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"that thou art a man of God, and that the word of the Lord in thy mouth is truth." The word of the Lord! What word of the Lord was it that Elijah had spoken to her? This may be easily conjectured. We find here, at the close of the narrative, a new key to the whole. Elijah had probably said something to her, during their acquaintance, which she had been unable to comprehend or believe. It is not difficult to suppose what it may have been. The widow was a woman of piety, but still sadly ignorant of many important religious truths-particularly of the doctrine of a promised Messiah. In respect to this doctrine, Elijah is supposed to have attempted her instruction: how the sinner might be pardoned; how, through the atonement of a Mediator, she might stand justified before God. This great truth now shone into her soul; and, to the faith of it, she yielded herself with joy. Henceforth, she stood upon solid ground; for, being a devout person, she was now evinced to be a daughter of Abraham's faith; and, at the moment when Elijah said to her, "See, thy son liveth," her heart was fitted to say something greater still: "I know that my Redeemer liveth!"
God takes strange methods, by which to accomplish his plans; strange means, by which to dispel the ignorance of his children; to confirm their faith; to establish them upon a sure foundation. This widow needed instruction in regard to important truths; and in no way, perhaps, so well could it be imparted, as by the method which God adopted. Afflictions often enlighten and reform; correct and purify, better than it can be done by any other process.
ELIJAH'S PRAYER AT MOUNT CARMEL.
And it came to pass at the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that Elijah the prophet came near and said, Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, let it be known this day that thou art God in Israel, and that I am thy servant, and that I have done all these things at thy word. 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. Then the fire of the Lord fell, and consumed the burnt-sacrifice, and the wood, &c.-1 Kings xviii. 36-40
ELIJAH had been concealed for nearly three years and six months, during which the famine had prevailed throughout Judea. Meanwhile, Ahab had been intent upon apprehending him; and with that intent had made diligent search through his own, as well as all the neighboring states, and had taken an oath from the different tribes and governments, that they knew not the place of his concealment.
The time, however, had arrived for a change of operations; and God says to the prophet, "Go, show thyself to Ahab."
What a strange command! As well, seemingly, might he be directed to enter a lion's den. Present himself to Ahab His resentment was originally great; but, now, it is aggravated by more than a three years' famine, and a three years' unavailing search.
But God had given the word, and it was enough. Elijah, therefore, bids adieu to the widow of Zarephath, and to that chamber where he had restored her son to life, and where he had held high and holy communion with God. He commences his journey, and, at length, enters Samaria.
At this very time, Ahab was setting out on a journey through the land. He had in his employment a man, by the name of Obadiah; who, strange to say, was a pious man,
and who, under a commission from the king, was making search in one portion of Judea, while he did in another, for herbage and water for their horses and mules.
While Obadiah was fulfilling his commission, he is met one day by a venerable personage, girded as a traveler, and covered with a mantle. In the stranger, Obadiah recognizes Elijah, and prostrates himself before him. "Art thou that my lord Elijah?" he asks. "I am," replies Elijah.—“ Go tell thy lord, Behold, Elijah is here!"
Obadiah objects. He forebodes that while he is gone to deliver the message, the spirit of the Lord may remove the prophet to some unknown region; upon which Ahab, thinking himself mocked by Obadiah, would deprive him of his office, and probably of life itself. His apprehensions, however, are allayed by the solemn assurance of Elijah, that he designed to show himself to Ahab that very day. Thus certified, Obadiah set forth in search of the tyrant, to whom he has the boldness to say, "Behold, Elijah is here!"
With what sentiments Ahab receives the intelligence, we are not informed. But he turns to meet Elijah. Perhaps that heart, in its malignity, was plotting vengeance upon the prophet. But when, at length, he sees Elijah, neither curse nor menace does he utter; only, "Art thou he that troubleth Israel?" "No," replied the prophet. "No, I have not troubled Israel; but thou and thy father's house, in that ye have forsaken the commandments of the Lord, and thou has followed Baalim."
Thus fearlessly does Elijah meet Ahab, and thus faithfully does he charge his wickedness upon him. "And, now, let this question be settled," says he; let it be known, before all Israel, who is the great troubler of the land; Ahab, or Elijah; the worshipers of Baal, or the servants of the living God; and, therefore, send and gather to me all Israel unto Mount Carmel, and the prophets of Baal, four hundred and fifty, and the prophets of the groves, four hundred, which eat
of Jezebel's table. I demand it, as the representative of the Living God; I speak in his name, and by his authority."
Ahab obeys; and when, at length, they are assembled, Elijah appears before them upon the rising ground, conspicuous to all. Lifting his voice, he cries aloud to the thousands of Israel: "How long halt ye between two opinions? If Jehovah be God, follow him; but if Baal, follow him."
This was an unexpected appeal. It was bold; but altogether to the purpose. They looked round upon one another, as if to inquire, What think ye? as if to gather strength and courage, one from another. But shame and conviction of guilt possess every heart and palsy every tongue.
Elijah has the vantage ground, and he hastens to occupy it. While the multitude are in eager expectation, he makes his proposal, v. 23, 24. They hear and approve; "And all the people answered and said: 'It is well spoken.""
Thus, an issue had been made. The priests of Baal are compelled to enter the lists. The great question must be settled, and settled now. Accordingly, they prepare their sacrifice; and when ready, they invoke the interposition of Baal. From morning until noon, and from noon until the offering of the evening sacrifice, the mountain resounds with their loud and phrensied cries. At length, in utter desperation, they leap upon the sacrifice, as if to provoke Baal to hear.
Meanwhile, Elijah stands and surveys the tumult. Noon arrives, and he becomes oppressed with the strange and ridiculous operations before him. At length, he can restrain himself no longer; but, mocking them, he bids them "cry aloud; for he is a god: either he is talking, or he is pursuing, or he is in a journey, or, peradventure, he sleepeth, and must be waked." Thus the priests of Baal fail; Ahab is alarmed; idolatry is abashed.
It is now the turn of Elijah to make trial of the power of faith, and of the omnipotence and righteous cause of Jehovah.
He bids the people, therefore, come near. On the top of Carmel were the ruins of an altar, here called "the altar of Jehovah." It had probably been built in better times, but had been thrown down by idolaters. This altar Elijah repairs; about it he casts a trench; and then prepares the wood; dresses the bullock, and lays it upon it. Next he commands that water should be poured on the wood, and on the sacrifice, in order that the miracle may be the more unquestionable. "Fill four barrels with water," said he, "and pour it on the burnt sacrifice and on the wood. And he said, Do it the second time. And they did it the second time. And he said, Do it the third time. And they did it the third time. And the water ran round about the altar; and he filled the trench also with water." The preparations were now completed. A secret awe pervades the multitude. The moment of appeal to the Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, has come. "Let it be known this day," says Elijah, "that Thou art God in Israel, and that I am thy servant, and that I have done all these things at thy word." The honor of God is the prophet's supreme desire; and, yet, he could wish, and why should he not wish, to stand vindicated before the house of Israel and the prophets of Baal?
"The whole revelation of God is at stake. If no answer follows, the whole fabric falls in, and the ground of our hope is gone. Then all that Elijah has testified; all that the prophets have spoken before him, and which Elijah has confirmed; will be accounted a delusion; and the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Israel, will be no longer regarded! The prayer is uttered. The silence of death reigns in the assembly; every heart beats high; in every face is the extreme of expectation; when, lo! the answer comes; the Amen is given; the fire of heaven descends, in the sight of every one, directly upon the altar, consumes the burnt-offering, the wood, the stones, the earth, and licks up the water in the trench. And when all the people saw it, they fell on