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ELIJAH, “A MAN SUBJECT TO LIKE PAS
SIONS AS WE ARE."
i Kings xix. THE testimony to the goodness of God in “ not sparing His only Son, but freely giving Him up for us all”—even Jesus our Lord, was that which attracted believers together. They were added to the church; God was in all their thoughts; their hearts overflowed with the sense of His love; and their union was sustained in their sympathy of soul about Him. They had before their eyes Jesus, evidently set forth “ crucified among them"
, (Gal. iii. 1); the love of God was shed abroad in their hearts. Beholding, as in a glass, the glory of the Lord, they were changed into the same image. The multitude of them that believed were of one heart, and of one soul. Selfishness was obliterated. Beholding the love of God
- their hearts were inflamed with love one towards another, and towards all men. Their light shone; and a testimony for God existed upon earth, created by the contemplation of Himself, " the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”
“ Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. And fear came upon every soul : and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles. And all that believed were together, and had all things common; and sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved” (Acts ii. 41–47).
The Church was called into existence on earth, by a testimony to Jesus, risen at the right hand of God.' The gospel preached with the Holy Ghost sent down from 311 heaven, accomplished such effects on a multitude of persons, as we read of in Scripture.
How is the fine gold become dim! How sad the change! Where is the Church answering to the description recorded in the Acts? Surely the salt has lost its savour! Yet the very circumstances in which we are found, are being overruled for palpable blessing. We cannot take comfort in any witness for God. We cannot rejoice in any results. There is no ox in the stall, no fruit in the vine; therefore we are brought back to elementary principles, the only true principles recovered of our very necessity, even we must rejoice in God.
Strange and wonderful, indeed, is the wisdom of God in the control of circumstances. Opposites in His hands contribute to the same results. In this His very being as God is demonstrated. When Moses put his hand into his bosom at the command of God, behold, his hand was leprous as snow. Ordered to put his hand into his bosom again; it was turned again as his other flesh (Exod. iv. 6, 7). 7). The
The very place where it became leprous is the very place where it is healed. The failure of the church shall contribute, in His hands, to direct believers to Himself, just as being at first occupied about Himself, formed the church. “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God” (Rom. xi. 33).
Paul, in the twentieth chapter of the Acts, taking leave of the elders at Ephesus (after saying that he knew that " after his departure grievous wolves should enter in"), commends them to God, and the word of His grace. Peter, writing in his second Epistle, chap. i., says, “ Grace and peace be multiplied unto you, through the knowledge of God.” The revelation of God is the object of scripture. “ The world by wisdom knew not God;" hence the necessity of revelation.
“ Thou hast magnified Thy word above all Thy name.” Our blessed Lord himself says, speaking to the Jews, “ Had ye believed Moses, you would have believed me; but if you believe not his writings, how shall you believe my words," thus placing the written word as equal in authority with Himself, as indeed it is, being from Himself.
How comforting this, in the general confusion around!
The recognition of the ruined condition of the Church in its earthly manifestation, should lead to dependance
The circumstances connected with our failure imperatively call for this. “ He only is our rock and our salvation" (Ps. lxi. 2). “ God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in time of trouble” (Ps. xlvi). And when our souls are at peace with Him, through the blood of Jesus, realising by faith our portion, having and enjoying the spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, “Father,” how sweet to wander in the green pastures of His word, tracing His gracious ways with the children of men, using their very failures to bring before our eyes His love and faithfulness, His overflowing grace. Now, the portion of the Word before us is an illustration of this: “Elijah, a man of like passions as we are,” is put before us in circumstances of weakness and failure. It is the grace of God to him in them that we desire to dwell upon. The 17th chapter of 1st Kings introduces Elijah, full of the energy and power of the Spirit of God. This sustains him through a season of unwonted trial. A witness of the righteous judgment of God on an apostate nation; supported, through the deep sufferings of which he was a spectator, by a deeper sympathy with the injured majesty of God : the rights of God vindicating His righteous judgment, and the servant fully entering into this. The 18th chapter is the triumph of his testimony over the prophets of Baal, or rather of God's faithfulness to Himself, and His own glory. In answer to the prayer of Elijah, for three years and six months the fountains of heaven were closed up; and, in answer to his prayer, there was the sound of abundance of rain. - And the hand of the Lord was on Elijah; and he girded up his loins and ran before Ahab to the entrance of Jezreel.” This closes the 18th chapter, and unfolds the secret of Elijah's power: “ The hand of the Lord was on Elijah.” And just so long as He keeps us, we are kept. Hold Thou me up, and I shall be safe.' We forget this. After service for God, we are apt to take importance to ourselves, apart from our testimony, and then we must needs learn our weakness. The standard we bear ought to command respect; but the
standard-bearer must have little regard for himself in concern for the standard. When God gives a testimony, it surely will bring into prominence before others those who are witnesses for Him. But this is far different to self-importance because of such prominence. When men have to witness to the failure of others, it is not a time to seek respect for themselves. How full of instruction is the failure of Elijah! The Lord enable us, whilst meditating upon it, to profit thereby!
“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."
Here, indeed, is a strange contrast from the Elijah of to day with Elijah of yesterday. Fear had taken hold upon him, where no fear was. The words of Jezebel appalled the man who had slain the four hundred prophets of Baal, and stood alone confronting the whole nation of Israel. He arose and went for his life, who the day before had
66 his life in his hand” as a witness for God. How are the mighty fallen! Left to himself for a season, his weakness is manifest. And in him we may see ourselves when out of communion with the living God. Unbelief for a moment in the protection of God and to what a sad state of soul is Elijah brought. He left his servant in Beer-sheba and went a day's journey into the wilderness, and sat down under a juniper tree, and requested for himself that he might die; and prayed to God to take away his life for he was “no better than his fathers."
The signal election of God to His service, the three years' and a half of testimony, the victory over the false prophets, the answer to his prayers in abundance of rain, the sign of God's mercy to Israel—all were forgotten. He was no better than his fathers. Ill at ease with him
self, he falls out with his master, and his life, the gift of God, he requests may be taken from him. " Lord what is man? that thou art mindful of him,” God's grace to himself is forgotten under the presence of a danger which only existed when he looked at himself, and would cease the moment his eye was directed to God. But he should learn himself and for our profit, “whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning." Well for us that we have such a God, gracious and full of compassion. “ He remembereth our frame, knoweth we are but dust.” “A wind passeth over us and we are gone.” Striking is His grace towards his runa
inaway servant forgetful of God's ways in the past, and perverting his sense of them in the present. “ Take away my life,”
his prayer to Him who lived to sustain it. Ő I am no better than my fathers,” is his language to Him who would not see iniquity in Jacob, nor perverseness in Israel.
The heart of Elijah was overwhelmed. His own sin and weakness the cause of it. Yet God in his pity looked only at his sufferings, and yearned over the sufferer
. " And as he lay and slept under a juniper tree, behold, then an angel touched him, and said unto him, Arise and eat.”
How touching this kindness! How seasonable the refreshment! Words of welcome, and deeds of love, aroused Elijah, who had fallen asleep, out of love with himself and the kindest of Masters. 6. Arise and eat” sounded in his ears, and he looked; how vacant his
gaze, how half-wakened his attention; and “ behold there was 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.”
Sullenly he partook of his refreshment, and as gloomily he went to rest again. Such attention, at such a time, should have been doubly welcome, and called forth double gratitude; but not a word of response: his heart was too full of himself and his troubles. But the Father's eye was upon him, that eye so tender and pitiful. He knew what was in man, and his weakness could only