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1. THE STORY CONNECTED WITH THE TEXT.
II. MAKE SOME IMPROVEMENT OF IT.
I. THE STORY connected with the Text will require but little remark. The sins of the people of Israel being very great, God was moved to punish them by a general drought, which should last a long while. He determined that not a drop of rain should fall from the clouds, and that there should be no dew to moisten the ground, for a long period. The consequence of which would be very severely felt; for nothing sown in the fields and gardens would grow, there would be no harvest, provisions would become very scarce, and the price would be raised very high; the pools and wells of water would dry up, and men and cattle would die of thirst.
Elijah was charged by God to go and tell Ahab the king of this calamity which was coming upon the land. Not a very pleasant or a very safe office was this to execute; it was one indeed from which many persons would have shrunk, especially considering the temper and character of the king. And we see how dangerous it was, from what happened. Ahab was so enraged at the prophet for bringing him this bad news, that Elijah was obliged to fly for his life, and hide himself. And so bent was Ahab upon his destruction, and so determined to find him out if he could, that supposing he had taken refuge in some foreign country, he sent, at great expence and trouble, ambassadors to the kings of all the neighbouring countries, demanding that he should be given up; and when he could not be found, he exacted an oath of them to the effect that he was not lurking, to
their knowledge, in any part of their dominions. Chap. xviii. 10.
After delivering his message to the king then, Elijah was obliged to fly for his life; and God did not fail nor forsake him in this his extremity. He directed him where to go-" Go hide thyself by the brook Cherith." The prophet wanted an hidingplace, and the brook Cherith being out of the way, à lone and lonesome place, was very fit and proper for this purpose; and there was water there too, which he might drink, though all the rest of the land was suffering from the dry weather. So far then all was well.
But there was another difficulty still. How was he to be fed?-how was his hunger to be satisfied in such a solitary and desolate place?
This difficulty perhaps occurred to Elijah's mind; and to obviate it, God told him He would take care of that matter.-"I have commanded the ravens to feed thee there." Elijah had never heard of such a thing before, as birds, and ravenous birds too, bringing a man food to eat; but however improbable and unlikely the thing might seem, he believed God's word, trusting Him to make it good, and went and did as he was bidden. He went and dwelt by the book Cherith; and as the Lord had said, so it came to pass. "The ravens brought him bread and flesh in the morning, and bread and flesh in the evening, and he drank of the brook."
This is the story connected with the Text; and I would make a few remarks upon it before I pass on to its improvement.
It may be asked, 'When all the country was burnt up for want of rain, and the springs and
fountains of water were failing every where, why was Elijah sent to hide himself by the side of a shallow brook, and not to some deep and mighty river? Why was he sent to Cherith, and not to Jordan? Cherith was sure to fail; but Jordan, let the dry weather last ever so long, was not at all likely to be dried up.'
Now to this question it might be answered, 'Jordan was not so good an hiding-place as Cherith. The people of the neighbourhood would all naturally go to Jordan to fetch water: and Elijah would be sure to be found out sooner or later.' But this is not the true or only reason. The true reason is perhaps this. God sent Elijah to Cherith, and not to Jordan-to the shallow brook, and not to the deep river,
To show him and us man's absolute dependence upon Divine mercy. Had the prophet seen every day before his eyes an abundant and unfailing supply of water for his thirst, he might have indulged a spirit of independence and pride and self-sufficiency, and have been tempted to forget the Author and Giver of all his blessings. But when he saw before his eyes but a very scanty supply of water for his use, and that day by day growing less, and threatening soon to fail altogether, the sight must have tended to keep him habitually in a dependent state of mind, to teach him to live by faith, and to trust to no earthly source of support, but to Him who supplies it all.
So also it may be asked, 'Why was Elijah sent to Cherith to be fed by ravens? Were there no good and pious persons in the world, who had the ability and willingness to maintain such an eminent servant of God, and who would have accounted
it an honour and a privilege to be permitted to supply his wants?'
Yes, there were many. There was Obadiah, who at this very time, was feeding an hundred of the Lord's prophets at his own expence, and at the risk of being found out and punished by Ahab and Jezebel.
But the Lord sent his servant Elijah to Cherith, to be fed by ravens, probably for the reason I have already mentioned, viz.
To show him his dependence and to teach him faith. If he had been fed and maintained by Obadiah, he might have been disposed to trust him, and not God. When he awoke in the morn ing, he might have considered, Will Obadiah think of me to-day, and send me my daily supply, as he did yesterday?' But now, the question was, 'Will God think of me to-day, and supply my wants as heretofore?' In the one case Elijah would have been tempted to trust in man, in the other he was obliged to trust in God. He was thrown off from man upon God, and compelled to live as a pensioner upon divine mercy day by day.
And this is the state of mind in which we ought all to live; as wholly dependent upon God for the supply of spiritual and bodily wants-receiving every blessing as coming immediately and directly from Him-and seeing His hand in all things.
If the rich did this, they would not trust in riches, as knowing that the hand which gives today, may take away to-morrow. They would use them, not as if they were their own, but as property committed to their care, and for the use or abuse of which they had to give account.
If the poor did this, they would not repine nor
be discontented at their lot.
They would not quarrel with their own circumstances, nor envy others their better condition.
And if this be the right state of mind for us to cultivate in temporal things, how much more so in spiritual things! It is the proud and wicked spirit of independence which makes men reject Christ as their Saviour, and trust in themselves as their own saviours. It is this which makes them believe that their souls can fare well without prayer, withgrace, without help from above. And we must be brought to feel that without Christ we can do nothing that without His blood and righteousness and grace we are lost-that we are entirely dependent on Him for pardon and acceptance with God, before we can have any reason to hope that our hearts are right in His sight.
But I go on to consider, as proposed,
11. THE IMPROVEMENT to be made of this part of Elijah's history. We may learn from this story,
(1.) God's care for those who love and serve Him. The promise to the godly is, "I will never leave thee nor forsake thee." And did not Elijah find that God is faithful, and does not desert in the time of need those who put their trust in Him?
Consider the danger and distress in which the prophet was. He was obliged to fly for his life, and to hide himself in some cave or thicket; he was continually liable to be discovered, and taken before the king, who desired nothing so much as to get him into his power, and from whom he could expect no mercy. And as to his wants, he had never a meal of food beforehand; he had no money to purchase provisions; and if he had, it