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God himself. How could he tell that this person was a real prophet? or, if a prophet, that he was a holy man? Ought he not rather to have trusted himself with God, and to have determined to listen to no one who told him any thing contrary to what God himself had told him ?
Supposing any one were to tell us to do something which we find expressly forbidden in the Word of God. We could not think that person right; no, not even if he were an angel from heaven, could we safely follow his advice. And was it not exactly thus with the man of God? Ought he not to have said to the prophet, as he had done before to the king, “I will not go in with thee, neither will I eat bread nor drink water in thine house; for so it was charged me by the Lord.”
Well would it have been for him had this been his answer; but, alas! he went back with the prophet of Bethel, and did eat and drink in his house. The picture has told you the shocking consequence. It came to pass as they sat at the table, that God made the very prophet who had deceived him, and brought him back, to declare to him the dreadful truth that he had offended God by his disobedience, and that he should not go unpunished. Quickly did that punishment follow him ! for as he returned to his own home, a lion met him by the way and slew him.
E. Oh, mamma, I wish the prophet who had deceived him, had been punished instead of him : he must have been a very wicked man.
M. Yes, my love; we are led to suppose in reading this sad story, that the man of Bethel, though most likely a real prophet, was a bad man ; and that the
prophet of Judah, though disobedient in this one instance to the word of the Lord, was, upon the whole, a sincere servant of God. We cannot help, therefore, grieving over his sin and its punishment; but do not for a moment think that the prophet of Judah was more to be pitied than the prophet of Bethel. He had his punishment in this world, but that very punishment was most likely the means of saving his soul in the next. When he saw how much he had offended God, he no doubt sorrowed deeply for his sin, and obtained that pardon, which God never keeps back from those who are truly penitent.
Whether the prophet who led him back was punished in this world or in the next, or whether he also repented of his sin, we know not; but of this we may be sure, that it is better to be so punished for our offences as to be brought back to God, than to go on well in this life, and to die in our sins at last.
NINETEENTH SUNDAY EVENING.
ELIJAH AND THE WIDOW OF ZAREPHATH.
E. I HOPE, mamma, Rehoboam and the people of Judah did not follow Jeroboam's bad example, and go after idols too.
M. At first, my love, the king of Judah and his people appear to have continued to worship the living and true God; but we soon read, that they also “ did evil in the sight of the Lord, above all that their fathers had done;" committing all manner of wicked
ness which they had seen done by the heathen nations around them.
They soon perceived that they had brought down the anger of the Almighty upon them ; for, just at this very time, Shishak king of Egypt came up against Jerusalem, and robbed their temple of all its treasures. As they chose to forsake the worship of the Lord, to whom that holy and beautiful house belonged, he allowed them to be punished, by having it robbed by the hands of the heathen. Nor was this all; the king of Egypt also carried away all the precious things that they found in the king's house. The history of the two kingdoms of Israel and Judah is a very melancholy one for many years after this. There were, indeed, some good kings in Judah ; but in Israel they were all exceedingly wicked : and idolatry spread more and more among the people of God.
Asa, king of Judah, and after him his son Jehoshaphat, were very good kings, and put an end to idolatry in that kingdom for a few years, removing and destroying all the idols in the land; and serving God themselves with all their heart, as David had done before them, they drew their people back to the true religion.
The reigns of these two kings were in consequence happy and prosperous; and the people felt the comfort of being religious; for the blessing of God was upon them, and they were happy in his favour and love.
I wish I could tell you, that it was the same in Israel; but we read of no return to God there, even for a time. At the very moment that the good king
Jehoshaphat was reigning in Judah, we find in Israel one of the very worst kings that God ever gave them, as a punishment for their sins.
This was Ahab. He found the people idolaters, and he led them on still further in their wickedness : he went so far as even to build a house of worship for Baal their god; and this, too, in his chief town or capital, the city of Samaria, which had been built by Omri, one of the bad kings who went before him. One thing, which helped to make Ahab far worse than he would otherwise have been, was his marrying a very bad heathen princess, called Jezebel, by whom he was persuaded into all kinds of wickedness.
But though both king and people sinned so grievously, the Lord God of Israel did not utterly forsake them. He continued still to send his prophets among them to endeavour to lead them back to the right way.
One of these holy prophets was Elijah. He was highly favoured by God; and by the Divine Power performed many very wonderful works.
E. Did he live in the time of king Ahab, mamma?
M. Yes; this great prophet was sent to Ahab by God Almighty, to pronounce a curse upon the land of Israel because of its great wickedness.
E. What was the curse, mamma?
“ As the Lord God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these three years." And it happened accordingly: for during three years and six months there was no rain in the land.
E. No rain for three years and six months! Oh!
mamma; how much the people must have suffered for want of it!
M. Yes, my love, they must indeed; and that without being able to look any where for help. They had forsaken the God of their fathers, who had opened streams for them in the desert; and they might call for ever upon their idols, without getting one drop of water to refresh their weary land.
E. Ah ! mamma, that makes me think of the verse you taught me the other day from the prophet Jeremiah. I will say it to you. “Are there any among the vanities of the heathen, that can give rain ? Or can the heavens give showers ? Art not thou He, O Lord our God? Therefore, we will wait upon thee, for thou hast made all these things.”
M. You have remembered it very nicely, my love, and it is well suited to our subject. You will think, perhaps, that a message, so full of misery to his country, would have brought Ahab to a sense of his sins, and that he would have entreated Elijah to pray to God for them, that he might turn away his anger. But it was not so. No sooner had Elijah told the king the words of the Lord, than we find the prophet desired by the Lord to hide himself from Ahab, to escape, no doubt, from his anger; for he hated the holy man. But the life of his servant Elijah was dear to God; and, therefore, the anger of this wicked king could do him no manner of harm. Many times did God preserve him, and provide for his wants, in a very wonderful way.
E. Where did Elijah go, mamma, to hide himself from Ahab ?