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« Reply #15 on: June 17, 2008, 07:28:41 AM »

THE  PROPHET OF FIRE
The life and times of Elijah, with their lessons
4. CHERITH AND ZAREPHATH
By John MacDuff, 1877

        Let us adore the freeness of His mercy. God's thoughts are not our thoughts, neither are His ways our ways. Man has generally some reason for conferring his favors -- some claim arising from person or pedigree, from character or attainments. But God's sole motive in conferring favors is His own free and gracious purpose. "It is not of him that wills, nor of him that runs, but of God that shows mercy." He takes a Manasseh filling Jerusalem with blood, and makes him a monument of forgiveness. He takes a Saul breathing out his blasphemies, and converts him into the great Apostle. He takes a Samaritan leper and fills his tongue with gospel praise, while the nine of Jewish birth and privilege go thankless and ungrateful to their homes. He takes a crude heathen jailer, or an unprincipled tax-gatherer of Jericho, or a profligate woman of Capernaum, or a felon in his last agonies, while many encircled with the halo of natural virtues or with the prestige of religious education and training, are left to perish in their ungodliness and unbelief and pride!

        He took as the founders of His Church and the ambassadors of His cause -- not philosophers of Rome, nor polished Greeks, nor learned Rabbis -- but a handful of unlettered fishermen from the villages of half-heathen Galilee. And it is the same principle we recognize still in His dealings. He often passes by the great, the powerful, the rich, the learned, the educated -- yes, even the virtuous and the amiable; and He crowds the marriage-supper of the King -- from the highways and hedges -- with the poor and the illiterate, the outcast and prodigal. He often leaves palace and castle and stately mansion and lettered hall, and enters the humble cottage and the poor man's garret. He leaves the nominal British Christian, the polished European, and He takes the poor native of Africa, or the cannibal of the South Seas, and converts these children of darkness into children of light. He leaves noble vessels to lie on the sands on which they have been stranded, and He takes the lowly unsightly craft around them and sets them floating on the waters.

        May not this be the solemn reflection of some whose eyes fall on these pages? My old companions -- those at one time better and more promising than I -- have been long ago scattered as wrecks on life's ocean, entangled in the swirling vortex, and hurried down into nameless depths of infamy. And how is it that I am made to differ? -- that that tale of misery and ruin -- that which, in the case of others, has broken a parent's heart, whitened his hairs with the snows of premature age, and sent him sobbing and halting to the grave -- how is it that I have escaped these dread temptations; and that, while others have broken loose with a worse than maniac's madness, I am this day sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in my right mind? Not unto me, O God! not unto me, but unto Your name be all the glory! I read the reason, written in gleaming letters, in the heights and depths of Your own Infinite love. By Your grace (Your free, sovereign, unmerited grace alone) I am what I am!

        Let us farther learn GOD'S RECOMPENSE OF UNSELFISH KINDNESS. So far as we can infer, this poor woman assented to the appeal of the famished, fainting Prophet, without any hope of recompense or reward. Those who are themselves suffering calamity are generally most ready in their straitened circumstances to lend a kindly ear to the woes of others. Just as we may have seen that the mother, with naked feet and hungry children, singing her mournful song on the streets, is most willingly and generously relieved by those who have known, by sad personal experience, what similar exigencies are.

        The widow of Zarephath went back for the vessel of water to assuage the Prophet's thirst with the heavy thought and certainty burdening her heart, that the hours of her own life and that of her boy were numbered. But God is not unmindful of her work of faith and her labor of love in that she ministered to one of His saints. Hers was the "scattering and yet increasing." She had paid her little mite into the bank of Heaven -- in lending to His servant, she had lent to the Lord; and back comes the hundredfold interest -- the payment with a divine munificent repayment. She experienced, temporally and spiritually, the reality of a gospel promise, afterwards uttered by the lips of Truth itself -- "Do good and lend, hoping for nothing again, and your reward shall be great, and you shall be the children of the Highest." The barrel and cruse are replenished; the shadows of death are warded off from her home -- and Heaven's blessing descends, better than all. In giving of her earthly pittance, this idolatress learned, that the God of Israel was not like Baal, but a living Being in whom the lowly, the poor, and helpless might trust. In exchange for the "daily bread which perishes," she received the nobler recompense of the heavenly. Her lone heart was taught a truth which no Baal could utter -- "Your Maker is your husband, the Lord of hosts is his name, and your Redeemer the Holy One of Israel." "She and he and her house did eat many days -- and the barrel of meal wasted not, neither did the cruse of oil fail, according to the word of the Lord which he spoke by Elijah."

        The old economy dealt largely in temporal blessings. Good deeds then, were generally acknowledged by temporal recompense. It is different under the new economy. Its recompenses and rewards point rather to the future. But this does not lessen or impair the truth and certainty of the Divine promises -- "Those who honor me, I will honor" -- "Give, and it shall be given unto you, good measure pressed down and shaken together and running over" -- "If you draw out your soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul, then shall your light rise in obscurity, and your darkness be as the noonday. And the Lord shall guide you continually, and satisfy your soul in drought." If not now, there is a time of recompense at hand for all pure, lofty, beneficent, unselfish kindness done in Christ's name, and out of love for Him and His people. On the Great Day of God, what is to be the test and evidence of a saving personal interest in Jesus? What is the touchstone which the great Savior-Judge Himself is to apply in the case of the myriad crowd sisted at His bar? -- "I was hungry, and you gave me food; I was thirsty, and you gave me drink; I was a stranger, and you took me in. Inasmuch as you did it" to the greatest, such as that Prophet; or to the least, such as that famishing Lazarus at the gate, "you did it unto ME!"
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« Reply #16 on: June 17, 2008, 07:30:24 AM »

THE  PROPHET OF FIRE
The life and times of Elijah, with their lessons
4. CHERITH AND ZAREPHATH
By John MacDuff, 1877

        And if there be one other thought yet suggested to us, it is this -- GOD'S TENDER CARE OF THE WIDOW. How specially was the Widow's case provided for under the Old Testament economy -- "You shall not afflict any widow, or fatherless child. If you afflict them in any way, and they cry at all to me, I will surely hear their cry." "When you cut down your harvest in your field, and have forgotten a sheaf in the field, you shall not go again to fetch it -- it shall be for the stranger, and for the fatherless, and for the widow…When you beat your olive-tree, you shall not go over the boughs again -- it shall be for the stranger, for the fatherless, and for the widow. When you gather the grapes of your vineyard, you shall not glean it afterward -- it shall be for the stranger, for the fatherless, and for the widow."

        Who can fail to remember, in New Testament story, the scene outside the gate of Nain? How kindly and beneficently the great Sympathizer approaches the chief mourner, and utters first the gentle "Weep not;" and then the word of power which brings back her loved one to her side! There were, we may well believe, other homes and other parents in Galilee similarly bereft at that moment and needing support. What took the Savior's steps to the city of Nain? Why select that funeral crowd amid the many wending their way at that doleful sunset hour to the 'long home'? Are we wrong in surmising that, had any disciple asked the question -- had they ventured to probe His heart of love -- He would have given, in all probability, the touching reason assigned by the Evangelist, when his enumeration of the elements and ingredients in that bereft one's sorrow rises to this climax -- "And she was a widow?"

        That Divine love and sympathy remain unchanged. God is to this hour, as He ever was, "a judge of the widow in His holy habitation." The name of that Savior who stood at the gates of Nain, and mingled His own tears with the widow's there, is "Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, and today, and forever." God's promises are the same to all -- irrespective of rank, or age, or country. Around this Treasury of comfort for the lone sufferer and sorrower, rich and poor may meet together. The cottager's widow in her lone hut, and the widowed monarch in her sackclothed halls, are heirs to one and the same promise of the widow's God -- "Leave your fatherless children, I will preserve them alive; and let your widows trust in me."
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« Reply #17 on: June 17, 2008, 07:31:55 AM »

THE  PROPHET OF FIRE
The life and times of Elijah, with their lessons
5. LIGHTS AND SHADOWS
By John MacDuff, 1877
       

        1 Kings 17:17-24

        Some time later, the woman's son became sick. He grew worse and worse, and finally he died. She then said to Elijah, "O man of God, what have you done to me? Have you come here to punish my sins by killing my son?"
        But Elijah replied, "Give me your son." And he took the boy's body from her, carried him up to the upper room, where he lived, and laid the body on his bed. Then Elijah cried out to the Lord, "O Lord my God, why have you brought tragedy on this widow who has opened her home to me, causing her son to die?"
        And he stretched himself out over the child three times and cried out to the Lord, "O Lord my God, please let this child's life return to him." The Lord heard Elijah's prayer, and the life of the child returned, and he came back to life! Then Elijah brought him down from the upper room and gave him to his mother. "Look, your son is alive!" he said.
        Then the woman told Elijah, "Now I know for sure that you are a man of God, and that the Lord truly speaks through you."
         

        "Behold, I have refined you, but not with silver; I have chosen you in the furnace of affliction." -- Isaiah 48:10

        In our last chapter we left Elijah under the roof of the widow of Zarephath. The famine was still raging amid the thousands around. But as each morning's sun rose on the inhabitants of this tranquil home, lo, the barrel and the cruse which the evening meal seemed to have exhausted were again replenished. God's mercies were "new to them every morning, and His faithfulness every night."

        We can only venture to surmise how the Prophet's hours, in this secluded dwelling, would be spent. We can follow him in thought, as at times, perhaps, he wandered up the rocky ridges which flanked the town, gazing now on the everlasting snows of Hermon, now on the wood-crowned top of Tabor -- thus beholding both "Tabor and Hermon" "rejoicing in God's name." Or, as at other times, he would wander along the shores of "the great and wide sea," in adoring contemplation of Him who takes up the waters in the hollow of His hand, and who "gives the sea His decree." Yet again, when the barrel had yielded its evening supply, and the lamp had been lighted from the unfailing oil-cruse, we can picture him unfolding to these two children of Pagan Phoenicia, the name and works and divine character of the God of Israel -- dwelling on the glorious promise spoken to the fathers, but in the blessings of which all the families of the earth were to participate. We can picture him narrating to them the eventful scenes in his national annals -- Egypt -- the exodus -- the wilderness -- the conquest of Canaan -- the wonders of the old prophetic age -- the splendor of the reigns of David and Solomon. We can think, perhaps, of Prophet and widow and child joining their voices together in the psalms of the great Hebrew minstrel -- many of them so applicable to their own circumstances and experience -- "Happy is he that has the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the Lord his God; who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that therein is; who keeps truth forever; who executes judgment for the oppressed; who gives food to the hungry. The Lord preserves the strangers; he relieves the fatherless and widow." Or, more appropriate still in that heathen Tyrian home -- "And the daughter of Tyre shall be there with a gift; even the rich among the people shall entreat your favor. Instead of your fathers shall be your children, whom you may make princes in all the earth. I will make your name to be remembered in all generations -- therefore shall the people praise you forever and ever!"

        We have every reason to believe that these two heathen-born Phoenicians -- mother and child -- would, under the training of the Hebrew stranger, be brought to a saving knowledge of divine truth. While led to see that Baal was a mute, insensible idol, they would be taught also to love and reverence that God who had given deliverance in the hour of their extremity, and for soul as well as body, learn to offer the prayer -- "Give us this day our daily bread."

        Moreover, "that church in the house" forms a significant incident in sacred story, prefigurative of gospel times. Suggestive surely was the fact of a messenger of Heaven, a prophet of Israel, being sent to a home in distant Phoenicia to unfold to heathen hearts the way of salvation. In this sense Elijah occupies the illustrious position of a first missionary to the Gentiles -- bequeathing, by his example to the Church of the future -- the Church of our own age -- a lesson of the duty which we owe to our benighted brethren in pagan lands -- when, in obedience to the commission of its Great Head, the heralds of the cross go forth into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.
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« Reply #18 on: June 17, 2008, 07:33:21 AM »

THE  PROPHET OF FIRE
The life and times of Elijah, with their lessons
5. LIGHTS AND SHADOWS
By John MacDuff, 1877

        But a dark season is at hand for that lowly home at Zarephath. Perhaps it was with this widow, as with many among us still -- in her state of comparative prosperity -- of exemption, at all events, from the pressure of famine so severely felt all around -- she may have been beginning to forget the hand which was filling her empty cupboard, and warding off poverty from her dwelling. Miraculously fed from day to day -- seeing the barrel and the cruse each morning recruited with the needed supply -- she may have begun to feel too confidently secure -- that her "mountain was standing strong" -- and that she might safely calculate on a permanent immunity from the inroads of trial.

        How apt are we, after a season of long-continued blessing -- unbroken prosperity -- to indulge in this spirit of boastful independence -- taking our daily comforts -- food -- health -- friends -- children, as matters of course. We may see in the case of others -- these strong pillars -- these "beautiful rods" -- bowed and broken -- but our inmost thought and feeling is, "I am all secure -- I need not fear!" So may have meditated the Sarepta widow. And the last trial she would ever have anticipated, would probably be the very one that was in store for her. With appalling suddenness, the little life -- the light of her dwelling -- is extinguished! "There is no breath left in him."

        Since this beloved and only child had been given back to her from the gates of famine and death, we may imagine her heart-strings had entwined more tenderly then ever around him; he was every day growing up more of a companion and solace to her -- a pledge of unspeakable blessing in her latter years -- when his arms would toil for her, and his prayers would comfort her, and his hands at last would close her eyes in death. Sad, indeed, that that one lone star which twinkled in her skies should be quenched! Better it had been if, two years ago, his sun had gone down in opening day, than have so mournful a setting now. His being spared only to be taken, seemed a cruel mocking of her grief and tears. All her hopes and joys perished in that hour of woe. She could bear to see the barrel of meal yielding a diminished supply -- she could endure to look on an empty, unreplenished cruse -- but to gaze on that withered flower, lying cold and lifeless in her bosom -- to lose HIM, this was death indeed!

        We cannot, perhaps, wonder that for a time, faith, and patience, and submission, were tempted to give way. In the bitterness of her bereft soul, she thus upbraids the Prophet, "O man of God, what have you done to me? Have you come here to punish my sins by killing my son?" The words were a cutting reflection on Elijah, as well as an insinuation against Elijah's God. It was as if she had said, "What have I done to provoke at your hands so terrible a calamity? Is this your recompense and requital for my sheltering your defenseless head? In pity, I gave you welcome to my humble roof. Have these been your answered prayers for your benefactress? Has your God come, in this fearful retributive sense, to be the 'Judge of the widow?' Have you come, a wolf in sheep's clothing, to slay my son?"

        How striking is the contrast between this agony of her impassioned grief and the calm composure manifested when she first met Elijah. Then, her child's death was equally imminent, and threatened, also, under a more terrible form. Her words on that occasion, in speaking of partaking with him of her last morsel, were these, "That we may eat it and die." She had familiarized herself with the approach of the last enemy -- it was the passive, silent, submission of blank despair.

        Now, however, it was "sudden death" -- death unexpected -- death when she was handling the full cup. It was her gourd withering, not by a process of slow, gradual decay -- drooping leaf by leaf; but it was, as with Jonah, the luxuriant plant -- entwined fresh and beauteous around her evening bower -- becoming, in a night, a mass of blighted, withered leaves. In the words of the patriarch of Ur, "The morning was even as the shadow of death."

        Nor can we fail to admire Elijah's conduct in the trying circumstances. We know to what course his natural character would have impelled him. Hurt at the unkind and unjust accusation -- his fiery nature might have prompted him to retaliate. He might, with an angry word, have answered the ungenerous suspicion breathed by that broken heart. But there is no syllable of recrimination or resentment. He says nothing (as he might have done) about the blessing he had been, and brought, to her household. He makes no reference to the barrel and the cruse beside them, the silent witnesses of God's mercy and goodness. Deeply touched at the impressive sight of death -- and, perhaps, with a tender love for the youthful victim -- he makes kind allowance for the anguish of the childless widow.
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« Reply #19 on: June 17, 2008, 07:35:12 AM »

THE  PROPHET OF FIRE
The life and times of Elijah, with their lessons
5. LIGHTS AND SHADOWS
By John MacDuff, 1877

        Saying, "Give me your son," he takes the cold marble statue, the dead body, in his arms, and carries it to his own couch. In Eastern dwellings in these times -- as at the present day, there was generally a room higher than the rest of the building, called "alliyeh," or, as it is here translated, "loft," where strangers and guests were accommodated. In the better class of houses, it was regarded as the place of honor. To this upper room, Elijah bears the lifeless child. That quiet chamber echoes to the voice of impassioned prayer. The Prophet, though he had hid and controlled his feelings before the sorrowing mother, evidently felt keenly the severity of the blow. He dreaded lest the dealings of his God might be misjudged by that crushed mourner, and "he cried unto the Lord, and said, O Lord my God, have You also brought evil upon the widow with whom I sojourn, by slaying her son?"

        Laying the corpse upon the bed, he stretched himself upon it -- not for the purpose of imparting, as some have thought, natural warmth to revive and quicken the dormant physical energies -- but rather, it would seem, to communicate the quickening power of God. He knew that He who had "brought the evil" could alone remove it. Three times, as he overlaid the dead body, did the importunate cry ascend, "O Lord, my God, I beg you let this child's life come into him again!"

        The prayer is heard -- the limbs begin to move -- the eye dilates -- the pulse beats. Back comes the departed spirit. "The Prophet of Fire" has rekindled the cold ashes on this desolated hearth; and carrying in his arms the living trophy of God's goodness, he hushes the sobs of the mother with the joyful announcement -- "See, your son lives!" Her tears are dried. Her murmurings cease. Her faith in Israel's Jehovah is confirmed. "Now" -- is the utterance of her bounding heart -- "by this I know that you are a man of God, and that the word of the Lord in your mouth is truth."

        From this touching and suggestive episode in the Prophet's history, we may gather, as one out of many PRACTICAL LESSONS, that bereavement is not necessarily a Divine judgment on account of any special sin. The widow, in the first moments of her grief, as she sat with her dead son upon her lap -- the hot tears coursing down her cheek -- was led to form the hasty conclusion, that God had sent her this heavy chastisement as a rebuke and retribution for some previous transgression. "O man of God, what have you done to me? Have you come here to punish my sins by killing my son?"

        Many, we know, in the season of bereavement are apt to draw a similar unwarranted deduction -- saying to themselves what Job's unfeeling friends reproachfully addressed to him, as they pointed to the miserable bed of dust and ashes on which he lay -- "Such, surely, are the dwellings of the wicked; and this is the place of him that knows not God." But we may thus often misinterpret the reason and motive of the Divine dealings. Our Lord, in one of His great miracles -- curing the blind man at the temple gate -- declared emphatically, in opposition to the false and gratuitous assumption of the Pharisees, that it was in consequence of no sin either of the sufferer or his parents that he had been doomed to grope his way in darkness at noontide, but "that the works of God might be made manifest in him." Let us not, therefore, hastily surmise when God at times sees fit to empty the chairs and hush the loved voices of our households, that some specific sin must have evoked that special judgment and drawn forth the arrow from the Almighty's quiver. At the very moment when the darkness of death was shadowing the home of Bethany, "Jesus," we read, "loved Martha, Mary, and Lazarus."

        We may farther learn from the incident we have been considering, that no amount of good works, or of active service in the cause of God, will exempt us from trial. This widow had rendered the greatest benefit which the Church of Christ at that age could receive, by affording shelter to its most valued servant and defender, the great Prophet of Heaven. Yet she was smitten. Her generous pity and kindness to God's ambassador could not shield her from the assaults of trial! It becomes us, whatever be the Divine dealings, never to ask with the voice of complaint and querulous upbraiding, "If the Lord is with us, why has all this befallen us?"

        No good deeds or lofty virtues or self-denying services, will purchase for us immunity from His righteous ordination, that through much tribulation we must enter into the kingdom. Whatever be our lot or portion, be it ours to "rejoice with trembling." The vessel best manned and equipped may strike on the sunken rock, as well as the crudest and most unseaworthy craft. No, God's most favored saints are often put in the foremost ranks of chastisement. Upon the most fruit-bearing trees of His garden He often uses His pruning-knife. Trial, in its varied forms, has ever been employed by Him as a powerful means of leading to deeper convictions of sin, as well as a salutary quickener of spiritual graces. He knows what discipline is best fitted to draw the soul to Himself; and often does He show that none is so effectual as that which was employed in this home at Zarephath -- snapping the ties which bind us to the creature -- disuniting us from earthly to bind us to heavenly things. How many can tell -- "I date my first deep sense of sin -- my first lively apprehension of Christ and of Divine realities -- to the hour when my dwelling was rifled of its cherished treasures. I would have been to this moment sunk in the sleep of death, had He not roused me from my perilous dream, and taken husband or wife, brother or sister or child!"
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« Reply #20 on: June 17, 2008, 07:36:48 AM »

THE  PROPHET OF FIRE
The life and times of Elijah, with their lessons
5. LIGHTS AND SHADOWS
By John MacDuff, 1877

        This, however, reminds us of the deep mystery there is in many of God's providential dispensations. Amid all the homes of that region, who would have expected that the one to be so terribly smitten, was that which had, for two years, kindly screened the head of the exiled Prophet of Israel. Surely, we might think, if there be one dwelling more than another secure from the assaults of the dread invader, it will be that of the widow of Sarepta, and of the hope and solace of her declining years, who, if spared, might be spared to be an honored instrument in the defense and maintenance of the true religion. And yet, behold, the desire of her eyes and the delight of her heart taken away by a stroke!

        How often are we baffled and confounded by similar dealings -- useless lives spared, and useful lives taken. Decayed scaffoldings, crumbling props remaining -- and the strong and vigorous, the virtuous and useful, swept down in a moment! There is no present 'key' to these dark dispensations. Many a weeping eye cannot read them through blinding tears. But the day is coming when we shall read them -- when they shall be luminous with love. Earth may not, as in the case of the widow of Phoenicia, give us back our dead -- no prophet's voice can reanimate the silent ashes -- no anguish of prayer recall the winged spirit. But we joyfully believe the day is coming when we shall write under every mystic providence, "He has done all things well."

        Yes, bereaved ones, you shall no more weep over early graves, when you yourselves pass upwards to the realms of glory, and hear from your loved ones as they are waiting to greet you at the door of heaven, that by an early death they were "taken away from the evil to come." Meanwhile let us rejoice, like Elijah, in the assurance, that "the Lord reigns" -- that all bereavements and chastisements are His appointments -- "You" (the Prophet says, addressing his God in prayer) -- "YOU" (the living Jehovah) "have brought this evil." Oh comforting thought! enough to dry all tears and silence all murmurings -- "Is there evil in the city," in the cottage, in the palace -- is there evil which blights some unknown poor man's dwelling -- is there evil which clothes a nation in mourning, "and the Lord has not done it?"

        The narrative farther exhibits, what we have already had occasion to note in the Prophet's life, and to which we shall have frequent cause to revert -- the energy and power of prayer. Not when he supplicates that Heaven should seal up its rains and dews from a whole nation -- not when on Carmel, as we shall find him before long, invoking judgement on Baal and his priests -- is his prayer more earnest than now, in this lowly dwelling, when not the lives of thousands, but the life of one little child, is the subject of his intercession.

        He seems, indeed, to have felt personally deeply moved under this sudden bereavement. The strong, heroic, brave man could bear with equanimity any ills affecting himself, but he was stung to the quick under the imputation of his benefactress. He could not brook the allegation of bringing evil on the home of one who had opened her door to a friendless stranger. His prayer is an urgent appeal to God -- (we had almost said a bold remonstrance) -- as a just and merciful and righteous Being. "It cannot be, Lord," he seems to say; "You can not allow this reproach to descend on me and on Your great Name! You, who have made the widow's cause Your own, oh, do not thus recompense her kindness to me! Let not this heathen woman say, as she points to her childless home and buried treasure, 'Where is now your God?'"

        We can imagine the Tishbite pacing up and down his little chamber in importunate, impassioned prayer -- but yet with no doubt as to the result of his intercession. It was a mighty demand, indeed, for a mortal to make, a request that had no previous parallel in praying lips. It was nothing short of this, that unassailable Death be stormed in his own strongholds -- that the iron crown be plucked from the head of the King of terrors. When Elijah does manifest faith, it is always of the noblest type. He would doubtless now revert to his life-motto -- the first utterance of his prophetic mission -- "Jehovah lives." Confiding in the "El Shaddai," he feels confident that He who gave him his brook at Cherith, will restore this more sacred living brook which had been so suddenly dried in its earthly channel. Strong in faith, giving glory to God, he proceeds to the couch where the lifeless child lay, and to the act of awakening. Once more he stands before us as delineated by James, "the righteous man," bearing the glorious testimony as to the "availing" -- the "much availing power" -- of "effectual fervent prayer!"

        Finally, we have here a glimpse given us of the doctrine of the Resurrection. This was a truth dimly unfolded in Old Testament times. Its full revelation was reserved for Him who, under a more glorious economy, "abolished death, and brought life and immortality to light." As the gladdening words sounded in the mother's ears, "See, your son lives!" not only was that widow herself taught that the God of Elijah had a power which no Baal ever had, in imparting life to the still ashes -- reanimating the cold clay, and putting light into the rayless eyes; but it was a parable to the Jewish Church of that great gospel disclosure, that there is a day coming "when all that are in their graves shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear shall live."

        No, more -- from the fact which is expressly recorded in the inspired narrative, that Elijah brought down the living child from the upper chamber into the house, "and delivered him to his mother," we have the precious thought suggested, under a significant figure, that in that glorious resurrection-morning friends will be reunited to friends -- there will be undying reunions of the departed in the Church of the glorified -- mothers restored to the embrace of children, and lost little ones given back to their parents! How will the happiness of that day of complete triumph be augmented and enhanced, as death-divided relatives, re-linked in bonds of purified earthly affection and love, will be able to exclaim to one another, See, my son! my parent! my brother! my long-lost one! -- see, HE LIVES!
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« Reply #21 on: June 17, 2008, 07:38:49 AM »

THE  PROPHET OF FIRE
The life and times of Elijah, with their lessons
6. OBADIAH AND THE SEARCH FOR PROVENDER
By John MacDuff, 1877
       

        1 Kings 18:1-6

        After many months passed, in the third year of the drought, the Lord said to Elijah, "Go and present yourself to King Ahab. Tell him that I will soon send rain!" So Elijah went to appear before Ahab.
        Meanwhile, the famine had become very severe in Samaria. So Ahab summoned Obadiah, who was in charge of the palace. (Now Obadiah was a devoted follower of the Lord. Once when Jezebel had tried to kill all the Lord's prophets, Obadiah had hidden one hundred of them in two caves. He had put fifty prophets in each cave and had supplied them with food and water.) Ahab said to Obadiah, "We must check every spring and valley to see if we can find enough grass to save at least some of my horses and mules." So they divided the land between them. Ahab went one way by himself, and Obadiah went another way by himself.
       
        "Your silver and gold will be of no use to you on that day of the Lord's anger. For the whole land will be devoured by the fire of his jealousy. He will make a terrifying end of all the people on earth. Beg the Lord to save you - all you who are humble, all you who uphold justice. Walk humbly and do what is right. Perhaps even yet the Lord will protect you from his anger on that day of destruction." Zephaniah 2:3

        Elijah had come to the lowly dwelling where still he tarries -- a homeless Jewish prophet -- an unbefriended stranger. Now, we have good reason to suppose, he was regarded, alike by mother and son, as an angel of God -- a Heaven-sent messenger of mercy -- who had "delivered their souls from death, their eyes from tears, and their feet from falling."

        We know not how long he continued at his adopted home after the miraculous raising of the child. But be the time long or short, he quietly waits the Divine will regarding his departure. As we have already noted, in speaking of the place of his former seclusion at Cherith, so still more on the present occasion might he have been disposed, with his ardent impulsive spirit, to fret under this long withdrawal from active public work. Three of the best years of his life spent in inaction! He who could exercise (as we shall find afterwards) an almost magic power over multitudes -- why should he be pent up for this protracted period in a cottage of Gentile Phoenicia, when he might have been doing mighty deeds amid the many thousands of Israel? Why should so noble a vessel be left lazily sleeping on its shadows in the harbor, when, it might have been out wrestling with the storm, conveying priceless stores to needy hearts?

        But it was enough for Elijah, now as formerly, to feel assured that it was part of the Divine plan. He felt that he was glorifying his God, just because he was occupying his assigned and appointed place for the time, as much in that humble habitation as he did on the heights of Carmel. The Christian poet represents those angels in heaven who "only stand and wait," as "serving" -- doing their Lord's will -- as truly as the swift-winged messengers who carry to and fro the behests of His pleasure -- and of the Church militant on earth, "Thus says Jehovah," by the mouth of His prophet, "In returning and rest shall you be saved -- in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength."

        We can serve God in rest and in quietness -- in the noiseless tenor of an uneventful existence -- as well as in the feverish bustle or prominent position of an active one. Let this be the comfort of those whose lot may be lowly, obscure, uninfluential. They are accepted according to what they have, not according to what they have not. The domestic servant in her kitchen; the mechanic with his begrimed hands at his daily toil; the weaver at his shuttle, the cobbler at his stall; the ploughman at his team, the lonely sick one on his or her couch of languishing -- these being each in the way of duty, or necessity, may, in their peculiar sphere and work, as truly glorify their Maker and Redeemer, as the philanthropist at his desk solving great social problems, or the minister of the gospel in his pulpit; swaying thousands by his words!

        Elijah, however, did not love for its own sake inglorious ease. So long as it was his Lord's will, he remained seated under this pleasant vine and fig-tree. But, like a true soldier, he was prepared at the bugle note to jump from his pillow, assume his armor, and rush into the fight. That summons in due time was heard. "After many days the word of the Lord came to Elijah in the third year, saying, Go, show yourself unto Ahab, and I will send rain upon the earth." He did not hesitate. With cheerful alacrity he grasps his pilgrim staff, flings the prophet mantle once more around his shoulders, and crosses into the valleys of Samaria.

        How his spirit must have been bowed with sadness as he traversed the famine-stricken land! Wherever he looked, the scourge of God -- the scourge of sin met his eye. The green pastures and the still waters, of which the great Hebrew poet sang, gleamed no longer under the joyous sunshine. Hushed were the notes of the shepherd's pipe, and the bleatings of the flocks. The sickles hang rusting on the closed granary doors. A hundred skeleton forms flitted with glazed eyes across his path -- the vintage shoutings had ceased -- the fig-tree no longer blossomed -- there was no fruit in the vine -- the labor of the olive tree had failed -- the fields yielded no food. Oh, what a comfort, amid these scenes of misery, to repose on the word of the living Jehovah, "I will send rain upon the earth;" knowing that what the Lord had spoken he would faithfully perform; that perhaps but a few brief days would elapse, before the funeral pall should be rolled aside.

        But a new character here reveals himself in the sacred narrative in the person of Obadiah, the prime minister or steward of Ahab's palace. We are called to witness in him another wondrous instance of God's sovereign grace. We have had occasion, in a recent chapter, to refer to a signal example of that sovereignty in the case of a heathen widow -- a votary of Phoenician Baal. We have now a miracle and monument of divine mercy in the court of a wicked and licentious king of Israel -- for "Obadiah feared the Lord greatly."
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« Reply #22 on: June 17, 2008, 07:40:25 AM »

THE  PROPHET OF FIRE
The life and times of Elijah, with their lessons
6. OBADIAH AND THE SEARCH FOR PROVENDER
By John MacDuff, 1877

        How, we may ask, could a worshiper of Jehovah reside in the midst of so much degeneracy, idolatry, and crime? How could the lily rear its head amid these thorns -- this sheep of the fold survive in the midst of ravening wolves? We answer -- just in the same way as divine grace, in the earlier part of this century, molded and quickened and sustained such men as Wilberforce, Fowell Buxton, and others, in the midst of the lax, irreligious society, and the dissolute, licentious court-life of England. Yes, and just as, in the midst of much ridicule and derision in the present day, there are those in the high places of the land, who are able boldly to take up their cross, and who count this the brightest gem in their coronets -- "We serve the Lord Jesus."

        The natural influence of the corrupt moral atmosphere of Ahab's court, would be to rear, in the person of the chief officer, a cruel, unscrupulous tyrant -- the creature and myrmidon of Ahab and Jezebel -- who would climb to power and favor by his severity against the prophets of the God of Israel. If Obadiah had been a base time-server, his life aim would have been to assist and instigate the diabolical designs of the royal persecutors. But the grace of God and the fear of God were in his heart, and he knew no other fear. Under the insolence of oriental rule, he might well have dreaded the combined influence of the queen and the idolatrous priests on the despot's will, in compassing his degradation and ruin; but, sustained by the power of religious principle, this righteous man was bold as a lion. He gave one specially unmistakable proof of his heroism and true moral chivalry -- for when Jezebel was involving the prophets of Jehovah in an indiscriminate massacre, Obadiah hid and sheltered them by fifties in a cave, and fed them on bread and water.

        It is easy for us, in an age of fashionable profession, to espouse the Christian name, and subscribe the Christian creed, and call ourselves worshipers of the Lord God of Elijah. But it was no ordinary test of spiritual courage to stand alone, a witness for Jehovah in the midst of a godless palace -- to raise a solitary altar -- a solitary protest on the side of insulted Goodness -- when polluted incense was rising from Baal's shrines all around, and the very people of the land were in guilty accord with their monarch, ignoring their great heritage -- the truth bequeathed to them in sacred trust -- "Jehovah lives!"

        Obadiah, moreover, is a remarkable testimony to that singular respect which sterling character and worth command, even from irreligious men. Uprightness, purity, consistency, honesty of purpose, have always an irresistible influence and charm even to base natures. Bloated vice stands rebuked and abashed in the presence of virtue. The wretched slave of sin and pollution respects the purity which degrading habit forbids himself to practice. Herod -- the parallel of Ahab in the gospel history -- hated John's religion and that of his Master; but he could not help admiring and respecting his honesty, self-sacrifice, self-denial, and boldness. "When a man's ways please the Lord, he makes his very enemies to be at peace with him." As it was with Joseph in the court of heathen Pharaoh, or Daniel in the palace of heathen Babylon, Obadiah's piety, worth, and goodness exalted him to the highest honors which his sovereign had in his power to bestow. Ahab may have hated from his heart the Jehovah-worshiper -- but he revered and reverenced the faithful counselor, with his stainless honor and unblemished life.

        But Obadiah is brought before us in connection with a mission in which he was engaged in conjunction with his royal master -- a mission which, oriental writers tell us, is frequently still undertaken in seasons of temporary drought by chiefs and petty kings in Syria, Persia, and Hindostan. Fountains of water -- so precious in pastoral districts, and specially in the desert -- are spoken of in the figurative language of the East as "eyes;" and when these eyes -- these fountains -- in a season of great scarcity are closed, it seems to be considered a sort of royal prerogative to visit them in person; as if some charm or magical power were possessed by the chiefs of the land to reach or bribe their locked-up treasures. It was in accordance with this immemorial usage that Ahab said unto Obadiah, "Go into the land, unto all fountains of water, and unto all brooks -- peradventure we may find grass to save the horses and mules alive, that we lose not all the beasts. So they divided the land between them, to pass throughout it. Ahab went one way by himself, and Obadiah went another way by himself."

        We shall conclude this chapter by drawing TWO LESSONS from the conduct of Ahab as here presented to us.

        Let us note the lowliness and cruelty of a selfish nature. How terrible -- how appalling must have been the scenes which presented themselves to the eye of the king in this strange journey! But what are we told was his object in thus traversing his dominions, either all alone or probably with his staff of followers? Noble would it have been to minister consolation to the dead and dying, even by his presence and sympathy, or to devise means in the desperate circumstances to ameliorate the condition of his famishing subjects. But he has no higher, no other object than to save his animals -- his mules and horses! Let the horses and mules -- let the royal herds browsing in the park of Jezreel -- let them be saved. Let the coursers be fed and kept alive which grace his cavalcade or draw his chariot -- let fountains and brooks and patches of verdure be diligently sought for them; but let the people be left to their miserable fate!
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« Reply #23 on: June 17, 2008, 07:42:01 AM »

THE  PROPHET OF FIRE
The life and times of Elijah, with their lessons
6. OBADIAH AND THE SEARCH FOR PROVENDER
By John MacDuff, 1877

        Has this intense selfishness, this guilty squandering on personal pleasure, to the exclusion of the claims of human misery and woe, been confined to Ahab or his age? Alas! may not the conduct of Ahab be seen in many still, who lavish a fortune on the animals which perish, while they withhold the humblest mite from the starving orphan or the perishing brother or sister? Do we then condemn these or kindred luxuries? By no means. In this mighty country, wealth was given to be enjoyed, as well as employed. Whatever a man's tastes may be, if innocent and ennobling, let these, within due limitation, be cultivated and gratified. Only, (and here is the qualification,) the pampering of self must not be at the expense of the prior and pre-eminent claims of the destitute and needy. A man is entitled to turn, like Ahab, to his stables; to his horses and mules -- his carriages and equipages; only after he has resolved this question in the sight of God, and of his own conscience, "Have I done my duty to the poor? Have I answered, according to my means, the calls of distress? Have I given my proportion to that languishing mission cause? Have I helped as I ought that starving charity?" Yes! Then, have your luxuries as you like, and enjoy them with satisfaction.

        When one goes -- shall we say, to see some country residence with its lordly manor -- some modern park of Jezreel with its antlered children of the forest feeding in picturesque groups, or bounding through the glades -- or when, leaving the park, you enter the ancestral halls which wealth has been permitted to enrich with rare works of art -- walls glowing with lavish decoration, hung with the priceless creations of genius -- how is the pleasure of gazing on all enhanced, when you are told that the owner scatters with princely liberality the gifts of fortune; that he is known for miles around as the benefactor of the poor; and that missions abroad and charities at home would feel terribly the blank of his name and generosity!

        Or, how a new sunshine seems to light up hall and corridor within, and landscape outside -- as, from some oriel window, you gaze on school and church amid the village trees, which Christian munificence has reared, or on smiling cottages, which the open hand and the large heart have built for the aged and infirm to spend the evening of life!

        But take another case. How the dream of delight and satisfaction vanishes, when you enter the drawing-room which wealth has furnished with lavish costliness -- enter it with the pledge-paper in your hand -- headed with the urgent claim of a starving neighborhood, or, it may be, a starving empire -- and from the jeweled hand to which you consigned it, you have it returned with the answer, "I cannot afford it!" Cannot afford it!! The grotesque figures on wall and tapestry, on slab and pedestal, silently refute the lie. The mute creations of genius smile blushingly and incredulously from their gilded heights. The pampered dog on his velvet couch glances up with reproachful look. The horses standing at the door, fling the foam from their polished bits in sympathetic sarcasm and scorn! This is not an overdrawn picture. Such extreme instances may be rare; but such could be photographed from real life.

        There are such houses with this grotesque, selfish misery -- gilded dungeons with cold icicles for their tenants; frigid themselves, and freezing all around; who have abundance to lavish on self, but nothing to spare for their brother man -- or the cause of the Divine Brother-man who died for them! Wealth is an dreadful trust! How solemnly will the thought of mis-spent wealth confront many on a death-bed -- What would Ahab, if time for reflection had been allowed him at the hour of his death -- what would he then have thought of this saying of his manhood -- manhood in its prime and glory? -- "Go into the land, unto all fountains of waters, and unto all brooks peradventure we may find grass to save the horses and mules alive, that we lose not all the animals."

        We may learn yet farther, the terribleness of unimproved warnings. What a mournful picture have we here. For three years God had tried this monarch with sore judgments. He had shut up heaven, closed the fountains of the land, decimated his people with famine. The voice seemed too loud, too solemn and dreadful to be disregarded. We might have expected to see Ahab, like the heathen king of Nineveh, put sackcloth on his loins and dust on his head, calling his people to humiliation and repentance. But, alas! the Divine monition seems utterly disregarded. God has emptied His quiver upon him -- but arrow after arrow has bounced back from that heart of adamant. He has neither tear for his own guilt, nor tear for his suffering subjects. So far as we are told, the one miserable, petty thought which fills that narrow soul is, to get provender for his stable, and save his mules and horses. Ah, terrible, indeed, it is, when judgments thus lead to an open defiance and resistance of the Divine will; a mocking of His hand, a laughing to scorn of His righteous reproofs -- no penitence, no remorse; but rather a more intense selfishness. This miserable king fought against his trial -- fought against God -- rushing against the Almighty's shield!

        Let those on whom chastisement has been laid remember that affliction itself is no blessing unless it be improved. It is the reverse. An unsanctified trial becomes a curse. It hardens if it does not soften. It is like the heat of the sun, which melts the wax, but hardens the clay. Affliction never leaves us as it finds us. If it does not bring the soul nearer to God, it sends it farther from Him. If the result is not improvement, it is deterioration. And what then? When the Divine patience has been wearied and exhausted, the irrevocable doom must go forth -- "Ephraim is joined to his idols, let him alone!"

        For the space of three years God had spoken to Ahab by severe judgment; for three years He had blighted his land, and arrested the fall of rain and dew. It was for the same period, the husbandman, in the Gospel parable, waited for fruit on his cumbering fig-tree -- "Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig-tree and find none; cut it down, why cumbers it the ground?" Three years! Far, far longer than this, may He have been dealing with many of us! dealing by mercies -- dealing by chastisements. What has been the result? Has it been, as in the case of Ahab, only a stouter-hearted rebellion -- an intenser selfishness -- a deeper love of the world -- a life of pleasure, which is a life of death? the guilty cumberer -- a cumberer still; robbing the ground of space which others would more worthily occupy -- drinking in dews and sunshine for its own useless existence, which might load other boughs with plenteous fruit, and make the world better and happier. Can such expect always to be borne with? Can such dream of continuing to presume on the Divine forbearance? The voice of the Intercessor, in the case of such, may even now be heard, for the last time, pleading with despised and injured Mercy -- "Lord, let it alone this year also -- and if it bears fruit, well -- and if not, then, after that, you shall cut it down!"
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« Reply #24 on: June 17, 2008, 07:43:59 AM »

THE  PROPHET OF FIRE
The life and times of Elijah, with their lessons
7. THE CONVOCATION ON MOUNT CARMEL
By John MacDuff, 1877
       

        1 Kings 18:7-22

        As Obadiah was walking along, he saw Elijah coming toward him. Obadiah recognized him at once and fell to the ground before him. "Is it really you, my lord Elijah?" he asked.
        "Yes, it is," Elijah replied. "Now go and tell your master I am here."
        "Oh, sir," Obadiah protested, "what harm have I done to you that you are sending me to my death at the hands of Ahab? For I swear by the Lord your God that the king has searched every nation and kingdom on earth from end to end to find you. And each time when he was told, 'Elijah isn't here,' King Ahab forced the king of that nation to swear to the truth of his claim. And now you say, 'Go and tell your master that Elijah is here'! But as soon as I leave you, the Spirit of the Lord will carry you away to who knows where. When Ahab comes and cannot find you, he will kill me. Yet I have been a true servant of the Lord all my life. Has no one told you, my lord, about the time when Jezebel was trying to kill the Lord's prophets? I hid a hundred of them in two caves and supplied them with food and water. And now you say, 'Go and tell your master that Elijah is here'! Sir, if I do that, I'm as good as dead!"
        But Elijah said, "I swear by the Lord Almighty, in whose presence I stand, that I will present myself to Ahab today."
        So Obadiah went to tell Ahab that Elijah had come, and Ahab went out to meet him. "So it's you, is it - Israel's troublemaker?" Ahab asked when he saw him.
        "I have made no trouble for Israel," Elijah replied. "You and your family are the troublemakers, for you have refused to obey the commands of the Lord and have worshiped the images of Baal instead. Now bring all the people of Israel to Mount Carmel, with all 450 prophets of Baal and the 400 prophets of Asherah, who are supported by Jezebel."
        So Ahab summoned all the people and the prophets to Mount Carmel. Then Elijah stood in front of them and said, "How long are you going to waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him! But if Baal is God, then follow him!" But the people were completely silent.
        Then Elijah said to them, "I am the only prophet of the Lord who is left, but Baal has 450 prophets."
         

        "And after three days and an half the Spirit of life from God entered into them, and they stood upon their feet; and great fear fell upon those who saw them." -- Revelation 11:11

        For three and a half years, a price had been set on the head of Elijah. The bloodhounds of Ahab had been on his track, but had failed to discover his lurking-place. Obadiah, in search of provender for the cattle belonging to his royal master, had taken the westerly direction from Jezreel, along the great plain of Esdraelon. At some turn of the highway, on this great battle-ground of Hebrew history, all at once he confronts the strange figure of the missing prophet, with his mantle and staff. The royal Chamberlain, startled at the unexpected apparition, prostrates himself to the earth, and exclaims, in half-doubting bewilderment, "Are you my lord Elijah?" He had perhaps supposed, like many, that with the announcement of the drought, Elijah's prophetic work and mission had been finished; and that he had either retired to his native Gilead, or had possibly been taken to heaven to receive a prophet's reward. High in rank and position as Obadiah was, it shows the blended reverence and awe with which he regarded the prophet, when he falls down "on his face before him," addressing him as "my lord," and speaking of himself as "your servant" -- the subservient language of a slave to his master.

        Elijah's command is to go forthwith to Ahab -- "Go, tell your master, Behold, Elijah is here." Obadiah, at first, with what in the circumstances, perhaps, was not altogether, as has been supposed, a blameworthy or cowardly hesitation, remonstrates. He knows the dark purposes of hate and revenge in his master's bosom towards the Prophet; that the people, also, maddened with the horrors of famine, would be eager to support the vengeance of their king. If Elijah fell into their hands, his head would to a certainty be hung that night on the gate of Jezreel. If, therefore, in obedience to the prophet's wish, he proceeded to inform the king that the troubler is found; he concludes either that Elijah will forfeit his life, or else that the God of Elijah, to defeat the king's purpose, will transport his servant miraculously to some other Cherith or Sarepta, and shelter him there. On the latter supposition, Obadiah dreads the consequences to his own person. The monarch would wreak upon him his disappointed revenge. He would charge him as being in secret league with his enemy, and deal with him as a traitor to the throne. The Tishbite relieves his apprehension. He gives him the promise, that that very day, before the sun set over the brow of Carmel, he would show himself to his royal master. Obadiah is reassured, and assents to Elijah's directions.

        The message is delivered. The king in hot haste sets out from his palace, and soon the prophet and he stand face to face. How strangely diverse the two characters! The prophet of Jehovah, and the champion of Baal; the upholder of the true religion, and the abettor of lies -- Light confronting darkness -- Truth confronting error. They meet like two charged thunder-clouds, and we watch, with bated breath, the bursting of the storm.

        When the impetuous monarch finds that the prey he has been seeking for years, is at last within his grasp -- could we wonder should the instigations of the queen and his own uncontrollable passion drive him to cruel extremities, and the dust of the highway be stained with the Tishbite's blood? When Ahab reins up his horse, he is the first to speak. But the very sight of that commanding figure -- the brave heroic prophet -- seems at once to unman him. His narrow soul shrivels in his presence. Instead of summary vengeance -- instead of the order we expected to hear given to his armed soldiers, "Let the traitor die!" and their swords at the summons leaping from their sheathes -- his rage expends itself in the feeble challenge -- "Are you he that troubles Israel?"

        The God of Elijah has the heart of that king in his hand, and turns it "even as He turns the rivers of water;" He has said to the proud waves, "Thus far shall you go, and no farther." "Are you he that troubles Israel?" How does Elijah meet the charge? He imagines himself alone loyal to the God of his fathers, amid the thousands of an apostate kingdom; with the full consciousness that monarch, queen, princes, courtiers, priests, people, were leagued against him. Do we find him cowering in abject terror at Ahab's feet, imploring on any terms for life; or else, endeavoring to disarm the king's wrath, by telling him that the occasion of it is now at an end -- that he has Divine authority for commanding that the windows of heaven be opened, and for unbarring the long-closed gates of famine; so that, if the accusation has been hitherto correct as to his being a 'troubler in Israel,' he will prove to be so no more? No! his are no such coward lips. The eye of 'the Prophet of Fire' flashes -- and he returns in a voice of thunder -- "I have not troubled Israel; but you and your father's house, in that you have forsaken the commandments of the Lord, and followed the Baals."
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« Reply #25 on: June 17, 2008, 07:45:54 AM »

THE  PROPHET OF FIRE
The life and times of Elijah, with their lessons
7. THE CONVOCATION ON MOUNT CARMEL
By John MacDuff, 1877

        Brave, undaunted man! -- noble type of every faithful minister of God -- boldly speaking out the truth; uninfluenced either by fear or by flattery -- scorning all compromise, all unworthy servility, and taking as a guiding principle the words of the great Apostle -- "If I please men, I am not the servant of Christ." Many there are who will listen long enough, and patiently enough, to general discourses on the truth -- to general denunciations of sin, or eloquent expositions of virtue and holiness -- but who resent closer personal remonstrance -- the faithful charging home of the darling sin. Herod bore with the stern Preacher of the desert, so long as he kept to his general theme -- Repentance. But when he came to speak plainly of Herodias, "It is not lawful for you to have her" -- then the frown gathered on his countenance, and the outspoken reprover was sent in chains from his presence. Would that we had more Elijahs among us -- fearless rebukers of all vice and wrongdoing -- who, unmoved and undeterred by the world's fashion and opinion, would unsparingly lash the conventional follies and sins of the times, whatever these may be.

        But to return -- What is to be done? Elijah, as master of the occasion, dictates to his sovereign what the urgent nature of the crisis imperiously demands. In the name of his God, he proposes to gather together "all Israel" to Mount Carmel. A mighty throng it is to be, and the place selected is befitting convocation-ground. Such was the theater for "a conflict more momentous than any which their ancestors had fought in the plain below."

        It was a momentous question which was to be decided -- "Who is the Lord? Jehovah or Baal?" Is the God of the Patriarchs to be re-enthroned on His altars and in the hearts of the children of Abraham? Are the silver trumpets to gather a willing people in the day of His power? Or are these heirs of the old covenant to barter their birthright for a base superstition? By a worse than Philistine invasion, is the bitter cry of "Ichabod!" to ascend from the broken heart of the solitary Prophet, the last ray and relic of the departing glory?

        Imagine the vast concourse gathering. The flanks of the mountain teem with the living mass. As they are assembling, perhaps at sunset, and pitching their tents on the varied slopes of the elongated hill, so as to be ready for the great scenes of the morrow, let us note the three parties of which the multitude is composed -- for that crowd on Carmel is a typical picture of the Church and the world to this hour.

        Our eye first falls on the ROYAL TENT, with the spear in the ground and the rich Tyrian banners floating overhead. An hour ago, deafening plaudits rose from the throng, as the prancing coursers swept past, bearing there the monarch with his courtiers. Close by them are those most deeply concerned in the issues of the day -- rank on rank of Phoenician priests, flaming in gorgeous vestments of purple bespangled with gold. There are eight hundred and fifty of them altogether; four hundred and fifty of these are Baal's ministers; you may know them by the sun-symbol on their embroidered dress; and these four hundred with the symbol of the crescent moon, are the priests of the goddess Astarte, who have been housed in the royal palaces of Israel, and have places assigned them at Jezebel's table; these again, supported by thousands around, who, in blindfold ignorance, had followed the creed of their atheist king. Such constitute one of the companies in that heterogeneous crowd. They have that adjunct which impiety and irreligion often have upon their side -- human power and influence. They have sold themselves to work iniquity. They have publicly dethroned Jehovah, and espoused idols, saying, 'Who is the Lord Jehovah, that he should reign over us?'

        The second class or company was small indeed. For anything we can tell, there may have been several composing it. Obadiah's faithful hundreds may have come out from their caves, those rocky caverns which are still shown in the gorges of Carmel as their supposed hiding-places. But ELIJAH is the only representative of this second group who is mentioned in the sacred narrative. Though there is nothing imposing about him externally -- though he wears the roughest garb -- though he has been living for years in cave or lowly hamlet, dependent for his daily meals, now on the birds of the forest, now on the charity of a poor Gentile widow; yet there is something truly royal about that solitary man as he stands like a lone rock towering amid the chafing waves! He has One on his side (and he is conscious of it) 'mightier than the mightiest.' He knows that as a prince he has power with God, and is about to prevail. He is there the delegate of true, believing, loyal-hearted Israelites, worshipers of the living Jehovah -- those who are still steadfast in their allegiance to their fathers' God -- uninfluenced by court-intrigues or by the fear of man -- who had wept many a secret tear over the grievous national apostasy -- and in cave and lonely forest, "faithful among the faithless," had often breathed the ancestral prayer, "Arise, O God, and let your enemies be scattered."

        But there was still a third, and by far the most numerous class, to which adhered the bulk of the people. It was made up of those who were swayed between opposing views -- divided in opinion, hesitating upon which side to declare; conscience, perhaps, pointing one way, and self-interest another -- a false feeling of deference to the king -- blind, slavishly loyalty, leading them to adopt the idolatrous court-faith -- on the other hand, all the sacred memories of their history, and the recorded kindness of the God of Israel, rebuking them for the baseness of their apostasy. It was for them -- this fickle, undecided rabble, but who really constituted the numerical strength of the kingdom -- it was for their sakes Elijah demanded the convocation -- "Gather to me," he says, all Israel." Again, it is "the people" whom he addresses with the startling words, "How long halt you between two opinions?" He saw they were laboring under a ruinous delusion -- ruinous to themselves, and most insulting to the God he served.
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« Reply #26 on: June 17, 2008, 07:48:23 AM »

THE  PROPHET OF FIRE
The life and times of Elijah, with their lessons
7. THE CONVOCATION ON MOUNT CARMEL
By John MacDuff, 1877

        They evidently imagined they could compromise matters; that they could amalgamate the worship of Jehovah and Baal. They were not willing to forget that they were the historical descendants of those who had seen the Divine Majesty shining gloriously on Teman and Paran -- for whose sakes the waves of the Red Sea had been rebuked, and Jordan driven back. They were not disposed altogether to discard their ancestral traditional creed; but they desired to incorporate it with the licentious rites of the idols of Tyre. If persecution threatened to descend against those who refused thus to blend the Phoenician with the Hebrew ritual, they were not so wedded to the latter in its integrity, as to be ready to suffer or to die for it. They could not dream of undergoing the martyr-life of those who were hiding in the mountain-caves of Samaria, fed on bread and water. They would appease Ahab, and absolve their own consciences, by espousing both creeds. They would retain that of their fathers, but blend with it the impurities of the Phoenician worship.

        Have we not here a vivid and truthful picture of the professing Christian world in every age? It, also, has ever had its three distinct classes. The BAAL-WORSHIPERS -- the atheist class -- whose virtual religious creed is "no God." Speak to them of the God of Elijah, and their secret retort is, "Who is the Lord, that he should reign over us?" -- "Depart from us, for we desire not a knowledge of your ways." Such are the slaves of custom in religion as in everything else -- who have no conscience of their own -- no settled convictions of duty. They do as Ahab does. Their miserable religious theory is, that all creeds are alike; or rather, if their feelings were analyzed, that all religion is a pretense and delusion -- the lie which superstition has palmed off, and which ignorance has perpetuated. Having overthrown the altar of God, they are sacrificing daily incense at the Baal-shrines of self, pleasure, lust, and sin!

        A second class are the TRUE WORSHIPERS of God -- (and, blessed be His name, there has never yet been an age, and never shall be, when these are not found.) The thousands, or the ten thousands; or, it may be, only the units, who have "not bowed the knee to Baal." His true Israel -- the salt of the earth -- pillars which prevent the fabric of society from tottering to its base. Those who love His name, and do His commandments, and seek to promote His glory. Those who, like Elijah, would sooner die than be unfaithful to Him, or do homage at an unhallowed shrine. The Enochs and Noahs of patriarchal times. The Lots amid the iniquity and worldliness of Sodom. The Daniels amid the snares of Babylon. The "few names," even amid the grievous indifference of Sardis, who have "not defiled their garments." The hundreds around us, who, amid manifold temptations -- the ridicule of evil companions -- the power of degrading worldliness -- the enticing snares of vice -- are faithful to their God and Savior. In one word, those who are Christians indeed -- who know holiness to be happiness, who have confessed the Lord to be their God, and would not barter the joys of true religion for all the gains and gold of earth, and all the painted baubles of worldly ambition.

        One other class still remains; and we fear, as in Elijah's time, by far the most numerous. It is the mass -- the vast mass of the vast of UNDECIDED. Those who are half-hearted Christians -- "borderers" -- hovering on the confines of light and darkness -- of truth and error -- who have not repudiated religion -- no, who nominally profess to be on God's side; but who, in reality, are on the side of Satan. Waverers, like the waves of the unstable sea, "driven by the wind and tossed!" They have the wish to die happy and go to heaven at last; but they cannot make up their minds, as yet, to renounce their favorite sins. They wish to flee to Christ as their Savior -- but not yet. They wish to give up the world's follies and sins -- but not yet. They wish to shake themselves free of their enslaving lusts -- but not yet.

        Their immortal interests are all this while trembling in the balance. They have had their convictions, their impressions, their serious thoughts, their hours of penitence; the tear of remorse has stood in their eye, and a trembling prayer has faltered on their tongue -- but they have never yet had courage or resolution to make the great decision, to cast in their lot unmistakably on the side of God. They are living for both worlds, and losing both. They have enough of religion to make them unhappy, but not enough to save their souls! A little religion is the most miserable of all states. It becomes an accuser, not a comforter. It is the thorn in the flesh -- the lash of the scorpion. Better remain at Jezebel's table, than come feeble, irresolute, half-hearted, to Carmel -- to hear the thunder tones of the Prophet -- to see the fire of God descending. Yet scorning it all.

        Look at the effect of Elijah's bold remonstrance. The people were awestruck. He had touched their consciences. They felt his appeal and rebuke to be only too true. They stood silent and self-condemned! And the same feeling of self-condemnation must come home to multitudes still -- that they have for years, and that, also, while enjoying many religious privileges, been living on in guilty uncertainty as to their soul's everlasting salvation -- attempting to unite impossibilities -- attempting to join what Heaven has divorced -- to serve God and Mammon -- Jehovah and Baal -- holiness and sin!

        Nothing is so displeasing to God as this divided heart -- this attempting to blend and incorporate what can as little be blended, as oil can commingle with water, or darkness with light. "I would," he says, "that you were either cold or hot." He demands the whole heart or nothing. There can be no middle ground and no intermediate ground. The saying is solemnly explicit, "He that is not with me is against me."

        Are there some among us, who, like the multitudes on Carmel, are silent under the question? -- who feel that theirs has been worse than indecision -- the hollow name to live, while they are spiritually dead? God is not willing that you should perish. He is ready to meet you on Cannel with His overtures of mercy -- the remonstrances of His own unwearying love! Listen to His voice and admonition, 'O you sons of men, how long will you love vanity? How long barter the finite for the infinite, the temporal for the imperishable? O Israel, you have destroyed yourself, but in me is your help found!' He sets before you life and death, salvation or destruction, heaven or hell. Listen to the great gospel declaration -- the alternative is for you to select -- "If you seek Him, He will be found of you; but if you forsake, Him, He will cast you off forever!"
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« Reply #27 on: June 17, 2008, 07:50:32 AM »

THE  PROPHET OF FIRE
The life and times of Elijah, with their lessons
8. THE ANSWER BY FIRE
By John MacDuff, 1877
       

        1 Kings 18:21-40

        Then Elijah stood in front of them and said, "How long are you going to waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him! But if Baal is God, then follow him!" But the people were completely silent.
        Then Elijah said to them, "I am the only prophet of the Lord who is left, but Baal has 450 prophets. Now bring two bulls. The prophets of Baal may choose whichever one they wish and cut it into pieces and lay it on the wood of their altar, but without setting fire to it. I will prepare the other bull and lay it on the wood on the altar, but not set fire to it. Then call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the Lord. The god who answers by setting fire to the wood is the true God!" And all the people agreed.
        Then Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, "You go first, for there are many of you. Choose one of the bulls and prepare it and call on the name of your god. But do not set fire to the wood."
        So they prepared one of the bulls and placed it on the altar. Then they called on the name of Baal all morning, shouting, "O Baal, answer us!" But there was no reply of any kind. Then they danced wildly around the altar they had made.
        About noontime Elijah began mocking them. "You'll have to shout louder," he scoffed, "for surely he is a god! Perhaps he is deep in thought, or busy. Or maybe he is away on a trip, or he is asleep and needs to be wakened!"
        So they shouted louder, and following their normal custom, they cut themselves with knives and swords until the blood gushed out. They raved all afternoon until the time of the evening sacrifice, but still there was no reply, no voice, no answer.
        Then Elijah called to the people, "Come over here!" They all crowded around him as he repaired the altar of the Lord that had been torn down. He took twelve stones, one to represent each of the tribes of Israel, and he used the stones to rebuild the Lord's altar. Then he dug a trench around the altar large enough to hold about three gallons. He piled wood on the altar, cut the bull into pieces, and laid the pieces on the wood. Then he said, "Fill four large jars with water, and pour the water over the offering and the wood." After they had done this, he said, "Do the same thing again!" And when they were finished, he said, "Now do it a third time!" So they did as he said, and the water ran around the altar and even overflowed the trench.
        At the customary time for offering the evening sacrifice, Elijah the prophet walked up to the altar and prayed, "O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, prove today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant. Prove that I have done all this at your command. O Lord, answer me! Answer me so these people will know that you, O Lord, are God and that you have brought them back to yourself."
        Immediately the fire of the Lord flashed down from heaven and burned up the young bull, the wood, the stones, and the dust. It even licked up all the water in the ditch! And when the people saw it, they fell on their faces and cried out, "The Lord is God! The Lord is God!"
        Then Elijah commanded, "Seize all the prophets of Baal. Don't let a single one escape!" So the people seized them all, and Elijah took them down to the Kishon Valley and killed them there.
         

        "Thus has the Lord God showed unto me; and, behold the Lord God called to contend by fire." -- Amos 7:4

        In the previous chapter, we found the appeal of Elijah to the people on Mount Carmel responded to by "mute expressive silence;" they "answered not a word." This may probably have been the result of conflicting emotions. In the case of some, who in their hearts were Jehovah-worshipers, it may have been the silence of guilty fear or cringing expediency. They may have been stifling their deep-felt convictions of truth in presence of the king and priesthood. With others, (the fawning, servile creatures of Ahab,) it may have arisen from dread of incurring the vengeance of the Prophet of Cherith; lest he who had manifested such power in material nature might visit them with sudden and deserved retribution, should they dare openly to avow themselves the abettors of idolatry.

        Let us hasten at once to the sublime sequel. There is no picture in all history, sacred or profane, more thrilling or impressive. No wonder that poetry, painting, and music have conjointly seized on this memorable day and scene as fit theme and subject for their grandest efforts. Elijah feels, and feels deeply, that before the clouds of heaven break, and the curse of famine be rolled away from the land, the people, in the aggregate, must be brought back from their wretched apostasy, and that, also, by some great public acknowledgment of their sin. As theirs had been a national alienation from their fathers' God, so must theirs be a public renunciation of their abominable idolatries, and a renewed recognition of the one living Jehovah.

        The mighty throng are still hushed, as the Prophet -- God's consecrated minister between the living and the dead -- prepares yet farther to speak. Before we listen to his address, we may in a few words recall, how very peculiarly he himself was situated in the midst of that vast concourse.

        Other hearts, as we have already seen, true and loyal to Jehovah, were beating responsive with his at that moment throughout the land. But they were witnessing in sackcloth; they were languishing in dungeons, or hidden in caves and secluded places. On this consecrated mountain-height -- this high altar of nature -- the Tishbite stood alone -- a sheep amid wolves -- an isolated beacon-light amid the floods of ungodly men -- a solitary cedar of God wrestling with the storm. It is difficult for us thoroughly to realize the strain on his faith and courage when thus deprived of human sympathy and support. The Waldenses of the Middle Ages, or the hero-martyrs of our own land, were in as imminent peril as he; but they were sustained in their endurance and privations by the words and deeds of fellow-sufferers. Cave and forest, alpine fastness, mountain, moor, and dungeon, were cheered by sympathetic hands and hearts.

        That assemblage on Carmel, also, be it remembered, was no despicable multitude -- no vulgar rabble. The political influence and strength of the nation were there. Elijah was coming into collision and hostility with the throne and the altar -- with a debased king and priesthood -- the court religion -- the fashionable creed of the hour. With what intense emotion must he have uttered the opening words, "I, even I, only, remain a prophet of the Lord." His proposal is, that the Deity, which either party professes to worship, should decide the great question which has convened them on that high arena; that each should take a bullock, cut it in pieces, and lay it on wood on a separate altar of burnt-offering. The usual way of consuming the sacrifice was by applying a lighted torch to the fuel or faggots underneath. But the Prophet suggests, on this occasion, an appeal to miraculous intervention; that the Baal-worshipers and the Jehovah-worshipers should each invoke an "answer by fire;" and that whichever offering was miraculously ignited, should be regarded as conclusively determining the point at issue.
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« Reply #28 on: June 17, 2008, 07:52:20 AM »

THE  PROPHET OF FIRE
The life and times of Elijah, with their lessons
8. THE ANSWER BY FIRE
By John MacDuff, 1877

        The crowd at once assented to the reasonableness of the test. Their unanimous response was -- "What you say is good." An appeal which had thus commended itself to the spectators, could not well be resisted by the Baal priests. Indeed, the fairness of the proposal was unanswerable; for Baal being the reputed god of Light or Fire; it was a virtual appeal to his own element -- a defiant challenge and reference to his own sacred emblem. Nor was the proposed method of arbitration strange or unfamiliar to the Jehovah-worshipers -- the true Israel of God. Their sacred records and national annals furnished many examples of answers by fire, from the earliest, in the case of Abel's sacrifice, to the latest, within the memory of that generation, at the magnificent scene of the temple consecration under Solomon.

        The moment has come. Elijah concedes the precedence to his 850 antagonists. "Rise, you priests of Baal; choose one of the oxen, and lay it on your altar!" Forth they come in their gorgeous Tyrian purple and gold. The bullock was prepared, and laid on the wood. It was still early morning when they began their wild orgies. The excitement increased with advancing day. The cry, "O Baal, hear us," again and again ascended to the bronze sky. Mountain height responded to mountain height, "but there was no voice, nor any that answered." Amid their frenzied dances, they look up wistfully to the heavens for the appearance of the descending symbol. Louder and still louder rises the vehement imprecation, 'O Baal, hear us! -- you lords many, hear us! -- you forest gods! -- you mountain deities! -- gods of rivers! -- and, above all, you blazing Sun -- Baal's burning throne and sacred shrine -- send down a lighted torch, burning coals from your altar fires!'

        Louder and louder, deeper and deeper, waxes the hoarse-voiced chorus! Until noon it continues -- the maddened priests leaping upon the altar. But there is no answer. The heavens are still -- the altar is silent -- Baal's oracle is mute -- the appeal is in vain! And now, as the sun has reached its meridian, Elijah interposes. He has been, hitherto, like the rest, a silent spectator. But at the height of noon, as the orb the others worshiped is pouring his fierce rays on their heads, he calls out, in words of cutting irony, "Cry aloud; for he is a god -- either he is talking, or he is busy, or he is in a journey, or perhaps he sleeps, and must be awaked." But the biting sarcasm only increases the mad and frantic ravings and incantations of the ministers of Baal. When noon is past, they begin to "prophesy." They have wrought themselves now into a state of desperation. Drawing their knives and lancets, they inflict gashes on their bodies, and cover themselves with blood. Still, all is in vain. Their god will not arise. On the heights of the mountain, the unkindled wood and the untouched altar remain, during the long afternoon of that momentous day, just as they were erected at early morn. The perplexed priests retire bleeding and exhausted to their tents. Their cause is lost. Baal is not God!

        Here, however, in passing, may we not well pause and gather for ourselves a lesson of humbling rebuke? How devoted were these abettors of a blinding superstition! We cannot read the passage, and pronounce their part in the gigantic conflict, a heartless formality -- a dumb show -- the pantomime of hypocrites. No! Self-deceived, as they were, they were, at least, men in earnest. Elijah -- himself all earnestness -- must have honored their zeal, though mourning that it was so misguided and misapplied. What a reproof to our ofttimes lagging faith; our lifeless prayers; our cold, unsatisfactory zeal in God's service. These heathen devotees of Carmel, worshipers of a figment -- a dumb idol -- with their knives and lancets, and self-inflicted tortures -- how will they rise up in the judgment against many lukewarm professing Christians, and condemn them!

        But now the time of the evening sacrifice -- Israel's own sacred hour -- has come. Elijah had allowed his opponents full time and scope for the required proof. He now comes forward and challenges personally the flagging attention of the crowd. Close by were the ruins of an altar, which had once been erected to Jehovah, but which, probably with many others in the land, had been demolished by one of the exterminating edicts of Jezebel. Summoning the people to draw near, he repaired the ruined place of sacrifice.

        There is something impressive in the calm dignity of the Prophet, after these long hours of demonstrative vehemence and delirious excitement. We can picture him, with his sheepskin cloak, and shaggy hair, and stately figure -- with no noisy clamor, or extravagant gesticulations, but rather with dignified self-reliance, standing amid the fevered multitude, and beginning with reverend hands to upraise the dismantled altar. There is always a quiet majesty about truth. How calmly stood Paul before Felix and Agrippa. With what meek, unruffled, expressive silence stood Incarnate Truth Himself before Pilate and Herod -- the Lamb "silent before His shearers" -- it was the same dignified calmness of demeanor which had previously unmanned the assassin band at the gate of Gethsemane -- "As soon as He had said unto them, I am He, they went backward and fell to the ground!" It was so now, on Mount Carmel.
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« Reply #29 on: June 17, 2008, 07:54:28 AM »

THE  PROPHET OF FIRE
The life and times of Elijah, with their lessons
8. THE ANSWER BY FIRE
By John MacDuff, 1877

        Ahab was agitated with conflicting fears. The people were in a frenzy of excitement. The priests were filled with delirium and rage. Elijah alone was unmoved -- confident in the righteousness of his cause. He had everything periled on the next sunset hour. Failure! -- and his own body, like that of the offered sacrifice, would be cut in pieces, and the Kishon be stained with his blood. Failure! -- and the power and glory of his God would be compromised -- every altar of Israel would be profaned, and Baal would sit triumphant in his impious shrines. But "Jehovah lives" -- his first utterance -- was his motto still; and he felt confident that that watchword would be caught up, before these night-shadows fell, and be repeated from lip to lip by the congregated thousands of Israel.

        Of the dilapidated altar, he took twelve stones, "according to the tribes of the sons of Jacob, unto whom the word of the Lord came, saying, Israel shall be your name!" There was much significance in the act. It was a rebuke he read, not to the Baalites; but to the true Israel of God. By this 'parable in stone,' he would tell them that the disrupted monarchy -- the breaking asunder of the ten tribes from the twelve -- was unrecognized by God -- that it was a sinful breach in their unity as the covenant nation -- that they were still essentially one in the sight of Jehovah -- having one common altar, though partitioned and dismembered by reason of their own guilty jealousies and strifes. No, he would point them on to the time when God's own purpose would be fulfilled regarding them, "And I will make them one nation in the land upon the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king to them all -- and they shall be no more two nations, neither shall they be divided into two kingdoms any more at all -- neither shall they defile themselves any more with their idols, nor with their detestable things, nor with any of their transgressions -- but I will save them out of all their dwelling-places, wherein they have sinned, and will cleanse them -- so they shall be my people, and I will be their God," (Ezekiel 37:22, 23.)

        Would that we had more Elijahs in the midst of us; ever and anon to bear their protest against the improper schisms and divisions which mar the strength and beauty and fair proportions of the Church of Christ! Blessed will that time be, when divided churches and divided nations shall become one in heart and one in worship; one in undivided aim for the good of men and the glory of a common Lord. When the distinctions of sect and party, which are now like the separate pools on the rocky shore, shall be swept over by the ocean-tide of Divine love; all united and mingled into one; and the old heathen exclamation become the testimony of an admiring world, "See how these Christians love one another!"

        And now the wood is laid in order on Elijah's altar. The bullock is cut in pieces, and a deep trench is formed all around; moreover, in order to prevent any possible suspicion of imposture -- such as would throw discredit on the reality of the miracle -- the Prophet gives orders to the people to go down, either to the adjoining well, or to the Kishon -- some have even surmised, though this is inadmissible, to the sea, and fill four barrels of water to be poured over bullock, wood, and altar. This is done four times in succession, until the trench is filled. He was cognizant of the fact, that the idolatrous priests of surrounding nations stooped at times to unworthy fraud and artifice in the case of similar answers by fire; sometimes by concealing torches, sometimes by kindling the subjacent wood, through excavations under the altar. In order that no such base arts might be attributed to him, he soaks the whole pile with the antagonistic element of water. While the altar is thus dripping and saturated, he proceeds to take his turn in the great testing struggle.

        The period of the day was known to the whole Hebrew nation as "the hour of prayer." The priests in the Temple at Jerusalem, were at that same moment offering their evening oblation as the sun was sinking behind Mount Olivet, as now it was going down over Carmel, or hanging like a golden lamp over the burnished waters within sight. Behold the Prophet of Fire, wrapped in his mantle, on his knees in supplication! A breathless stillness -- like the portentous quiet which reigns in nature before the bursting of the thunder-cloud -- pervades the heterogeneous throng. With bated breath, king, priests, people, look on, while thus he addresses his God -- "Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel, and that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your word."

        The first utterance in his prayer is "JEHOVAH!" There was but a moment of solemn pause. The prayer ascends -- the FIRE falls. Bullock, wood, dust, stones, earth, all are consumed by the devouring element. The flame of Heaven has incontrovertibly, in the face of all spectators, authenticated the Prophet's word and mission, and flashed condemnation on his opponents. The people, on seeing it, fell on their faces; and a mighty shout rends the air, ringing from the mountain-summits, along the plain of Esdraelon, mingling with the rippling waves on the adjoining shores -- "Jehovah he is God! Jehovah he is God!"

        Sudden is the next step in the drama. Jehovah being re-enthroned; the priesthood of Baal must at once be crushed -- extirpated root and branch -- from the land they had so long cursed with their shadow. The recent general reverence of the people for this false worship now turns into rage. Catching up the malediction of their great national minstrel, "Confounded be all those who worship engraved images" -- they drag, (at Elijah's command) the ringleaders down the side of the mountain, and the Kishon carries to the sea, in its crimsoned stream, the tidings of righteous vengeance. Elijah, in this apparently harsh and cruel act, only performed what Ahab as theocratic Regent had failed to do. It was not the vindictive massacre of a barbarous conqueror; but the faithful servant and viceregent of God fulfilling a stringent Divine command -- a command, indeed, which admitted of no evasion -- for the extermination of idolaters.
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