while he himself traveled on a day's journey into the wilderness. He sat down under a broom tree and prayed that he might die. "I have had enough, LORD," he said. "Take my life, for I am no better than my fathers."
I. REACTION AFTER EXCITEMENT. Great natures are peculiarly subject to this. The impulse which impels to a noble act has a rebound proportioned to its intensity. Peter and John the Baptist stand beside Elijah as exemplars of this fact. From it arises the special peril of revivalistic services. Excitement has its place and power in the advance of Christ's kingdom, but we must not substitute spasmodic feeling for steady growth.
II. EXHAUSTION OF PHYSICAL AND NERVOUS ENERGY. Even the gigantic strength of Elijah underwent a terrible strain on Carmel Anxiety, enthusiasm, burning zeal, exultation combined to agitate him, and these were doubtless preceded by many days and nights of passionate, agonizing prayer. God's provision for the prophet - the sleep that came over him, as over a tired child, the food prepared by angel hands - prove that this was recognized. Show the mutual dependence of body and mind. Neither the equable temperament of some Christians nor the excitability of others is due always to the presence or absence of Divine grace. Good food, fresh air, and change of scene would do more than religious exercises to restore tone to some who are despondent. The neglect of sanitary laws is a sin. There was far-reaching wisdom in Paul's declaration, "I keep the body under."
III. ABSENCE OF SYMPATHY. "I am left alone." "I only am left." Such was the burden of Elijah's cry. This is a special source of despondency to missionaries surrounded by the heathen. It affects also multitudes who are not so literally alone. They may have many Christians around them, but in their special work, in their peculiar difficulty, they can find none to help, or even to understand them. "Alone in a crowd" is a true description of many a disciple of Christ, who is thinking his own thoughts and fighting his own foes. Show from this the wisdom of the provision God has made in Church fellowship. Point out the causes which tend to make such communion unreal or unhelpful. Urge the cultivation of sympathy with young disciples, with obscure workers, etc.
IV. INFLUENCE OF DOUBT. The confidence of the prophet on Carmel had broken down. Jezebel had not been cowed by the sudden revulsion of popular feeling. She doubted its permanence, and at all events resolved that she would not lose heart, so Ahab and his courtiers were reassured when she swore to have revenge on Elijah. The prophet thought now that he had been too sanguine - that the one chance had come and gone without effect. Doubt paralyzed him. Doubt of God's willingness to forgive plunges the penitent into despondency. He would scarcely venture secretly into a crowd to touch the hem of Christ's garment. Doubt of God's readiness to hear and answer prayer keeps the Christian from the light of His countenance, etc.
V. INVISIBILITY OF ANTAGONISTS. Elijah could face his visible foes on Carmel without quailing - indeed, he dared to taunt them at the risk of being torn to pieces - but against this vague feeling of despair he could not hold his own. Moral battles are the hardest to fight. He who can grapple with what is tangible sometimes fails when called on to "wrestle not with flesh and blood, but with principalities, and powers, and the rulers of the darkness of this world." Some would rather run the risk of being condemned hereafter, as wicked and slothful servants, than have the certainty of being sneered at now as those who are "righteous overmuch."
VI. ENFORCED INACTIVITY. Elijah's opportunity for vigorous action seemed over. He was cast in upon his own thoughts. Few could bear it less patiently than he. The man who can dare and do anything finds it specially hard to wait and to suffer. Similar temptation to despondency comes to those who are laid aside by illness, or removed from a happy sphere of service. But that is the time to wait on the Lord, and so "renew our strength."
CONCLUSION. In all hours of despondency remember that He who knew the agony of Gethsemane and Calvary pities us, and feels for us. "We have not a High Priest who cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities," etc. - A.R.
It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life.
I. THE SOUL'S SIGH IN THE SEARCH AFTER SOLITUDE. Sometime or other all sigh for solitude; you cannot destroy the feeling, it is planted deeply in the human soul. There are certain circumstances in life which develop this feeling, until it becomes strong and all-powerful, governing the whole soul. It is possible to allow this sentiment to grow wild and overleap its natural limit; but in itself, and within its proper limit, it is right and necessary. Before men can be strong they must be much with God and themselves; before they can be rich and mature, they will have to live much in the garden of their mind to weed and manure it. The conditions under which solitude is sought are various.
1. The soul seeks solitude in the pangs of disappointment. We are born to disappointments — all meet them, only some are more sensitive to their point and bitterness than others. We are often either too confiding, or lofty in our wish, or sanguine in our expectation, that disappointments cannot but come. They come from foes and friends — from prosperity and adversity.
2. The soul often sighs for the solitary in life, when deeply convinced of the vanity and falsehood of society; when the soul sees and feels the faults and follies of the world, it often feels a wish to live in some place where they are not seen or heard.
3. The absence of congenial society not unfrequently turns the face of the soul towards solitude. There may be times when our companions are too numerous, as well as too few. The soul wishes to shake itself from them and be free, and often goes beyond civilisation for this freedom it longs for so anxiously. This is often the case from superior refinement, advanced piety, nobler aspirations than those of neighbours and friends.
4. The soul often sighs for the solitude in life under the influence of religious feeling. The danger is for the thing that is right in itself to become a blind sentimentality.
5. The soul is apt, in a condition of great sorrow, to sigh after solitude.
6. This feeling may and sometimes does proceed from a morbid state of mind.
II. THE SOUL'S TIME OF DESPONDENT DEPRESSION. There is a shade sometime or other to cross every flowery bed, and a gloom to cover every sunny path. There are occasions in the history of most men when life, the most precious and the first to be desired, is a burden. In this state of the soul all power of enjoyment is gone, and all power and courage have taken their departure. The horizon of the soul is obscured with darkness, so that there is neither beauty nor prospect in view anywhere.
1. Sometimes this state of despondent depression comes upon the soul from a sense of its own sinfulness.
2. The thought of our own individual insignificancy has a tendency to the same result.
3. The conscious vanity of the surroundings of our present existence is another depressing element in life.
4. The darkness and uncertainty surrounding human life has a tendency to make us despondent. The simplest things are lost in mystery; the clearest things are covered with uncertainty.
5. Failure in realising our noblest plans and most cherished wishes is another depressing element which often presses us below the level of right standing.
6. The ills that men are subject to is another frequent means of human depression.
III. THE SOUL'S DEPRECIATION OF ITSELF. Some people constantly depreciate themselves, and they are thought sincere and humble persons, whereas it may be nothing more than a habit, or worse, an affected self-depreciation, that others may have occasion and scope to raise them on high.
1. A sense of self-depreciation takes hold of the mind when it is filled with the conception of the Divine Majesty and His presence.
2. The feeling of self-depreciation pervades the soul in the presence or recollection of some higher examples in matters of life and ambition. An artist of sensitive appreciation of superiority in the presence of a genuine piece of art depreciates to the dust his own performances. A poet with a true poetic sense, when he reads or hears some grand poetry like Paradise Lost, feels very low in his own view. So is it in other things in life.
3. The same feeling takes hold of the mind of man often when comparing himself with the material universe and its different creations in his outward form and physical capacities.
4. This sentiment also proceeds frequently from a review of the past conduct of one's own life.
5. Self-depreciation is often the depressed language of the soul, when persecuted and cast out of society.
6. Once more, when the ills and miseries of life are calmly and seriously viewed, we ourselves being subjects of the same, the little we have done, or can do to diminish them, tends to self-depreciation.
IV. THE SOUL'S WEARINESS OF LIFE, and its special desire to be released from its burden. In many cases life is a burden, but it is a rare thing, nevertheless, to wish to get rid of the burden by being relieved of life. There are cases where it appears almost natural and religious for men to wish to die, which appear almost beyond the suspicion of wrong.
1. When a person thinks that his work is done in this life, and he cannot be of much use any longer.
2. When an individual becomes helpless, and requires the time and attention of others to attend to him, he feels he is in the way, and cannot compensate for the least done to him.
3. When, by his close communion with the Divine and the heavenly, the soul is more at home from the world than in it.
4. When it is submitted, as in the case of Elijah, to the hand and will of God.
I. The sharp contrast in these texts is worthy of being remembered in DAYS OF WORLDLY ADVERSITY. Times of misfortune and disaster not uncommonly induce the mood expressed in the first text. Having suffered the wreck of our circumstances, schemes, happiness, and hopes, we court the shade of the juniper tree and pour out bitter lamentations. What is there to live for? We are failures, and the sooner we are out of the way the better.
1. It is only through discipline that we are fit for glorification. Cars of fire, horses of fire, a path beyond the stars, luminous diadems! we are presumptuous enough to think that at any time we are ready for these. But we are not ready. The perfection that qualifies for high places comes only through some form of suffering.
2. Only God knows when we are fit for glorification. "It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life." Are we sure about this enough? When you chastise a child, you find that his opinion and yours wary considerably as to what is enough.
II. We may remember the strong contrast of these texts IN DAYS OF SPIRITUAL DESPONDENCY. Times of deep depression come in our spiritual history. Wesley's new life began in glorious experiences in Aldersgate Street, yet within a year of these glowing feelings we find that he suffered sad relapses into darkness and doubt; he even wrote, "I am not a Christian now." We feel worsted in the spiritual conflict, losing confidence and hope. These sad days of humiliation and despondency need not be lost upon us. They bring home the lesson of our personal unworthiness and helplessness. "I am not better than my fathers."
III. We may remember the strong contrast of our texts IN DAYS WHEN WE ARE DISAPPOINTED BY THE RESULTS OF OUR EVANGELICAL WORK. Elijah was smitten with despair about God's cause. The scornful, scorching words of the wicked and wrathful queen unmanned him. All his grand hopes for his nation and race were to expire at the juniper tree. And very often do the strongest and best of men entertain similar misgivings. Yet Elijah was wrong. God works strangely, He works silently, He works slowly, but He works surely. The funeral was not to be that of Elijah. The one thing we must resolve upon is not to reason and question, but confidently to follow out all the lines and leadings of God in spiritual life and evangelical toil It is the fashion with some modern novelists to finish their stories in the most atheistic and despairing manner — the mystery and struggle of life ending in unconsoled sorrows, unrequited sacrifices, uncompensated wrongs, unanswered prayers and strivings; the palpable moral of such treatment being that there is no law, government, or purpose in human life. We know otherwise. We believe in the programme of God, so wise, so true, so good; and in our best moments we are confident that His programme cannot fail.
(W. L. Watkinson.)
PeopleAbel, Ahab, Aram, Elijah, Elisha, Hazael, Israelites, Jehu, Jezebel, Nimshi, Shaphat
PlacesAbel-meholah, Beersheba, Damascus, Horeb, Jezreel, Syria
TopicsAncestors, Better, Broom, Broom-bush, Broom-plant, Broom-tree, Day's, Death, Desert, Desireth, Desiring, Die, Fathers, Journey, Juniper, Juniper-tree, O, Prayed, Requested, Retem-tree, Sat, Saying, Seat, Sitteth, Soul, Tree, Waste, Wilderness
Outline1. Elijah, threatened by Jezebel, flees to Beersheba
4. In the desert, being weary of his life, he is comforted by an angel
9. At Horeb God appears unto him, sending him to anoint Hazael, Jehu, and Elisha
19. Elisha, taking leave of his friends, follows Elijah
Dictionary of Bible Themes1 Kings 19:4
LibraryElijah's Weakness, and Its Cube
'And Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and withal how he had slain all the prophets with the sword. 2. 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. 3. 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. 4. But he himself went a day's journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down …
Alexander Maclaren—Expositions of Holy Scripture
What Doest Thou Here?
God's Gentle Power
"Therefore, Brethren, we are Debtors, not to the Flesh, to Live after the Flesh,"
A Solemn Address to those who Will not be Persuaded to Fall in with the Design of the Gospel.
What Doest Thou Here?
An Address to the Regenerate, Founded on the Preceding Discourses.
The Uses of the Law
Seven Sanctified Thoughts and Mournful Sighs of a Sick Man Ready to Die.
Of the True Church. Duty of Cultivating Unity with Her, as the Mother of all the Godly.
Concerning the Ministry.
Grace Before Meat.
Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners:
"My Little Children, These Things Write I unto You, that Ye Sin Not. And if any Man Sin, we have an Advocate with the Father,"
The Case of the Christian under the Hiding of God's Face.
Conflicts with Giant Mistake
Of Passages from the Holy Scriptures, and from the Apocrypha, which are Quoted, or Incidentally Illustrated, in the Institutes.
Of the Discipline of the Church, and Its Principal Use in Censures and Excommunication.
A Cloud of Witnesses.
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