"FAINT NOT BECAUSE OF EVIL DOERS.
FOR IN DUE TIME THEY SHALL BE CUT OFF."--PSA. 37:1,2.
--I KINGS 19:1-8.--AUGUST 28.--
Golden Text:--"In my distress I cried
unto the Lord, and he heard me."
ELIJAH, flushed at the victory over the priests of Baal, was not thereby made haughty or boastful toward the king, though evidently he anticipated that the drouth and now finally its abatement, with abundant rain and with the attendant manifestation of divine power, would work a reformation in Israel. King Ahab and the rulers of Israel were evidently converted, at least temporarily, from Baal to Jehovah,--as evidenced [R3408 : page 236] by their willingness to permit the execution of the 450 priests of Baal. There was one person, however, on whose condition of heart Elijah had not counted, and that was Jezebel the queen, who really was at the bottom of the false religious system in which, as we have seen, her father had been at one time a chief priest in Zidon.
When the queen heard the result of the day's procedure she was angry--angry with God, angry with the Prophet Elijah for having shown up the falsity of Baal, angry with her husband the king for having permitted the demonstration to proceed to the disadvantage of Baal, and for permitting his priests to be executed. She was furious, and sent a message to Elijah--according to the customary form of those times--declaring that he would be as dead as the priests of Baal within twenty-four hours. Canon Farrar thus graphically pictures the queen, her message, etc. He says: "We can imagine the bitter objurgations which she poured upon her cowering husband for having stood quietly by while her prophets and Baal's prophets were being massacred by this dark fanatic, aided by a rebellious people. Had she been there all should have been otherwise!...The oath shows the intensity of her rage--like that of the forty Jews who bound themselves by the oath that they would not eat or drink until they had slain Paul--and the fixity of her purpose, as when Richard III declared that he would not dine until the head of Buckingham had fallen on the block. She presents the spectacle so often reproduced in history and reflected in literature, of a strong woman completely dominating a feebler consort."
GOD'S REPRESENTATIVE INTIMIDATED.
The message sent to Elijah was evidently a boast and threat designed to intimidate him and to cause him to flee the country, the very effect it did produce. Jezebel was quite probably at heart afraid to have an encounter with the man who, as God's representative, was able to produce the results testified to by her husband and by the rain: she was too shrewd to risk a defeat, and her course prospered. Poor Elijah, so courageous previously, so ready to risk his life, was now panic stricken and fled to Beersheba, the farther part of Judea. Even then he did not feel himself safe, because Jehoshaphat, the king of Judah, was a close friend to Ahab, king of Israel; so leaving there his boy servant, who is supposed to have been the son of the widow of Zarephath, he continued his flight southward through the wilderness to Mount Sinai--Horeb.
It is useless for us to speculate how Elijah might have done otherwise than he did--how he might have boldly stood up for the Lord, denounced the Queen, rallied the heads of the tribes of Israel and carried forward to a general completion the reform movement which he began. We are to remember that Elijah was a type, and hence that his doings as well as his words were in a particular sense and degree ordered of the Lord--beyond any knowledge or motives of his own. It is only when we view this entire narrative of Elijah and Ahab and Jezebel from the standpoint of a type of more wonderful things coming afterward on a larger scale--only then can we grasp in any measure the force and meaning of the lessons taught through these types.
Although we have already noticed this matter, we cannot pass the story now without brief reference to the antitypes. We see in John the Baptist the repetition of the type, he being a fresh type corresponding to Elijah, as Herod corresponded to Ahab, and Herodias was an advanced type of Jezebel. Similarly John the Baptist, like Elijah, sought to effect a reformation in Israel, and similarly he failed. Let us glance very hastily at the antitype of these things portrayed in the book of Revelation. There the antitypical Jezebel is distinctly pointed out, and, in harmony with commentators since the Reformation time, we understand the antitype to be the apostate Church, the Papacy,--the civil government of the Roman empire in its decisions corresponding to King Ahab, consequently the agent of the antitypical Jezebel in accomplishing her desires, in propagating her system and destroying the prophets of the Lord. As had been predicted, so it was fulfilled: "She wore out the saints of the most high God," and "was drunken with the blood of the saints."--Rev. 17:6; 18:24.
In the antitype, if Papacy represents the woman Jezebel, and if the civil power was the antitype of Ahab, where is Elijah? We answer that the antitypical Elijah all through this Gospel age has been made up of the Lord's faithful people, the saints--a body of many members, yet in all a "little flock." We have already shown that the antitypical Elijah, who must first come and do his work before the second advent of Christ in the glory of his Kingdom, is the true Church of Christ in the flesh --of which Jesus was the Head, of which the Apostles were prominent members, and to which number all the true saints of the Lord from then to the end of the Gospel age, while in the flesh, must belong. This Elijah class was invisible during a large portion of this long period of nearly nineteen centuries. As Elijah the Prophet disappeared just prior to the drouth and was not seen and could not be found during the drouth, so with the antitypical Elijah class. As a class they disappeared about the year 300 and were not seen for about three and a half symbolic years, namely until the time of the Reformation, about 1550, even as Elijah disappeared after announcing the drouth and did not reappear until nearly the conclusion of that period of three and a half literal years. The drouth really began about 539 A.D. and the copious showers of refreshing came three and a half symbolic years later in 1799 A.D.
This period of three and a half years, equaling forty-two months of 1260 days, is particularly mentioned in all three of these different forms in Revelation. (12:6,14; 13:5) [R3408 : page 237] The whole world is witness to the great drouth that prevailed throughout Christendom from the year 300 until the time of the Reformation. It is particularly known as the period of the "Dark Ages." With the reappearance of the Elijah class prominently before the world, represented in the reformers of Luther's time, we have some measure of reassertion of the proper worship of God. The Reformation work up to the year 1799 was preparatory, just as the work of Elijah on Mount Carmel and with the priests of Baal was preparatory. Then followed the great shower of blessing, scattering the Word of God throughout the whole world in every language under heaven. Nearly all of the present Bible Societies were organized between 1803 and 1815. There has been a great and refreshing shower of Grace and Truth come to the world. The antitype of Ahab, civil government, has to a considerable extent recognized the general truth of the matter, but they are more or less closely affiliated with and under the influence of the Jezebel system, and alas! as Revelation clearly points out, Jezebel today has daughters --systems termed Protestant--which, nevertheless, copy largely the mother's spirit. It is through the influence of the daughters that the antitypical Elijah may expect future persecutions, instigated by the mother, accomplished through the daughters, as typically represented in the case of John the Baptist, beheaded by Herod at the instance of Salome, but at the instigation of Herodias--Jezebel. This, however, is looking down to a period in the future.
ELIJAH IN THE SLOUGH OF DESPOND.
Elijah under the juniper tree, praying God that he might die because he had been no more successful than his fathers had been in the mission of restoring Israel to the true worship, is almost amusing when we think of the fact that the Prophet had fled panic stricken a few days before to escape Jezebel's threat against his life. Why thus flee from death and yet pray the Lord for death? The Prophet's experiences and conduct are but an illustration of what frequently occurs. Amongst the Lord's people some of strong faith at times become discouraged, panic stricken, fearful. For the moment they seem to forget whose servants they are, and the almighty power that is behind them, able and willing to make all things work together for good to his faithful ones.
The fact of the matter is that all of the Lord's consecrated servants devoted their lives to sacrifice when they became followers of the Lamb, and if they could but realize their consecration continually, they would be ready for the consummation at any moment at the Lord's pleasure and by whatever means or channel his providences may permit. The Lord's consecrated ones of the Elijah class are to remember that not a hair of their heads could fall without their Father's knowledge and permission, and the attitude of their hearts should be that expressed by our dear Redeemer--the Head of the Elijah body--"The cup which the Father hath poured for me, shall I not drink it?" The language of their hearts should be that expressed by the poet:
"Content whatever lot I see,
Since 'tis my God that leadeth me."
Doubtless the Prophet's discouragement of heart was but a natural consequence of the tension under which he had been for some time laboring in his zeal for the Truth and the exciting conditions attending his fear and flight. He slept under the juniper tree, but was awakened that he might partake of specially provided refreshments: further rest and further supplies of food brought him strength for a farther journey. We may take from this two lessons: First, a natural one, that however earnest and zealous the Lord's people may be, they need rest and food, and these cannot be neglected with impunity if we would be strong and courageous in mind and heart. Second, the feastings and fastings of the typical Elijah may well represent special blessings and refreshments of the Truth in the experiences of the Church during the past centuries, and also represent certain fastings. Elijah's reaching Horeb, the Mount of God, would seem to typify the Kingdom in its incipient establishment in the end of this age--which various Scriptures teach us was reached in 1878. There certain lessons, refreshments, etc., were evidently due to come to the Elijah class, and so we have found it. Of this we will learn more in our next lesson.
The Golden Text suggests a personal application of Elijah's experiences to all of the Lord's people at any time. Whatever our distresses, whatever our discouragements, whatever may be our Ahabs and Jezebels, we may find consolation by carrying our every trial and difficulty to the Lord in prayer. No affair of life that comes to the [R3409 : page 237] Lord's people, sorrow or anguish or distress of mind in any sense, is too small to bring to the Lord. "Cast all your care upon the Lord, for he careth for you," is a very consoling and very encouraging suggestion from the Word. However, the Lord's people are to learn more and more distinctly, as their years of membership in God's family and tutelage in the school of Christ go on, that they are not to ask the Lord to guide their efforts according to their wisdom, that they are not to request that their wills shall be done either on earth or in heaven, but rather, telling the Lord their burdens, great and small, they are to realize and appropriate to themselves his sympathy and love, and to apply to their own hearts as a balm the consoling assurances of his Word, that he is both able and willing to make all of their experiences profitable to them if they abide in him with confidence and trust. His grace is sufficient for us, his strength is made perfect in our weakness.