Now Elijah the Tishbite, who was among the settlers of Gilead, said to Ahab, "As surely as the LORD, the God of Israel, lives, I stand before Him, and in these years there will be neither dew nor rain except at my word!"
I. HIS PRESENCE.
1. It is awful in its vagueness.
(1) It was of the inhabitants of Gilead - "The hard, stony region," south of the river Jabbok. This was one of the wildest parts of the Holy Land. The awful scenery of that district harmonized well with the ruggedness of the spirit of this prophet. John the Baptist first appeared in a wilderness. Out of a wilderness Jesus came up when He entered upon His public ministry (Matthew 3:1; Luke 4:1, 14, 15).
(2) He is distinguished as the Tishbite. Calmer says Tishbe was a city beyond Jordan in the tribe of Gad, and in the land of Gilead. Gesenius, from Relandi, mentions Tishbe as "a town of Napthali." Could there have been two Tishbes; and were the words "Of the inhabitants of Gilead" added to distinguish?
(3) "The Tishbite," we incline to think, was a name of office or commission. It designates Elijah as the Converter (תשבי from נרעת ות שב). In this he resembled John the Baptist, whose commission also was to preach repentance. (See Matthew 11:13, 14; Matthew 17:12; Luke 1:17.) When Elijah comes again "before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord," it will be in his character of Tishbite or Converter, viz., "to turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers." (See Matthew 4:5, 6),
2. It is awful also in its intensity,
(1) His name (אליהו) some interpret to be, "My God Jehovah is he," others, "God is my strength." In either case it reminds us of God, and God is the very centre of all reality.
(2) Elijah brings us into the very presence of God also by the manner in which he announces himself. "As Jehovah liveth, before whom I stand." In this way also the angel Gabriel announced himself to Zacharias, and that too when he revealed the coming of the Baptist. (See Luke 1:19.) It is probable Elijah, like John the Baptist, also was a priest, and the expression under review may intimate this. (Compare Deuteronomy 10:8.) About 940 years after this, Elijah, with Moses, in a remarkable manner stood, in the presence of Jehovah, in the mount of transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-3).
(3) This declaration of the living God was appropriately timed. For the calves or young bulls of Jeroboam, and the bulls and goats of Sidon established through the influence of Jezebel, had so occupied public attention that He was forgotten. Lamentable is the substitution of death for life! HIS FAITH.
1. It is bold in its assertion.
(1) "There shall be neither dew nor rain." The material elements which mechanically produce dew and lain were worshipped by the Phoenicians, and now by the Israelites, while the God that made them was forgotten. Is not this the very error of modern atheistic physicists? They worship Baal, Ashtoreth, and Ashere under other names, and ridicule faith and prayer. But Elijah asserts the living God as superior to nature, who will restrain both dew and rain, and so make the gods to worship him. (See Deuteronomy 11:16, 17; Jeremiah 14:22.)
(2) "There shall be neither dew nor rain these years." Dew and rain, according to the course of nature, may be withholden for days, for weeks, even, in rare cases, for months; but not for years. When therefore for "three years and six months" these meteors were awanting, the phenomenon was supernatural.
2. The qualification is no less remarkable - "But according to my word."
(1) Unless divinely authorized to say this, such a declaration would be most presumptuous. And the inevitable failure of the prediction would cover the pseudo-prophet with ridicule and confusion.
(2) But Elijah was a genuine man. He spoke under the inspiration of Jehovah before whom he stood. Such inspiration makes all the difference between presumption and faith. This is just the distinction made by James, who describes Elijah's faith as (ἐνεργουμεν) inwrought persuasion of a righteous man (James 5:16). Faith is the gift of God.
3. The directness is admirable.
(1) This address is to Ahab. It comes not to him as a hearsay, but with the highest authenticity. The inspired messenger of God is above kings. (See Jeremiah 1:10.)
(2) It is fearlessly delivered. When a man is conscious that he stands before Jehovah he may use great freedom of speech. The courage of the lion is in the heart of faith. Elijah was a man of faith because he was a man of prayer. It is an encouragement to our faith to know that "Elias was a man of like passions as we are" (James 5:17). - J.A.M.
Deuteronomy 11:17; Leviticus 26:18).
As the Lord God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand.James 5:17). "He prayed earnestly that it might not rain." A terrible prayer indeed! Granted; and yet, was it not more terrible for the people to forget and ignore the God of their fathers, and to give themselves up to the licentious orgies of Baal and Astarte? Physical suffering is a smaller calamity than moral delinquency. And the love of God does not shrink from inflicting such suffering, if, as a result, the plague of sin may be cut out as a cancer, and stayed. Elijah gives us three indications of the source of his strength.
1. "As Jehovah liveth." To all beside, Jehovah might seem dead; but to him, He was the one supreme reality of life.
2. "Before whom I stand." He was standing in the presence of Ahab; but he was conscious of the presence of a greater than any earthly monarch, even the presence of Jehovah, before whom angels bow in lowly worship, hearkening to the voice of His word. Gabriel himself could not employ a loftier designation (Luke 1:19). Let us cultivate this habitual recognition of the presence of God; it will lift us above all other fear.
3. The word "Elijah" may be rendered, "Jehovah is my God"; but there is another possible translation, "Jehovah is my strength." This gives the key to his life. God was the strength of his life; of whom should he be afraid?
(F. B. Meyer, M. A.)
(J. Parker, D. D.)
I. LIFE A CONSTANT VISION OF GOD'S PRESENCE. How distinct and abiding must the vision of God have been, which burned before the inward eye of the man that struck out that phrase! Wherever I am, whatever I do, I am before Him. No excitement of work, no strain of effort, no distraction of circumstances, no glitter of gold, or dazzle of earthly brightness, dimmed that vision for these prophets. In some measure, it was with them as it shall be perfectly with all one day, "His servants serve Him, and see His face," — action not interrupting the vision, nor the vision weakening action. It is hard to set the Lord always before us; but it is possible, and in the measure in which we do it we shall not be moved. How small Ahab and his court must have looked to eyes that were full of the undazzling brightness of the true King of Israel, and the ordered ranks of His attendants! How little the greatness! how tawdry the pomp! how impotent the power, and how toothless the threats!
II. LIFE WAS ECHOING WITH THE VOICE OF THE DIVINE COMMAND. He stands before the Lord, not only feeling in his thrilling spirit that God is ever near him, but also that His word is ever coming forth to him, with imperative authority. That is the prophet's conception of life. Wherever he is, he hears a voice saying, This is the way, walk ye in it. People talk about the consciousness of "a mission." The important point, on the settling of which depends the whole character of our lives, is — "Who do you suppose gave you your mission"? Was it any person at all? or have you any consciousness that any will but your own has anything to say about your life? These prophets had found One whom it was worth while to obey, whatever came of it, and whosoever stood in the way.
III. LIFE FULL OF CONSCIOUS OBEDIENCE. No man could say such a thing of himself who did not feel that he was rendering a real, earnest, though imperfect obedience to God. So, though in one view the words express a very lowly sense of absolute submission before God, in another view they make a lofty claim for the utterer. He professes that he stands before the Lord, girt for His service, watching to be guided by His eye, and ready to run when He bids. We may well shrink to make such a claim for ourselves when we think of the poor, perfunctory service and partial consecration which our lives show. But let us rejoice that even we may venture to say, "Truly I am Thy servant." Such a life is necessarily a happy life. The one misery of man is self-will, the one secret of blessedness is the conquest over our own wills. To yield them up to God is rest and peace. And is there not a broad general truth involved there, namely, that such a life as we have been describing will find its sole reward where it finds its inspiration and its law? The Master's approval is the servant's best wages.
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
(L. A. Banks, D. D.)I. ELIJAH WAS, IN THE FIRST PLACE, A MODEL OF — PROMPTNESS. Whatever God told him to do, he went to work at once, and did it.
II. ELIJAH WAS A MODEL OF — PATIENCE — as well as of promptness. When God wanted Elijah to work, he was, as we have seen, prompt to do whatever he was bidden to do. And when he was told to wait for the further manifestation of God's will, he waited patiently. When the long three years' drought came on the land, God told him to go and hide himself "by the brook Cherith," near Jordan. He went and remained there in patience till he was ordered to leave.
III. But, in carrying on his work of reformation, Elijah was, in the third place, A MODEL OF — CONFIDENCE; and we should try to follow his example in this respect.
IV. ELIJAH WAS A MODEL OF — COURAGE.
(R. Newton, D. D.)I. THE PRINCIPLE OF DIVINE SELECTION. Elijah comes suddenly and unexpectedly upon the scene. What has been his previous career we cannot say, all we know about him is that he was rudely and scantily clothed, with shaggy hair, a conspicuous personality among the people. However strange it may seem that such a man should be chosen for such a work, it is nevertheless in keeping with the Divine procedure. God makes His own selection of men to meet the demands of every crisis. For every crisis in the world's history God has taken a leader from very unlikely quarters. A German monk for a great Reformation; a Wesley for a much needed revival; Abraham Lincoln to guide our ship of state, in terrible times, amid stormy seas; and a William Taylor, "rough and ready," to become the "flaming evangel" of "Darkest Africa." God is always ready with a man to stand in the gap. So it was in the time when the sin of Ahab and his people had become abominable, He had in reserve a man already trained and willing to assert the sovereignty of God to that crooked and perverse nation. This chosen Tishbite, this prophet hero, recognises that he is —
II. GOD'S REPRESENTATIVE, hence he manifests the utmost fidelity and loyalty.
III. PROVIDENTIAL PROVISIONS MEET HUMAN EXIGENCIES. Elijah proved this fully. Delivering mercy is not only timely, but also comes through unexpected means. It was a very strange method God pursued with Elijah.
IV. NO UNREASONABLE DEMAND UPON HUMAN RESOURCES. God is merciful. God is just. He may have given us but little of this world's good, but of that little He demands a portion. We may possess but one talent, but we must not be selfish in the use of that. He gives grace that we may use grace. We may further learn from this narrative the duty of —
V. UNQUESTIONING OBEDIENCE TO GOD. Elijah did not speak complainingly of living alone by the side of the brook Cherith and trusting to the ravens for his food; nor did he say it was improper to go to the house of a widow and ask of her food to eat. No, he trusted in the wisdom of God and obeyed His command.
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
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