Expositor's Dictionary of Texts
And Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and withal how he had slain all the prophets with the sword.The Holy Eucharist
1 Kings 19:4-8
God has given us the blessed Sacrament to be to us the Sacrament in which He will give to us continually the grace of perseverance.
I. The Sacrament of Perseverance.—The one thing that we need for perseverance is continual spiritual renewal. The Holy Eucharist is the Church's great offering to the Father; and in each aspect it is a sacrament of renewal.
II. The Bread of Life.—In this Holy Eucharist we not only plead before God the sacrifice, but we feed upon the sacrifice. And in the consciousness of a will strengthened for life and endurance we turn our backs upon God's house and altar and go out reinvigorated to face the conditions of life in the world.
III. The Renewal of Fervour.—The Holy Eucharist is not only the Sacrament of the renewal of peace, it is the Sacrament of the renewal of fervour. In the Holy Eucharist we pass into the highest expressions of worship which man can know upon earth. And we go upon our way renewed with joy, and the joy of the Lord is our strength.
IV. Spiritual Vitality is the essential condition of spiritual feeding. The condition of our really carrying away with us from the Church into the world the abiding strength and joy of our Communion depends upon the reality of thanksgiving. Rise in thanksgiving to Him for His great gift, and you shall know what it is to be renewed by His grace from Communion to Communion, and in the strength of that Divine food you shall go on your way.
—George Body, Christian World Pulpit, vol. LXXV. p. 232.
References.—XIX. 7.—J. Keble, Sermons for Lent to Passiontide, p. 169. XIX. 10.—J. Keble, Sermons for Sundays After Trinity, part i. p. 363. XIX. 11, 12.—J. Thomas, Myrtle Street Pulpit, vol. ii. p. 192.
The Divine Voice in Man
1 Kings 19:12
There is a thing deeply to be deprecated—that God should actually speak to the man, and that the man should be unaware of any Divine communication. Consider what God's 'Voice' is, that, if it be possible, He may not speak without our knowing it. The fact that His voice is, at least sometimes, 'still and small,' indicates the danger that we may miss it; in a word—
I. God generally speaks to men in a way they do not expect. We must guard against this mistake.
Men look for something great and magnificent, as they would like to be spoken to. But the Lord does not often do that. Indeed, He is too great to do so. It belongs to that which is really great to act simply. When the machinery is great, the mover is often little. The infinite God who made the machinery often chooses to act apart from it; and God is greater when He does a thing by His 'Voice, still and small,' than when He works by the 'earthquake'.
God is ever jealous to show that great external phenomena, displays of His power which are the vehicles of His grace, are, nevertheless, not the grace itself. They prepare the way for its conveyance and working, but man must patiently wait for the gift till the wild prelude that ushers in the harmony is over.
II. Consider the matter briefly from the standpoint of God's dealings with mankind at certain great epochs of the world's history.
(a) Before the Fall, man (the creature) enjoyed communion with God (his Creator); in a beautiful paradise the Lord God 'talked' with man; but the 'Voice' grew silent. Then God proclaimed Himself in the 'wind,' the 'earthquake,' and in the 'fire'. The deluge swept in its tempestuous fury; the earth trembled at its Creator's descent; Sinai glared with His lightnings. The law was promulgated in all its terrors; judgment rolled over judgment. Every supernatural display represented the offended holiness of His dreadful Majesty. Yet God, in all His attributes, was still an unknown God, on His own creation—earth.
(b) Then it was that, in a force so mean, in a scene so poor that men regarded not, the Eternal Word—'the still small Voice of the Father'—came to Bethlehem, and walked the plains of Galilee. He came to declare what the law could never tell, that God was not in 'the wind,' nor in 'the earthquake,' nor in 'the fire'; but in 'the still small Voice,' even Himself; He declared His Father's glory and His Father's will. The bruised reed He never broke, nor quenched the smoking flax. He did not strive, nor lift up His voice in the street. Nevertheless, that 'Voice' was the great power of Jehovah; evil spirits cowered at His presence; sickness, sorrow, and death fled before Him. And when, on the Mount of Beatitudes, that 'Voice' was heard in its own peculiar gentleness—'Blessed are the poor in spirit'—Sinai's trumpet was silenced! And the darkness, and the tempest, and the hopelessness of fear and despair were all forgotten when those loving lips cried, 'Come unto Me, all ye that are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest'. And when, at the last, He cried, 'It is finished,' men and angels testify that no display of the Divine power and love can equal in magnificence 'the still small Voice' of Calvary.
(c) Then came another day, that eventful Feast of Pentecost. The infant Church of 120 souls assembled together, when suddenly the house shook, the cloven tongue-shaped flames descended upon the heads of the Apostles; but it was not the 'rushing mighty wind,' nor the mysterious 'shaking,' nor the 'forked flames,' but 'the still small Voice' of the Holy Spirit, speaking through the Apostles, proclaiming in divers tongues the Gospel of God's grace, which filled men's hearts with wonder and conviction, and gathered in 3000 souls for Christ.
III. Listen to the 'Voice of God' as it now speaks to the souls of men.
It is an established principle, in God's ordinary dealing with individual souls, that His Voice, when it speaks, is 'still and small'. It is within you, like a whisper, at all times, in all places. A man may not at first, or for some time, recognize that the 'thought' arising in his mind or conscience, the mysterious 'drawing,' slight but strong and persistent, is the Voice of God speaking to his soul. Something has whispered in his ear, 'that is wrong'; that will come up for judgment; 'I must change my mode of life, now, at once; there must be no delay; God will forgive; go to Him, and sin no more; this is the way, walk thou in it'. Or, he is listening to a sermon, when, suddenly, 'the still small Voice' is heard distinctly, apart from the preacher's tones, whispering, 'thou art the man'. Or you lie upon a bed of sickness, and you can hear 'the still small Voice' breaking the stillness of your lonely chamber, 'Prepare to meet thy God'. So also when, in penitence, you grieve over 'some foul dark spot' of sin, you hear the same Voice, coming to you from the Cross: 'The Blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth from all sin'. And for the dying saint, who shall measure the confidence and joy which that 'Voice' inspires: 'Fear not, I am with thee'? If uncertain about the Voice, or whence it comes, then we shall be safe if, like Samuel, we cry: 'Speak, Lord, for Thy servant heareth'. We shall not then have to wait long for a token of His love. He will reveal Himself to us as to His saint of old, for He is the same, and changes not. He will make His glory to pass by, and His Voice to be heard, but the eye will not be blinded by the vision, and the Voice will fall like sweet music on the ear, 'The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin'.
The Still Small Voice
1 Kings 19:12-13
Elijah has achieved an astonishing and, he believed, a Divine success. The prophets of Baal had been met, vanquished, destroyed. The victory of the prophet of Jehovah appeared complete. Then he receives Jezebel's message: 'So let the God do to us, and more also, if I make not thy life as the life of one of them by tomorrow about this time'. His victory has only availed to anger and to make more resolute the unscrupulous woman who is the centre and mainstay of the national apostasy. And in an agony of desparation at the collapse of his hopes and the weary way of struggle and peril yet to be trodden, Elijah loses heart and flees for his life.
I. Such an experience is not peculiar to any one man or to any one age. The great prophet of Israel is but representative of almost every man who has undertaken a courageous war on behalf of goodness. The way of advance is like the path up many a mountain-side. The climber sees a single peak and concludes that if he reach that he will have gained the summit. He reaches it only to find a higher peak in view. That, too, he scales, and lo! a yet loftier lies beyond, and wearily in the gathering darkness he abandons all hope of reaching the mountain-tops. So Elijah; one peak has been attained, the priests of Baal are overthrown, but the pernicious royal influence lies beyond; and at sight of the arduous path by which it, and with it the deep-seated irreligion of the people, must be overcome, he loses heart and runs away.
II. Now whenever there is such a withdrawal or such a loss of faith, very much depends upon the attitude of the man himself. And Elijah is not likely to remain a runaway and a weakling. In the desert Elijah gains a profounder vision of the dealings of God with himself and with His people, and comes to see that all things (including even the sin of a Jezebel) work together for good to them that trust God.
III. How came Elijah to regain his peace? Elijah reaches the rocks of Horeb and at first nature about him seems full of his own restless confusion. From one of the mountain crags he beholds the raging of a hurricane. But soon the storm has fallen, and upon the whole face of the mountain passes a strange peace, the more impressive by contrast with the preceding tumult. No sound is heard save 'the sound of a gentle stillness,' 'a still small voice'—the quiet rustling of a light breeze through the tree-tops that seems to make the calm yet calmer and the stillness more still. Panic is dispelled, Carmel and its struggle is far off; the threats of Jezebel are forgotten, the weariness of his journey is overcome; in this stillness the calm of heaven enters his being, and the breezes whisper the peace of God.
IV. The applications of my theme are manifold. Even to those who have not taken sides with God this experience of Elijah is not without meaning. It is not necessary to summon you to withdraw from the whirl of self-seeking to meditate, to listen to what your best manhood has to say, to the voice of your soul within, to the still small voice of conscience which is the representative of God. To you who rejoice in fellowship with God the reminder comes that seasons of stillness and of meditation have their place and make for the renewal and health of the soul. When we are still and receptive He makes His voice heard within; and like Elijah we cover our faces, listen reverently, and then go back to our work with a quickened sense of the Divine comradeship and a new hope.
—J. H. Rushbrooke, The Baptist Times and Freeman, 30 August, 1907.
God's Cure for a Hero's Depression
1 Kings 19:13
Notice first, God's cure for a hero's depression; and then secondly, that there is more power in a Divine voice than in Nature's mightiest efforts.
I. Let us notice God's care for a hero's depression. It will be necessary for us briefly to review the prophet's history. He has had that grand triumph of Mount Carmel. He means to consummate the magnificent victory he bad already commenced; he means now to go to head-quarters to carry out the work of reformation. He is going to attempt the tremendous task of sweeping away the impurity of a palace. He knows Jezebel's character well enough, but there is no hesitation. But what came of his mission? Elijah's faith failed at the critical moment; and just as we are expecting him to do a deed of daring which shall eclipse all his previous conquests, we find all his courage evaporating out of him, and he who could stand before Ahab is now fleeing for his life before a woman's wrath. Now Elijah, terrified almost out of his life, leaves the land of Israel and flies to the kingdom of Judah. He goes away to the solitude of Sinai. There he is amongst those rugged wilds, those gigantic crags, and he gets him into a cave. He is waiting there, and the Lord sees His servant and determines to bring him out of that depression and lead him back to his work. Then there sweeps by a hurricane, and the might of that wind rends the rocks; yet Elijah remains half-stupified, in awful depression. Then there comes an earthquake, and all Senai shakes. Elijah does not: he is still unmoved. Then there came fire which wreathed the crest of the mountain in its flame; but all the fire that ever fell from heaven could not move that stern, depressed prophet. And now there is a still small voice; and you read in the thirteenth verse that, when he heard it, he wrapt his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. That still small voice was more than a match for the prophet; and what earthquake, fire, and tempest could not do, that the still small voice did. God's remedy for a depressed child of His and a desponding servant is His own voice.
II. There is more power in the Divine voice than in Nature's mightiest efforts. What we want in our services is not merely Nature convulsed or Nature making mighty efforts. We want that still small voice of God, for that alone has power to bring Elijah, out of their caves. Is it not true in the sinner's conversion? Referring to our own experience we can bear testimony that this is so; we have known what it is to be brought before Mount Sinai. Often in the old Surrey Music Hall we have heard the thunder roll among the crags; we have seen the lightning flash; but there was something in our proud desperate heart which only rose and said, 'I will never be frightened into it'. And no earthquake and no fire moved me one step from the cave. But one day there came a still small voice. It hailed from Calvary; and what all else had failed to accomplish that voice did in one moment. The face was bowed; the mantle cast over it; the spirit was broken—not by fearful force, but by loving power.
—A. G. Brown, The Penny Pulpit, vol. XVI. No. 928, p. 125.
1 Kings 19:13
I. This chapter shows us a picture of Elijah in his weakness. No sooner has the victory at Carmel been gained than it appeared that it was not yet to be decisive. Jezebel's heart was neither turned nor broken; she meant to continue the fight for Baal; Ahab would not resist her, and how could the people resist without him? 'When he saw that, he arose, and went for his life, and came to Beersheba, which belongeth to Judea, and left his servant there.' But Elijah did not stay there. He himself went a day's journey into the wilderness. His soul was vexed within him, and he would carry his trouble alone to God; he was troubled, not by the dangers of his life, for that was past, but by the failure of his work. Elijah felt: 'I have laboured in vain; I have spent my strength for nought, and in vain'; and he prayed to be allowed to retire from the hopeless battle: 'It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am not better than my fathers'. And as yet the Lord does not answer him—certainly does not rebuke him; He only sends him strength and comfort to sustain him until an answer should be sent; He gives him heavenly food, in the strength whereof he went like Moses before him and Jesus after him, fasting for forty days and nights, yet not worn out nor weakened, through the wilderness, unto Horeb the Mount of God. 'There God appeared unto him'—not as to Israel of old, in the likeness of devouring fire, but as we read: 'The Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake: after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice. And it was so, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and stood in the entrance of the cave. And, behold, there came a voice unto him saying, What doest thou here, Elijah?' A very gentle rebuke, no doubt spoken by the still small voice, but a rebuke still. II. Elijah is not sent back into the land of Israel, but 'to return on thy way to the wilderness of Damascus'; there he is bidden to anoint Hazael to chastise all Israel, and Jehu to chastise the house of Ahab; even Elisha, it is said, shall carry out any portion of God's vengeance that is not executed by these. The Lord goes on to tell of a work for Elijah to do, and a fruit of the work he has done, very different from the cruel vengeance of Hazael, or even of Jehu: 'Yet I have left me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth that hath not kissed him'. And Elijah felt that that was his truest comfort and his highest duty. All Elijah's own care was that the faithful seven thousand might not be left without a prophet—yea, that there might be a prophet who might even recall some of the faithless to their God. He learnt the spirit of those words which the prophet ascribes to a greater than Elijah: 'I have laboured in vain; I have spent my strength for nought; yet surely my judgment is with the Lord, and my work with my God; and now, saith the Lord, that formed me from the womb to be His servant, to bring Jacob again to Him, though Israel be not gathered, yet shall I be glorious in the eyes of the Lord, and my God shall be my strength'.
—W. H. Simcox, The Cessation of Prophecy, p. 134.
References.—XIX. 13.—J. Keble, Sermons for the Christian Year, part ii. pp. 2, 5, 63. XIX. 19-21.—W. M. Taylor, Elijah the Prophet, p. 149. H. P. Liddon, Penny Pulpit, No. 593, Old Testament Outlines, p. 79.
Then Jezebel sent a messenger unto Elijah, saying, So let the gods do to me, and more also, if I make not thy life as the life of one of them by to morrow about this time.
And when he saw that, he arose, and went for his life, and came to Beersheba, which belongeth to Judah, and left his servant there.
But he himself went a day's journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper tree: and he requested for himself that he might die; and said, It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life; for I am not better than my fathers.
And as he lay and slept under a juniper tree, behold, then an angel touched him, and said unto him, Arise and eat.
And he looked, and, behold, there was a cake baken on the coals, and a cruse of water at his head. And he did eat and drink, and laid him down again.
And the angel of the LORD came again the second time, and touched him, and said, Arise and eat; because the journey is too great for thee.
And he arose, and did eat and drink, and went in the strength of that meat forty days and forty nights unto Horeb the mount of God.
And he came thither unto a cave, and lodged there; and, behold, the word of the LORD came to him, and he said unto him, What doest thou here, Elijah?
And he said, I have been very jealous for the LORD God of hosts: for the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.
And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the LORD. And, behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the LORD; but the LORD was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the LORD was not in the earthquake:
And after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.
And it was so, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and stood in the entering in of the cave. And, behold, there came a voice unto him, and said, What doest thou here, Elijah?
And he said, I have been very jealous for the LORD God of hosts: because the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.
And the LORD said unto him, Go, return on thy way to the wilderness of Damascus: and when thou comest, anoint Hazael to be king over Syria:
And Jehu the son of Nimshi shalt thou anoint to be king over Israel: and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abelmeholah shalt thou anoint to be prophet in thy room.
And it shall come to pass, that him that escapeth the sword of Hazael shall Jehu slay: and him that escapeth from the sword of Jehu shall Elisha slay.
Yet I have left me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him.
So he departed thence, and found Elisha the son of Shaphat, who was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen before him, and he with the twelfth: and Elijah passed by him, and cast his mantle upon him.
And he left the oxen, and ran after Elijah, and said, Let me, I pray thee, kiss my father and my mother, and then I will follow thee. And he said unto him, Go back again: for what have I done to thee?
And he returned back from him, and took a yoke of oxen, and slew them, and boiled their flesh with the instruments of the oxen, and gave unto the people, and they did eat. Then he arose, and went after Elijah, and ministered unto him.