THREE AND A HALF YEARS WITHOUT RAIN
--FEBRUARY 5.--I. KINGS 17:1-16.--
They that seek the Lord shall not
want any good thing.--Psa. 34:10.
ELIJAH the Prophet was God's messenger for reproving King Ahab, Jezebel his wife, and the ten tribes of Israel who supported them. As we have seen, wickedness and idolatry flourished for a time with national prosperity. Then there came a change, a drouth for three and a half years--a special dispensation of Divine providence--a retribution or punishment upon Israel. We do not wish [R4731 : page 396] to convey the thought that every drouth, famine, pestilence, etc., should be considered a judgment from the Almighty. The whole world is under Divine sentence or condemnation of death, and God permits cyclones, earthquakes, drouth, famine, pestilences, without sending them, except that in a general way they stand related to the present reign of sin and death, as of the curse not yet lifted.
But in the case of Israel matters were different. At Mt. Sinai Israel entered into Covenant relationship with God and he with them. The special terms of that Covenant were that God should deal with their nation differently than with others--that he would treat them as his people and protect them from the evils incidental to the curse, if they would serve and obey him. Under that compact not only were they to receive blessings if faithful, but equally they were sure to receive stripes, punishments, if they were disobedient and forsook the Lord and their share of the Covenant. The three and a half years' famine described in this study was, therefore, in Israel's case, specifically a punishment from the Lord for their sins.
This is the signification of the Lord's statement through the Prophet, "Is there evil in the city and the Lord hath not done it?" Some have mistakenly interpreted this to mean that God holds himself responsible for all the moral evils of mankind. Quite to the contrary, the Lord declares respecting his own Government that "His way is perfect." The word evil in this text is old style English, signifying any disaster or trouble or affliction. With the Israelites God wished it to be clearly understood that he was responsible, both for their blessings and for their tribulations, all of which were intended to purify them.
ELIJAH THE PROPHET
Under Divine guidance, Elijah, at the appropriate time, presented himself to King Ahab, clothed according to his custom, in exceedingly plain garments. In the name of the Lord he reproved the king for the idolatries practised in his kingdom and announced what the king doubtless considered a vain boast; namely, that there would be neither rain nor dew in the land of Israel until Elijah would command it. And the drouth came as the Prophet of the Lord predicted.
As months grew into years and the drouth continued, the king caused search to be made for Elijah, with a view to either entreating or threatening him, to the intent that the drouth might be broken. But Elijah, under the Lord's direction, secreted himself near the Brook Cherith, where the ravens brought him food morning and evening until the brook dried up and, under the Lord's direction, Elijah went elsewhere.
While this story that the ravens fed Elijah sounds mythical, it has its parallels. The raven is a wise bird. A story is told of a young man sick in prison, to whom a raven brought food. Bishop Stanley's History of Birds tells of another incident thus: "Coming into the inn yard my chaise ran over and bruised the leg of a favorite Newfoundland dog, and while we were examining the injury, Ralph, the raven, looked on also. That night the dog was tied up under the manger with my horse and the raven not only visited him, but brought him bones and attended him with particular marks of kindness."
"Nor is it a wonderful case,
The wonder is to be renewed;
And many can say, to his praise,
He sends them by ravens their food.
Thus worldlings, though ravens indeed,
Though greedy and selfish their mind,
If God has a servant to feed,
Against their own wills can be kind."
THE WIDOW OF ZAREPHATH
Divine providence guided Elijah to the home of a poor widow, to whom the drouth and continued scarcity had proved a great trial. She had a little coarse flour left, which alone stood between herself and her son and starvation, so far as she could discern. The Prophet, meeting her, asked for a drink of water and a small cake of bread. This was a severe test to the woman's faith and generosity. She explained the situation, indicating her desire to accede to the Prophet's wishes, yet loth to part with her all. Elijah replied, Fear not. Bake for yourself and for your son, but the first cake make for me and bring to me. Then he explained to her the Lord's message: "The barrel of meal shall [R4731 : page 397] not waste, neither shall the cruise of oil fail until the day that the Lord sendeth rain upon the earth." The word of the Lord was fulfilled. Miraculously the supplies were increased little by little, just as required for use.
There is a lesson for the Lord's people in this--a lesson that, even in our own extremities, we should exercise sympathy towards others in like condition or worse. The Lord loveth a cheerful giver. Those who give not, and those who give grudgingly miss, therefore, much of the Lord's blessing. We should not be foolish in our giving; but, while we have evidence that there is need, and particularly if the needy one be a child of God, we can well divide even our necessities with such. Our reward will be a realization of Divine approval and an increase in ourselves of the mind of the Lord. To such the Lord's promise is of his superabounding care. They are assured that all things shall work together for good to them, because they love God and are following in the path to which they were "called according to his purpose."
The Scriptures declare: "There is that scattereth and yet increaseth; and there is that withholdeth more than is proper and it tendeth to poverty." This widow scattered or divided her slender supply and thereby she increased it for many days, in harmony with this text. Our Golden Text, also, should not be forgotten: "They that seek the Lord shall not want any good thing"--shall not lack anything good for them. The Lord in his wisdom may not give them riches or prominence. They must trust to his wisdom, his judgment, as to what things will be for their best, their highest good.