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1 Kings 17:1-6 -

Elijah the Tishbite.

One of the noblest of the noble figures that cross the stage of Old Testament history appears before us here. Few names have such a halo of glorious associations surrounding them as that of Elijah. The mystery of his origin, the grandeur of his mission, his physical and moral characteristics, the peculiar nature of his miracles, his wonderful translation and reappearance with Moses at the time of our Lord's transfiguration, together with the place that he occupies in the last utterances of inspired prophecy, and in the anticipations of the Jewish people—all combine to invest the person of this great prophet with a peculiar and romantic interest. This opening chapter in the story of his prophetic ministry is full of instruction. Note—

I. HIS ABRUPT APPEARANCE . There is nothing actually unique in this. Other prophets of the age are introduced thus suddenly (Ahijah, Jehu, Shemaiah, etc.) But considering the circumstances of the time it is remarkable.

1 . It proclaims God's continued interest in, and sovereignty over Israel as well as Judah . The revolt of the ten tribes had not broken the bond between Him and them, or altered the fact of His supremacy, Nor had their religious defection nullified His purpose of mercy.

2 . It is called forth by a dread moral crisis . The seed sown by Jeroboam was fast developing its most deadly fruits. The Baal worship brought in by Ahab and Jezebel was a far worse "abomination" than the worship of the calves. A cruel persecution was raging, the prophets of the Lord were being slain, and it seemed as if the true religion would perish out of the land.

3 . It was a revelation of irresistible power . The worship of Baal was essentially the worship of power; probably the productive power of nature. Here is the messenger of Him "to whom all power belongeth," that great unseen Power that can arrest the order of nature, seal up the fountains of heaven, wither those resources of earth on which the life alike of man and beast depends. We are reminded of the various ways in which God may see fit to fulfil His sovereign purposes. All powers, human and material, are at His command. "All things serve his might." In the darkest hour in the history of church or nation, let us believe that still "the Lord reigneth." Let us trust Him to "plead his own cause," and vindicate the claims of truth and righteousness.

II. HIS PERSONAL DIGNITY . It is the dignity of one who sustains a special relation towards "the living God." His name implies this: "Jehovah is my God." And this solemn asseveration, "As the Lord God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand, " is suggestive of the dignity

One would think the old Jewish tradition were true. It sounds like the voice of an angel. But lofty as this utterance is. majestic as is the relation towards the Divine Being which it indicates, it has its Christian counterpart. Think of St. Paul's words: "There stood by me this night the angel of God, whose I am and whom I serve " ( Acts 27:23 ). This is not an exclusive, exceptional dignity. We may all in our measure share it. And as no earthly position sheds any real glory upon a man except so far as he recognizes a Divine element in it, fills it as before God with holy fear; so there is no work or office of common life which may not be ennobled by this feeling. We stand there before God as His servants to do that very thing. "Such honour have all his saints."

III. HIS COURAGE . It is the courage of one who knows that God is with him, that he is the messenger of the Divine will, the instrument of a Divine purpose, the channel of Divine strength. He boldly confronts Ahab, "not fearing the wrath of the king," bearding the lion in his den. Does not mingle with the people, antedating their sufferings by spreading among them the evil tidings, but goes straight to him who is the fountainhead of the mischief and can avert the calamity by his repentance. Such is the brave spirit with which God fills his heroes. Whether in the defiance of danger, or the endurance of suffering, it is the sense of God—a Divine inspiration, Divine support—that has ever been the spring of the noblest form of courage. "Greater is he that is in you," etc. "If God be for us," etc. "Be not afraid of their terror, but sanctify the Lord God in your heart," etc. This is the principle—the solemn fear of God taking possession of a man casts out all other fear; in the sense of the sovereignty of a Divine claim, he fears nothing but the dread of being unfaithful to it. Now this brave spirit was not kindled in the breast of Elijah all at once. Such a moral phenomenon is not the birth of an hour or a day. We may believe that it was developed in him gradually among the mountains of Gilead—a fitting scene for the nurture of such a moral constitution as his. The fire burned within him as he mused on the degradation of his country. St. James speaks of the fervency of Elijah's prayer: "He prayed earnestly that it might not rain," etc. ( James 5:17 ). No doubt the withholding of the rain was given as a "sign" in answer to his prayer; but after all, may we not regard his prayer most as the means of preparing him to be the prophet and minister of this great "sign"? Not that the order of nature was placed at the caprice of a poor, frail mortal; but that he, "a man of like passions with us," was able in the fervour of his faith and prayer to rise up and lay hold on the strength of God, to read the purpose of God, reckoned worthy to become the agent in the execution of that purpose. The historic incident is not so far removed as it may seem to be from the range and level of our common life. Heaven gives back its answer to suppliant faith. As regards the fellowship of the human soul with the mind and with the power of God, it must ever be true that "the effectual fervent prayer of the righteous man availeth much."

IV. HIS EXTRAORDINARY PRESERVATION . A type of the providential care that God will ever exercise over those who are faithful to Him in the path of duty and of trial. Whether "ravens" or "wandering Arabians were the instruments in his preservation, it little signifies, so that we recognize the positive Divine interposition. And what is the supply of our daily wants but the fruit of a perpetual Divine interposition? "Give us this day our daily bread." Walk uprightly before God, be true to Him in all the sacred responsibilities of life, and trust in Him to provide ( Matthew 6:33 ).—W.

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