« AnteriorContinuar »
But thou shalt surely kill him; thine hand shall be first upon him to put him to death, and afterwards the hand of all the people.
And thou shalt stone him with stones, that he die; because he hath sought to thrust thee away from the LORD thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage.
And all Israel shall hear, and fear, and shall do no more any such wickedness as this is among you.
Nothing but absolute extirpation could put away the guilt and ingratitude of turning to any god save Him who had brought Israel out of the land of Egypt. And be it borne in mind, too, that the Baal worship of the Phænicians included human sacrifice, and such foul and horrible orgies, that heathens of purer minds, like the Greeks and Romans, shrank from them with abhorrence; so that these apostate prophets well deserved to die, and it was the law that it should be by the hand of all the congregation.
Ahab himself seems to have been convinced ; indeed, for the rest of his reign he seems to have longed to turn back to the Lord, but to have been too great a coward not to be withheld by his violent and imperious wife. At this moment he was entirely overcome, and God had pity on even such fleeting repentance. Elijah indeed seems to have thought the victory won, as he prayed in his intensity of prayer for the long-withheld rain. There he prayed, on the top of the mountain, while his servant at his bidding gazed out on the glittering Mediterranean lying far beneath-gazed and gazed into the glowing brazen sky.
Flow forth, ye showers, ye blissful showers;
Long parched hath been the land.
Elijah is at hand;
His head between his knees.
Methinks I hear afar
The footsteps of the storm!
And hasten to the town ;
For o'er the distant main
The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.
Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months.
And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit.
So speaks St. James. The servant of God was allowed to win the blessing of dew and showers for the land. He knew his prayer was granted when that tiny cloud rose in the sunset, and he bade Ahab hurry home, and eat and drink-break the fast that no doubt was being kept for the misery of the land. Black and stormy came the welcome clouds. Ahab drove swiftly over the plain to Jezreel, and, strung up by fervent zeal and inspiration, the prophet ran along by his side, while the welcome tempest overtook them, and the drops fell, steaming up from the parched earth, and refreshing winds brought joy and gladness to fainting man and beast; and surely none could doubt who was the God who ruled the clouds and sent rain on the earth. No one? Nay, how did Jezebel take the wonderful proofs who was the God, and the agreement of her husband and all his subjects in destroying the impostors who had so entirely failed ? She was the more fiercely bent on crushing what opposed her. She swore that by the next day Elijah too should be slain. Nor could faint-hearted Ahab stir a hand to uphold the truth; and of the men who had been convinced the day before, there were plenty quite willing to do her bidding!
Was this all that had come of Elijah's threat—the three years' drought, the great ordeal, the purging of the land, the coming of the rain ? Behold, Baal's worshippers were as determined as ever, and Elijah himself was forced to flee, to Judah first, where, under Jehoshaphat, he was safe, but he was too sad at heart to continue in the haunts of men, and from Beersheba went on alone into the wilderness.
But he himself went a day's journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper tree: and he requested for himself that he might die; and said, It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life; for I am not better than my fathers.
And as he lay and slept under a juniper * tree, behold, then an angel touched him, and said unto him, Arise and eat.
And he looked, and, behold, there was a cake baken on the coals,+ and a cruse of water at his head. And he did eat and drink, and laid him down again.
And the angel of the LORD came again the second time, and touched him, and said, Arise and eat; because the journey is too great for thee.
And he arose, and did eat and drink, and went in the strength of that meat I forty days and forty nights unto Horeb the mount of God.
And he came thither unto a cave, and lodged there; and, behold, the word of the LORD came to him, and he said unto him, What doest thou here, Elijah?
And he said, I have been very jealous for the LORD God of hosts : for the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.
And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord. And, behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the LORD; but the LORD was not in the wind : and after the wind an earthquake; but the LORD was not in the earthquake:
And after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.
And it was so, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and stood in the entering in of the cave. And, behold, there came a voice unto him, and said, What doest thou here, Elijah ?
And he said, I have been very jealous & for the LORD God of hosts : because the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.
And the LORD said unto him, Go, return on thy way to the wilderness of Damascus: and when thou comest, anoint Hazael to be king over Syria:
And Jehu the son of Nimshi shalt thou anoint to be king over Israel: and * Retem, a kind of broom, with purple and white flowers, that grows in desolate places. + Embers.
§ Full of burning zeal.
Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah shalt thou anoint to be prophet in thy room.
And it shall come to pass, that him that escapeth the sword of Hazael shall Jehu slay: and him that escapeth from the sword of Jehu shall Elisha slay.
Yet I have left me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him,
So he departed thence, and found Elisha the son of Shaphat, who was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen before him, and he with the twelfth : and Elijah passed by him, and cast his mantle upon him.
And he left the oxen, and ran after Elijah, and said, Let me, I pray thee, kiss my father and my mother, and then I will follow thee. And he said unto him, Go back again: for what have I done to thee?
And he returned back from him, and took a yoke of oxen, and slew them, and boiled their flesh with the instruments of the oxen, and gave unto the people, and they did eat. Then he arose, and went after Elijah, and ministered unto him.
COMMENT.—This is one of the most wonderful chapters in all Scripture. Elijah was cruelly disappointed. All the wonderful deeds he had done had led to an utter failure; his heart was broken, and he was in utter despair. He fled from the face of man, and hastening out into the dreary desert of the wanderings of Israel among the white, dull, stony hills, he lay down in exhaustion beneath one of the low shrubs in the waste, and murmured a request for himself that he might die as his fathers--as Moses and Aaron themselves, had died, in that wilderness. Then, worn out, he sank into a sleep, and merely woke at the touch of an angel to eat of the unleavened bread, such as was baked on ashes, and to drink of the water, prepared for him. It seems as though mind and body were so spent by the great conflict with the Baalites, the wrestling in prayer, the disappointment and the flight, that he scarcely was enough awake to be sensible of the marvel that an angel was watching over him and tending him as a mother tends a weary child. Twice he awoke, and partook of that bread from heaven -bread of such miraculous nourishment that it supported him through the forty days when, like Moses before, and One greater than Moses afterwards, he remained without tasting of other food, journeying on until he reached Horeb, the Mount of God, the same where Moses had seen the Fire in the bush and hear, the first call, and where that covenant had been given which was now so utterly broken and despised.
There Elijah found a cave where he slept. It may well have been the very cleft of the rock where Moses was hidden when the glory of the Lord passed by ; and there it was that the Lord's voice came unto him, “ What doest thou here, Elijah ?" rebuking him, as it were, for having deserted his task. Then Elijah answered with a piteous representation of that wilful apostasy that he had striven in vain to check. He believed himself alone to be left, and his life was sought, but he did not repeat his entreaty for death. Then God bade him stand on the rock. He stood in awe while three awful tokens of wrath passed by,—the wind, the earthquake, and the fire ; yet here the Lord was not. God sends His judgments to prepare His way, but He-He Himself—comes with the “still small voice," the breath of the Holy Ghost, the Comforter. As He had proclaimed before Moses in that very mount, He is the “Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth.” The famine and the slaughter which Elijah had found in vain, were not His only ways of dealing with men. He can speak to their hearts in ways of which none knows. So God sent Elijah back to the deserts towards Damascus, bordering on Israel, but appointed three avengersHazael, Jehu, and Elisha,—who should live for the punishment of the apostate Samaria ; yet all the time He assures Elijah that the still small voice was with seven thousand Israelites who had never done homage to the false god.
Yet in fallen Israel are there hearts and eyes,
That day by day in prayer like thine arise:
So, however solitary we may feel, we may always be sure that God joins our prayers with those of the numbers “whose life is hid with Christ in God.”
Wot ye not what the scripture saith of Elias ? how he maketh intercession to God against Israel, saying,
LORD, they have killed thy prophets, and digged down thine altars; and · I am left alone, and they seek my life.
But what saith the answer of God unto him? I have reserved to myself seven thousand men, who have not bowed the knee to the image of Baal.
Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace.