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1 Kings 18:1-46 -

Elijah and the Prophets of Baal.

Elijah is now prepared for his work. He who had sent him into the desert now commands him to enter into open conflict with idolatry. God makes His will known to him in two ways.


II. THROUGH HIS MEETING WITH THE YOUNG OBADIAH , the protector of the prophets, and the faithful servant of God in the midst of the impure court of Ahab. Let it be ours to seek such a twofold assurance of the will of God. Let us not rest satisfied with an inward impulse, lest we be led astray by an illusive mysticism; let us watch also the indications of Providence. The wisdom that cometh down from above is not a blind leading; it can give a reasonable explanation of its motives. It learns to read the will of God at once in the book of the heart and in that of Providence. In his decisive interview with Ahab, Elijah shows us how we are to contend with the idolatry which is always at the root of every doctrine hostile to God.

1 . The first element of strength is his manly and indomitable courage . To the king's insolent question, "Art thou he that troubleth Israel?" he replies, "I have not troubled Israel, but thou and thy father's house, in that ye have forsaken the commandments of the Lord, and thou hast followed Baalim" ( 1 Kings 18:18 ). He only will be victorious in the battle for the right who does not fear to denounce, without flinching, the sin of his people, and to say, like John the Baptist to the mighty ones, whether in the realm of society or of science, "It is not lawful for thee" ( Matthew 14:1-36 .) Wherever sin is, the witness for truth and righteousness must first strike home to the conscience before attempting to convince the mind.

2 . Everything in the language of Elijah breathes a full assurance of victory . He knows that he has on his side that strength of God which he has proved. To believe that we shall be victorious is already to have half won the battle.

3 . Elijah's irresistible weapon is prayer . "Hear me, O Lord, hear me; that this people may know that thou art the Lord God, and that thou hast turned their heart back again" ( 1 Kings 18:37 ). If we now look away from Elijah himself to the plan he proposed to pursue in his warfare against idolatry, we shall see that no better is possible for us today. He does not multiply arguments in dealing with his adversaries; he meets them on the common ground of experience. He gives practical rather than theoretical demonstration of the power of God. Here are the priests of Baal assembled on Mount Carmel. On their side are the people, the favour of the king, the confidence of the public. Elijah stands alone, and yet he feels he is not alone, for God is with him. The heaven, closed for long months against the fertilizing rain, in punishment of the perverseness of Israel, seems a vault of iron and brass. Will it ever melt again, and spread life in soft reviving showers over the land? In vain Ahab has sent his servants up and down throughout the country; the water springs have all failed. The one question in all hearts is, What intercession may avail to draw down the rain once more from heaven? Elijah offers a challenge full of bitter irony to the priests of Baal. May he not lawfully do so, as the messenger of Him of whom it is said that "He shall laugh at the mighty ones who exalt themselves against him'? ( Psalms 2:4 .) In vain the priests cry, and leap, and cut themselves with stones, in their savage rites; there comes no answering voice from their deaf and dumb idol. But at the prayer of Elijah the heavens re-open, and his God reveals Himself in the glory of His power. Champions of the true God, the God of the gospel, defend it, as Elijah did, against the insolent idolatry of materialism, or of the pantheism which sets up an idol as monstrous as the Baal of old. Be bold, like Elijah, in showing the idolaters how deeply they have fallen. Believe in the victory of your cause; use the invincible weapon of prayer; and to those who have vainly sought the living water in the broken cisterns of earth ( Jeremiah 2:13 ), show the heavens opened and the gracious rain descending upon all broken hearts, and bringing the blessings of a full redemption. Give to our generation this conclusive practical evidence. Meet the positivism of the infidel with the positivism of the Christian. This is the surest means of casting down the idol into the dust, without having recourse to that exterminating sword which the prophet of the old covenant was commanded to draw upon the idolatrous priests. We live under another dispensation, and ours is that sword of the Spirit which only wounds to heal.—E. de P.

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