So he got up and ate and drank. And strengthened by that food, he walked forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God.
despondency, is set before us here, and we will seek to discover its causes.
I. REACTION AFTER EXCITEMENT. Great natures are peculiarly subject to this. The impulse which impels to a noble act has a rebound proportioned to its intensity. Peter and John the Baptist stand beside Elijah as exemplars of this fact. From it arises the special peril of revivalistic services. Excitement has its place and power in the advance of Christ's kingdom, but we must not substitute spasmodic feeling for steady growth.
II. EXHAUSTION OF PHYSICAL AND NERVOUS ENERGY. Even the gigantic strength of Elijah underwent a terrible strain on Carmel Anxiety, enthusiasm, burning zeal, exultation combined to agitate him, and these were doubtless preceded by many days and nights of passionate, agonizing prayer. God's provision for the prophet - the sleep that came over him, as over a tired child, the food prepared by angel hands - prove that this was recognized. Show the mutual dependence of body and mind. Neither the equable temperament of some Christians nor the excitability of others is due always to the presence or absence of Divine grace. Good food, fresh air, and change of scene would do more than religious exercises to restore tone to some who are despondent. The neglect of sanitary laws is a sin. There was far-reaching wisdom in Paul's declaration, "I keep the body under."
III. ABSENCE OF SYMPATHY. "I am left alone." "I only am left." Such was the burden of Elijah's cry. This is a special source of despondency to missionaries surrounded by the heathen. It affects also multitudes who are not so literally alone. They may have many Christians around them, but in their special work, in their peculiar difficulty, they can find none to help, or even to understand them. "Alone in a crowd" is a true description of many a disciple of Christ, who is thinking his own thoughts and fighting his own foes. Show from this the wisdom of the provision God has made in Church fellowship. Point out the causes which tend to make such communion unreal or unhelpful. Urge the cultivation of sympathy with young disciples, with obscure workers, etc.
IV. INFLUENCE OF DOUBT. The confidence of the prophet on Carmel had broken down. Jezebel had not been cowed by the sudden revulsion of popular feeling. She doubted its permanence, and at all events resolved that she would not lose heart, so Ahab and his courtiers were reassured when she swore to have revenge on Elijah. The prophet thought now that he had been too sanguine - that the one chance had come and gone without effect. Doubt paralyzed him. Doubt of God's willingness to forgive plunges the penitent into despondency. He would scarcely venture secretly into a crowd to touch the hem of Christ's garment. Doubt of God's readiness to hear and answer prayer keeps the Christian from the light of His countenance, etc.
V. INVISIBILITY OF ANTAGONISTS. Elijah could face his visible foes on Carmel without quailing - indeed, he dared to taunt them at the risk of being torn to pieces - but against this vague feeling of despair he could not hold his own. Moral battles are the hardest to fight. He who can grapple with what is tangible sometimes fails when called on to "wrestle not with flesh and blood, but with principalities, and powers, and the rulers of the darkness of this world." Some would rather run the risk of being condemned hereafter, as wicked and slothful servants, than have the certainty of being sneered at now as those who are "righteous overmuch."
VI. ENFORCED INACTIVITY. Elijah's opportunity for vigorous action seemed over. He was cast in upon his own thoughts. Few could bear it less patiently than he. The man who can dare and do anything finds it specially hard to wait and to suffer. Similar temptation to despondency comes to those who are laid aside by illness, or removed from a happy sphere of service. But that is the time to wait on the Lord, and so "renew our strength."
CONCLUSION. In all hours of despondency remember that He who knew the agony of Gethsemane and Calvary pities us, and feels for us. "We have not a High Priest who cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities," etc. - A.R.
And went in the strength of that meal forty days.I. THE PROPHET'S REPAST.
1. The sacramental feast is alike simple and plain.
2. Yet is this a mysterious repast.
II. THE PECULIAR UNWORTHINESS OF THE PROPHET ON THIS OCCASION.
1. The Lord's Supper is a repast prepared for sinners!
2. True, they must be penitent, broken-hearted sinners.
3. It is for the weary, burthened, troubled servants of Jesus.
III. The great benefit which the prophet derived from this repast, although he was so unworthy.
1. Spiritual benefits are not necessarily so attached to the Christian feast.
(F. Close, M. A.)
Homilist.This incident suggests three things.
I. AN UNDESIRABLE POSSIBILITY IN HUMAN LIFE. The fact that a man lived forty days and forty nights without food, certainly impresses us with the possibility of his being kept in existence without food for ever. The possibility is obvious. But such a state would clearly be very undesirable. Were men to continue here without food, a disastrous inactivity would ensue. Want of food keeps the world in action, keeps the limbs and faculties of men going. What would life be without action? a weak and worthless thing.
II. THE SUPPORTING ELEMENT OF ALL LIFE. What is it that kept Elijah alive without food? The will of God, nothing else; and this is that which supports all created existences every moment. "Man cannot live by bread alone." God's will can starve men with bread, and sustain them without it. It is He, not material substances, not food, that sustains life. He may do it with means, or without means, according to His pleasure. Let us not trust in means or secondary causes, but in Him who is the "Fountain of Life."
III. THE DIVINE CARE OF A GODLY LIFE. That God takes care of His people individually is
(1) (2) (3) (Homilist.)
(2) (3) (Homilist.)
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