As we read of the experience of Saul sparing Agag and the best of the sheep, when he had been commanded to utterly destroy all that the Amalekites had (1 Samuel 15), let us give heed to the admonition, “Put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.” Romans 13:14.
We are reminded of that significant passage in Joshua 17:12, 13 where it is said that the children of Israel could not drive out the inhabitants of those cities, “but the Canaanites would dwell in that land. Yet it came to pass, when the children of Israel were waxen strong, that they put the Canaanites to tribute; but did not utterly drive them out.” The whole story of their subsequent failure and captivity is told in that one brief sentence, “The Canaanites would dwell in that land.” But they had no kind of right to dwell there. They were dispossessed. The cup of their iniquity was filled up, and God had said, “I will drive them out.” But they would dwell there; that is to say, they wanted to, and so Israel let them; a compromise was formed, and Israel did not utterly drive them out.
Let us apply these same principles to our spiritual warfare. Have there not been in all our lives all these years those besetting sins of fleshly lusts that would dwell with us, and in some instances have held their own, notwithstanding we have known that they had neither part nor lot with the soul redeemed by Jesus Christ? Let us not condemn too strongly ancient Israel, lest we condemn ourselves. Surely the words of Joshua are as applicable to us as to them: “How long are ye slack to go to possess the land, which the Lord God of your fathers hath given you?” Joshua 18:3.
Abundance of Rain
Returning again to the scene of Elijah’s triumph over the prophets of Baal and their false system of religion, we find him saying to Ahab, “Get thee up, eat and drink; for there is a sound of abundance of rain.” Surely it was not the rumbling of the great thunderstorm that was soon to break upon them. For after this he went up on top of the mountain and cast himself down on the ground, and prayed seven times before there was seen even a cloud as large as a man’s hand. (1 Kings 18:42–44.) The preceding verses tell us that when all the people saw the manifestations of God’s power in the consuming of the sacrifice, they said, “The Lord, he is the God; the Lord, he is the God.” Their hearts had been turned back to God again. This to Elijah was the sound of abundance of rain. The apostasy of the people of God was the thing that had shut up the heavens, and their return to God was the only thing that would open them.
And so it is in our own day. If we are walking in dry places, it is because we have departed from God. If we would enjoy the copious showers of the latter rain, we must repent of our backslidings and turn again to God with all our hearts. Then we shall receive largely of His Spirit.
“What doest thou here?”
The sad story of Elijah’s failure is told in 1 Kings 19, and proves beyond question that he was a man subject to like passions as we are. On the night following his mighty triumphs of faith on Mt. Carmel, where he had stood alone against the wicked king and all the prophets of Baal and a whole nation that had apostatized from God, he arose and fled for his life before the threats of one wicked woman. “When he saw that, he arose, and went for his life.” Verse 3. The story of his defeat is told in that brief clause, “When he saw that.” As long as he kept his eyes upon God, he was invincible; but when he looked away from God and saw that woman Jezebel threatening him, “he arose, and went for his life.” Terrified, he ran away to the desert, and requested that the Lord would take away his life.
Notwithstanding his cowardice, the Lord did not forsake his servant. Angels provided him food and drink, and he went in the strength of that meat 40 days and 40 nights, until he reached Mt. Horeb. This wild and rugged portion of Arabia had once before been the training ground for one of God’s chosen servants. (See Exodus 3:1.) And long after Elijah had finished his life work and gone home, it was for a time an asylum for the great apostle to the Gentiles. (See Galatians 1:17.)
When Elijah had finally put a journey of 40 days and 40 nights between himself and the scene of his recent triumphs, he reached the mount of God, and crawled into a cave and lodged there. “And, behold, the word of the Lord came to him, and he said unto him, What doest thou here, Elijah?” 1 Kings 19:9. It would be well if God’s children would always hear that same voice saying, “What doest thou here?” whenever unbelief has separated them from God, or the allurements of the world have enticed them into some pleasure resort or some questionable place of amusement.
Whisper of Conscience
“And, behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind 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.” Verses 11, 12. God would teach Elijah that he would not always work through the elements, as during the years of famine, and those scenes that he had recently witnessed on Carmel’s height. Doubtless Elijah was depending too much upon the miraculous and spectacular methods to restore his people to their allegiance to God, feeling that it could be accomplished only by some unusually striking manifestation of God’s power. But these signs had failed, and he was now told that in these signs, in the highest sense, God was not—not in these, but in the still, small, gentle whisper of conscience, and solitude was the surest token that God was near him.
Life is filled with sharp and varied experiences. We think of Moses on the mount with God for 40 days, and then his return to the plain and the golden calf; of Christ at His baptism anointed with the Holy Ghost, His Father proclaiming from heaven, “Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased,” and then His temptation in the wilderness; of Christ on the mount of transfiguration talking with Moses and Elias, and then down in the valley to meet the demon-possessed boy; of Elijah on Mt. Carmel, carrying into effect in one day the greatest program for God of which we have any record, and then, before the excitement and inspiration of that eventful day were over, fleeing, panic-stricken, at the threat of the wicked queen.
Elijah had doubtless concluded that because God was not any longer working as he did on Mt. Carmel, he was not working at all. However, that was not God’s chosen way of saving Israel. There had been a more gentle and loving ministry going on that Elijah knew nothing about. The special message to Elijah was that the wind and the earthquake and the fire might pass before him, but God was not in them. But deep down in the heart of the nation, in the caves of Carmel, unknown to him, unknown to one another, were 7,000 who had not by word or deed acknowledged the power of Baal. In them God was still present. In them was the first announcement, often repeated by later prophets, of “an Israel within Israel,” of a remnant within all the great movements of God. This remnant embraced the true hope of the future.
Faith and Courage Renewed
Elijah was now instructed to anoint Hazael to be king over Syria, and Jehu to be king over Israel, and Elisha to be prophet in his stead. We do not know just what time elapsed between Elijah’s return from Arabia and his translation. Possibly it was about ten years. We catch only an occasional glimpse of him during those times. But again the old-time courage and faith had come back to him, and before his translation, he was brought over the same ground, and tested again on the very same point where he had signally failed.
Ahaziah, who was reigning in the place of his father, Ahab, had fallen down through a lattice in his upper chamber, and was very sick. When he learned that Elijah was in the country and had prophesied that he should surely die, he sent for him, doubtless to do him harm. (11 Kings 1:2–9.) There was just as much danger involved in his appearance at the court of Ahaziah, the son of Jezebel, who was still living, as there had been on a former occasion. Still Elijah went boldly down with the messenger through a crowded capital into the palace of his foes and announced to the king his doom. (Verse 16.) As he nears his reward, he no longer fears the wrath of man, for he is once more standing before his God, and is dwelling in the secret place of the Most High.
Before our final leave-taking of this wonderful prophet, let us remember that he was a man of like passions with ourselves, and the secret of his marvelous deeds was to be found, not in any inherent qualities that he possessed, but in the fact that he was filled with the Holy Ghost. It was by his consecration and faith that he “subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, . . . escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness . . . [was] made strong. Women received their dead raised to life again.” [Hebrews 11:33–35.] Is it too much to suppose that God will again give unto us the spirit and power of Elijah in the closing years of this generation? In fact, has God not always through all the ages shown Himself strong toward those whose hearts were perfect toward Him?
When D. L. Moody was a young man, he read somewhere that the world had yet to see what God could do through a man who was fully surrendered to Him. Mr. Moody was greatly impressed with the statement; and although he had a very humble opinion of himself, he reasoned that he was a man, and if it was not so much a question of who it was if only the surrender was complete, he was willing to pay the price if only God would use him. His choice was made, and his unsurpassed record as an evangelist and soul-winner for nearly half a century shows what one man may do in one brief life if only he is willing to surrender absolutely and unconditionally to God. While Mr. Moody was a man of rare gifts and a born leader of men, yet the secret of his power was unquestionably due to the fact that he was a man full of the Holy Ghost and of faith.
“Ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you,” Christ said to His disciples; and their lives from that time became a never-ceasing record of mighty signs and wonders done in the power of the Spirit. [Acts 1:8.] Stephen, we are told, full of faith and power, did great wonders and miracles among the people. Charles G. Finney was so filled with the power of the Spirit that as he entered a mill, the operatives fell upon their knees in tears before the mere presence of the evangelist before he had uttered a word. There is no limit to the usefulness of those who are willing to put self aside and live a life wholly consecrated to God. One has well said that “there is nothing the church of today needs so much as spiritual power, and there is nothing that we can have so easily, if only we are prepared to pay the price.” It is of no use to exclaim in despairing tones, “Where is the Lord God of Elijah?” He is here waiting to do as much now as for the illustrious saints of olden times.
O for that flame of living fire
Which shown so bright in saints of old;
Which bade their souls to heaven aspire,
Calm in distress, in danger bold!
Where is that spirit, Lord, which dwelt
In Abram’s breast, and sealed him thine?
Which made Paul’s heart with sorrow melt,
And glow with energy divine?
Is not thy grace as mighty now
As when Elijah felt its power?
When glory beamed from Moses’ brow,
Or Job endured the trying hour?
Remember, Lord, the ancient days;
Renew thy work, thy grace restore;
And while to thee our hearts we raise,
On us thy Holy Spirit pour.
~ Wm. H. Bathrust
The Adventist Review and Sabbath Herald, October 19, 1916; October 26, 1916