Elijah the Great Heart of Israel.
During the reign of Jehoshaphat, fourth king of Judah, and Ahab, sixth king of Israel, after the division of the kingdom, there came out of Gilead Elijah, a prophet of the Lord. Two of the kings of Judah, and all of the kings of Israel had been wicked men, and the Lord sent Elijah to Ahab, king of Israel, to tell him that there should be no rain for years in the land of Israel, and then only as Elijah should ask for it. Ahab was more wicked than the kings that reigned before him, and had built a temple for the god Baal in Samaria.

Because he would seek to destroy Elijah, the Lord told His prophet to go to the brook Cherith that ran into the Jordan, and there He would take care of him. "Thou shalt drink of the brook, and I have commanded the ravens to feed thee there," said the Lord.

And so it was. Morning and evening the ravens came bringing bread and meat, and the brook brought him water out of the rock, but as there was no rain, the brook at last dried up, and there was a great famine.

[Illustration: Ravens bringing food to Elijah]

Then Elijah was told to go to Zarephath, for a woman there had been told to feed him, and he went at once. As he came near the city gate he saw a woman gathering sticks, and he asked her to bring him a cup of water and a little bread. She told him that she had but a handful of meal in a barrel, and a little oil in a cruse, and she was going to bake it for herself and son, that they might eat it and die.

Then Elijah said, "Fear not; go and do as thou hast said, but make me thereof a little cake first, and after that make for thee and thy son, for thus saith the Lord God of Israel, 'The barrel of meal shall not waste, neither shall the cruse of oil fail until the day that the Lord sendeth rain upon the earth.'"

She believed Elijah, and did as he commanded, and they ate for a whole year, and the meal and the oil lasted all that time.

After this the woman's son grew very sick, so very sick that he appeared to be dead, and the woman cried to the prophet in her distress,

"O thou man of God, art thou come unto me to call my sin to remembrance and to slay my son?"

Then he said, "Give me thy son," and he took him up to his own room and laid him upon his bed and prayed over him. Then he stretched himself upon the child three times and cried,

"O Lord my God, I pray Thee let this child's soul come unto him again!"

And God heard Elijah, and the soul of the child came to him again, and he revived.

Then he gave the boy to his happy and grateful mother, saying, "See, thy son liveth."

In the third year of the famine the Lord said to Elijah,

"Go, show thyself to Ahab, and I will send rain on the earth."

As Elijah went he met a good man named Obadiah, who was governor of the king's house. This man worshipped the Lord, and when Ahab's wicked wife, Jezebel, tried to kill all the Lord's prophets he hid a hundred of them in two caves and kept them alive with bread and water. He was seeking grass and water for the king's horses, and when he saw Elijah he fell on his face and said,

"Art thou my Lord Elijah?"

"I am," said Elijah, "go, tell thy lord, 'Behold, Elijah is here.'"

Obadiah was in distress at this command, for he knew that the king would kill Elijah if he found him, and he could not think that Elijah would be brave enough to meet the king, or he thought perhaps the spirit of the Lord would carry him away, and he alone would have to meet the anger of the king.

"As the Lord of hosts liveth," said Elijah, "I will surely show myself unto him to-day."

So Obadiah told Ahab, and Ahab went to meet Elijah, and said to him,

"Art thou he that troubleth Israel?"

"I have not troubled Israel," he said, "but thou and thy father's house, in that ye have forsaken the commandments of the Lord, and thou hast followed Baalim."

Then he told Ahab to call all Israel to Mount Carmel which overlooks the sea, and to bring there also the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal, and the four hundred prophets of the groves.

So the king called them together, and Elijah cried to the people,

"How long halt ye between two opinions? If the Lord be God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him."

And the people, afraid of the king and his wicked wife, answered not a word.

"I, even I only, remain a prophet of the Lord," said Elijah, "but Baal's prophets are four hundred and fifty men." And then he told the people how it could be proven which was true -- the God of Israel, or Baal.

He told the prophets of Baal to make an altar and place wood and a sacrifice upon it, and he also would do the same, and they should call upon Baal, and he would call on the name of the Lord, and "the God that answereth by fire, let him be God."

This the priests of Baal were willing to do, and they cried around their altar from morning until night, "O Baal, hear us," but there was no voice, and no answer by fire.

Elijah watched and waited, sometimes telling them that perhaps their god was asleep, and could be waked; or that he had gone on a journey, or was talking with somebody, and then they became wild and leaped upon the altar and cut themselves with knives.

After many hours Elijah called the people to him, and he repaired a broken altar of the Lord that stood there with twelve stones for the twelve tribes of Israel, and made a trench all around it. Then he placed wood on the altar and told the people to pour four barrels of water over the sacrifice. This they did three times, and the water ran down and filled the trench around the altar, and the people saw that Elijah could not by any means make a fire there.

Then, as it was the hour of the evening sacrifice in the temple, Elijah knelt by his altar with his face toward Jerusalem, and prayed to his God that He would hear him, and show the people that they were called from the worship of idols to the service of the living God.

What a wonderful sight was that, when fire fell from heaven and burnt up the sacrifice, and the wood, and the altar, and even the water in the trench around the altar!

And the people all fell on their faces at the sight, and cried,

"The Lord He is the God! The Lord He is the God!" Then Elijah told them to take the prophets of Baal and destroy them, and they did so.

"There is a sound of abundance of rain!" said Elijah to the king, and then he went to the very top of Carmel, and threw himself upon the earth, hiding his face between his knees, while he sent his servant to look toward the sea, and watch for the coming of the rain.

This the servant did seven times, each time coming to his master and saying, "There is nothing," but the prophet told him to look seven times more, and when he came back the seventh time he said,

"Behold, there ariseth a little cloud out of the sea like a man's hand."

Then he sent his servant to Ahab, saying,

"Prepare thy chariot and get thee down, that the rain stop thee not."

The little cloud grew to be a great one, and filled all the sky until it was black with clouds and wind, and there was a great rain. And as Ahab rode in his chariot, Elijah, who was strong with the spirit of the Lord and glad for His great victory over sin, ran before the chariot to the gates of the city.

Jezebel the queen was furious when she heard that the priests had been destroyed. She sent word to Elijah that he would be treated the same way on the morrow, and so Elijah fled for his life, and leaving his servant in Beer-Sheba on the southern border of Israel, he went a day's journey into the wilderness. There he sat down under a juniper tree, and for the first time his heart grew weak within him.

"It is enough," he said, "Now, O Lord, take away my life, for am I not better than my fathers."

Perhaps he was discouraged because he was tired and hungry, for he fell asleep, and when he awoke it was because an angel touched him, saying, "Arise and eat," and he looked, and there was a cake just baked on the hot coals, and a bottle of water close beside him. So he ate and drank, but he was not yet rested, and he fell asleep again. The angel waked him the second time telling him to eat and drink, for the journey was too great for him. Then he ate and drank again, and went on the strength of that food forty days and forty nights, till he came to Horeb, the mount of God, where the Ten Commandments were given to Moses, and there he lodged in a cave. He was still gloomy and discouraged, and when the Lord said, "What doest thou here, Elijah?" 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."

[Illustration: Elijah and the angel]

Then the Lord told him to go out and stand on the mount before the Lord, and he passed by. There was a great wind that split the mountains, and broke the great rocks, 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.

When Elijah heard that, he wrapped his face in his mantle and stood at the door of the cave, and the Lord asked again, "What doest thou here, Elijah?" and Elijah answered him just as he did before.

Then the Lord told him to go back and anoint a new king over Syria, also a new king over Israel, and Elisha to be prophet in his place.

Elijah went, and he found Elisha ploughing with twelve yoke of oxen. He cast his mantle over Elisha, and Elisha followed him and became his servant.

When Elijah came back to his own country he found there had been war between Israel and Syria, and Ahab had grown hard of heart again. He and his wicked wife Jezebel had taken the vineyard of Naboth away from him because Ahab wanted it for a garden, and they had caused the death of Naboth, so when Elijah came he found Ahab in the vineyard, and said,

"Hast thou killed and also taken possession?" and he told him that he should die where Naboth died.

"Hast thou found me, O mine enemy!" cried the king.

"I have found thee," answered Elijah, and he spoke to him the word of the Lord, that he should be destroyed out of Israel with his whole family.

Then Ahab repented, and the Lord spared his life two years, but later his wife Jezebel came to a dreadful end, with the seventy sons of Ahab.

When the time came for the Lord to take his servant to himself, Elijah wished to be alone, but Elisha his servant would not leave him. He followed his master from one town to another until they came to the river Jordan. Then Elijah took off his mantle, and folding it, struck the waters and they were divided, so that they went over on dry ground. Then Elijah said, "Ask what I shall do for thee," and Elisha prayed that a double portion of his Master's spirit might rest upon him.

"If thou see me when I am taken from thee it shall be so unto thee," he said, "but if not, it shall not be so."

And as they went there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, parting them from each other, and Elijah went up in a whirlwind to heaven. Now Elisha wished his master to know that he saw him, so he cried,

"My father, my father! the chariot of Israel and the horsemen thereof!" and he saw him no more.

[Illustration: Elijah and the chariot of fire]

Then he took Elijah's mantle that fell from him, and struck the waters of Jordan again, and they parted, and he went over, and he knew that the power of the old prophet's spirit had been given to him.

Fifty young men, sons of the prophets, saw him return, and they said,

"The spirit of Elijah doth rest on Elisha," and they bowed themselves to the ground before him.

chapter xxvi the building of
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