the Gospels, the impression irresistibly forces itself upon us : "Here is one, greater than Moses and all the prophets and apostles—here is one, who is separate from sinners, and above every creature— one, who came down for a short time to our world, as into a strange country, but whose peculiar residence is on the throne of glory and majesty. We are convinced that no mere man could have acted as he did, however divinely commissioned. Miracles as great as his were wrought by the apostles and prophets; but the manner in which they were wrought by him, and by them, exhibits an immense distinction between the one and the other. They, with all their derived powers, show themselves to be but men, and while they perform their miraculous works, they seem treading, as it were, on strange and unknown ground. When they divide the seas, it is with trembling hands; the dead, who awake on their call, are received by them with as much astonishment, almost, as by the surrounding multitude; and the anxious preparations, which generally precede their miracles, show clearly that they are of themselves but poor worms, invested but for a moment with a power not their own, the gigantic weight of which well nigh overwhelms them.
But how different is the impression which forces itself upon us in contemplating the miracles of Jesus! When he arises to pacify the tumult of the elements, or approaches the tombs to reanimate the dust, we feel at once that He "is above all.” He evidently acts by his own independent power and authority, and performs his miracles by his own sovereign will. In him we see no long and anxious preparations; nothing of that internal conflict, which Moses experienced at the Red sea, or of that trembling earnestness, with which an Elijah raised the
dead at Zarephath. He bears no staff in his hand, nor any other mark of dependence. With simple dignity he stretches out his hand; and the blind see, the sick and the palsied arise and walk. He needs no appeal to the power of another, but saith, "I will; be thou clean," and the leper is cleansed. He beckons, and the winds and waves are rebuked; he commands, and the dead arise from the grave of corruption. Glory and majesty surround him in all his doings, and unfold unto us the fulness of the Godhead. Who ever spake as He spake, whose very prayers were expressions of his will? who ever comforted his people as He did, who loved them and gave himself for them? Thus we see him on every occasion as the Holy One of God, entirely distinct from all created beings; one, who is higher than the heavens, and who is entitled to all praise and adoration; and his whole appearance places him in a glory, majesty, and greatness, which filleth heaven and earth, and which would have overwhelmed us had it not been a glory "full of grace and truth." Yes, he is above all: and great as was the prophet Elijah, his infirmities, as we shall presently have occasion to notice them, will serve to remind us how infinitely inferior every one is to the all-perfect Prophet, Priest, and King, our Lord Jesus Christ.
1 KINGS XIX. 1-4.
"And Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and withal how he had slain all the prophets with the sword. Then Jezebel sent a messenger unto Elijah, saying, So let the gods do to me, and more also, if I make not thy life as the life of one of them by to-morrow about this time. And when he saw that, he arose, and went for his life, and came to Beer-sheba, which belongeth to Judah, and left his servant there. But he himself went a day's journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper tree: and he requested for himself that he might die; and said, It is enough; now, O`Lord, take away my life; for I am not better than my fathers."
THE man of God is again called away from public activity and reformation, and his path loses itself once more in the solitudes of a wilderness. What now befell him served for spiritual exercise to himself. The torch is shaken, that it may afterwards glow the brighter, and the refiner of Israel must himself undergo further trial and purification.
We have here to notice, I. Elijah's persecution; II. His flight; and, III. His dejection.
I. Our imagination can picture Ahab now arrived at his palace at Jezreel, which appears to have been his summer residence, on account of its agreeable situation. We are certain
that Jezebel, his queen, could not have been indifferent as to the issue of the great contest at Carmel, and we may well suppose that she was expecting, with impatience, the return of the king. We have seen that he returned at full speed, in a violent rain, and it is easy to imagine him hastily alighting from his chariot before the palace, and hurrying into the apartments of his imperious consort, to announce to her the wonderful occurrences he had just witnessed. Elijah, meanwhile, remains in the neighbourhood, awaiting the issue of the great events which had been brought to pass. His hopes were probably at this time raised high; perhaps he even promised himself an immediate return both of prince and of people to the God of their fathers. Ahab, full of the tidings of these strange events, "told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and withal how he had slain all the prophets with the sword." We can imagine with what emotions he would enter her apartment, and say, "The Tishbite has triumphed! Fire from heaven has confirmed his word. Upon his prayer, I beheld with my own eyes flames fall from the skies, consume the burnt-offering, the wood, the stones, and lick up the water in the trench. All the people can bear witness to it. They fell on their faces, and cried out, as with one voice, that Jehovah is God. The priests of Baal are slain; Elijah and the people have destroyed them, and their blood is flowing in the brook Kishon. They were laughed at as liars and impotent deceivers. Their authority and their worship is gone for ever. There is universal enthusiasm for Elijah. He is a prophet of the living God. The miracle on Carmel has placed it beyond a doubt, and these heavy rains completely confirm it. At his command, they fall; he closed heaven, and he has now opened it again.'
In some such manner as this, we may suppose the king communicating the tidings to Jezebel, and then breaking off in the midst of his narrative, as if he had been thunder-struck. On what account? Alas, he sees the features of his queen gather blackness like a storm. The weak king, as one "whom Jezebel his wife stirred up," for thus the sacred historian speaks of him, is evidently completely under her influence, and when he perceives the effect his narrative has upon her, his opinion is quite changed, he begins to take another view of the wonders at Carmel, as also of Elijah himself. Jezebel resolves to gratify her bloodthirsty revenge, and she is the adored mistress of Ahab's affections. The deluded monarch appears not to have dared to think differently from Jezebel his wife. He appears as a lamentable instance of one, who, though not totally