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volted, and formed a separate kingdom under Jeroboam. Only the two tribes of Judah and Benjamin remained subject to the house of David, and formed the kingdom of Judah; while the ten rebellious tribes styled themselves the kingdom of Israel. The kings of Judah, who possessed the south of the promised land, resided at Jerusalem, on mount Zion. The kingdom of Israel comprised all the northern districts, and its royal residence was first the fortified hill of Thirza, and afterwards the city of Samaria. The two kingdoms were at almost perpetual war with each other; but this was not the greatest evil. A thousand times worse was their internal disorder.
Jeroboam began his reign by introducing, from political motives, a new idolatry. He was apprehensive that, if the people continued in connexion with the temple, and the worship of God at Jerusalem, they would gradually fall away from him again, and return under the dominion of the house of David. He therefore made an imitation of the golden cherubim of the temple, transferred some of the festivals to other seasons, and chose priests out of all the tribes of the people, at his own pleasure, without restriction to the tribe of Levi. This unlawful worship became open idolatry, when in the year 900 before the birth of Christ, king Ahab, that tame obsequious slave of his bloodthirsty wife Jezebel, ascended the throne of Israel. Then it was, at the instigation of this ungodly woman of Sidon, that the worship of Baal became the established religion of the country, and the worshippers of the true God were persecuted with fire and sword. Oh the sad and evil times which now came on! the gross darkness which now covered the land; the horrible abominations which now went on accumulating! Gloomy idol temples rose in every direction; profane altars, stained with the blood of prophets and holy men, bade defiance to the Most High, and called for Divine jealousy and vengeance. It seemed as if Satan transferred his residence from hell to earth, and was striving to obscure the light of heaven with the smoke and vapour of the most horrible idolatry.
Such were the times, and such the awful state of things, when Elijah, the man of God, stood up. The kingdom of Ahab and Jezebel is the dark field of labour on which he enters, in the name of God, and where we are to behold him employed. How will he conduct himself in the midst of such a crooked and perverse generation? How will he navigate this stormy sea? How will he surmount walls and barriers like these? Such questions will be fully answered as we proceed, and by every answer I trust we shall be strengthened in the faith, and be
constrained joyfully to exclaim, " Jehovah, he is God! Jehovah, he is God!"
II. Let us now take a view of Elijah's spiritual character, the relation in which he stood towards God. This he indicates himself in the text, where he exclaims, "As the Lord God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand." Elijah stood before the God of Israel; such was his spiritual position and situation; such the characteristic state of his inward life. Dost thou ask, Who the God of Israel is? Knowest thou the Angel that conversed with Abraham in the plain of Mamre, and the mysterious Person in the form of man, who wrestled with Jacob till daybreak, and said to him, "Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed?" Gen. xxxii. 28. Knowest thou the appearance in the burning bush at the foot of Horeb, and that bright and wondrous Presence, of which God the Father said unto Moses in the desert, " My Presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest," Exod. xxxiii. 14. Knowest thou that living Rock, which followed the people of Israel through the wilderness in their journey to Canaan; or that Captain of the Lord's host who appeared with a drawn sword in his hand unto Joshua, and who was himself the sword of Joshua's victories and the shield of his help? Josh. v. 13-15. Yea, dost thou know him? Christ is his name! He is the Lord, the God of Israel! Before him stand the thousands of thousands; before him, the angels whom he makes as the winds, and his ministers whom he makes as the flames of fire; before him stood Elijah.
Happy are thy men, and happy are these thy servants, who stand continually before thee!" So spake the queen of Sheba to Solomon, 1 Kings x. 8. But a greater than Solomon is here! and how much happier are those servants who stand always in the presence of the God of Israel! But no one can ever stand before him in his own strength. Those whom he suffers to appear before him, stand on the foundation of the Lord; stand in his righteousness and beauty. For with an iron sceptre he casts down all who dare present themselves before him on their own footing, or behold him in their own strength, or lift up the head before him in their own righteousness. But to the worm in the dust, to the poor self-renouncing penitent, lying in his blood, he says, "Lift thyself up, stand before me, behold my face with comfort, and be not afraid!" He that desires to stand before him, and to lift up the head in his presence, must first have lain
prostrate before him in the dust, must have abased and humbled himself before him. How often may Elijah have fallen on his face before him among the mountains of Gilead; how many tears may he have shed in solitary caves and caverns, before he could say, "As the Lord liveth, the God of Israel, before whom I stand!" Elijah was a man reconciled to God in Christ Jesus the promised Messiah, and clothed with his righteousness. This is implied in his words, "I stand before the Lord God of Israel;” and is further evident from his having received the honour a thousand years afterwards, to be a witness with Moses, on mount Tabor, of the transfiguration of his Lord.
But the standing before the Lord, expresses something more than a state of reconciliation in general. I stand before the Lord, when I desire, above all things, that the will of the Lord may be at all times plainly manifested to me, and that I may do nothing, from one moment to another, but what shall please him, and promote his glory; when I keep my eyes waking, and place myself as it were at my post, to watch for the tokens of my King, and listen attentively with my spirit to his voice, and his commands within me and without; when I desire, according to the least of his intimations, to run the way of his commandments; I then stand before the Lord. Thus Elijah stood before the Lord. To be an instrument for the accomplishment of the Divine will, and for the glorifying of his name, was his ardent desire; he could say with Isaiah's watchman, "Lord, I stand continually upon the watch-tower in the day-time, and I am set in my ward whole nights," Isa. xxi. 8. His life was a hearkening to God's voice; he passed his days in the presence of his eternal King, and " Lord, speak! for thy servant heareth," was his watchword. Such was Elijah, by the grace of God, and thus did he stand before the Lord God of Israel.
III. We shall consider the denunciation Elijah proclaimed. Let us direct our eyes to Samaria, that idolatrous city. There stands the man of God in the midst of foes, before the tyrant Ahab, and opens his mouth, boldly and valiantly, and exclaims in such a manner as to make the people's ears tingle, "As the Lord God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word.” jah—What art thou doing? What a risk thou art incurring! Is not this putting the honour of Jehovah at stake? Will they not ridicule not only thee, but him also, if there be any delay in what thou hast announced? Yes; but Elijah is not afraid of this. He knows that the word of the Lord in his mouth is truth.
But how was it that Elijah was empowered to make such an announcement ? The prophet, full of holy jealousy for the honour of his God, felt an inward assurance that such a chastisement upon the land would tend to melt the hardened hearts of the people, and to restore the glory of Jehovah's name. He brought this matter before the Lord, as St. James tells us at the end of his epistle, ch. v. 17. "Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain;" and Amen! was the answer from above in his soul. Amen, be it so! It is given into thy hands to shut and to open heaven. Elijah took this Amen of the living God as a sword in his hand: depending upon this Amen, he prophesied drought with Divine infallibility. The whole country of Samaria seemed to shake her head at it, and to laugh at his prediction. The luxuriant pastures and the well-watered fields seemed to exclaim together, "This judgment shall not be executed !"—and a thousand springs and brooks, flowing through the land, and the vapoury hills, which form and attract the clouds, all seemed to join together to falsify his word. But Elijah was not confounded; with the Amen of his God in the hand of his faith, what were natural appearances or reasonings to him! His voice was more mighty than that of many waters, for it was the voice of God within him; neither springs, nor brooks, nor clouds, nor the richest luxuriance of vegetation, could aught avail against that word, "As the Lord God of Israel liveth, over this land shall come a drought."
So, sincere christian, do thou also believe the Amen, which thou hast received from God in thy heart respecting his adoption of thee, and his grace toward thee! Suffer not thyself to be confounded either by thy objecting nature, or by the weakness of the flesh; either by the scruples of reason, or by the devil, the spirit that always gainsayeth. Keep a firm hold, by faith, of the Divine Amen once given thee, and abide by it, and say, As the Lord God of Israel liveth, and endureth for ever, nothing shall condemn me, or separate me from the love of God in Christ Jesus.
"As the Lord liveth before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word!" Elijah said it, and immediately heaven and earth changed their appearThe one became as iron, and the other as brass, and the dew of heaven was restrained. The word of the prophet struck, like a fever, into the heart of the earth, withering and scorching, and all that was fresh and green faded and hung its head; every stream and rivulet dried up, and all that had breath lay gasping
and languishing on the ground. Neither dew nor rain fell during three years and six months. Such were the effects produced by the voice of man; but a man who was in communion and accord with the Almighty.
In conclusion, I say unto you, my people, whom the Lord hath so highly favoured; verily, if the high places in your hearts are not removed, the idolatry rooted out, the Baalim demolished, before which, alas, so many of you, secretly or more openly, bow the knee, it will be more tolerable for the land of Samaria and Israel, than for you. Oh it is already as if heaven had begun to close upon us. How sparingly does the dew of the Spirit fall! how few arise from the dead! and how long is it since a plenteous shower of heavenly rain has refreshed our vale!* My friends, what is the cause of this? Has an Elijah stood forth in the midst of us with his word, "As the Lord liveth, there shall not be dew nor rain these years?" Or does Elijah sleep, forgetting to re-open what was shut up? Church of God, thou little flock of Israel, thou people of his possession, thou art as Elijah. Yes, thy voice can call forth clouds and rain. Arise, and call upon thy God! for "the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much!" James v. 16. Pray for dew and rain upon the dry land, and then announce it from the "Amen" of thy heart, and say, The drought will soon be at an end; get thee up, eat and drink, and be joyful, for there is a sound of abundance of rain. May God graciously grant it! Amen.
* The Vale of Barmen, where the author resides.