Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
July 24, 1958
NUMBER 12, PAGE 6-7b

Studies From Elijah -- (VI.)

Connie W. Adams, Bergen, Norway

Moments of great exaltation are often followed by seasons of deep depression of spirit. So it was with the prophet Elijah. He had stood alone on Mt. Carmel with no other support than God above, and had called down unmistakable evidence that the God he served was the one, true God and that Baal was not God. The people had watched in awe the spectacle of the exorcising Baal-ite prophets, and had seen the pathos and utter failure in their weird incantations. The air was electric with suspense as Elijah quietly and briefly invoked Jehovah. Then came the fire from on high which devoured the sacrifice followed by the outbursts of these apostate people "The Lord he is God." The false prophets were put to death and it would seem to us as it did to Elijah that the people would now be fully turned back to God. It would seem from this powerful demonstration that even spineless Ahab and wicked Jezebel would have turned humbly to the Lord; yet instead of repentance, the prophet's life was threatened. And here he sat under the Juniper tree in deep depression of spirit. So discouraged was he that he besought Jehovah to take his life.

While he was in the deepest valleys of pessimism he fell asleep, and was awakened by an angel who instructed him to arise, eat and drink. This occurred the second time at which time he was told that these refreshments were necessary for the great journey before him. It was in the strength of that food that he journeyed forty days and nights unto Horeb where Moses had received the law. Thus the same Jehovah who had sent the ravens to feed him, who has sustained him at the widow's house, who had vindicated him with the fire from above and had sent the rain at the prophet's prayers, again ministered his needs. We should not charge the prophet with purposely mistrusting Jehovah, for even in his despondency he spoke to his God. His despair centered around his unfulfilled hopes for results as he expected them. There is often a wide difference between the results we expect and those that come, and in the manner of their arrival. Has it not ever been thus with the Lord's faithful servants? He had earnestly and faithfully discharged his responsibility, and his God had clearly shown that Elijah was his own true servant. But what of the people? They readily confessed in their awe that "the Lord he is God," but still the fruits of repentance did not become apparent on any wide-spread scale. In fact the prophet seemed to see no good results at all among the people. for he said. "I only am left and they seek my life." Are there not many practical considerations for us from these studies? How many gospel preachers have "preached their hearts out" in various places only to see the listeners untouched and unmoved by the truth? How many have faithfully and courageously warned of the consequences of sin only to be abused and "deported" by worldlings who would rather "have his hide" than repent? And how many have gone away to other places with a bitter, surly attitude which hindered their future usefulness in the vineyard, all because the results they expected did not come as they expected them?

How many younger men have been greatly shocked that their best "latherin" sermons did not instantly reform the world? How many preachers measure the success of their effort only by the yardstick of how many they baptize, how many are moved to return to their first love, and how many are present on Wednesday evening, or the statistics concerning attendance at the other services? Are not many brethren as mistaken as preachers are at times in the matter of results? A brother may come one year for a meeting and have no responses to his preaching. The brethren do not invite him back. Another preacher comes the next time and baptizes a number. He is invited back because he is effective, while the other was not. Could it not be that the second brother simply reaped the harvest from the seed sown by the first one? Is it not high time that we re-examine the devices by which we measure success and failure in the kingdom of God? Let us learn from Elijah.

We follow the prophet to the cave where he lodged. A searching question came from the Lord. "What doest thou here, Elijah?" Was there not censure implied in the question? His work was not finished. He was alarmed too soon. He was still God's servant and useful in his cause. He was to become stronger from this season of despair. It should further serve to strengthen us to know that the strongest, most faithful servants of all time have also had their seasons of discouragement. The question which was repeated a second time was more than censure, though it included that. It was also a challenge for soul-searching and understanding. It was an appeal for the prophet to reflect carefully upon the train of thoughts that had escorted him hither. Only when we have the wisdom to see our own fallacious reasoning are we in position to rectify wrong attitudes and deeds which grow out of these fallacies. The answer Elijah gave to the question revealed his mode of reasoning. He said, "I have been very jealous for the Lord God thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away." (1 Kgs. 19:10.) He then was called upon to witness unusual demonstrations. He beheld a mighty wind which "rent the mountains and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake: and after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice," v. 11-12. What lessons were intended from these? God did not always carry out his designs through means that attracted the most attention. But God was at work in the "still small voice."

Some have seized this passage about "the still small voice." This certainly has nothing to do with such a concept. We learn of conversion to Christ now in the new covenant. Elijah was already a servant of Jehovah and the voice was not to make him one. It was a lesson on the difference between human concepts of the way in which God operates and the ways he employs sometimes contrary to what men expect. Truly, "the foolishness of God is wiser than men." The writer is caused to wonder if we do not place the wrong emphasis upon visible, tangible, attention-attracting schemes and efforts. Whence the desire for great demonstrations and for "letting the world know we have arrived?" Have we forgotten that leaven makes very little noise in its spreading? that salt and light are not effective because of their clamor? Let us faithfully discharge our responsibilities before the Lord, preach to the sinner, admonish the saint, warn the unruly, and then leave the results with God. And if the result we desire is not apparent, let us remember that we are not responsible for that. Let us not go away to brood as Elijah did and say, "I am left alone."

Paul referred to this melancholy occasion in Elijah's life in Rom. 11:2-5. "But what saith the answer of God unto him? I have reserved to myself seven thousand men, who have not bowed the knee to the image of Baal." v. 4. Here was hope of which the prophet had no knowledge. So it may be with us when we think all is desolation. Although Israel of Paul's time had in mass rejected Christ, still, "even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace v. 5. Has there not always been a faithful remnant to encourage hope and plant righteousness anew? Was there not a faithful remnant at the flood? Here were 7,000 faithful ones in Elijah's time. Here was the faithful remnant of Paul's day. Will there not always be such to keep the torch of truth burning aloft? We are confident there will be.

At the end of this enlightening time, God gave further orders to his prophet. He was to return by the wilderness of Damascus, and stop to anoint Hazael king over Syria, and Elisha to be prophet in his room. These anointings clearly showed that God would carry out his purposes through these anointees, and revealed the relation between them and the official mission of Elijah. Both Hazael and Tehu as well as Elisha would be instruments to execute just vengeance upon the rebellious. And so, all was not ended; God's purposes had not been defeated And the Prophet departed from the scene of his despondency greatly enlightened, much stronger in faith, with renewed hope and with resoluteness of purpose in discharging the new assignments committed unto him.

The next article will deal with Naboth's vineyard, and the just retribution which came upon Ahab and Jezebel.