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of I know not what besides. In such things a man insensibly grows so pious and holy in his own eyes, that these things become gain to him, and are no longer accounted loss for Christ.
Are we not, then, to increase in sanctification? Yes! Grow as the palm tree; but in self-estimation we must ever be only as the hyssop on the wall; we must daily become less and less, weaker and weaker in our own eyes, feeling more and more in want of the Lord's staff for our support; otherwise we have set out in a wrong direction. Children of God must" grow up into him in all things who is the Head, even Christ." The beloved of the Lord, those who are really led by the Spirit of God, are ever gradually descending in self-humiliation. An exemplification of these introductory remarks will be found in the portion of Elijah's history which we now proceed to consider.
1 KINGS XVIII. 1-16.
"And it came to pass after many days, that the word of the Lord came to Elijah in the third year, saying, Go, shew thyself unto Ahab; and I will send rain upon the earth. And Elijah went to shew himself unto Ahab. And there was a sore famine in Samaria. And Ahab called Obadiah, which was the governor of his house. (Now Obadiah feared the Lord greatly for it was so, when Jezebel cut off the prophets of the Lord, that Obadiah took an hundred prophets, and hid them by fifty in a cave, and fed them with bread and water.) And 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. And as Obadiah was in the way, behold, Elijah met him and he knew him, and fell on his face, and said, Art thou that my lord Elijah? And he answered him, I am: go, tell thy lord, Behold, Elijah is here. And he said, What have I sinned, that thou wouldst deliver thy servant into the hand of Ahab, to slay me? As the Lord thy God liveth, there is no nation or kingdom, whither my lord hath not sent to seek thee: and when they said, He is not there; he took an oath of the kingdom and nation, that they found thee not. And now thou sayest, Go, tell thy lord, Behold, Elijah is here. And it shall come to pass, as soon as I am gone from thee, that the Spirit of the Lord shall carry thee whither I know not; and so when I come and tell Ahab, and he cannot find thee, he shall slay me: but I thy servant fear the Lord from my youth. Was it not told my lord what I did when Jezebel slew the prophets of the Lord, how I hid an hundred men of the Lord's prophets by fifty in a cave, and fed them with bread and water? And now thou sayest, Go, tell thy lord, Behold, Elijah is here: and he shall slay me. And Elijah said, as the Lord of hosts liveth, before whom I stand, I will surely shew myself unto him to day. So Obadiah went to meet Ahab, and told him: and Ahab went to meet Elijah."
HAVING dwelt for a while with our prophet under the vine and the fig-tree, we have now to accompany him once more into the stormy theatre of public life. I. We find him, at the commandment of Jehovah, departing from Zarephath; II. We
learn what was passing at this time in the court of Samaria, and, III. We have the meeting of Elijah and Obadiah.
I. The prophet had been two years and some months at Zarephath. The text expresses the time as "many days," though they seemed perhaps to Elijah but a few. But when we consider how rapidly storms and troubles have generally succeeded each other, in the life of God's most eminent servants, it was a long time for Elijah to have a serene sky, with the exception of some fleeting clouds, for more than two years together. This was a length of tranquillity with which not many of the active servants of God have been privileged.
In such a season of spiritual as well as natural dearth, Elijah must surely have felt as we should do, in having to quit, perhaps for ever, this peaceful abode of a pious friend. For the cloud of adversity had burst in blessings on that humble dwelling. The widow, as we have seen, had become to him a real sister in the Lord, of one mind with him, in the truest and holiest acceptation: they enjoyed mutual fellowship in God, and in his word of salvation; and, who shall say that Divine grace had not already begun to appear in the widow's child, restored as he had now been from death itself? From that moment, perhaps, he had begun to live indeed. "The word of the Lord," however,
came to Elijah in the third year, saying, Go, shew thyself to Ahab." Thus things may be frequently contrary to our natural inclinations; but these inclinations are as often but of little worth.
Our gracious God has better intentions concerning us, than we can have for ourselves. We should therefore follow the leadings of his providence at every step, and confide in God as all-wise and good, that he will not and cannot deceive us. "He is a rock, his work is perfect; all his ways are judgment," Deut. xxxii. 4.
"Go, shew thyself unto Ahab." Had Elijah now conferred with flesh and blood, this would have seemed to him like a command to plunge into the raging waves of the sea, or to walk into a lion's den. He had to present himself to a wicked and idolatrous king, a tyrant armed with despotic power, whose personal enmity against him had been increasing for at least three years and a half, and had been doubly aggravated by the distress of the country, of which Elijah was reputed to be the author. During all this time Ahab had been intent upon apprehending him; had used every effort to trace out his residence; had searched through his own, as well as all the neighbouring states, and had taken an oath from the different tribes and governments, that they had not found him and yet all his efforts had been
unavailing. How vexatious to himself, and what a reflection upon his royal power! If the wrath of a king be as messengers of death, what had Elijah to expect from such a king as Ahab ! And yet he receives the brief and positive direction, "Go, shew thyself unto him !” But let no one suppose that the Lord ever expects what is above human nature from any of his children, without imparting, at the same time, sufficient grace and strength for the purpose. Let no one, therefore, imagine that he requires us to fight a fight of faith, without giving us faith to do so; or that he will lead us into any difficulty and trial, without making provision for our support and encouragement. Yea, even should there be forced from us the agonizing cry, "Why hast thou forsaken me!" he will enable us to prefix to it by appropriating faith, "My God! my God!" which will be enough to keep us from sinking. He leads none of his children into the valley of the shadow of death, without becoming to them their rod and staff. Besides, however thick the darkness may be, it is always relieved by some little ray of light. The support he gave to Abraham, in his gloomy way to mount Moriah, was not only by the general belief that whatever God does, he does well; but by the particular turn given to Abraham's faith, that God would restore his Isaac again to life. This sweetened his three days' journey not a little. To Job was given a peculiarly clear and joyful expectation of the final result of his sufferings and of the day of resurrection: "I know,' said he, "that my Redeemer liveth, and though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in flesh shall I see God." And thus Elijah, on this arduous path of faith, which directed him to Abab, was supported by the promise, "I will send rain upon the earth." He could therefore thank God, and take courage. He could depart from Zarephath as a messenger of joy, and carry a blessing with him. Yes, though the horrors of drought and famine, though faces emaciated with hunger and thirst, might well have made him shudder on the way; though the thought of Ahab's deadly resentment, and perhaps of an infuriated populace, might well have forced its way upon his mind, he could be cheered by the assurance of his commission to announce the return of rain, and by the hope that many would at length give up their hateful idolatry, and humble themselves before the God of their fathers. Such hopes and prospects we can easily imagine would at least have rendered his painful duty more tolerable.
"Show thyself unto Ahab, and I will send rain upon the earth." Jehovah had condescendingly commissioned his prophet to announce the chastisement of drought upon the land, and even to
“As the Lord God of Israel liveth, there shall not be dew nor rain these years but according to my word:" and now, therefore, it was to be at Elijah's word that the dew and rain should return. Had these blessings returned without Elijah's mediation, it would have been concluded that Elijah was a false prophet and a boaster; the priests of Baal would have attributed the deliverance to their idol, and would have praised Baal as triumphant over Jehovah. In order, therefore, not to miss the sole object of this grievous visitation, and that Baal might be confounded, and Jehovah glorified, it was necessary that Elijah, by a public word, should remove the drought, as a complete proot that his Lord was the true and the living God. Consequently, it was now said, "Go, shew thyself unto Ahab, and I will send rain upon the earth."
"And Elijah went to shew himself unto Ahab." We see, then, the man of God again entering with firm step on his public career of faith, surrounded by a thousand dangers and difficulties, having been proscribed as an outlaw throughout the nation, yea, as a troubler of Israel; nevertheless, he went at the commandment of the Lord, and the power of the Lord was with him.
II. While Elijah was on his way from Zarephath, king Ahab, at Samaria, was also setting out on a journey through the land. Elijah's errand was for the honour of the Lord his God; that of Ahab was for his cattle, particularly for his horses and mules. This occasion makes us acquainted with another very pleasing and interesting character; namely, with Obadiah, a man of high rank, holding the office of chamberlain or steward of the king's household. Hence what is here written of him, is the more remarkable, that "he feared the Lord greatly."
If our discovery of a devout widow in a heathen land, between Tyre and Zidon, excites in us grateful admiration, how much more pleasing is our surprise to find a real servant of the Lord in one of the most scandalously corrupt courts ever noticed in history! Here we see that godliness is not a plant, which, as many suppose, must necessarily be reared in the conservatories of human education, admonition, and good example; how then could a godly man have existed in Samaria? The children of God are not the mere creatures of circumstances; the state of things in Samaria was just adapted to form Obadiah and every one else into a child of the devil. Jehovah "forms a people for himself, to shew forth his praise," when and where it pleaseth him, as Isa. xliii. 18-21. As "He hath mercy on whom he
will have mercy," and is gracious to whom he will be gracious so, whoever really desires to be as Obadiah, the Lord's servant cannot be prevented by unfavourable circumstances from becoming so. Thus the fear of God, faith, and adoption, are the good part that cannot be taken away by thieves that break through and steal, neither devoured by moth and rust, nor merged and lost in the iniquities of the country we live in. Obadiah was enabled to keep that good thing which was committed to him, though in an earthen vessel, safely amidst all these dangers. It was greatly that he feared the Lord. This is indeed a noble testimonial concerning him. For truly it was something great to fear the Lord with all his heart, at a time, and in a country, wherein the true worshippers of Jehovah were exposed to public scorn and derision. It was also something great to adhere faithfully to the Lord, when surrounded by persons bitterly prejudiced against real godliness, and by religious and political institutions set up in direct opposition to the true worship and service of Jehovah. To abide in the faith at a court, where the god of this world had blinded the eyes of the powerful, and had provided every possible temptation to follow the vicious fashions of the day-to keep himself unspotted from the world in a post of honour and responsibility, with the eyes of the public fixed upon him, and all his prosperity depending on the favour of the king-to hold on his course in a situation, in which he had frequently to communicate with the most profligate among the great to fear God, not by halves, but fully to be no time-server, but to serve the Lord and him alone this was surely something great in Obadiah. But who then is to be praised for this? The great Obadiah? Far from it-To God and his omnipotent grace be all the glory!
Let this picture of Obadiah be held up to the consideration of those who are so ready to object that their situation and circumstances prevent them from faithfully serving God. This wretched excuse has no other origin than the blindness and deceitfulness of the human heart. Under any circumstances, however favourable, true piety is not indebted to these, but to the grace of God alone; and those who seek and partake of this, serve God in all situations; for what should hinder them? Did our objectors complain that they cannot serve God, because of the corruption of their own hearts, this were a complaint that we might listen to. But thus to complain of outward circumstances is a fearful sign of spiritual death. True Divine life in the soul has a fire in it that burns up this stubble of circumstances. There is a necessity in the case; a necessity which is