So Ahab went up to eat and drink. But Elijah climbed to the summit of Carmel, bent down on the ground, and put his face between his knees.
I. THIS WAS THE SOUND OF SALVATION.
1. Rain was salvation to the nation.
(1) Three years and six months of drought brought it to the point of extinction. The heavens were brazen; the earth was scorched. The people were blackened with excessive heat, and worn with want. Their numbers were thinned by death; survivors moved like skeletons on the edges of their graves.
(2) To such the sound of rain is tidings of life. Let it come, and soon, in such a climate as Palestine, vegetation will burst into verdure. There will be "seed for the sower and bread tot the eater."
2. It was a sign of spiritual blessings.
(1) The kingdom of nature was constituted to furnish apt similes of the kingdom of grace. The blooming of the desert after rain is a familiar figure of spiritual revival. (See Isaiah 35.;55:10-18.)
(2) The descent of rain is a figure of the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the receptive soul (Isaiah 32:15). Water, a purifier, refresher, vitalizer, fittingly sets forth His energies; and as these are active, so in baptism the element should come upon the person as rain upon the passive earth. (See Acts 2:8, 4, 17, 82; 10:44-48.)
3. Revivals have their premonitions.
(1) The sound comes before the rain. It is heard in the branches of trees, and in the waves of seas and lakes. So is a coming revival discerned in the Church by emotion under the word, interest in religious services public and private, and increased evangelistic activity.
(2) This is first heard by the spiritual. Elijah was the first to hear the sound of the coming rain. It begins in the higher heavens before it reaches the earth. Those who are much in prayer have the sensitive ear to hear "afar off." (Compare 2 Peter 1:9.)
II. THE CONDITIONS HAD BEEN FULFILLED.
1. Sin was repented.
(1) The people saw the impotence of Baal. He could not answer for himself. They were now convinced of their folly in submitting to such a delusion. So it must be with every sinner whose eyes are opened.
(2) They destroyed the authors of their delusion. They slew the prophets of Bash Not one escaped. So in the most complete manner must our evil lusts be slain. No power must be left to them to lure us from the truth again.
2. Christ was accepted.
(1) Elijah must show himself to Ahab as a condition of rain (ver. 1). Ahab so far accepted him as to submit to his directions. But Elijah was a type of Christ, without whose revelation of Himself to us we can have no spiritual grace. (See 1 Kings 17:1.)
(2) Elijah was a type of Christ in his persn. His name (אליה and אליהו) is "My God Jehovah," or, "Whose God is he," expresses the union of God and man in Christ.
(3) He was a type of Christ also in his office. All prophets were types of the One Great Prophet. Elijah, who was remarkable amongst the number, eminently so.
(4) He, too, united with his office of prophet the functions of the priest. He offered up the sacrifice on Carmel. In this sacrifice the people accepted Jehovah as their covenant God. So must we likewise accept God in Christ. In token of their communion with Jehovah they appear to have feasted on the sacrifices. With the burnt offering there were doubtless peace offerings, for these were usual accompaniments, upon which the worshippers feasted. This was the eating and drinking to which Elijah moved Ahab (ver. 42).
(5) Elijah also was a type of Christ in his character of Intercessor. While Ahab and his people were partaking of the peace-offerings, "Elijah went up to the top of Carmel, and cast himself down upon the earth, and put his face between his knees." He bowed reverently in prayer with his head towards the ground - an attitude still observed in the East. So Christ, in the heights, makes intercession for us.
3. The blessing came.
(1) While Elijah interceded he sent his servant to look for the signs of the coming blessing. In this parable, in which the prophet is still the type of Christ, his servant stands for the Church, whose duty it is to look for the fruits of the Redeemer's pleadings. Are we thus looking?
(2) The servant went, and went again and again before he witnessed any sign, in which the lesson to us is that while Christ pleads we must never be discouraged, but "hope to the end."
(3) At the seventh time the promise appeared in a cloud as of a man's hand rising out of the sea, which was to be followed by others in rapid succession until the heavens were "black with clouds and wind," and the thirsty earth was visited with copious showers of refreshing rain. This was prophetic of that seventh time, or "fulness of time," when the hand of God shall act in the sea, or among all nations, and raise that "plentiful shower "which shall refresh His weary inheritance (Psalm 68:9). Meanwhile Elijah sent his servant to Ahab, saying, "Harness the horses, and get thee down, that the rain stop thee not."
(4) Now the parable is changed. Ahab, the king of Israel, after the destruction of the prophets of Baal, riding as in triumph, and attended by the blessings of heaven, is the type of Christ. So Elijah runs before him in the spirit and power of God. The Baptist accordingly came "in the spirit and power of Elias," as the forerunner of Christ, in His first advent, to establish His spiritual kingdom. But Elias, in person, will be His harbinger when He comes again, in the fulness of His blessing, to establish a visible and everlasting kingdom (Malachi 4:5). - J.A.M.
I. THE OBJECT OF HIS FAITH. To procure rain for the parched land. This was the one object upon which his mind was fixed, and which he was stimulated to seek by the promise of God.
And Elijah said unto Ahab.
Preacher's Analyst.This passage: —
I. INDICATES THE BENT OF A GOOD MAN'S MIND. Both Ahab and Elijah "went up," but how different their purposes. One "went up" to eat and drink, the other "went up" to pray. One event may produce various impressions on different minds. These different impressions indicate the true character of men. The mind of the ungodly man is bent upon pleasure, the mind of the godly man on prayer. We may learn three things respecting a good man from this event.
1. The good man possesses an earnest spirit. Elijah needed rest.
2. The good man possesses a humble spirit. The victory Elijah had achieved produced an amazing influence on the minds of the spectators.
3. The good man possesses a devout spirit. He retired to pray. "He cast himself upon the earth, and put his face between his knees."
II. EXEMPLIFIES THE POWER OF A GOOD MAN'S FAITH. There are three things about Elijah's conduct that claim our attention.
1. His confidence. There were no indications of the approaching storm. The air was calm, and clear, and cloudless. Elijah had faith in God. He remembered Cherith, Zarephath, and Carmel.
2. His patience. Disappointed once, twice, even six times, he sends again. Elijah knew what God had promised He had power to perform. He waited.
3. His perseverance. Elijah had noted the rustling among the trees, but this did not set aside the necessity of prayer. Elijah prayed, continued in prayer. Don't let us be discouraged in our approaches to God.
III. RECORDS THE SUCCESS OF A GOOD MAN'S PRAYER. God had given one answer to prayer — fire had fallen from heaven and consumed the prepared sacrifice. Elijah prayed again. Continued mercies necessitate repeated supplication. To-day's prayer will not do for So-morrow's blessing. We know not the nature of Elijah's petition, but we see three advantages accruing therefrom.
1. There is a Visible indication of God's purposes. "Behold there ariseth a little cloud out of the sea, like a man's hand." God's children have the earliest intimation of God's purposes. "Like a man's hand." Small beginnings — in literature, science, and religion — often have important and far-reaching results.
2. There is a special warning for the king's preparation. "Go, say unto Ahab." Elijah had predicted that rain should come "according to his word."
3. There is a direct answer to a particular request. Elijah prayed for rain. The blessing was sent "while" he sought it. It was a great rain.
IV. REVEALS THE SOURCE OF A GOOD MAN'S STRENGTH. "And the hand of the Lord was on Elijah." Remember what Elijah had done! Think of his weariness and hunger, then picture him, outrunning for twenty miles the fleet steed of Ahab. From this superhuman event let us learn two things.
1. That God imparts strength to the good man for the performance of the most arduous duties. "The hand of the Lord was on Elijah." Man is a poor fragile thing, but God can gird him with infinite strength. God's influences touch the body, the mind, the heart.
2. The resources of infinite strength are within the reach of a good man. What God did for Elijah He can do for the Church — individuals.
Homiletic Magazine.On the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea and opposite the far-famed town of Acre, on the south side of a beautiful bay, there is a range of mountain-land rising to an elevation of from 1200 to 1500 feet. This range of hills stand out with marked distinctness and forms a very prominent object from the sea and from all the country round about. It is known by the name of Mount Carmel. The view from the summit is very imposing. The tableland on the summit extends inland for some eight or nine miles. It is a locality interesting not simply on its own account, but also from its varied scriptural associations.
I. THE PROPHET'S PRAYER. He is bold enough before men, but humble indeed in the presence of God.
1. Look at his posture. He is on his knees with his head bowed downward, so that his forehead touches the ground. This was the attitude assumed in supplication on occasions of special urgency. Standing in prayer was not unusual in ordinary worship (Mark 11:25; Luke 18:13). Attitude in prayer is of small moment in comparison with the spirit of devotion; yet as an outward indication of inward feeling is net altogether unimportant: —(1) Elijah's attitude was the sign of reverence and humility: reverence is conspicuous in the prayers of the most devout.(2) Listen to his petition. We hear not indeed the words, but we know the matter of his prayer. The land was desolate and the people ready to perish for lack of rain. Showers of blessing are wanting for the Church! Oh for the spirit of Elijah.
II. THE PROPHET'S FAITH.
1. He expected the rain, although as yet there was no sign of its coming, and it had been withheld for more than three years. He says (ver. 41), "There is a sound of abundance of rain"; but this was as yet only in the word of God's promise.
2. He continued So expect although the fulfilment of the promise was long delayed. He said to his servant seven times: — "Go again." "Go again." It WILL come! God often tries faith and patience by delay.
III. THE PROPHET'S SUCCESS.
II. THE MEANS BY WHICH HE SOUGHT THIS OBJECT. "He cast himself down," etc. The attitude of prayer. He might have been tempted to have left God to fulfil His own promise, but He did not. His faith was operative, and led him to pray earnestly for the object upon which it was fixed. True faith will always influence us to labour and to pray for its object.
III. THE ENCOURAGEMENT HE RECEIVED. "A sound of abundance of rain"
IV. THE DISCOURAGEMENT HE MET WITH. "The servant returned from looking toward the sea and said there is nothing."
V. THE PERSEVERANCE HE MANIFESTED. "Go again seven times."
VI. THE SUCCESS HE REALISED. "And it came to pass, in the meanwhile, that the heaven was black with clouds and wind, and there was a great rain." Perseverance is still rewarded by success, and by it God's servants still honour Him whom they serve.
I. IT WAS BASED ON THE PROMISE OF GOD. God's promises are given, not to restrain, but to incite to prayer. They show the direction in which we may ask, and the extent to which we may expect an answer. They are the mould into which we may pour our fervid spirits without fear. They are the signed cheque, made payable to order, which we must endorse and present for payment. Though the Bible be crowded with golden promises from board to board, yet will they be inoperative until we turn them into prayer. We are content to pray, though we are as ignorant of the philosophy of the modus operandi of prayer, as we are of any natural law. We find it no dreamy reverie or sweet sentimentality, but a practical living force.
II. IT WAS DEFINITE. This is where so many prayers fail. They are shot like arrows into the air. They are like letters which require no answer, because they ask for nothing. They are like the firing by artillery in a mimic fight, when only gunpowder is employed. This is why they are so wanting in power and interest.
III. IT WAS EARNEST. "Elijah prayed earnestly." This is the testimony of the Holy Spirit, through the Apostle James. It was the effectual, fervent prayer of a righteous man, which availeth much.
IV. ELIJAH'S PRAYER WAS HUMBLE. "He cast himself down on the ground, and put his face between his knees." We scarcely recognize him, he seems to have lost his identity. Our only plea with God is the merit and blood of our great High Priest. It becomes us to be humble.
V. IT WAS FULL OF EXPECXTANT FAITH. "Whatsoever things ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them: and ye shall have them." Faith is the indispensable condition of all true prayer. It is the gift of the Holy Ghost. It thrives by exercise. It grows strong by feeding on the promises: the Word of God is its natural food. It beat strongly in Elijah's heart.
VI. IT WAS VERY PERSEVERING. He said to his servant, "Go up now, look toward the sea." And he went up, and looked, and said, "There is nothing." How often have we sent the lad of eager desire to scan the horizon! — and how often has he returned with the answer, There is nothing! There is no tear of penitence in those hard eyes. There is no symptom of amendment in that wild life. There is no sign of deliverance in these sore perplexities. There is nothing. And because there is nothing when we have just begun to pray, we leave off praying. We leave the mountain brow. We do not know that God's answer is even then upon the way. Not so with Elijah. "And he said, Go again seven times." Not unfrequently our Father grants our prayer, and labels the answer for us; but He keeps it back, that we may be led on to a point of intensity, which shall bless our spirits for ever, and from which we shall never recede.
VII. AND THE PRAYER WAS ABUNDANTLY ANSWERED. For weeks and months before, the sun had been gathering up from lake and river, from sea and ocean, the drops of mist, drawing them as clouds in coronets of glory around himself; and now the gale was bearing them rapidly towards the thirsty land of Israel. Presently the lad, from his tower of observation, beheld on the horizon a tiny cloud, no bigger than a man's hand, scudding across the sky. No more was needed to convince an Oriental that rain was near. It was, and is, the certain precursor of a sudden hurricane of wind and rain. "More things are wrought by prayer than this world wots of." Why should not we learn and practise his secret? It is certainly within the reach of us all. Then we too might bring from heaven spiritual blessings, which should make the parched places of the church and the world rejoice and blossom as the rose.
(F. B. Meyer, M. A.)I. THE PLACE WHITHER ELIJAH WENT TO SEEK HIM. He ascended to the top of Carmel! Here was a privacy remote from every eye, and well calculated to bring his mind into near and dear communion with God, after the public and awful duties in which he had been engaged — duties equally affecting the honour of Jehovah and the welfare of His people.
II. THE PRAYER OF ELIJAH SEEMS TO HAVE BEEN OFFERED UP IN DEEP HUMILITY. He cast himself upon the earth, and put his face between his knees. Lowliness is the very essence of prayer — for what is prayer, except the soul's confession of its unworthiness, its rebellion, its vileness, its helplessness, its merit of God's wrath, arising out of a broken law and a neglect of all the blessings that are centred in Jesus, and that have been offered to and pressed upon its acceptance?
III. THE PRAYER OF ELIJAH IS BEAUTIFULLY DISTINGUISHED BY A SPIRIT OF DEEP AND SETTLED EARNESTNESS. We do not hear a word spoken, nothing that interrupts the soul's silent communion with God. We know not that a tear was shed, we know not that a sigh was uttered; yet have we obviously the supplication of one who wrestled with God, under an almost overwhelming sense of the momentous nature of the petition which he asked at God's hand.
IV. HE WRESTLED WITH GOD, AS "ONE WHO WOULD TAKE NO DENIAL."
V. ELIJAH, THEN, EXHIBITED A FULL ASSURANCE OF FAITH THAT HIS PETITION WOULD BE GRANTED.
VI. ELIJAH EXHIBITED A WAITING SPIRIT OF SUPPLICATION.
VII. THE SUPPLICATION OF ELIJAH WAS DISTINGUISHED BY A WATCHFUL STATE OF MIND.
VIII. THE PRAYER OF ELIJAH WAS THE PLEADING OF A SPIRIT CAPABLE OF DISCOVERING AN ANSWER WHICH COMMON OBSERVATION COULD NOT DETECT.
IX. THE PRAYER OF ELIJAH WAS ONE WHICH SERVED TO STRENGTHEN HIM FOR DUTY. It did not suffice to send his servant, that Ahab might be warned, and proceed on his way. No, the prophet arose from his station and posture of lowliness on Mount Carmel, in joy and comfort, to do Jehovah's bidding, as Jehovah's prophet. "The hand of the Lord was upon Elijah, and he girded up his loins, and ran before Ahab, to the entrance of Jezreel."
(R. P. Buddicom, B. A.)
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
1. There was an urgency in the one case which there was not in the other. The king was waiting; so were the prophets; so were the people; it is an unprecedented crisis in the history of the nation. In the case of the rain, the prophet was alone; no immediate expectancy on the part of the public was to be answered.
2. We are not to live in the unusual and the exciting, but in the ordinary and regular. It was good for Elijah himself to be taught that he was only a suppliant, not the Lord. God has always been sparing of His exceptional manifestations. Christ was sparing in His miracles: He never did them merely for the sake of doing them.
3. No human imagination would have risked such a conjunction of immediateness and delay as is given in this chapter. Such a contrary act on the part of God is a simple impossibility to the imagination. It amounts to what is called, sometimes foolishly, a discrepancy or contradiction. Yet it is the very law of the mystery of our life! We live it, but dare not imagine it! Great honours are followed by great reverses to keep us sober. Out of this reasoning comes the high probability of the historical and literal truthfulness of the whole narrative. Literary completeness there is none. No attempt is made to satisfy the suggestions of fancy. All tricks of management, all skill in artistic disposal of incident is ignored, and truth is left to attest and vindicate its reality.
(J. Parker, D. D.)
(F. S. Webster, M. A.)I. THE CAUSE OF THE FAMINE.
II. THE CAUSE OF THE RAIN.
1. Primary cause, God's mercy. He seems to catch beforehand the sound of its footsteps (LXX.). But as the punishment was not brought about without the prophet's intervention, so now the rain is to be hastened by his prayers.
2. What we may describe as the instrumental cause was Elijah's fervent supplications. It is the instance of the "effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availing much." "He prayed again, and the heaven gave rain" (James 5:16-18).
1. We learn from this lesson that prayer is of avail with regard to outward things.
2. We see clearly that it must be the prayer of faith, and not of human caprice, which is offered.
3. The lesson also warns us that national sins bring down national chastisements.
(W. H. Hutchings, M. A.)
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