« PreviousContinue »
ELIJAH'S REQUEST FOR
"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." (1 KINGS XIX. 1-4.) It is not very common to find persons so desirous of death as to pray for it. There are indeed those who because of the ills of life, have become weary of it, and so have wished to die, to be delivered from the miseries and sufferings of life. Still there is in most such a strong love of life, and such a clinging to it to the last, that many persons even when suffering to the utmost, have not gone so far as to pray for death. And doubtless but a few are found who deliber
ately would sit down and request for themselves that they might die.
But as this was a very uncommon prayer, so we find it proceeded from a very uncomunder no common circumstances. It was the prayer of Elijah the Tishbite. And we must not think that the reasons which led him to wish for death were only a weariness of life, or a fear of his enemies, from whom he was at that time fleeing.
Several things shew us this was not the
And one is the remarkable way in which God heard and answered his prayer. He requested he might die, and God soon after took him to Himself: first, having revealed Himself to him in a remarkable way; next, having comforted him concerning the state of the Church, and also having appointed a prophet to succeed him.
These things, as well as Elijah's state of mind at this time are instructive.
And first, Elijah's wish to die arose from a justifiable weariness of life. If a person wish and pray to die, simply to be delivered from pain and trouble, their wish may be said to be a selfish one. But we cannot say this of Elijah. See what his circumstances were. It is true that Jezebel had sworn that she would destroy him because he had
been the means of destroying the prophets of Baal. "And when he saw that, he arose, and went for his life, and came to Beer-sheba, he left his servant there," and then himself travelled on into the wilderness where he thus sat down and poured out his complaint to God. Some have thought there was unbelief and distrust on his part in thus fleeing for his life. But this is not so clear. For instead of any rebuke, he received a messenger from the Lord, who gave him food and helped him on his journey. "As he lay and slept, behold, then an angel touched him and said unto him, Arise and eat. And he looked and behold a cake baken on the coals, and a cruse of water at his head. And he did eat and drink and laid him down again. And the angel of the Lord came again and touched him, and said, Arise and eat; because the journey is too great for thee. And he arose, and did eat and drink, and went in the strength of that meat forty days and forty nights unto Horeb the mount of God."
Here he held communion with God. If he had any want of faith at this time, and if there was anything like rebuke in God's question to him, "what doest thou here Elijah?" it was not seen in the fact of his
escaping from Jezebel, which may only have been a prudent use of means,—but it was rather in taking wrong views of God's people, and thinking there were none left; whereas God told him, there were the seven thousand who had not worshipped Baal: for Elijah had said, "I, even I only am left."
Here, then, was the grounds of his reason for wishing for death. He saw no more opportunity of usefulness. He thought it had all been in vain, proving to the people, as he had done, that the Lord He was God, by calling on God to answer by fire. He considered that in vain had all the prophets of Baal been slain. The people with Jezebel at their head were all given to idolatry: the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant." He had been very jealous for the Lord God of Hosts. And now that his labour seemed all in vain, he sees no further use in his life, and prays that he may die. Here was no selfish wish to be rid of the weary burden of life, which he felt unable to bear. Here was no discontented feeling or repining at his lot. A life of suffering he had, as God's servant, always. But this alone would not have made him wish for death. It was when besides this he had a feeling his work in God's vineyard was at
an end that "he requested for himself he might die."
Alas! how rare is this single eye to the glory of God. Some may be found wishing for death when all their powers of enjoying life are weakened by age or disease; but not many who, like Elijah, have one great object of life, and that, to glorify God, and like St. Paul desire "that Christ shall be magnified in their body, whether it be by life or death." (Phil. i. 20.)
But let us look a little closer at this zeal for God which Elijah had, and which made the work of God as dear to him as his life. Did it not arise from a bitter hatred of sin? The one lamentation of his heart, and the chief embitterment of his days, was that the people around him were idolaters, and did not serve or fear God!
Then, next to that, did he not know the value of immortal souls, and feel anxious that they should be saved from the ruin to which he saw men hastening? Then, besides, had he not in his heart that genuine love to God, which made him feel jealous when he saw men around him robbing God of the glory, and of the worship, and of the affection due only to Him?
And is there one of these points in which