PART FOUR ELIJAH VS AHAB!
Again, There is much to learn as to how God uses His servant to fulfill His will and serve justice on Ahab & Jezebel.
(1 Kings 19:11-21) 11 The LORD said, "Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by." Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. 13 When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. Then a voice said to him, "What are you doing here, Elijah?" 14 He replied, "I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too." 15 The LORD said to him, "Go back the way you came, and go to the Desert of Damascus. When you get there, anoint Hazael king over Aram. 16 Also, anoint Jehu son of Nimshi king over Israel, and anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from Abel Meholah to succeed you as prophet. 17 Jehu will put to death any who escape the sword of Hazael, and Elisha will put to death any who escape the sword of Jehu. 18 Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and all whose mouths have not kissed him." 19 So Elijah went from there and found Elisha son of Shaphat. He was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen, and he himself was driving the twelfth pair. Elijah went up to him and threw his cloak around him. 20 Elisha then left his oxen and ran after Elijah. "Let me kiss my father and mother good-by," he said, "and then I will come with you." "Go back," Elijah replied. "What have I done to you?" 21 So Elisha left him and went back. He took his yoke of oxen and slaughtered them. He burned the plowing equipment to cook the meat and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he set out to follow Elijah and became his attendant. NIV
Vers. 11-21. And He said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord. --
Elijah's vision: --
I. THE MAN HIMSELF. A great craggy soul that towers above the men of his age -- his head wreathed in the glories of heaven. But though standing out from the age in which he lives as one of God's Elect -- yet a man with a human heart capable of rejoicing and despondency even as others.
II. HIS DREAD MISSION. To be the agent of Divine judgments. He was filled with righteous indignation at seeing the old worship of his country -- the trust in the one living God -- superseded by a religion which was but a form of paganism. And the God of Israel, who was a jealous God -- jealous of the affections of His people being turned aside to another -- empowered the prophet to do the terrible work of destruction.
III. THE VISION OF GOD. When Elijah had done the terrible deed of blood, the reaction of spirit was so great, the dejection so overwhelming, that he was glad to get away from all society into a desert place to pray that he might die. Elijah's anger had been the flaming forth of deep passionate love. The love of God sometimes flames forth in flashes of anger which make the very earth to reel and stagger. What is God's justice but His love flashing out in angry retribution? Never argue, as so many do, that because God is love, therefore He will not punish sin. Learn --
1. That in terrible crises of life the faithful man may look for some special vision of God.
2. To distinguish between blind zeal which destroys, and intelligent zeal which edifies.
3. That while the might of Jehovah is used to crush wrong, the voice of love is needful to build up men in righteousness.
Upon the mount: --
1. The Lord came to him there with a searching question. Every word went home to him with rebuke. "What doest thou here, Elijah?" This is a time for action, the work of reformation is only begun; the elders of Israel must be encouraged and led in their protest against the State idolatry. Thou art a man of action; what doest thou, the champion of Mount Carmel, the protagonist in this holy war, thou Elijah, whose name declares that the Lord is thy Strength? What doest thou here, hiding in this gloomy cave far away from the scattered flock who sorely need thy watchful care? Elijah shrinks from a direct reply. Self is still uppermost in his thoughts, lie almost boasts of his loyalty to God. He deeply laments the infidelity and apostasy of the nation, and he complains that his own life is in danger. His eyes are still on himself. But Elijah is concerned for himself, and thinks his valiant championship of God's cause should have received different recognition. Child of God, never pity yourself; pity others. All heaven cares for thee; it is wrong to have any care for yourself.
2. After the searching question came a solemn command. God said, "Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord."
3. After the solemn command came a Divine manifestation, a marvellous display of the majesty and power of God. And in the pains God took with His moody servant, moving all creation, as it were, to teach him lessons, we learn how very dear to God Elijah was. The barrier of resentment and self-justification was swept away. Elijah wrapped his face in his mantle, and stood before the Lord. It was a parable, surely, of the variety of Divine operations. And just as hurricane and earthquake prepared the way, making the still small voice the more impressive and subduing, so Elijah's ministry had done its work. He had been sent with famine and fire and sword; and now all Israel was awakened, and the more ready to hearken to the "still small voice."
4. But after the Divine manifestation came the Divine commission. God had more work for Elijah to do. He was not to be cast aside or superseded. He was to be strengthened and cheered by the companionship of Elisha; but Elijah was still to be God's honoured servant, God's chosen messenger. It would, indeed, have been a grievous thing if a sudden failure of faith should have disqualified him for future service. God still had confidence in Elijah.
Some mistakes regarding the earthquake: --
1. As a scientific fact, there is no more of God, His wisdom, power, or purpose, displayed in an earthquake than there is in the quiet growth of the grass in our door-yard; no more of God in the cyclone than in the perfumed breath of the flowers; no more of God in the conflagration kindled by the lightning or the volcano than in the glow of animal heat in our bodies. The steady, hardly audible, ticking of a watch reveals as much of the intelligence and purpose of its artificer as does the striking of the clock upon the steeple bell; and these alarming things in nature are but the louder striking of the mechanism of the universe. Great minds show their greatness by recognising the great in little things, recognising God in the commonplace things of daily observation. Sir David Brewster raised his hands and cried: "Great God! how marvellous are Thy works!" when he studied a tiny bit of animated matter. A distinguished naturalist wrote over his study door: "Be reverent, for God is here." Jesus illustrated the Divine Providence, not by world-shaking events, but by the clothing of the lily and the floating wing of the sparrow.
2. It is a mistake to imagine that there are any deeper lessons of man's impotence and dependence to be learned from these astounding things than ought to be learned from every. day occurrences. Fifty men were killed by the earthquake; but as many die every night in this city without the slightest tremor being observed in the earth's surface until their survivors dig their graves. Some millions of dollars worth of property was shaken down by the mysterious visitant; but the common law of decay is all the time shaking our habitations back again to original dust.
3. It is a mistake to imagine that men will lay these lessons more to heart, and seek more persistently the favour of God, because His more astounding judgments are abroad in the land. The inhabitants of Naples are not the less worldly and thoughtless because Vesuvius keeps its flag of smoke all the time flying over the city, and so frequently awakens them by the lava-burst flashing its glare through their windows. Though she sits on the quivering edge of destruction, and her children play on the mounds of buried Pompeii and Herculaneum, Naples is one of the most godless haunts on the face of the earth. The Eastern Mediterranean is on the great earthquake belt. Its islands and shores are torn by convulsions, many of them having occurred within historic times, and not a few of them within the memory of the present generation. Yet this has always been the belt of human corruption. Antioch and Cyprus, earthquake centres, were the seats of the most abominable paganism and immorality. There is an Eastern proverb: "God comes to us without bell." The deepest Divine impressions are those which are made silently upon the heart, not by wind, nor earthquake, nor fire, but by the "still small voice" of His spirit. These startling events can do no more than arrest our attention momentarily. They are like a hand touching us to awaken, but whether we are bettered or not depends upon our laying the lesson to heart, hearing within the soul the spiritual voice. Do you remember how beautifully St. Augustine speaks of God's talking with the human soul -- an exquisite description of the still small voice? He and Monica were communing together about spiritual things -- "We were saying to ourselves then: If the tumult of the flesh were hushed, hushed the images of earth, and waters and air, hushed also the poles of heaven, yea, the very soul hushed to herself... hushed all dreams and imaginary revelations, every tongue and every sign... and He alone should speak... if we might hear His word, not through any tongue of flesh, nor angel's voice, nor sound of thunder, nor in dark riddle of similitude... but might hear His very self... were not this to enter into the joy of the Lord?"
The disclosure on the mount: -- We may learn from this incident:
I. THAT MEN ARE NOT BROUGHT TO ACKNOWLEDGE GOD MERELY BY OUTWARD MANIFESTATIONS OF POWER OR GREATNESS. Elijah needed this lesson. He looked to the appearance on Carmel to bring the Israelites to renounce their idolatry, and to bow to the authority of Jehovah; and because they did not he was disappointed, and his heart failed him. By what he saw at Horeb he would be convinced that outward demonstrations of power or glory were not sufficient to lead men to repentance. Our Lord, in the days of His flesh, constantly met with those who sought signs and wonders as the only means of producing faith. And the same feeling is still shown by men in the importance they attach to some outward circumstances for producing repentance -- calamity, bereavement, affliction.
II. THAT OUTWARD CIRCUMSTANCES MAY BE HELPFUL IN BRINGING MEN TO ACKNOWLEDGE GOD. While some depend too much upon the outward and circumstantial, others go to the opposite extreme, and ignore them altogether in the work of God, whereas they have a place in that work. Calamity or affliction may not produce repentance, but they tend to subdue the spirit, and make it more susceptible to the work of God. They break up the fallow ground, and prepare it for the seed of truth.
III. THAT TRUE REPENTANCE IS PRODUCED BY THE VOICE OF GOD. It was when Elijah heard the "still small voice" that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and stood at the entrance of the cave.
IV. THAT CHRISTIAN WORK IS NEEDFUL TO SPIRITUAL HEALTH. Elijah was commanded to return to the wilderness of Damascus, and to do the work assigned him. He obeyed, and we never read of him wandering away again. Many Christians get low-spirited, and wander into forbidden paths, because of inactivity. Earnest work for God would restore and preserve them.
Elijah at Horeb: --
I. THE TRUEST REVELATION OF GOD TO MAN IS A SIMPLE ONE. Whirlwind, earthquake, and fire did not seem to greatly move the prophet. The solitary voice, still and small, with nothing bewildering about it, invited attention to the speaker and the message. It is a mistake which men often make that they look more confidently for revelations of God in large things than in small. For illustrations of the workings of the Divine Providence, they take whole epochs of history. They use a system of numeration in which dynasties and nations are the digits. They trace the slow processes by which some monstrous wrong is at last brought to extinction, or some great truth is finally established in sovereignty, and they say, see how evidently God directs the affairs of the world. To our Lord, a dead sparrow by the roadside meant quite as milch, for He said: "Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and not one of them falleth to the ground without your Father." It is not possible for all men to be profound students; but all men profoundly need that God should stand revealed to them, not after protracted investigation, and once or twice in a lifetime, but every day, and in each new emergency of experience; and just that is possible to them, because, to rightseeing men, God is discernible in items as well as aggregates.
II. THE TRUEST REVELATION OF GOD TO MAN IS AN INTELLIGIBLE ONE. The prophet on Horeb might have been in doubt as to the full significance of the wonders with which God prefaced His presence: the "still small voice," speaking in intelligible phrase, could not be misunderstood. It was entirely reasonable that, when the revelation assumed that form, the prophet should bow in reverence and recognise the true presence of God. That there is a manifestation of God in the physical universe is true, but the revelation of Him is largely incidental. There is no evidence that God built this fine frame of nature simply or mostly to instruct men as to His character and will. It has other uses. A house incidentally expresses the tastes and wishes of its builder; but it was not built for that purpose, but to provide a family with a home. And therefore, and further, the teachings of nature in regard to God are vague and general. The truest revelation of God in regard to His character and will, is His purposed revelation -- the intelligible Scriptures, given for the sole end of making men wise spiritually.
III. THE TRUEST REVELATION OF GOD TO MAN IS OFTEN, IF NOT ALWAYS, A PERSONAL ONE. The whirlwind and earthquake and fire did not seem charged with any special message to the prophet; but the voice said, "What doest thou here, Elijah?" It was personality addressing personality, and the prophet recognised the words as proceeding out of the mouth of God.
IV. THE TRUEST REVELATION OF GOD TO MAN IS A PRACTICAL ONE. "What doest thou here, Elijah?" was the burden of the "still small voice." It was a charge that the prophet was away from duty, and an urgency for him to resume his deserted place. There is something of instruction in the Gospel, but more of incitement. It comes to sinful men, and says, Repent; to doubting men, and says, Believe; to serving men, and says, Run, strive, fight. There are no bowers of ease for idle men in this book; no cradles of inaction where they may rock and dream; no empty chambers where they may spin their gossamer webs of speculation. To every man, this Scripture comes with its call to immediate and earnest action.
God's manifestation to Elijah at Horeb: -- We learn here --
I. THAT THE DIVINE WORKING IN NATURE IS INTENDED BY GOD TO PREPARE MEN FOR A HIGHER REVELATION. This was the intention of the miracles of Christ.
II. WHEN MEN REVERENTIALLY LISTEN TO THE LOWER FORMS OF TEACHING, GOD GIVES THEM THE HIGHER REVELATION. Nicodemus allowed the teaching of Christ in His miracles to bring conviction of His Divine mission to his heart (John 3:2); how willingly the Saviour led him into the deeper mysteries of His kingdom (ver. 16).
III. THAT ALTHOUGH THE PHYSICAL POWER OF GOD IS STRONG ENOUGH TO TERRIFY MEN INTO SUBMISSION, HE WILL HAVE THEM BROUGHT TO OBEDIENCE BY MORAL SUASION. The prophet longed for the eternal overthrow of the forces of evil, by what we may call God's physical omnipotence.
Ver. 12. A still small voice. --
The still small voice: --
I. This vision ought to teach us that GOD IS OFTEN MORE REALLY PRESENT IN LITTLE THINGS AND IN QUIET AND UNOSTENTATIOUS AGENCIES THAN IN THINGS THAT SEEM TO US GREAT, AND AGENCIES THAT WE THINK THE MOST IMPRESSIVE. We are apt to look for God in the storm, the earthquake, and the fire, and to overlook God in the still small voices of nature. But God is not more in the forked lightning that rends the rock than in the sunbeam that plays with the rippling wave; He is not more in the roaring cataract than in the silent dewdrop; He is not more in the spangled heavens, whose clustered stars attract our gaze, than in the tiny flower whose unprotected beauty we trample beneath our feet. God is not more in the great events of nations than in the smallest incidents in the lives of individuals. He who counts the stars also numbers the hairs of our heads. Indeed, the most powerful agencies in nature are generally the most silent in their operation, and often work in the deepest obscurity. But this is especially true in relation to God Himself. He is the greatest agent, and yet He works in the deepest obscurity. There is a sense in which He does everything, and yet He does it so silently and secretly that there are those who say He does nothing, that in fact there is no God. As in the natural, so in the spiritual world, the strongest forces are the least seen. "The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh or whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit." There is not always the most good being done where there is the most noise. "Verily Thou art a God that hidest Thyself, O God, the God of Israel." He does not come out and sound a trumpet before Him when He is about to do a great and good work. The agencies that are even now doing the most good in society are not the most ostentatious and self-asserting. It is not by parliaments and armies and police that the commonwealth is maintained and peace preserved. A stronger force than all these is the leaven of religious life which quietly operates in families.
II. THIS VISION IS AN EXAMPLE OF THE WAY IN WHICH GOD VERY GENERALLY REVEALS HIMSELF TO MEN. He sends messengers to prepare His way. These messengers are fitted to arrest and arouse our attention, and then He Himself comes and speaks to us in "a still small voice." He said, "Go forth," etc. (vers. 11, 12). These things are an allegory and example of God's dealings. He sent the law and the prophets with all their thunderings and earthquakes to prepare the way for the Gospel.
1. He often sends to us the whirlwind of adversity.
2. God sent an earthquake. This may represent events in providence still more severe, such as bereavement, which swallowed up out of sight objects dearer to you than property, the desire of the eyes and the living treasures of the loving heart.
3. God sent a fire. That fire may aptly represent persona] affliction. This is often likened to a furnace: it consumes the health, and often brings eternity nearer to us than does even the death of a friend.
4. Then comes the "still small voice." This is pre-eminently the Voice of God. The other dispensations are only intended to prepare the way for this Voice. God does not inflict or grieve us because He takes pleasure in doing it, but because He wishes to speak to us, and we will not listen till we are thus arrested. The silvery tones of God's voice are constantly heard by those whose ears are inclined to hear.
III. THIS VISION CONTAINS AN EXAMPLE OF THE MESSAGE WHICH GOD IS CONSTANTLY ADDRESSING TO MEN.
1. It is a word of rebuke for forsaking Him. "What doest thou here, Elijah?" This is the question which you address to a man who is out of his proper place -- What are you doing here?
2. This word of rebuke is also addressed to the backslider. God says to him, What are you doing here? -- in sin, among husks and swine, after having eaten of the hidden manna, and been in fellowship with God and Christ and the excellent of the earth, and the powers of the world to come.
3. This word of rebuke is also addressed to the Christian who has forsaken the post of duty.
4. The message also contains a word of exhortation: "Go, return." This is what God says to the sinner: "Return -- return unto Me, and I will return unto you."
The still small voice: -- There are some important truths taught us by the account of the Lord's dealings with Elijah -- truths worthy of a prayerful perusal.
I. THE ATTRACTIONS OF THE GOSPEL ARE FAR MORE POWERFUL TO SAVE THAN THE INTIMIDATIONS OF THE LAW. This is a lesson which the display of God's majesty and the subsequent effect of His mildness were intended to teach. I do not read of any impressions being produced upon the mind of the prophet by the convulsions of nature, though I can quite suppose that his very blood chilled at the awe-inspiring scene he witnessed. But I find that when the "still small voice" fell upon his ear, he was smitten to the heart and humbled at Jehovah's feet. The terrible phenomena illustrated the giving of the Law; the gentle voice the giving of the Gospel. The Law was given amid thunder and fire and earthquake; the Gospel fell from the hallowed lips of the loving Son of God. The Law threatens; the Gospel invites. The Law wounds; the Gospel heals. The one speaks of death; the other points to life. The one lays on us burdens grievous to be borne; the other calls us to duties delightful to fulfil. The one holds out penalty and the lash; the other recompense and love.
II. THE "STILL SMALL VOICE" AND ITS EFFECTS ON ELIJAH MAY BE REGARDED AS SHOWING THAT GOD WORKS MOST SUCCESSFULLY BY QUIET AND INVISIBLE AGENCIES. This is a truth daily proved to us in the natural world. There the Almighty mutely elevates His mountains, excavates His valleys, levels His plains, dimples the bosom of expansive seas, gives beauty to the heavens, guides worlds in their orbits, tints His flowers with beauteous hues, and makes His fruit nectarious. No man hears a sound or sees a motion where the Great Architect is carrying out some of His gigantic plans. How gently falls the dew, how silently travels the sunbeam, how noiseless is electricity in its movements. But what effective agencies are these! How the face of nature is gladdened and rendered fruitful by them!
1. The "still small voice" of the Holy Spirit has effected wonders. Coming to us as the Spirit of Truth, the Holy Ghost holds up before us in the written and preached word our full-length portraiture, and then unfolds to our gaze the wondrous beauties of the God-Man.
2. The "still small voice" of conscience often speaks to us. Its utterance is not audible to the outward ear, yet the stoutest hearts have quailed before it. Men who have stood unmoved before the thunderings of adversity and the whirlwind of persecution, have succumbed to the whisperings of this inward monitor.
3. God makes great use of the "still small voice" of individual influence. We have lived with some who have let their light shine before men, and that light has shone upon our hearts, revealing to us the deformity and death within.
The still small voice: -- Feeble minds attain their petty ends with much noise and exertion; the Infinite Mind delights in accomplishing the greatest results silently, and through the operation of small causes; and the most satisfactory proofs of the presence of God are found in the "still small voice" with which he speaks to us.
1. It is so in the natural world. We see God as Elijah did, rending the mountains with His mighty wind; we hear His voice in the thunder, the earthquake, and the storm; but what is the effect of all these terrible manifestations of His attributes compared with that of the "still small voice," which reaches us from every part of His works? Very frequently will it be discovered, that such terrifying manifestations of the God of nature result in no lasting moral good; while that "still small voice," which speaks to us in every smiling exhibition of His benevolence on earth, and from every bright world above us, almost compels us to adore, and causes our affections to come forth as Elijah came forth from the cave, and bend in humble reverence before a present God.
2. And again we may see our text illustrated in the providences of God. When we witness any sudden stroke of bereavement; when we see a family or an individual visited by some signal calamity, some awful and overwhelming blow, we are apt to say to ourselves, "Surely such a warning will not be in vain." But is it not often in vain? After waiting some time, do we not find that the momentary terror and agitation of the blow have all subsided; and that the greater the calamity, the deeper apparently is the stupidity of those on whom it is sent, after it has gone by?
3. And thus it is, again, in the spiritual world. John the Baptist wrought no miracles, but all men came to him; our Saviour performed so many mighty works that nearly every inhabitant of Judaea might have seen some of them, and yet to human apprehension the result was less successful. It is not unlikely that a single sermon of St. Peter, on the day of Pentecost, because attended with the Spirit's influence, may have made more converts than all the mighty works which our Saviour performed. Miracles are addressed to the understanding. They do not affect the heart; and it is the heart that needs to be moved; it is the conscience which must be awakened, before there can be any moral reformation.
The power of quiet forces: --
1. Materialism and spirituality are ever at war, ever have been. The claims of the first, that the outward and visible only -- that which we can see, feel, and touch -- or which the chemist, the microscopist, or the physicist can examine and analyse, alone is worthy to be considered or to be classed as knowledge, has many sincere advocates. Those who believe that at the back of all natural phenomena there is a realm of spiritual life, just as real, just as tangible to the higher sense, and who maintain that this, too, is knowledge, albeit personal -- are a large, shall we say a growing army? Spiritual things are spiritually discerned; hence the impossibility of convincing a materialist of these things. But there is a materialism not dogmatic, but real, with which we are surrounded all the time. We are in touch with it everywhere. If affects us unconsciously. We cannot rid ourselves of it. This can be recognised in our religious lives oftener than we are ready to admit. Our activities take upon themselves many materialistic forms, many useful, some questionable, and we can scarcely find time to sit down to listen for the "still small voice." We are labouring at a disadvantage. Our inheritance, our environments do not aid us, and the life we ordinarily live places us not upon vantage-ground, but where constant effort and watchfulness are necessary to avoid wrong conclusions.
2. All the great questions of reform vary but little in aim. The divergence is not the result of the want of a purpose in any one direction, so much as an intelligent insight into the causes which produce our moral disturbances. Public sentiment is ready to denounce the want of virtue or principle. Rumour is ready to carry on its steady current the moral carrion, until the putrefying mass contaminates and destroys the social order of society, and yet the cause of much of our evil is not understood nor disturbed. Christian and moralist alike forget their reason and good common sense in the excitement, and become like the lake when disturbed by a storm. Its quiet waters are ruffled and active. Its waves are high and powerful, and bear upon their crown the dignified crest of matured agitation. The elements frighten us, and we tremble with fear. But what of the storm? Need the farmers and other people upon the lake's shore deceive themselves that the waters of the lake are rising? Need they seek other habitations lest the water become so high that their farms and houses be overflowed by the great increase of water? No, no. Very soon the storm subsides. The bosom of the lake wears its usual peaceful calm. The clouds are parted, and God smiles through the warm, bright light, saying, "Peace, be still." The leaven of the Gospel which raises "three measures of meal" is quiet, insinuating power. True reforms never come in any other way. It takes time and the warm, healthy glow of united Christian hearts in society to aid it in raising the life to a place of spiritual existence.
3. The silent voice which speaks to our hearts, speaks in a language which commands our respect. We may not be able to give the thought in words. We are all sensible of deeper mysteries than our understanding can solve. The strongest convictions of life have sprung from these deeper sentiments of the soul. They furnish us food for reflection, and give us the fuel which warms the heart to an energy that will not be quieted. The noisy demonstrations of life pass by us unnoticed, and we fear them not; but silent voice awakens us. We are all attention, our hearts tremble with fear or joy. The steady onward strides of all the great forces of life are never heralded before their coming, saying, Behold, I come! They are not seen but known by that which they do, and others praise them. Strong life is quiet and modest, dignified and powerful. Light and heat, electricity, and many other agencies for good or for evil, as the circumstances may make them, work silently in the secret chambers of nature. God has made man not only in His moral image, but nature and man strongest when seemingly silent and composed. There is a dignity in the thought of such a life. There is an inexpressible awe in the presence of such a God who in the secret chambers of an eternity silently makes known to the life within us His will.
4. We leave very much of our religious faith behind us when we resort to physical rather than moral force in our work. It is then the command for solicitude is, "You must," "You shall," when the silent and all-potent influences of moral power should win. When the Church of Christ had assumed strong organisation and exercised great temporal power, as in the Dark Ages, it was because she had lost the moral force which an all-pervading spirituality furnishes. "It is not by might, nor by power, but by My spirit, saith the Lord."
5. How ready are we, as we see the weakness of the Church -- her lack of success in winning many from sin -- to flee to the cave of despair, as did the prophet Elijah, and thus in the confines of natural resources try to protect ourselves. This is one of the grievous mistakes of the people of God. Men are hidden in their professions, in their business, in their selfish pursuits, and seem not to have the moral courage or inclination to stand erect as men of God, saying, "Judge ye, my God is Jehovah." They are not unlike the prophet Elijah in the cave, and when the Lord says unto the soul thus neglecting God's altars, when the Lord speaks unto the man or woman who thus neglects the ordinances of God's house, the Church, the prayer meeting, the family altar, the answer comes as of old, "I have been very jealous for the Lord God of hosts: for the children of Israel have forsaken Thy covenant, thrown down Thine altars, and slain Thy prophets, and I, even I only, am left."
6. The influences which are potent in lifting from the pit to a life of godliness are not noisy or demonstrative, but silent and insinuating. All true reforms commence in the heart of mankind, and are significant in that they are spiritual, rather than materialistic. Like the air by which we are warmed when chilled, we are bathed in it, and infused with a new life ere we are aware of it. Even so God comes to you and me in the silent influences of life.
Christianity -- a voice: --
I. CHRISTIANITY IS A VOICE -- not only a book, but also a voice. Other religions have books: Mahometanism has a book, and a grand old book it is too, called the Koran. Some of its stories are equal in beauty to the stories of the Book of Genesis, but Mahometanism has no voice. Mahomet is dead, and his voice is silent in the tomb. Hinduism has books, and interesting books they are too, called the Veda and Shaster. They are full of hymns and precepts, some of them equal in purity and spirituality to some of the Old Testament Psalms and Proverbs, but Hinduism has no voice. The great prophets of Hinduism, who thought out the books, are dead, and their voices are heard no more. Christianity also has a book. It is more beautiful than the Koran, and more poetic and spiritual than the Veda or Shaster. But the book of Christianity is also a voice. The Prophet of Christianity is not dead. Christ is alive, and fills all the words of the Bible with a living voice. He speaks again, through His spirit, the very words which He spoke when on earth. Herein is the great difference between the Bible and every other book. The voice of Christianity is a revealing voice. God is not to be seen, only heard. "No man hath seen God at any time; the Only begotten Son which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him." And He declares Him still. As one said: "When we look, with the eye of faith, on Christ in history we behold only the man, but we hear the God." The man only is visible, but the invisible God speaks. God is not seen in the world of matter, but He is heard.
II. CHRISTIANITY IS A SMALL VOICE. Would it not be better were it a large voice filling the world with its melody, and captivating every ear with its charming music? It appears so; but when we study the subject closer we find that what appears to be a disadvantage is a very great blessing.
1. A voice for the weakest. It is a small voice, that the human ear may be able to take it in as a whole. One of the loudest noises that art can produce is the report of cannon as it discharges its perilous contents into the air, but the human ear is too small to take it in as a whole; only a small portion of the sound enters our ears as it passes by through the air. One of the loudest sounds Nature can produce is that of a thunder-clap, rending the air with its sound and echo, but only a small part of it reaches our ears, carried by the air wavelets. There are sounds too great and awful for the human ear to take them in as a whole. The voice that man can take in must be small. The voice of Christianity has been ordained small by God that the weak, small human ear may take it all in.
2. The voice of Christianity is ordained small in order that other voices may be employed to re-echo it, in preaching and living it. And as they reproduce it they are transformed into the same melodious quality.
III. CHRISTIANITY IS A STILL VOICE, or, according to the Welsh translation, which undoubtedly is better here, Christianity is a silent voice. It is a voice; it is silence -- contradiction in terms, but not in the truths themselves. It is a voice to some; it is silence to others. It is a voice to the ear of faith, but it is silence to the ear of unbelief. It is a voice to the children of God, but it is silence to the children of the devil. There is a music in this world that no one can hear except those who have had their spiritual ears opened by Divine grace. The people of the world boast of the music of the opera and theatre, but they have not yet heard the conductor of heaven's choir giving the keynote to the saints upon earth. The world has not yet heard the sweetest music -- the voice of Him who made the storm to sleep by His "Peace, be still." We must have our spiritual ears opened by Christ; then we shall hear His Voice. The voice of the Opener of our spiritual ears will be the first we hear, and ever will be the sweetest. The sweetest voice on earth is the voice of Christ to the saints.
1. It is a silent voice, that God may be able to tell the secret of His kingdom to His children, so that the devil, who is at the elbow, cannot hear it. God has secrets to impart to His people which no one is to hear.
2. Christianity is a silent voice, that the weak and the painful and the dying may listen to it without being hurt. There are events in human life when the voice of the world and society are too loud and harsh for us to listen to it without being pained. As I was walking, a few years ago, over the streets of Cardiff I noticed that a part of the street was covered over with chaff four or five inches deep. I stood wondering what it was good for. Failing to solve the mystery I ventured to ask a policeman, who was standing by, what was the meaning of the chaff-covered street. "In that house," said he, pointing to the other side, "there is a young woman twenty-one years of age, in the last stage of consumption, and she cannot bear the noise of the traps and footsteps going over the street, so they have covered the street with chaff that the vehicles and people may pass by in silence." I saw through the mystery of the chaff-covered street at once. The noise of trade was too loud and harsh for the consumptive young woman to listen to it without being pained; her dying ear could not bear it. But there is a voice so still and sweet that the dying young woman could listen to with pleasure -- the "still small voice" of Divine love.
God's whisper: --
I. WHAT MEANING THIS PARABLE HAD FOR ELIJAH.
1. It seems to me, first of all, that the Lord would teach him that, though disappointed, he might still live to purpose, and do good work for God.
2. God would have His servant understand that He is not straitened for means, and methods, and instruments. Not by a continuation of Carmel's triumphs, but by other and simpler means God would carry out His programme.
3. Jehovah would have Elijah remember that his example had accomplished more than he had supposed.
II. BUT THIS PARABLE, SURELY, HAS A BEARING TOWARDS OURSELVES.
1. There is this truth, amongst others, that God employs unexpected means.
2. The folly of relying on outward appearances. Displays of power are not to be encouraged or rejoiced in. Eloquence, and style, and culture have all their place. The great forces of nature are silent.
3. God sometimes delays, but makes Himself manifest eventually.
4. Mercy is more potent than judgment.
A more excellent way: -- We find instructive parallels in the lives of Moses and John the Baptist; or, if we prefer a modern instance, think of Frederick Robertson, one day preaching to a crowded church in Brighton, the next day grovelling on his study floor. It is only to the noblest natures that such dejection is possible. And yet, such despondency was wrong. It was unjust to God. Elijah's despondency was unjust to the past. "I am not better than my fathers!" I have failed, so did they! Why labour any longer? Why tax the overwearied brain? Why continue the unavailing struggle? Is it worth while to toil like this? Are those for whom I labour worth it all? So we repine, so we despond. And yet the kingdom of God is coming amongst us, and the day of the Lord draws nigh. But it concerns us most of all to know, not the grandeur of this scene, but its real meaning. What is the truth at the back of this story, and how shall we translate it into plain words? What is the real meaning of these experiences? It seems to me that Elijah gained, through them, three things.
1. First, he gained new views of God. The prophet had made a mistake. He supposed that the fire of Carmel was the only symbol by which God could make Himself known, that earthquake and thunder and storms were the expression of His essential nature. Elijah had tried to bend the stubborn wills of men by methods of force. He never thought of any other way. He magnified God's strictness with a zeal he would not own. But in the solitude and silence of Horeb, he learned the gentleness of God.
2. He gained, in the second place, new views of his work. "What doest thou here?" The cruelty of Jezebel, the apostasy of Israel, the failure of past efforts, the uncertainty of the future -- none of these, nor all of them together, were sufficient to justify Elijah in abandoning his duty. God gave His servant a glimpse of the work yet to be done.
3. Above all, Elijah learned at Horeb a new method of appeal. The method of coercion had failed, the method of wonder had failed. There was a better way. Force. threats, denunciations will never avail. Men cannot be frightened into goodness. But where thunder-and-lightning methods have failed, the gradual, silent, pervasive influence of the faithful seven thousand may succeed.
(1 Kings 19:15) The LORD said to him, "Go back the way you came, and go to the Desert of Damascus. When you get there, anoint Hazael king over Aram. NIV
Ver. 15. And the Lord said unto him, Go, return. --
"Go, return": -- It is a very solemn thought, that one sin may for ever, so far as this world is concerned, wreck our usefulness. It is not always so. Sometimes -- as in the case of the Apostle Peter -- the Lord graciously restores, and re-commissions for His work, the one who might have been counted unfit ever again to engage in it. "Feed My sheep. Feed My lambs." But against this one case we may put three others, in each of which it would seem as if the sentry angel, who forbade the return of our parents to Paradise, were stationed with strict injunctions to forbid any return to the former position of noble service. The first case is that of Moses; the meekest of men; the servant of the Lord; the foster-nurse of the Jewish nation, whose intercessions saved them again and again from destruction. Yet because he spake unadvisedly with his lips, and smote the rock twice, in unbelief and passion, he was compelled to bear the awful sentence: "Because ye believed Me not, to sanctify Me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore ye shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them." The second case is that of Saul, the first ill-fated King of Israel, whose reign opened so auspiciously, as a morning without clouds, but who soon brought upon himself the sentence of deposition. Yet it was only for one single act. Alarmed at Samuel's long delay, and at the scattering of the people, he intruded rashly into a province from which he was expressly excluded, and offered the sacrifice with which the Israelites were wont to prepare for battle. The third case is that of Elijah. He was never reinstated in quite the position which he had occupied before his fatal flight. True he was bidden to return on his way, and work was indicated for him to do. But that work was the anointing of three men, who were to share amongst them the ministry which he might have fulfilled if only he had been true to his opportunities and faithful to his God. God's work must go on; if not by us, then, through our failures, by others brought in to supply our place. "Go, return on thy way to the wilderness of Damascus," etc.
I. THE VARIETY OF GOD'S INSTRUMENTS. Hazael, King of Syria; Jehu, the rude captain; and Elisha, the young farmer. It is remarkable how God accomplishes His purposes through men who only think of working their own wild way. Their sin is not diminished or condoned because they are executing the designs of Heaven; it still stands out in all its malignant deformity. And yet, though they are held accountable for the evil, it is none the less evident that they do whatsoever God's hand and God's counsel determined before to be done. Joseph comforted his brethren, after his father's death, by telling them that though they thought evil against him, God meant it unto good, to save much people alive.
II. NO ONE CAN ENTIRELY ESCAPE FROM GOD'S PERSONAL DEALINGS. God's nets are not all constructed with the same meshes. Men may escape through some of them; but they cannot escape through all. If they elude the Gospel ministry, they will be caught by some earnest worker, apt at personal dealing. If they manage to evade all contact with the living voice, they may yet be reached by the printed page. If they evade all religious literature, they may still be the sudden subjects of the strivings of the Spirit. "Him that escapeth the sword of Hazael shall Jehu slay; and him that escapeth from the sword of Jehu shall Elisha slay."
III. GOD NEVER OVERLOOKS ONE OF HIS OWN. Elijah thought that he alone was left as a lover and worshipper of God. It was a great mistake. God had many hidden ones. "Yet I have left Me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him." We know nothing of their names or history. They were probably unknown in camp or court -- obscure, simple-hearted, and humble. Their only testimony was one long refusal to the solicitations of the foul rites of idolatry. They groaned and wept in secret; and spake often one to another, while the Lord hearkened and heard. But they were all known to God, and enrolled amongst His jewels, and counted as a shepherd tells his sheep. He cared for them with an infinite solicitude; and it was for their sake that He raised up the good and gentle Elisha to carry on the nurture and discipline of their souls.
Return to duty: --
I. As Elijah journeyed back through the desert, one of his feelings doubtless would be this -- DEEP SORROW ON ACCOUNT OF HIS PAST FAITHLESSNESS, AND A SALUTARY SENSE OF HIS WEAKNESS FOR THE TIME TO COME. Every step of that backward journey must have recalled, with sorrow and shame, the remembrance of his unworthy flight and unworthy unbelief.
II. Another feeling Elijah had, in leaving his cave, must have been A LIVELY SENSE AND APPREHENSION OF GOD'S GREAT MERCY. What, in the retrospect of the recent wondrous manifestation, would more especially linger in the prophet's recollection? Not the wind, not the earthquake, not the fire; but the "still small voice."
III. We may suppose another feeling entertained by Elijah in departing from his cave and returning through the wilderness, would be, A FIXED PURPOSE AND RESOLUTION OF NEW AND MORE DEVOTED OBEDIENCE. Mourning an unworthy past -- penetrated by a lively sense of Jehovah's love, -- he would go onward and forward, resolved more than ever on a life of grateful love and of active and unwavering service, until God saw meet to take him up in His chariot of fire.
Ver. 18. Yet I have left Me seven thousand in Israel. --
The unknown quantity: -- We cannot know what a man is merely by what he does. He may be a painter showing to us his pictures; that sight gives no idea as to whether he is inwardly beautiful. He may be a tradesman with whom we deal; that does not tell us whether he is occupying himself with his Lord's talents until He come. He may he a mechanic who executes some manual labour for us; that does not signify if he is labouring for the meat which perisheth, and also for that which endureth unto everlasting life. We need to get more than a man's doings to enable us to perceive what he is. We must learn what his real thoughts are. "As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he." We must be able to form clear ideas of what he likes and dislikes; what he finds fault with in others, and would fain accomplish by them. In just such a condition we are as regards our knowledge of God. His works in nature do not inform us of what He is.
I. THIS UNKNOWN QUANTITY IS A PROVISION MADE BY GOD'S SECRET OPERATIONS. "I have left," or as we read in the Epistle to the Romans, "I have reserved to Myself seven thousand." The Lord thus affirms that their existence in Israel was due to His own arrangements, that He was carrying out His purposes by other methods than that which He had consigned to Elijah, and independently of him. The secret of the Lord s operations may well put shame upon the course taken by so many who profess to be His appointed servants, setting themselves up as judges, and condemning to un-covenanted mercies -- which mean too often unpitying wishes produced by the spite of bigoted hearts -- those who do not agree with them.
II. THIS UNKNOWN QUANTITY IS AN OBJECT OF CONSTANT INSPECTION BY GOD. He knows when and where their knees are bent; when and where their lips are shaped for a kiss. He sees what resolutions they have made, and that those resolutions have not been broken. All and every one in particular are designated by His testimony as His elected people, even though never ranked with the professed upholders of His kingdom.
III. THIS UNKNOWN QUANTITY ENCOURAGES UNDEFINED HOPES AS TO THE WIDE RANGE OVER WHICH LOYALTY TO GOD EXTENDS. God wants faithful servants far more than prophets, apostles, preachers can. The desire for the extension of His kingdom, which moulds their prayers and efforts, their complaints and despondency, is a desire which is only a minute output from His measureless yearning. They see Him making the Gospel His power to the salvation of men, of whom they had lost hope. Slaves, criminals, cannibals, philosophers lifted up with pride, and ignorant men dogmatic in their ignorance; men and women, over whom the fetid vapours of fleshly lusts hung darkly, and little children, scarcely able to tell that evil soils them, have each and all become known as unyielding props in the earthly house of the Lord. What ground is available for doubting that He has raised many more with His wonder-working grace than have come into our notice?
1. An impulse to continuous service of the Lord.
2. The guidance for each soul. It is found in the words of Jesus when answering the question, "Lord, are there few that be saved?" He made no attempt at a reply; He sent the questioners into their own consciences, with the injunction, "Strive to enter in at the strait gate."
Hidden saintship: -- A consistent saint of God -- What do we mean by the word "saint"? All who are set aside for the Master's use, who are sanctified and strengthened by His grace to serve Him, are His saints. What is that life?
I. IT IS A LIFE OF WHICH THE ROOT IS HIDDEN, THOUGH ITS FRUITS, AT LEAST IN PART, MAY BE SEEN.
II. SAINTSHIP IS NOURISHED MOST IN TIMES OF DEPRESSION AND OF AFFLICTION. It is Of such a time that God is here speaking: "I have seven thousand which have not bowed the knee to Baal."
God's hidden ones: -- "A gardener knoweth what roots are in the ground long before they appear, and what flowers they will produce." Look over the garden in winter, and you will not know that there is any preparation for spring; but the gardener sees in his mind's eye -- here a circle of golden cups, as if set out for a royal banquet, and there a cluster of snow-white beauties, drooping with excess of modest purity. His eye knows where the daffodils and anemones lie asleep, waiting to rise in all their loveliness; and he has learned the secret of the primroses and the violets, who wait in ambush till the first warm breath of spring shall bid them reveal themselves. Even thus doth the Lord know His hidden ones long before the day of their manifestation with Him. He sees His Church before His ministers see it, and declares concerning heathen Corinth. "I have much people in this city."
Christians unknown to the world: -- There are stars set in the heavens by the hand of God, whose light has never reached the eye of man; gems lie deposited in the earth, that have never yet been discovered by the research of man; flowers which have grown in blushing beauty before the sun, that have never been seen by the florist; so there may be Christians made such by God, who are hidden from the knowledge and eye of the world.
Vers. 19-21. And found Elisha. --
The husbandman of Abel-meholah: --
I. A MARKED CHARACTERISTIC OF ELISHA WAS, CONTENTMENT WITH HIS POSITION AND WILLINGNESS TO FULFIL ITS DUTIES, HOWEVER HUMBLE. How few, possessed of gifts, are willing to wait the call of God; how few, even without gifts, or else who imagine they have gifts, are willing to wait! It seems to be forgotten that incapacity to serve God in "a few things," is evidence of inability to serve Him in many, and he who cannot make it possible to be faithful in little, may never be entrusted with that which is great. There is a vast difference between Worship and service. We serve God in our own houses, having worshipped Him in His house. Service is work, and work for Him where He places us, not where we place ourselves. If we cannot or do not serve God in the humble place and in the daily duties which He has assigned to us, assuredly we never can nor will serve Him in any other place or circumstances.
II. EQUALLY MARKED WAS ELISHA'S READINESS TO HEAR THE CALL OF GOD. It is dangerous either to go before or to lag behind the providence or the call of God. If the Lord has work for us, He will call us to it. But we must cultivate a spirit of attentive, prayerful readiness. Not that we expect an audible call from heaven, nor trust to an inward voice, but that God will so dispose of all things as to make our duty very plain. For this we must be content to wait; when it comes, we must be willing to obey and to follow.
III. ANOTHER FEATURE IN THIS NARRATIVE IS ELISHA'S PERSONAL WILLINGNESS TO FOLLOW THE CALL OF GOD TO ITS UTMOST CONSEQUENCES.
Abel-meholah: -- There is much in this history to give us encouragement and direction. Let us linger a while to gather up its lessons.
1. Observe, then, in the first place, the care exercised by God in securing a constant succession of teachers for His people. He is always independent of any individual man. Jesus has declared that the gates of the grave shall not prevail against His Church; and just as, here, Elisha was ready to take Elijah's place, it will commonly be found that when one servant of the Master is removed from earth, or is sent to another field of labour, there has been, all unconsciously to himself perhaps, and to those around him, another led, through a course of training, to take the post which has been vacated.
2. Observe, in the second place, here, the honour which God puts upon industry in one's common daily work. Elisha was not called while he was engaged at his private devotions, though, judging of his character from the ready response which he made at this time, we are warranted in saying that his closet would not be neglected; but it was while he was following the plough that Elijah came upon him, and threw his mantle over him. God would thus teach us that we must not neglect our daily business, and that His rich blessing will descend upon us while we are serving Him, whether that service be of a specially devotional sort or of a more common and ordinary description.
3. Observe, in the third place, that special training is needed for special work. We saw that, for the stem duties which Elijah had to discharge, he was particularly fitted by the solitude of his early life, and the ragged grandeur of the scenes in the midst of which he dwelt. Elisha, on the other hand, was trained for the more peaceful and gentle ministry on which he was sent, by the home-life of his father's house, and the quiet influences of agricultural pursuits. Like many another minister, his first college was his home; and there, as we are warranted in believing, from the readiness with which they gave him up to his new work, his parents trained him in the nurture of the Lord. But this was not the whole of Elisha's training. For seven years after the incidents which we have been considering, he was the companion and friend of Elijah; and so he was under the best of preparatory influences for his work.
4. Observe, in the fourth place, that God finds use for the distinct individualities of His servants. There are "diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit." All God's ministers are not made after the same pattern. There are individual features of character and disposition, as distinctive of each as are the outlines of the face of each. John is quite different from Peter, and Paul is distinct from both. What a contrast do we find between Elijah and Elisha!
5. Once more: the conduct of Elisha here furnishes us with a beautiful example of the spirit and manner in which we should respond to the call of the Lord Jesus Christ. If we have rightly represented his views as to the meaning of the act performed by Elijah on him, Elisha must have fully counted the cost of the step which he was about to take in responding to Jehovah's call. tie knew that he must leave his home. He knew, also, that with an Ahab on the throne, a Jezebel in the palace, and an idolatrous population scattered over the country, the duties of the prophetical office would be not only onerous, but dangerous. Yet he conferred not with flesh and blood, but promptly and decidedly arose and went after Elijah. Now, so it ought to be with us and Christ.
The call of Elisha: -- We think of the call of Elisha. He was a farmer of Abel-meholah, in the plain of Jordan. His father's name (it is all we know of him) was Shaphat -- "the judge."
I. THE DIVINE CALL FOUND HIM BUSY AT HIS EMPLOYMENT. Our Saviour called into the apostolate industrious, and not idle, men. Matthew from the customhouse; Peter, Andrew, John, and James from their work as fishermen; and Nathanael from the great spiritual labour of earnest prayer beneath the fig-tree; and Paul from his intended murderous industry as he toiled towards Damascus. It is so in the Old Testament. Moses was keeping Jethro's flock when from the bush burning, unburnt, there sounded the irresistible voice that sent him into one of the most illustrious pages of all history. The call came to Gideon when he was threshing wheat; to David, watching his father's sheep; to Amos, tending cattle; to Elisha, following the plough. There was a rode sagacity in that famous king who chased in his homely wanderings the idle loungers from the street with "Away, sirrah, and take to some work!" who encouraged the stall-women to have busy hands while waiting for custom, in a compulsory fashion, indeed; and if they would not be encouraged by his desire packed them and their stalls away. lie would avoid everywhere the various and widespreading evils of indolence.
II. THE DIVINE CALL WAS UNEXPECTED BY HIM. He was sought; he did not seek. God saw him in the rural obscurity, and challenged him forth into the national recognition and service. What had been his ambition -- what the animating hope of his life? lie feared God above many, and doubtless desired to be a considerate master, dutiful son, true friend, the comforter of those cast down, a light at home and in the neighbouring village. And to think of English instances. How unlikely that a Huntingdonshire farmer would become England's noblest monarch, though without the crown, which he, indeed, could well dispense with. Or in a more recent day, how unlikely that a young English carpenter would become the apostle of the Southern Seas, or that a young Scottish gardener would become the apostle of Southern Africa. Thus God pours contempt upon human judgment, "that, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord."
III. THE CALL WAS ONE TO SELF-SACRIFICE AND PERIL. It is clear from the narrative that Elisha was in easy circumstances. He had servants and much cattle; he was heir to these at any rate. A quiet, pleasant country life was his -- with the great miracle of nature ever before his eyes -- labour in the open field under the blue of heaven, yet "a life that led melodious days." A serene man this -- moving amid serene surroundings, looking with contemplative mind upon the lapse of seasons, the faces of familiar men, and the sacred scrolls of Hebrew Scripture. Brethren, our call to Christ and Christian service involves some sacrifice. With reiterated emphasis Christ says that. lie has not painted His kingdom in the colours of fancy. He tells of cross as well as crown; of "much tribulation" as well as eternal throne.
IV. THE CALL WAS ACCEPTABLE TO ELISHA. Having cast his mantle upon Elisha, Elijah hastened on his way. He paused not to expound the call; expositions were to follow. He would compel no man into perilous companionship with himself. On he went, and the wondering herdsmen watched. And startled Elisha -- for the thing had been done suddenly -- recovers himself.
V. ELISHA'S ACCEPTANCE OF THE CALL WAS CELEBRATED BY A FEAST. The event was worthy of celebration. Honour, with whatever peril, had come to him, and brighter than any crown. The man kindled. He was aglow to be gone. He was henceforth to hold another plough. He left all -- native village, friends, patrimony, parents. With their kiss and blessing, the feast ended. And comes no call to us? -- to Christ, and then to Christian service? Let us accept it, and then angels will "begin to be merry," with a joy never to end! O heavenly celebration!
Called: -- From the moment the mantle fell upon him everything was changed.
1. The new life was one of devotion to Elijah. Elisha might have said, "To me to live is Elijah." Years afterwards he was known by this title, "Elisha, that poured water on the hands of Elijah." And you are called to a life of devotion to the Lord Jesus. Christ is to be the centre of your life. The call comes all the more urgently because of the dismay and despair in which the present century opened. "Arise and live for Jesus; be whole-hearted to make Jesus King."
2. The new life was one of separation. He could not cleave to Elijah without leaving the old home. New interests arose; new duties occupied his time; new desires and ambitions filled his heart. The old life had to be left behind; he was completely drawn away from it. And so it is with every true follower of Christ. Nearness to Christ brings about separation from the world. The new interests and occupations crowd out the old, just as the young green leaves of spring push from the branches the dead leaves that had held on through all the winter storms.
3. The new life was, at the beginning, full of hardship and peril. Elisha shared in Elijah's exile. His master was a marked man and a fugitive. The prophet's mantle was no robe of state. None but Baal's priests were received at court in those days. Elijah had none of the privileges and protection which a Christian government affords to God's servants in England. And for us, too, though we live in better days, there is the cross. It is still true; "Whoso doth not bear his cross and come after Me, he cannot be My disciple." Even to-day, you can evade your cross only by denying your Lord. We cannot live for ease and riches and pleasure if we follow Christ.
4. And the new life was one of special privilege and power. That mantle was a sign of both. So is it with all who accept Christ's mantle. You shall see God face to face, and share His secrets, standing always in His presence-chamber, so that you do not fear the wrath of men.
A young man's call: -- All the circumstances connected with the call of Elisha, and Elisha's answer to the call, would indicate that the young fellow was very familiar with Elijah and with his ways. The circumstances connected with Elisha's call are exceedingly picturesque and interesting. Elijah does not stop to talk. Instead, passing near the youth, he takes his prophet's mantle from his shoulders and throws it about the shoulders of the astonished Elisha, and strides onward without a word. Now Elisha had evidently had long talks with Elijah about this matter, and he knew what that mantle meant. He knew just as well as if Elijah had talked with him for an hour that it meant God's call to him, to give up his present order of life and go forth with Elijah, to share his work and also to share his danger. Elijah appreciates the situation, and he says, "Go back again: for what have I done to thee?" Canon Liddon says this ought to be rendered, "Go, return: for how great a thing have I done unto thee!" That is, Elijah assents to his going to bid his people farewell, but impresses on his mind that he should speedily return, since a great privilege and a high honour have been conferred on him by the call of God. The leave-taking is very beautiful and very significant. Several lessons of great significance may be drawn from this beautiful story.
1. First, the precious privilege of Elijah in being permitted to be the instrument in God's hand of calling so splendid a man as Elisha into the Lord's work. Elijah would never have been able to do this if he had not been a good man. Elisha felt this influence. It was not so much what Elijah said, nor yet what he did, but constant prayer and communion with God, fellowship with the Unseen, maintained about Elijah a spiritual atmosphere that had something of heaven in it. Elisha could not have described it, but he felt it, and when he was with Elijah, God and goodness and heaven were things the most real in the world, to please God seemed to be the only good, and to grieve the heart of God by disobedience seemed to be life s only real danger.
2. We nave here illustrated the right way to receive and answer the call of God. Elisha responds promptly. He runs after Elijah. He feels there is no time to lose. Elijah goes with a swift, long stride, and will soon be out of the field. If he lets him pass away unheeded he may lose the opportunity for ever, and so he runs after the prophet and assures him of his acceptance. Not only that, but he proceeds to burn all his bridges behind him. No, he makes it just as public as he can. He kills his yoke of oxen, and burns up his plough, and makes a feast of farewell, and boldly proclaims to all his neighbours that he has been called of God, and that he is going away with Elijah in answer to that call. And I say to every unconverted man or woman here, That is the only safe or wise course. God calls you to accept salvation through Jesus Christ. and to serve Christ in your daily life.
Elijah passed by him, and cast his mantle upon him. --
Christian influences: --
I. HOW GOD CALLS HIS WORKERS. When in the seventeenth century one of the famous Cambridge Platonists, as they were called, passed to his rest, his sorrowful disciples exclaimed in the very words of Elisha to Elijah, "My father, my father, the chariot of Israel and the horsemen thereof!" thus expressing their sense of loss to that communion of the strength which marked their master's character. Again and again has God raised up men who, like these Cambridge Platonists, have reverenced the Divine gift of reason as well as of revelation, who, whilst they have stood aloof from Church parties and politics, have striven to teach and to show the character of God the Father, the example of God the Son, the love and fellowship of God the Holy Spirit, men who have felt sure that no long roll of years, no fresh discoveries of science could teach for the moment such a truth as this: "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God."
II. THE INFLUENCE OF GOOD LIVES. But, further, the call of Elisha came to him, as it came to Matthew, in his ordinary work, in his farm and in his merchandise, and he was, let us remember, no longer the same man after it as he was before it.
III. SILENT MISSIONARIES. But again, when Elijah passed by Elisha it was certainly a personal influence, but it was also, so far as we know, and as it has been more than once noted, it was also a silent influence. And thus the action of the prophet at least suggests to us the consideration of that silent, impressive, testing influence by which we are all so closely surrounded. What a remarkable influence, for instance, attaches to that book so famous in the last century, and so popular then in England and America, Law's Serious Call. What a proof of the unfailing influence which attaches to the outpouring of a saintly and devout soul is furnished by the mere fact that William Wilberforce, John Wesley, Samuel Johnson all referred to that one book as the origin of their first serious impressions upon religion.
IV. THE INFLUENCE OF GOOD BOOKS. We come to the impressions which I doubt not have come to us all in some way or other from the perusal of a popular biography, from a brief memoir in the newspaper, from our favourite books of devotion. We may indeed be thankful for these many silent influences. They may be doing, surely are doing, God's work in the world. Our eyes have long been fixed, and in the face of recent events with fresh interest and fresh wonder, upon that marvellous people of the East, the Japanese. A short time ago an enterprising firm of publishers in Japan determined to issue a series of historical biographies. The first was the life of Confucius, the second that of Budda, the third that of Jesus of Nazareth. The biography of our Lord was edited by a young Japanese student, not himself a Christian, who wrote it simply as it stood in the Gospels without offering any opinion of his own as to its truth or falsehood. In a few weeks the whole of the first edition of that book was exhausted. Here, again, was a silent influence penetrating where the living voice of the missionary has never been heard to the quickening intellect and touching the heart. Can we doubt it that God the Holy Ghost, through the book, leads many to inquire whence hath this Man wisdom, whence the wondrous works?
Human friendship: -- The voice in the cave of Horeb said many things; but it said one thing which, to my mind, was specially helpful to the future development of Elijah -- it directed him where to find a human friend. If there was one thing Elijah needed to mellow him it was that. He seems never to have felt the influence of home ties. His life throughout had been one of war, of public commotion, of political and religious strife. Superiors he had, inferiors he had, but he had hitherto possessed no equal. There had been none to take his hand and say, "We are brothers." A man in such a position is in want of one half of life's music. When the voice sent him to Elisha, it sent him to a new school.
So ends the study of "Elijah Vs. Ahab & Jezebel." As you can see, there was much written and much learned as God showed Elijah what he must do, and bestow the mantle as an instrument of power. After this calling, Elijah was a changed man. Serving God diligently until God call him in the air to come to Him, as Elisha watched, readying himself to follow in Elijah's footsteps.
God Bless Each of You,
Rev. Zack Martin Sr.
In His Name,
Rev. Zack martin Sr.
updated by @zack-martin: 03/01/15 11:27:14AM