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the contrary, the land is becoming more defiled; the worship of Baal will soon shut out the worship of God; earth and hell will triumph!
A solemn rebuke is, therefore, required. A national calamity only will bring back the people to the acknowledg ment of God. That must be inflicted; and it shall fall heavy, and abide till the cure is effected.
Elijah receives his commission to enter the presence of Ahab, and denounce the judgment. He obeys. And there, now, behold this man of God before the tyrant-calm, dignified, and fearless. He has no farther propositions to make. The time for negotiation is passed. The day of rebuke and indignation has come. Behold, then, Elijah, "a man of like passions with ourselves," uttering the denunciation, that no dew and no rain for these years shall descend upon Israel, but according to his word. And, now, he kneels and prays to the God of dew and rain, that it may be as he had declared to the monarch of Israel.
It was the prayer of faith. And, though Ahab might have ridiculed the prophet, and spurned the threatened calamity; though "the luxuriant pastures, and well-watered fields of Samaria seemed to exclaim together, 'this judgment shall never be executed,' yet, from that hour that Elijah bent before the footstool, neither dew nor rain descended. The heavens became as iron, and the earth as brass." word of the prophet struck like a fever into the heart of the earth, withering and scorching; and all that was fresh and green faded, and hung its head; every stream and rivulet dried up; and all that had breath lay gasping and languishing on the ground. Neither dew nor rain fell during three years and six months. Such were the effects produced by the voice of man; but a man who was in communion and accord with the Almighty." But who can say how often, before Elijah could attain to such power with God, he had humbled and abased himself! How often may he have
fallen on his face in the mountains of Gilead! How many tears he may have shed in solitary caves and caverns before he could say, "As the Lord liveth, the God of Israel, before whom I stand, there shall not be rain nor dew these years, but according to my word."
The apostle James cites this example (James 5: 17) as a proof of the great efficacy of prayer. It is indeed wonderful, that the High and Holy Ruler of the universe should so listen to the supplication of mortal man! That, at his instance, the laws of nature should be suspended year after year! But, while Elijah was "subject to like passions with ourselves," and, therefore, imperfect, he was a "righteous man," probably preeminently holy, and had at heart, in no ordinary degree, the honor of God. That was the secret of his prevalence. Arguments drawn from the divine glory, mingled with strong faith, are the most likely to prevail. Ahab was the personal enemy of Elijah; but more did he hate him as a prophet of the Lord. But, on the prophet's part, that enmity was lost sight of in the intensity of his grief and indignation that God was so insulted and dishonored. When, in our supplications, we can say, Grant, O Lord, the favor sought, for thy glory is concerned in so doing, then may we hope that it will be according to our word.
THE WIDOW'S SON RAISED THROUGH PRAYER.
And he cried unto the Lord, and said, O Lord my God, hast thou also brought evil upon the widow with whom I sojourn, by slaying her son? And he stretched himself upon the child three times, and cried unto the Lord, and said, O Lord my God, I pray thee, let this child's soul come into him again. And the Lord heard the voice of Elijah; and the soul of the child came into him again, and he revived.-1 Kings xvii. 20-22.
ELIJAH, having delivered his message to Ahab, is directed to retire, and hide himself from the exasperated monarch.
The place selected is in the neighborhood of the brook Cherith, a dreary wild, near the banks of the Jordan. This is his appointed retreat. "The blue sky his roof; the bare rocks his walls; the stones his seat; the shady wood his bed-chamber; the grass his couch." For twelve long months Elijah dwells here, quenching his thirst from the brook, and receiving food daily from the hoarse and voracious ravens.
At the expiration of this time, the brook dried up, and God directs him to go to Zarephath. It was a long and toilsome journey, through a wild and barren country, in a time of general famine, and extreme drought; and this into the land. of Zidon, beyond the borders of Israel, among a heathen people, enslaved to a vile idolatry; the native country of Jezebel, his bitterest enemy, and the territory of her father, a furious tyrant, also in alliance with Ahab.
Elijah obeys; and, at length, reaches the neighborhood of Zarephath. The Lord had arranged for his reception. A widow receives him into her house. She was poor in this world's goods, but rich in faith, although in a heathen land. To put her heart at rest, as to the means of supporting the man of God, she is told that the barrel of meal shall not waste, neither shall the cruise of oil fail, until the day that the Lord should send rain upon the earth.
If the presence of Elijah was a blessing, temporal and spiritual, as doubtless it was to the widow, not less was his comfort enhanced under her hospitable roof.
He had now passed several months in this quiet retreat, engaging in prayer and praise, and holy discourse, when, unexpectedly, a heavy cloud darkened the peaceful cottage. The widow's child-an only son-suddenly falls sick, and almost before she is aware, he is a corpse.
How mysterious! What explanation does the dispensation admit of? Could we assign no reason, we should believe that it was ordered wisely; for, though clouds and darkness are round about the Infinite God, yet "all his
works are truth, and his ways judgment," or righteousness. But, possibly, a satisfactory reason may be given. "The widow, we may believe," says Krummacher, "was a person of real piety, but acquainted with God in a partial and too superficial manner. She knew something of God's loving kindness, but not enough of his grace. In short, while wellaffected to godliness in general, she was too far off from God; ignorant of a Mediator and Intercessor; and not enough broken and contrite in heart."
The design of God, then, was the improvement of this woman in piety. It was by afflicting her, that he designed to show her more of her heart; and, in the sequel, to exalt and confirm her faith.
The grief of the widowed mother affects the heart of the prophet. Perhaps he understood the reason of the affliction, and blessed God for it, while he was touched with a heartfelt compassion and sympathy. At length, under a divine impulse, he asks for the child. She yields it, and he retires with it to his chamber, lays it on his own bed, and applies himself in prayer to God.
"And now, listen! What a prayer it is which he pours forth! It is a prayer that certainly would not pass uncensured by us; that certainly would not escape the criticism and the condemnation of our wisdom, had we heard it from the mouth of any other than such a one as Elijah. 'O Lord, my God,' cries he; 'hast thou also brought evil upon the widow, with whom I sojourn, by slaying her son?' What does Elijah speak before the living God of bringing evil? and does he venture to approach Jehovah's throne with such a question, and with such a complaint? Yes; he speaks as his heart dictates. And if he speaks foolishly, he does it in simplicity, and in faith. And if he pleads too familiarly with God, he does so, encouraged by the blood of the Lamb, and the promises of God! It is not for us to censure him, for his prayer was accepted of the Lord. Yet,
what was its purport? 'Lord! didst thou care to slay this child? Impossible! Thy purpose was to lead this mother through affliction to repentance. This, O Lord, having been accomplished, must the child continue dead? Look, O Lord God, upon this widow graciously, and remember that I am her guest. She has shown much kindness unto thy servant. I would gladly recompense her. Do thou recompense her, for I am poor, and have nothing. And O, remember, also, that I am thy prophet. If I am reproached, thou art reproached also. Therefore, that thy name may be hallowed, and thy praise magnified upon earth, now, O Lord, hear my prayer.'
"Having thus expostulated, as it were, with Jehovah, Elijah arose, threw himself upon the dead child, and stretched himself upon it three times, as though he would say, 'I will not leave the child, but will await God's answer to my prayer.' And he cried unto Jehovah, and said, 'O Jehovah, my God! I pray thee let this child's soul come into it again;' a prayer, you perceive, quite positive and unconditional. And what followed upon this holy boldness in prayer? 'The Lord heard the voice of Elijah, and the soul of the child came into it again, and he revived.'
"But how does this agree with our notions and maxims concerning acceptable prayer? Here we have, as I have said, an unconditional prayer; a prayer, too, for something temporal; a prayer for a miracle; a prayer without limitations; yet the Lord heard and answered it. Yes, our gracious God does not bind himself to our maxims, nor suffer himself to be limited by our rules.” *
"See, thy son liveth!" said the joyful prophet, as he took down the child to its mother. He added nothing more, but left the holy Spirit to say the rest. And that Spirit did speak; he enlightened her understanding as much as he warmed her heart. "Now by this I know," she exclaimed,
*Elijah, the Tishbite, by Krummacher.