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Bible Commentaries

Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary

1 Kings 17

 

 

Verse 1

THE FIRST APPEARANCE OF ELIJAH THE TISHBITE

CRITICAL AND EXPLANATORY NOTES.—

1Ki . Elijah the Tishbite—This is the first mention of him in Scripture; an abrupt introduction, which seems to imply that already he was known as a prophet; or the startling development of national apostasy under Ahab may have called out Elijah into sudden protestation. Tishbite—Not an Israelite, therefore, but a Gentile, whose employment in the prophetic ministry was itself a rebuke to the nation. Was there none in all Israel to speak for Jehovah? The name "Elijah," אֵליָּה signifies, My God is Jehovah. Israel was rejecting HIM for idols, but this Gentile had rejected idols for HIM. "Tishbite," from Tisbe, a place east of Jordan. Tob 1:2 refers to θίσβε as being "at the right hand of the city properly called Naphtali, in Galilee above Aser." Said unto Ahab—It is suggested that this penal prediction proved the closing application of an unrecorded speech. All reasoning being ineffective, the prophet leaves the king with this prophetic sentence. Yet Elijah's manner was to accost the guilty with few, yet significant words, and then depart.

HOMILETICS OF 1Ki

THE TRUE PROPHET AND HIS SIGNIFICANT MESSAGE

ISRAEL had gone from bad to worse, and the cup of her iniquity was fast filling to the brim. Religion was little more than a name. Jehovah was no longer worshipped as a living person, but was only thought of as a far distant and but dimly comprehended being. Faith darkened into a grim unbelief, and virtue wallowed in the filth of a royalty-sanctioned sensuality, or hid itself in solitude with fear and trembling. The nation had revolted from the beneficent sway of Jehovah, and rushed with reckless haste into the embrace of a she-fiend, who held it as with a grip of iron, while she tantalized it with her voluptuous wiles, and goaded it to despair with her heartless cruelties. Surely the spell of the vile enchantress could not last for ever. The end must be at hand: the iniquity of the land cried to heaven for vengeance. A sense of approaching doom took possession of many minds; and it seemed as if a strange, mysterious stillness, like that which sometimes precedes the terrific tempest, settled on the nation—a stillness broken only now and then by the murmur of the idolatrous worshippers in the groves, or the loud, coarse laughter of the licentious priests as they feasted at Jezebel's table. Suddenly—like a meteor newly kindled in the heavens, or like a thunderbolt hurled from the clouds by the hand of the Almighty—Elijah bursts upon the scene. The revellers tremble and the king grows pale, as the bold and fearless prophet denounces their wickedness, and warns them of the sufferings which their sins would inevitably bring. Thus the dankest night of Israel's spiritual declension was broken by the appearance of that bright luminary Elijah, the greatest of all the prophets since Moses, and the type of that great preacher of repentance who was the forerunner of Christ.

I. That the true prophet is often called to his work out of comparative obscurity. "Elijah, the Tishbite, who was of the inhabitants of Gilead." It seemed very unlikely that a reformer would spring from the midst of the rough, uncouth inhabitants of Gilead. It was a wild, rocky, mountainous region, a country of chase, and the favourite haunt of robbers—something like what some parts of Palestine are rendered by the Bedouins of the present day; or, in relation to the rival kingdoms on the west side of the Jordan, very much what the Highlands were to the Lowlands of Scotland in the days of chieftain feud and foray (vide Macaulay's England). And yet it was just the place where the very qualities that were so essential in a prophet who would successfully contend with an Ahab and a Jezebel would be likely to be nurtured—the capacity of endurance, the fleet action, the intrepid boldness, the sternness of reproof amounting almost to fierceness. How true is it that God is not limited to locality in the choice of His servants! There was an Abraham in Ur of the Chaldees, a Moses in the land of Midian, a Nicodemus in the Sanhedrim, a Joseph of Arimathea among the aristocracy of Jerusalem, a Cornelius in the Roman camp; there were saints in Cæsar's household, and in half-heathen Gilead there was found an Elijah.

II. That the true prophet hears unmistakable testimony as to the character of the only True God. "As the Lord God of Israel liveth." Jehovah is the living God. This truth was uttered by the fearless prophet with an abruptness, a solemnity, and a ringing vehemency that must have startled the guilty Ahab, and have reminded him that the dumb, dead idols to which he was yielding homage were incomparable with the All-powerful and Ever-living Jehovah whom he and his people had so wickedly forsaken. Elijah means God-Jehovah, so that even in his name the great reformer carries a rebuke to the Baal-serving king. The great need of Israel at this time was a revival among them of just ideas concerning God. Notwithstanding the special privileges they had enjoyed in becoming acquainted with the True God, they were now in danger of losing all faith in Him, and of sinking down into a worse state of heathenism than that of the idolatrous nations by which they were surrounded. All true reform must begin by restoring to the mind clear and exalted conceptions of the character of God. This Elijah did, not so much by eloquence of speech, as by picturesqueness and significance of action. He was the prophet of action—the great hero—prophet of the kingdom of the ten tribes: "the grandest and most romantic character that Israel ever produced." His whole career was one of intense activity, during which he wrote, as if in fiery hieroglyphics, the awful character of the God he so diligently served. His mission was to proclaim the living God in opposition to Ahab's dead, senseless idols.

III. That the true prophet receives his commission from the Highest Authority. "Before whom I stand." How honourable, how sublime, how awful the position of him who stands to minister in the presence of God as His servant and ambassador! He receives his commission direct from the throne, he speeds on his errand with ready obedience, he is oppressed with the responsibility of his office, he utters his message as if standing in the presence of God. Elijah was "the loftiest, sternest spirit of the True Faith raised up face to face with the proudest and fiercest spirit of the old Asiatic paganism, against Jezebel rose up Elijah the Tishbite." Whenever the powers of darkness appear incarnate in some such ruling personage as Jezebel, with her hosts of Baal and Asherah prophets, then God provides an incarnation of his Divine Spirit and power, with suitable signs and wonders to confuse and confound the ministers of Satan. Such an incarnation was Elijah. The power that may be exerted by an individual life is something appalling, especially when it derives its inspiration direct from heaven. Lord Rochester fled from Fenelon, crying, "If I stay here any longer, I shall become a Christian in spite of myself." The greatest power over humanity to-day is spiritual power.

IV. That the true prophet is commissioned to announce the judgments of God against prevalent iniquity. "There shall not be dew nor rain these years but according to my word."

1. Jehovah has absolute control over all the elements of nature. The worshippers of Baalim invested their deities with the lordship over the processes of nature; and the time had come when they must be undeceived. The prophet demonstrates that the dew and rain-clouds are not of Baal's giving, but are wholly in the hands of God, who can bestow or withhold their blessings according to His will.

2. Jehovah can make the elements of nature the instruments of a nation's punishment which have been the means of its sin. Israel had ignored God in nature and ascribed all power to Baal: nature is now to wield the rod which is to punish them for their apostasy and sin. It is to be shown how utterly fictitious is the control of their deities over the dew and the rain, and how terrible is the judgment which Jehovah can impose by drying up the moisture of earth and sky. Drought was a punishment threatened against idolatry (Deu ); and in this particular instance the obstinacy of Ahab continued it for three years and a half. To Eastern and Southern nations the withholding of rain is the withholding of pleasure, of sustenance, of life itself. It is only in abject distress and suffering that man can see the falseness and vanity of the idols in which he has so blindly trusted.

LESSONS:—

1. In the worst times God can raise up faithful men to do the most difficult and most needed work.

2. They who dare to be bold for God may safely trust to him for protection.

3. We learn how great may be the power of an individual life.

THE LIFE AND LESSONS OF THE GREAT HEBREW REFORMER

No story so bewitches us as the story of Elijah's life. His meteoric appearances, his lonely life spent hermit-like for the most part in caves and deserts, his fearlessness in the presence of Ahab and hostile priests, his sublime translation, his appearing 900 years after with our Lord; these and other circumstances invest his memory with a romantic interest such as belongs to no other prophet. He is a prophet, and some of the events in his life can only occur in a prophet's; but he is also a man, a man struggling against weaknesses like our own. His life will touch ours in many parts. Consider

I. The abruptness of his appearance on the arena of action. Where does the wild, stern-looking being come from? Who knows anything of his parents? What is his trade? But we wait in vain for an answer. This throws such a weirdness over him. There was design in sending the prophet with such abruptness into the presence of the king. Ahab had become hardened in sin. For a long time the prophets had been silent; Jehovah dumb. No stern protest had been lifted up; and, his conscience drugged, the man a mere puppet of his imperious queen and her fawning priests, Ahab can be aroused only by shattering peals of thunder, or a bursting volcano. Into his palace rushes the wild solemn man of the desert, and at the drowsy idolatrous king flings his stern threat. Thus God has to act still. To many a man the tenderest utterances of the Gospel have become as opiating drugs. A fire-brand, a thunderbolt, only will wake him up. Fingers of forked lightning must write fiery words of doom on his chamber walls. Ahab needed an Elijah.

II. The words suggested some idea of his previous training. Gilead must have had much to do with the character of the man. When he stood amid the crags of Mount Sinai unappalled by the bursts of thunder that shook the foundation of the hills, and shrunk not when the sheets of flame lit up the ravines, it was because he had been accustomed to similar impressive scenes in his own rugged land. It was a fitting cradle for such a spirit. The Highlands of Scotland have produced a race of men stern, hardy, daring; quite a contrast to the Lowlanders. The wide prairies of America tend to produce a race of Indians swift of foot, passionate in the chase, stealthy, and spurning settled abodes. Jehovah has found His Elijah in the right country. Very little is said about his personal aspects, but we shall always recognise him when he appears—the tawny, shaggy-haired man; around his shoulder the loose cape or mantle of sheep-skin, fastened at his breast with a leathern girdle. The appearance of the hitherto unknown prophet suggests—

III. How God had been steadily preparing an instrument for His work. His eye rested upon the nation's sin, and away in the solitude of Gilead He was shaping the man who would be as a sweeping tornado in the land, who would be the Regenerator of His people, the mighty Reformer in Israel. The world's history illustrates the principle. Israel needs to be led out of Egypt. In the very palace of the Pharaohs is young Moses being prepared as the future leader of Israel. God looks with holy anger upon the corruption of the Church of Rome, but in secret He is fitting the brave, heroic miner's son to shatter the huge fabric of superstition. To turn this principle round, and look on the other side, it conveys encouragement to God's people. To them, when in trouble, an Elijah of deliverance shall appear. A soldier whipped for a trifle, leaped from his ship into the heavy sea. A large albatross swooped like magic down at the man. In his death struggle, he seized the monstrous bird, and was thus kept afloat until aid arrived. Overwhelmed in the water, there may be an albatross overhead to help the Christian. God may be preparing in secret an Elijah, not to speak words of fire as to Ahab, but to be a deliverer. This mention of Thisbe and Gilead suggests—

IV. From what obscurity the Lord brought the mighty prophet. No rabbi or learned doctor does God produce as the great instrument to effect His purpose, but a "Lay Preacher from the Highlands of Gilead." One likes to think how God employs the lowly, and works out his plans through the obscure. He is constantly rebuking us for thinking a place must be so many miles square, a man must have such an amount of brain, or wealth, before he can work. A rock in mid ocean may prove a cage large enough to contain the proud eagle of France. A small smithy in Micklefield can produce a Sammy Hick, whose name shall be known and influence felt to the extremities of the land. Bethlehem is large enough for the Redeemer of a world to be horn in. A fisherman's craft is respectable enough to produce a Peter. Even an insignificant obliterated Thisbe can send forth an Elijah!—(The Lay Preacher for 1874).

GERM NOTES ON 1Ki

—A strange speech, certainly, to be reported of a man of whom as yet we have heard nothing. What had been passing in his mind up to that day, what he had to do with Ahab, how he came to think that dew or rain would obey his Commands, we are not told. We are to judge of these things as we can. Our only help for judging of them lies in the words themselves. And there is the secret—"As the Lord God of Israel liveth before whom I stand." Here we have the key to the education and faith of Elijah, as well as to his relation with the king of Israel. "I have learnt that there is a Lord God of Israel, and that He lives, and that I am in His presence. I am sure that He is my Guide, and Teacher, and Judge; I am sure that He is the Guide, and Teacher, and Judge of this land and of its king. And this, Ahab, is just what thou dost not believe, just what thou, by thine acts, art denying. Thou believest in a Lord, or in many lords, far off from thee, exercising no government over thy actions, enforcing no duties upon thee towards thy subjects; a lord seated somewhere in the clouds, or on the summit of some hill; a cloud-compeller, a giver of dew or rain when your offerings please him, or when of mere sovereignty he chooses to do it. And I tell you that it is not this lord or these lords who send rain and dew; but that it is the God of you and of your fathers, the God who has ordained the course of seasons, who has appointed summer and winter, seed-time and harvest; who has appointed you to till the land upon which His rain descends and His sun shines; who claims first of all your trust and your obedience, since though you stand, as I stand, before Him, it is not your eyes that will tell you of Him; you must believe in Him if you would know Him. And as a sign and witness that it is even so, I declare to you, that the rain and the dew shall not come except at the word of me, a poor, insignificant, unknown man, by whom it pleases God to declare what He is, and what the being whom He has formed in His image is meant to be." Herein consists the force of this audacious sentence. It at once proclaims that relation between the unseen God and the spirit of man which Jezebel's priests by their services, and Ahab by his tyrannical acts, were alike setting at nought.—Maurice.

—Men in general have never been willing to recognize, and are still unwilling to recognize the fact, that need and misery upon earth stand in the closest relation to their conduct towards God; that through their need they may be called back to Him whom they have forsaken, and feel what it is when God withdraws His hand, when they are left to themselves, when the Almighty withholds His gifts and blessings, and sends His punishments and plagues. The God of Israel is the living God, because He has spoken to Israel and has, through His Word, revealed Himself to them (Psa ). God has spoken unto us by His son, the image of His being, and has revealed Himself in Him much more gloriously to us; therefore Christendom knows no other living God than the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Who can venture to say that he stands before God? He who, like Elijah, has firm faith, is unconditionally obedient to the Word of God, and fearlessly and courageously pursues the path God has prescribed for him.—Menken.

—National apostasy and national chastisement. Far away among the craggy glens of Gilead the prophet has become acquainted with the wickedness of the court and the people. Ah! there was one faithful heart who mourned over a nation's sin, and took it, where we ought to take our country's sins, into the presence of God. I. National chastisement following upon national apostasy. Does this surprise us? If an individual commit an infamous crime and escape punishment here, there awaits him a stern avenger among the shadows of the world to come. But there cannot be a wholesale retribution dealt out to a nation or tribe in that future state. Prosperity attends upon a virtuous nation, or fell-ruin overwhelms a degenerate one here. No kingdom ever perished through its high-toned morality.

1. This punishment was not arbitrary and prejudiced. The law pronounced it ages before this threat, if the people forsook God (Lev ; Deu 11:16). No calamity came from spite or caprice. Jehovah knows nothing of the despicable venom of some human hearts when He deals in severity with men.

2. The punishment threatened was adapted to the special character of the nation's sin. Baal was worshipped as the source of fruitful harvest. Now there is to be a test of strength between God and His rival Baal. If drought and barrenness succeed the prophet's words, that will be a tangible proof of the impotence of their favourite idol. This is God's method still. The punishment sent often suits with terrible appropriateness the sin committed. II. These words reveal the source of the prophet's holy boldness. "As the Lord God of Israel liveth before whom I stand." He has a deep conviction that he is the servant of Jehovah. He is powerfully conscious of the continual presence of the Divine Being. Every Christian should have a conviction of being summoned to his particular work in the church. Here was the prophet's incentive to faithfulness. Moving about in the presence of the Holy One would have a salutary effect upon him. To one conscious of standing, living before the Holy God, as if he were always in the Holy of Holies, irreverence, unfaithfulness, would be exceptionally aggravated. Let the thought of "standing before God," in the home, behind the counter, and in the exchange, be an incentive to faithfulness.

LESSONS:—

1. The influence of a man in position. Ahab's idolatry had led the nation astray.

2. Learn to identify yourself with the nation's conditions, and make it a subject for prayer.—The Lay Preacher.

—The unusual efflux of miraculous energy at this time is suitable to the unusual energy and—may we not say, evoked by it?—God mercifully adapting His gifts to men's needs. It is not here as in legendary histories. There the supernatural diminishes as the writer descends the stream of time and comes nearer to his own day. Here miracles are abundant or scanty without any reference to time; but in very evident proportion to the spiritual necessities of the people.—Speaker's Comm.

—Suddenly Elijah appears before us in the narrative as he appeared in his lifetime before Ahab and the children of Israel. Suddenly he appears, like Melchizedec, and suddenly he disappears, "without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life." Not unnaturally did the ancient rabbis believe him to be the fiery Phincas returned to earth, or an angel hovering on the outskirts of the world. Not unnaturally have the Mussulman traditions confounded him with the mysterious being, the Immortal one, the Eternal Wanderer, who appears ever and anon to set right the wrongs of earth and repeat the experience of ages past. Not unnaturally did the mediaeval alchemists and magicians strive to trace up their dark arts to Elijah the Tishbite, the Father of Alchemy. The other prophets—Moses, Samuel, Elisha, Isaiah—were constantly before the eyes of their countrymen. But Elijah they saw only by partial and momentary glimpses.—Stanley.

—Peculiar and hopeless as the exigency in Israel appeared, the Lord found a man fit for it—a man fitted beyond all others, by the force of his character, his grasp of faith, and his fearless spirit, to "stem the torrent of a faithless age." This man was Elijah the Tishbite. He was one of the most extraordinary characters mentioned in the Bible. Great evils require great remedies; extraordinary diseases, extraordinary physicians; gigantic corruptions, gigantic reformers. And such was Elijah, who in his gifts and qualities assumes a figure scarcely human from its gigantic proportions, and towers aloft like one of the sons of Anak among common men. He was such stuff as the heathen made their gods of; and had he appeared in a heathen country he would have come down to us as scarcely less than a god, side by side, perhaps, with Hercules, instead of being only something more than a prophet. There are two sorts of prophets—prophets of deeds, prophets of words. Of the latter the greatest is doubtless Isaiah; of the former, there has not been among men born of women any greater than Elijah.—Kitto.

—Israel had never such a king as Ahab for impiety; never so miraculous a prophet as Elijah. He comes in like a tempest, who went out in a whirl wind. I do not so much wonder at the boldness of Elijah as at his power. Yea, who so sees his power, can no whit wonder at his boldness: how could he but be bold to the face of a man, who was thus powerful with God? While he knows himself a prophet, he remembers to be a man. He doth not therefore arrogate his power as his own, but published it as his master's. This restraint must be "according to his word," and that word was from a higher mouth than his. Man only can denounce what God will execute, which, when it is once revealed, can no more fail than the Almighty Himself.—Bp. Hall.


Verses 2-7

CRITICAL AND EXPLANATORY NOTES.—

1Ki . Hide thyself by the brook Cherith—He should "hide," in order to escape alike the king's violence and importunities; also to allow his words to vindicate themselves as true, and give men time to learn their need of him and his God. Cherith—Site unknown. Various conjectures have attempted to locate it, but all is uncertain. Its obscure site indicates its great security as a hiding place.

1Ki . I have commanded the ravens— עֹרְבִים, which some, on account of these birds being legally "unclean," and notably voracious, have interpreted Arabians. The word is so used in Exo 27:2-7; 2Ch 21:16; Neh 4:17. Others regard the word as pointing to the inhabitants of Orbo, near by the supposed brook. Michaelis, objecting to the supernatural altogether, suggests that Elijah was merely told to feed himself from the raven's nest, by plundering them of the game they seized!

HOMILETICS OF 1Ki

THE TEACHINGS OF SOLITUDE

ELIJAH had become the most popular man in Israel. His strange, abrupt entrance upon the scene, and the terrible import of his message, tended to fasten all eyes upon him, and to raise him into a position of personal importance. But it was a popularity not to be envied. It was full of peril. It raised up a number of enemies. It was perhaps a temptation to the prophet himself. God called him away into retirement, and amid the rocky solitudes of Cherith, with its solitary brook, he was to learn lessons of humility, of patience, and of faith.

I. Solitude affords protection from threatened peril. "Hide thyself by the brook Cherith" (1Ki ). The enraged and deluded Ahab clamoured for the life of the loyal prophet, and the fawning parasites of Jezebel would fain have torn him in pieces. They ransacked every imaginable hiding-place in the kingdom, but in vain. They are well hid whom God doth hide. Moses fled to Midian from the fury of the Egyptians, and was safely lodged there for forty years. David found shelter from the malice of Saul among the fastnesses of Engedi; John the Evangelist, from persecution, in the Isle of Patmos; Luther, from his enemies, in the lonely castle of Wartburg, in the Forest of Thuringia; Tyndale, the first translator of the English Bible, was a fugitive in hiding at Marburg, Worms, Antwerp, and Cologne; John Knox, the Scottish Elijah, was several years a prisoner in the French galleys; and the great prophet of Gilead is sent to Cherith for safety and for culture. The faithful worker for God is scathless till his work is done.

II. Solitude is relieved by special manifestations of Divine care. "And the ravens brought him bread and flesh," &c. (1Ki ). These words record an undoubted miracle, and there are fewer difficulties in believing the miracle than in trying to explain the transaction on natural grounds. The miracle is all the more impressive that ravens, the most voracious of birds, are the unfailing purveyors of the prophet. Since the raven is a carrion bird, and a devourer of all manner of dead flesh, some have wondered how Elijah could eat without scruple all that was brought to him; but they absurdly assume that ravens miraculously sent by Divine command would bring what was common or unclean. "When men disobey," says Wordsworth, "God reproves them by the obedience of the inferior creatures. The old world disbelieved God's warnings by Noah, and would not go into the ark, and so perished in the flood; but the inferior animals went in and were fed there. Balaam was rebuked for his disobedience by the ass on which he rode. The disobedient prophet (chap. 1Ki 13:26) was slain by the lion which God sent from the forest, and which spared the ass and the carcase of the prophet. The disobedience of Ahab and Israel was rebuked by the obedience of the ravenous birds in bringing food to Elijah. Jonah fled from God, and God sent the whale to bring him back to prophesy against Nineveh. The lions spared Daniel when his colleagues would have slain him. Christ was with the wild beasts in peace (Mar 1:13) when He was about to be rejected by mankind." Jehovah has all nature under His control, and it is an easy thing for Him to make it minister to the necessities of His tried and faithful servants. He who provides meat for the fowls of the air will make the fowls of the air provide meat for man, rather than his dependence on God shall be disappointed.

III. Solitude often severely tests the genuineness of our faith (1Ki ). A period of enforced inactivity is most difficult to endure, especially to an ardent nature. Why am I doomed to this gloomy solitude? what good purpose can it serve? Time, opportunities, strength to labour, are all passing away unimproved. Ought I not to break away from this tedious imprisonment, and rush at once into the conflict that on every hand demands the stalwart arm and the enter-prizing soul? Is there no testimony to bear, no work to be done, no warfare to wage? Such are the questions sometimes asked by the solitary recluse. The restraint tries our faith, while on the other hand faith generates strength to bear the strain. Nor is a time of retirement without its suffering. "It came to pass that the brook dried up." The lessening flow of the life-giving stream and its final exsiccation was an additional trial of faith and source of suffering. It is in extremity that our faith becomes more daring, and yields the most solid comfort. "Good bye, dear Lucy," said a drowning youth to his betrothed, after they had both held on to the last possible point of endurance to a piece of the floating wreckage of a foundered steamer; "we shall soon meet in heaven!"

IV. Solitude is an opportunity for mental and moral discipline. It was to Elijah a time of deep and pensive musing. He thought of God, on whose bounty he was so absolutely dependent. He thought of Israel, its delusions, its vices, its sufferings, its needs. He thought of himself and the work to which he was called. He strove to rectify defects, and sought to brace himself up for the conflict before him. He discovered the true source of his strength, and was enabled more completely to consecrate his whole being to the service of God. Most public men have their Cheriths of retirement and preparation. When the disciples of our Lord returned from their first mission, and reported all they had done and taught, He said unto them, "Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest awhile" (Mar ). In this way temptations to pride and self-sufficiency are conquered, and lessons of humility and self-abasement are learnt. "The sufficiency of my merit," said Augustine, "is to know that my merit is not sufficient."

"The bird that soars on highest wing

Builds on the ground her lowly nest;

And she that doth most sweetly sing,

Sings in the shade when all things rest.

Nearest the throne itself must be

The footstool of humility."—Herbert.

LESSONS:—

1. The withdrawal of a public instructor is a calamity to a nation.

2. Solitude is fraught with trial and sorrow.

3. Seasons of solitude should be diligently improved.

GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES

1Ki . Characteristics of a child-like faith.

1. It accepts the Word of God without questioning (1Ki ).

2. It flinches not in the presence of the severest demands (1Ki ).

3. It is not staggered by apparent improbabilities (1Ki ).

4. It is prompt in obedience (1Ki ).

5. Enjoys the fulfilment of the Divine promise (1Ki ).

6. Fails not when most severely tried (1Ki ).

—Elijah at Cherith.

1. Men must be prepared to accept the consequences of their obedience to God. We do not always see such consequences, and when they come upon us they very often find us unprepared to meet them. Obedience to God often exposes men to hatred, scorn, ridicule, opposition, inconvenience, loss of trade, loss of liberty, and even life itself. But when we choose God's service we choose these consequences, and when they come they should not deter us from our duty.

2. That God makes provision for the exigencies into which obedience to the Divine commands may bring His servants. He imposes no task, but He provides strength for its accomplishment. Whatever may be the consequences of their obedience, He will not leave His servants to meet them alone. He goes before His people, providing for their necessities—strength in weakness and temptation, light in darkness, comfort in sorrow, consolation in bereavement, hope in death.

3. This provision is frequently not made known to the obedient until their need is pressing. It is after we have entered upon our chosen path of duty, and the difficulties begin to appear, that God reveals the provision He has made to enable us to meet them. It is when the darkness gathers around us that the light of heaven appears. When the drought comes upon the land, God will not forsake His people; but His voice shall be heard directing them to Cherith, where their need shall be amply provided for.—The Study and Pulpit.

1Ki . Obscurity.

1. Repugnant to some men.

2. Sometimes the appointment of God.

3. Necessary for self-discipline.

4. A means of safety.

—Even that God sends him to hide his head who could as easily have protected as nourished him. He that wilfully stands still to catch dangers tempteth God instead of trusting Him.

—"Get thee hence, and hide thyself." A hard word for a heroic man like Elijah, who had threatened the king and the whole people, and must now flee and expose himself to scorn and contempt. Going away often requires more self-denial than remaining. Every man who has done anything great in the kingdom of God has passed a long time in retirement and solitude. But to every faithful Christian also the command has come, hide thyself, go into the stillness and solitude. The hidden man of the heart, with soft, still spirit, does not thrive in the perpetual tumult and babbling noise of the world. There is no man who has not felt the need of some time and place to collect his thoughts, and to be alone with his God; they who avoid such are not fit for the kingdom of God.—Lange.

1Ki . He went in faith along the hard, dark path into the wilderness, as a genuine son of Abraham, the father of all the faithful, who knew that without faith it is impossible to please God, and that man can offer to God no higher and nobler homage than to believe in His promises. Who so chooses the dear God, and always hopes in Him, him will He sustain wonderfully in all need and affliction (Psa 4:4; Psa 147:5). Go whithersoever thou wilt, means shall not fail thee, thy deed is pure blessing, thy course pure light.—Menken.

1Ki . Divine Providence.

1. Cares for the most solitary.

2. Has absolute control over all supplies.

3. Never disappoints the believer.

4. May sometimes make use of ravens—i.e., abandoned and godless men—to help the children of God.

1Ki . Faith tried.

1. By the gradual failure of that on which life depends.

2. By the suffering caused by privation.

3. By the uncertainty of the future.

4. Is ever rewarded by timely relief.

—The prophet feels the smart of this drought which he had denounced. It is no unusual thing with God to suffer his own children to be in wrapped in the common calamities of offenders. He makes difference in the use and issue of their stripes, not in the infliction. The corn is cut down with the weeds, but to a better purpose.—Bp. Hall.


Verses 8-16

CRITICAL AND EXPLANATORY NOTES.—

1Ki . Zarephath, which belongeth to Zidon—Sarepta, situate between Tyre and Sidon, in the native land of Jezebel. Yet this "widow" knew JEHOVAH (1Ki 17:12), and appealed to His High Name in verification of her words.

1Ki . Fear not; go and do, &c.—A severe test of faith, for there was nothing between her and death except the promise of 1Ki 17:14. Nevertheless, with nought save a promise to assure her, she made her solitary cake, and saw it eaten by Elijah. Yet starvation was not the issue, but salvation.

HOMILETICS OF 1Ki

RESCUE IN EXTREMITY

I. That a time of extremity reveals the Divine source of our daily comforts. The water of the brook on which Elijah had depended for daily refreshment gradually diminished, and at length altogether disappeared, and the prophet was again reminded of his absolute dependence on God for hourly sustenance. The greatest blessings are apt to be regarded with indifference because of the constancy of their supply. The daily return of the sunlight, the equal diffusion of the air we breathe, the regular beat of the life-pulse, the abundant yield of the soil on which we tread, are bestowed with such uniformity and faithfulness, that there is danger we should forget the great source of them all. When we are deprived for a time of the most ordinary blessings of life, then do we become vividly conscious of their former presence and of their unspeakable value. Every new day should be vocal with new thanksgivings and praises for the new mercies which it brings.

II. That a time of extremity induces a spirit of ready obedience. "So he arose and went to Zarephath" (1Ki ). Elijah might be tempted to question: Why may not the same Divine power which sends the ravens with food keep the Cherith in perpetual flow? And if I must remove, why not go back to Israel rather than into Phœnicia, the idolatrous home of Jezebel, whose enormities I am commissioned to punish? But the instinct of obedience was stronger than all such questionings; and that instinct was sharpened by the difficulties in which he found himself. To remain was to perish, and to obey opened the only prospect of relief and sustenance. "Servants rise when the bell rings," says the proverb; and Elijah at once set out on his long and adventurous journey. He was like Israel in the wilderness. "At the commandment of the Lord they rested in their tents, and at the commandment of the Lord they journeyed." So God often leads his people out by a way that they know not, and the reluctance to follow the Divine leading is overcome by the utter perplexity of the circumstances into which they are sometimes brought, and their inability to discover a better way than the one indicated. It is the triumph of self-surrender to God when the believer can say—

Nor will I hear, nor will I speak,

Of any other will but Thine.

III. That a time of extremity encourages faith in God amid the most unfavourable appearances (1Ki ). The prophet was to be dependent on a woman, and she a Gentile, when there were many women in Israel any of whom would have counted it a coveted honour to minister to the wants of the persecuted champion of Jehovah; a widow woman, and a widow woman in such abject poverty that she and her emaciated son were reduced to the last point, of starvation (1Ki 17:12). It seemed very unlikely that a woman in whose home famine had wrought such havoc should be the future hostess of the famishing prophet. But Elijah, undaunted by the ghastly and unpromising appearance of things, had faith in God; he who quailed not in the presence of Ahab and Jezebel, yielded not in the presence of improbabilities which were even more difficult to confront. True faith triumphs over the most forbidding circumstances; above all external things it sees God and His all-conquering promise. Abraham "staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief, being fully persuaded that what He had promised He was able also to perform" (Rom 4:20-21). Faith eats its way through all Alps of opposition.

IV. That a time of extremity affords opportunity for the most signal display of Divine power (1Ki ).

1. It reveals how God has His hidden ones in the most unlikely places. This Gentile woman was not ignorant of Jehovah, and she at once recognized Elijah as His prophet. "As the Lord thy God liveth" (1Ki ). She was probably a believer (Luk 4:26), however imperfect might be her faith, and the narrative shows she was capable of the most disinterested kindness, and of the most implicit confidence in the word of God (1Ki 17:14-15). "Phenicia was the last place in the world to have found a worshipper of the Lord, the living God. It was also the last place in the world to have found an Elijah. And yet both are here—the one a lily among thorns, the other, in the quaint but fine thought of Lightfoot, the first apostle to the Gentiles." The rarest virtues are sometimes found in the most unexpected places. During the last journey of Livingstone, the veteran African traveller, he was compelled, in consequence of a tribal war, to change his route, and pass through a country where no rain had fallen, and the grass, mostly burnt off, left a surface covered with black ashes, from which the heat radiated as from a furnace. Yet, out of this hard, hot surface, the flowers would persist in coming. So amid the moral wastes of heathendom, where the soil is hard and black, and apparently unfertile, and where our missionaries have toiled so long with such earnestness and devotion, the delicate flowers of Christian virtues have pushed their way, displaying their modest beauty, and scattering their hallowing fragrance—foretokens of the coming period when the wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad, and the desert rejoice and blossom as the rose" (Isa 35:1)

2. It reveals the boundless resources of Jehovah in supplying the needs of His people (1Ki ). With God nothing is impossible, and rather than His people should perish He will work a miracle. The same power that multiplied the loaves and fishes to the multitude on the shores of Galilee could, with equal ease, replenish the meal barrel and oil cruse in the home of the Sareptan widow. "So that," writes Maurice, "the person from whom Elijah was to receive sustenance, and whom, as a return for that favour, he was to teach trust in the Lord God of Israel that her barrel of meal should not waste, neither her cruse of oil fail, was a woman of that very country from which Jezebel had come—the very country from which the Baal worship had been imported. The Lord God of the nation, then, was one in whom the weak and poor of all nations might confide, one from whom they might ask their daily bread, and on whom they might cast their heaviest cares." God will be no debtor to them who trust Him in extremity, or who show kindness to His servants.

LESSONS:—

1. God is not indifferent to the wants and sufferings of His people.

2. A time of temporal straitness is often one of richest spiritual blessing.

3. We cannot grieve God more than by distrusting Him.

GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES

1Ki . The barrel of meal and the cruse of oil. Learn from this incident: I. The uncertainty of earthly comforts. When Elijah went to Cherith he would never dream of that brook becoming exhausted. He would settle down there till the drought passed away. But, when least expecting it, the word of the Lord came: "Arise, get thee to Zarephath." Cherith, with all its pleasant associations, had to be left. What a picture of human life! How many are there of whose worldly comforts it may be said: "After a while the brook dried up." One man is settled in life, with circumstances all that could be desired, and he contemplates the future with pleasure; but unexpectedly something arises—bank failure or commercial crisis—which tells him that the brook is dried up, and he has to leave his Cherith. Another looks with pride and hope upon a child—his pleasure and joy flow from that child—but, unnoticed, disease settles upon it and takes it away. So with earthly comforts. They are uncertain, and do not warrant the eagerness with which they are sought, or the value with which they are invested. II. The certainty of God's care. God made provision for Elijah at Zarephath before He commanded him to leave Cherith. Decay and change may characterise all our earthly comforts, but they do not characterise God; He remains the same, and His care can never fail. Many changes are permitted to our circumstances, to lead us to more implicit confidence in the unchangeable God. III. Godly generosity shall not lose its reward. This woman had a truly generous spirit, which was bounded only by her means. She listened readily to Elijah's request, and showed a spirit willing to accede to it; and her generosity secured her abundance. God blessed her house for entertaining His servant, as He blessed the house of Obed Edom for sheltering the ark.—The Study and Pulpit.

1Ki . Now here was a demand upon the faith of this woman—from a foreign man and a foreign God—as large as any exacted from the great prophet himself. See how it stands: First, she was to make up her provisions for Elijah, trusting that, as he had said, more would then come miraculously to supply her own wants. What a trial! What would the bird in the hand worth two in the bush principle say to this? Who could have it in his heart to blame her had she declined to run what was, under the circumstances, so hard a risk? Who would condemn her if she had discredited this stranger? How could she know but that, after he had eaten up her precious bread, he might laugh in her face? Besides, was not his very anxiety to be served first of all very suspicious? Looked it not as if he were determined, at all hazards, to secure a meal for himself; and could we call it unreasonable had she asked for the proof first—which could be given as well before as after—that it should be as he had said? But nothing of this occurred. She went and did as Elijah had told her, and found the result as he had promised. This was faith of the true sort, heroic faith, the faith that asks no questions.—Kitto.

1Ki . "So he arose and went to Zarephath." Compared with 1Ki 17:15 : Obedience to God. I. Should be prompt and unquestioning. II. Involves sacrifice and suffering. III. Is always rewarded with blessing.

1Ki . Happy was it for this widow that she did not shut her hand to the man of God, that she was no niggard of her last handful; never corn or oil did so increase in growing as here in consuming. This barrel, this cruse of hers, had no bottom; the barrel of meal wasted not, the cruse of oil failed not. Behold, not getting, not saving, is the way to abundance, but giving. The mercy of God crowns our beneficence with the blessing of store. Who can fear want by a merciful liberality, when he sees the Sareptan had famished if she had not given, and by giving abounded? With what thankful devotion must this woman every day needs look upon her barrel and cruse, wherein she saw the mercy of God renewed to her continually? Doubtless her soul was no less fed by faith than her body by this supernatural provision.—Bp. Hall.

1Ki . Fear not! Ah! how often has a child of God bemoaned—Now all is lost! I have nothing more, and know nothing more. The operations of the Spirit of God have ceased for me; the meal and oil are gone! And yet, where there is nothing more amid the night and the darkness, the morning brings something upon which one can live and find nourishment for the soul, although the time be miserable.—Lange.

1Ki . It was one of those sudden recognitions of unknown kindred souls, one of those cross-purposes of Providence, which come in with a peculiar charm to chequer the commonplace course of ecclesiastical history. The Phœnician mother knew not what great destinies lay in the hand of that gaunt figure at the city gate, worn with travel, and famine, and drought. She obeyed only the natural instinct of humanity; but she saved in him the deliverer of herself and her son. It may be that this incident is the basis of the sacred blessing of the Prophet of prophets on those who, even by a cup of cold water, receiving a prophet in the name of a prophet, shall receive a prophet's reward.—Stanley.

1Ki . The same God who spoke by means of Elijah—The meal in the barrel shall not be wasted, and the oil in the cruse shall not fail—has also promised, as long as the earth lasts, seed-time and harvest, frost and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease (Gen 8:22). We are astonished at the little miracle in the cabin at Sarepta, but we pass over with indifference, and without attention, the large miracle.—Lange.


Verses 17-24

CRITICAL AND EXPLANATORY NOTES.—

1Ki . Fell sick … no breath left in him—This phrase does not absolutely imply death (comp. Dan 10:17; also 1Ki 10:17). Josephus renders the incident thus— ὡς καὶ τὴν ψυχὴν ἀφεῖναι καὶ δόξαι νεκρόν. We may concede that the boy was in a state of fatal exhaustion, sinking away into death, and not absolutely dead. But whichever was the case, his recovery was as really supernatural and miraculous.

1Ki . What have I to do with thee?—The bitter upbraiding of incoherent grief. My sin to remembrance—No particular sin, but the current error that affliction was a punishment (comp. Joh 9:3). In the first passion and dismay of sorrow we strangely misread God's design.

1Ki . Carried him into a loft—The upper chamber; alone there with God, to plead for Divine interpretation and removal of this unexpected calamity.

1Ki . Stretched himself upon the child three times—"Stretched himself," &c., thereby employing rational means for warming, and thus revivifying the body; but not relying on natural methods for his restoration, but on God's intervention, using means of themselves ineffectual for the miraculous result. "Three times" "because the calling upon the name of Jehovah in the old covenant was a threefold act (Psa 55:18; Dan 6:10); thrice in the high priestly benediction was the name of Jehovah laid upon Israel (Num 6:22); thrice did the seraphim before the throne of Jehovah cry out holy (Isa 6:3)."—Lange. And Jesus himself "left them and went away and prayed the third time, saying the same words." (Mat 26:44).

1Ki . Now by this I know—"Because thou hast seen thou hast believed;" yet she had already shown faith when proof was not visible. This was a most gracious seal to her faith, which had thus been doubly end sorely tried.—W. H. J.

HOMILETICS OF 1Ki

THE MARVELLOUS POWER OF AN INTREPID FAITH

I. We see here how an intrepid faith may be sorely tried.

1. By sudden and unexpected bereavement (1Ki ). The youth who had escaped from the merciless fangs of famine, and who, for some time, was sustained by a miraculous supply of God, is smitten down with a mysterious disease, and, as it would appear, with appalling suddenness, expires. It is sad to lose our health, sad to lose our fortune, but it is sadder still to lose the loved ones of our hearth and home.

'Tis hard to lay our darling

Deep in the cold, damp earth;

His empty crib to see, his silent nursery,

Once gladsome with his mirth.

The thought of death gives a tinge of melancholy to every event of life, and reveals the frailty and transitoriness of all earthly things. The Roman Emperor who had commanded a world, exclaimed, when he came to die, "I was everything, and have found that everything is nothing." And yet, if it were something, in one moment death robs us of it all. No wonder that while complaining of life we turn away from death. "We live hating life, yet full of fear to die." And when death comes, slowly or suddenly, it tests the faith of the staunchest believer.

2. By the spectacle of a bewildering sorrow (1Ki ). Only a mother knows a mother's grief. How ready we are, says Bishop Hall, to mistake the grounds of our afflictions, and to cast them upon false causes. The passionate mother cannot find weather to impute the death of her son but to the presence of Elijah, to whom she ones distracted with perplexity, not without an unkind challenge of him from whom she had received both that life she had lost and that she had: "What have I to do with thee, O thou man of God?" As if her son could not have died if Elijah had not been her guest, whereas her son had died but for him. Why should she think that the prophet had saved him from the famine to kill him with sickness? He who had appeased God towards her is suspected to have incensed him. This wrongful misconstruction was enough to move any patience. Elijah was of a hot and fiery temperament, and a strain was put upon his self-control. But his faith in God, and the sympathy roused within him for the afflicted widow, not only taught him forbearance, but made him the more anxious to do what he could to alleviate her anguish.

II. We see here how an intrepid faith is sustained and strengthened by earnest and importunate prayer (1Ki ). This incident brings out for the first time in his history one of the most marked and powerful features of Elijah's character as a man of prayer He was personally deeply moved by the distress which this bereavement had brought into the widow's home; and his prayer is an urgent appeal to God, as a just and merciful and righteous Being. He pleaded for the restoration of life to the dead boy—a bold and hitherto unheard of request from the lips of mortal man! "We can imagine the Tishbite pacing up and down his little chamber in importunate, impassioned prayer; but yet with no doubt as to the result of his intercession. It was a mighty demand, indeed, for a mortal to make a request that had no previous parallel in praying lips. It was nothing short of this: that unassailable death be stormed in his own strongholds; that the iron crown be plucked from the head of the king of terrors. When Elijah does manifest faith, it is always of the noblest type." The higher exercises of faith are possible only to earnest, resolute, and incessant prayer.

III. We see here how an intrepid faith is honoured by a signal display of Divine power (1Ki ). This is the first recorded instance of a resurrection from the dead. Many suppose that this youth afterwards became the servant of Elijah (1Ki 18:43; 1Ki 19:3): and an old Jewish tradition identifies him with the prophet Jonah. "It was a proud thought for Greece that on one and the same day she gained the battle of Platæa on the land, and the battle of Mycalè on the sea. And what would be the grateful joy of this widow woman that by one and the same agency, in the retirement of her home, and in a period of the severest national distress, in place of two victims there had been two victories—a victory over famine, a victory also over death." Nothing is impossible to believing prayer. If Elijah by his fervent supplications could bring about supernatural results, why should we fail in securing blessings with. In the ordinary sphere of nature, by the agency of prayer?

IV. We see here how an intrepid faith is the means of strengthening and confirming the weak (1Ki ). This Sareptan widow believed in God before, but she is a stronger and more decided believer now. The miraculous replenishing of her store convinced her of the mercy and love of God, and the raising of her son from the dead gave her a still deeper insight into the Divine Majesty and power, and invested the mission of the prophet with a still more awful authority. The design of miracles is not for display, or to excite wonder, but for the confirmation of truth. The strongest faith sometimes gives way and needs heavenly support. Had this widow's son continued dead, her belief had been buried in his grave: notwithstanding her meal and oil, her soul had languished. The condescension of God provides new helps for our infirmities, and meets us on our own ground, that he may work out our faith and salvation. The onus of unbelief is thrown wholly on man. God takes care there shall be no lack of evidence for the encouragement and building up of faith.

LESSONS:—

1. Bereavement and sorrow intensify our sympathy with humanity.

2. The soul in its deepest suffering finds rest and consolation alone in God.

3. Faith in God achieves the grandest moral victories.

GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES

1Ki . Raising the Widow's Song of Solomon 1. No home exempt from the trials and sufferings of this life. This widow would doubtless be looked upon with envy by her neighbours. They would think that in the midst of the distress suffered by them she was free and protected by an unseen hand from wretchedness and woe. But a deeper sorrow than they imagined was soon her portion. In looking upon some homes, we are apt to think they are strangers to the ordinary trials and sorrows of life. But there is no home that can exclude these. However well provided temporarily, however diligent and devoted in the path of Christian duty the inmates may be, still there comes to them, more or less, trial and suffering of one kind or another—affliction, disappointment, bereavement. To know this should prepare us to meet trials when they come.

2. The deepest sorrow may be the instrument of our highest good. Nothing could have been a greater affliction to this woman than the death of her son; but it gave God the opportunity of exercising His power in raising him from the dead. By means of this she was enlightened, and her faith in God confirmed. She was on the borderland of true faith before; now she enters into its fulness. "Now, by this, I know, &c." Many have been similarly blessed by trial and sorrow; they have obtained clearer and loftier views of God and stronger faith in Him. ‘J hey have been raised up into a higher region of life and affection (Heb ).

3. An illustration of the power of prayer. How differently would this woman regard prayer to Jehovah to what she had done before! She would see that it was the way of access to God and of prevailing with Him; and lead her to imitate that earnest and confident prayer of Elijah which brought her son back from the regions of the dead. We have many rich and valuable illustrations of the power of prayer in Holy Writ and in our own history, which should lead us to a more earnest and persevering use of it.—The Study and Pulpit.

1Ki . The voice of conscience.

1. Is heard in the midst of calamity.

2. Is an unfailing remembrancer of sin.

3. May mislead as to the reasons for which calamity is permitted to overtake us.

4. Should be listened to with a view of moral improvement.

1Ki . Behold this great man in his chamber, alone with the corpse of that fair child. See how vehemently he strides up and down, gradually working himself up to the height of the great demand which gleams before his thought, a demand which had not crossed the mind of man since the beginning of the world, only because no man before had had the same degree of faith—the faith to deem it possible that the dead might be restored to life at man's urgent prayer. It is done. His purpose is taken. The child may live. Nothing is too hard for the Lord. It is as easy for Him to give back life as to take it; and He will do this if asked with adequate faith. Elijah knew that men too often expect to move the mountains by such faith as suffices not to shake the mole-hills; and that because, from the insufficiency of the means, the hoped-for results do not follow, the power of faith is disparaged. But he felt the true mountain-moving faith heaving strong within him, and he gave it unrestrained vent. He threw himself upon the corpse, as if, in the vehement energy of his will, to force his own life into it; and he cried with mighty and resistless urgency to God to send back to this cold frame the breath he had taken away. Faith conquered. It was adequate, and therefore irresistible.—Kitto.

1Ki . Even if the Lord do no miracle, there are still a thousand ways and means by which He sends comfort and strength, or help and salvation, in answer to the believing prayer of His faithful servants. Each granting of prayer is indeed a miracle, and never is one humble, believing prayer uttered in vain—no, not even when it is refused.—Menken.

—The illimitable power of God.

1. Has absolute control over life and death.

2. Can accomplish whatever does not imply a contradiction: it is never uselessly employed.

3. Is exerted in answer to believing prayer.

4. Confirms the faith of the wavering.

1Ki . He who testified that man did not live from hour to hour by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God, testified also to a stranger from the commonwealth of Israel that God can give back that life which He has taken away. The poor woman of Zidon learnt the amazing lesson that the power which she had looked upon as emphatically the destroyer, is warring with death, and can win a victory over it, not for some great and holy person, but for her whose sins had been brought to remembrance by the presence of the prophet and the death of her child—Maurice.

1Ki . Real knowledge of the truth. I. There is a kind of knowledge of scriptural things which leaves a man perfectly satisfied with himself. This widow seems to have been acquainted with the God of Israel, in the way of providence, and seems to have known Elijah to be a prophet by his dress; and her obedience appears to have been of that kind which springs from the intellectual knowledge that a man has, that God is almighty; that, being perfect, He is therefore faithful; and that what He says must come to pass; but it does not seem to have been that which springs from a heart knowledge of Him as a just God and a Saviour, who "pardoneth iniquity," and which knowledge begets an appropriation of God as "my God" to the heart—for, you observe, she says, "As the Lord thy God liveth." She does not say, "As the Lord my God liveth!" This lesson of knowing God as our God she has yet to learn. And this she was to learn in the school of affliction—a furnace in which many of God's children are chosen and made to know Him. There are many persons in the same state as the widow of Zarephath before the prophet came to her. Like her, they have heard of God; they have heard that there is a God; they do not deny the truth and power of God; they believe that the Word of God is true; they do not hesitate to render a sort of outside obedience to His commands. We find them continually speaking calmly of death, just as this woman did; but all the peace which apparently accompanies this calm statement about death is false. It arises from ignorance of sin. When this is brought vividly and clearly to remembrance, then their peace flies away, because there is no real acquaintance with Christ. They know the inconvenience of sin, they know the disgrace of it; but as to the real nature of sin, they are ignorant of it, because no man ever can abide under a knowledge of the nature of sin without fleeing to Jesus for the remedy that God has provided in Him.

II. This kind of knowledge is shown not to be a real acquaintance with truth, by impatience under affliction. "What have I to do with thee, O thou man of God? Art thou come unto me to call my sin to remembrance, and to slay my son?" By some this is understood to express her deep sense of the vast difference between herself and the prophet, and the feeling she entertained in consequence; as when Peter, astonished at the marvellous draught of fishes, exclaimed, "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord." But it seems as if the words are expressive of a feeling of impatience of the sorrow which had come upon her, in consequence, as she thought, of the presence of the prophet: as if she had said, "If this be the consequence of thy visit, would I had never seen thee." She forgets God's goodness, and thinks only of her trial. Are there not many who go on for years partaking of God's bounty, who are favoured above thousands around them, but who have no knowledge of the state of their own hearts, and who, when the Lord afflicts them, are irritated, and think themselves hardly dealt by; or when, by the preaching of the Word of God; He graciously opens their eyes to the condition of their hearts, are impatient at those doctrines, those statements, which God frequently makes use of to affirm His purpose of love? This widow saw in Elijah not the servant of the Lord, so much as one who brought her sins to remembrance, and slew her son; and this she could not bear. Trials which mellow and ripen the saint, irritate and enrage the graceless sinner; and heart-searching preaching leads men to speak evil of the way of truth. This woman could not have talked so calmly of dying if she had known what her sins were; but when she was stripped of self-confidence, of all those false hopes which were dear to her as her son—and when God calls upon men now-a-days to relinquish their all to Him, in His love He will take them off from every false confidence, till they are left like the childless widow, with their sins staring them in the face, and all their creature-comforts gone, stripped and made bare by God's Holy Spirit, then they are alive to the Scripture truth that they are in themselves "wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked."

III. It is generally under a deep sense of sin, or through deep waters, that God leads to real acquaintance with the truth. "And he said unto her, Give me thy son: and he took him out of her bosom." The dead son she can part with readily; she is brought so low, she is willing to do anything for a remedy. She sees matters cannot be worse, and therefore she is willing to listen to any remedy which may make them better. And that is just the point which a man is brought to who receives the Lord Jesus with thankfulness. He sees things cannot be worse; he sees a truth which the world is very slow to believe, that there is no such thing as exaggerating the evil of sin. And when the Lord says to the convicted sinner, "Give me thine heart," that heart which is dead to every hope but that which the Gospel gives, it is immediately yielded up. As God gave back life to the widow's son, so in regeneration does God give back that principle of eternal life which was forfeited in Adam; God breathes into man's nostrils the breath of life, and man becomes a living soul again, in contradistinction to what he is naturally, in Scripture language, "dead in trespasses and sins." Thus was the widow taught what she did not know, perhaps, in heart before, and by means which were utterly at variance with her best affections; and thus also our proud hearts are humbled, and made to know that those doctrines and statements of the Word of God which they long scoffed at are truth.

LESSONS.—

1. There is such a thing as being acquainted with the Word, and obeying it in a certain outward sense, and being calm in the prospect of death, and yet not knowing that Word experimentally to be truth.

2. Until we are brought to know the evil of sin, we shall be ignorant of the spiritual meaning of the Word of God, and in that degree resist the truth.

3. Until we yield ourselves wholly to God, we shall never know the truth savingly, or find peace really.—The Pulpit.

—We pass through much grief and humiliation before, with joyful assurance, we can say to Him who is greater than Elijah, Now know I that thou art Christ, the Son of the Living God. Only by means of individual experience does each man come to the blessed confession that the Word of the Lord is truth. He only is a servant of God in whose mouth the Word of the Lord is truth, not mere appearance and sham.—Lange.

 


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Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on 1 Kings 17:4". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/phc/1-kings-17.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.

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