Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the inhabitants of Gilead, said unto Ahab, As the Lord God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word. 1 Kings 17:1.
This was the first meeting between Ahab, the king of Israel, and the prophet Elijah. The message delivered to Ahab, though very brief, was a most serious one. A sore judgment was to fall upon Israela dire famine that was to continue for years. The reason for such a visitation is given as follows:
Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the Lord above all that were before him. And it came to pass, as if it had been a light thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, that he took to wife Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal king of the Zidonians, and went and served Baal, and worshiped him. And he reared up an altar for Baal in the house of Baal, which he had built in Samaria. And Ahab made a grove; and Ahab did more to provoke the Lord God of Israel to anger than all the kings of Israel that were before him. 1 Kings 16: 30-33.
This is a very heavy indictment. The course pursued by Ahab was destined to bring greater evil upon Israel than had been brought upon them by any of his predecessors.
The first great wrong mentioned was that of taking to wife Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal king of the Zidonians. The Zidonians were idolaters. Their chief deity was Baal, the sungod of many ancient heathen nations. Ashtoreth was a goddess of the Zidonians. Baal and Ashtoreth were supposed to personify certain sexual attributes of fertility, and the worship of these idols in the temples was often accompanied by licentious rites of the most abominable character.
Jezebel's father, Ethbaal, king of the Zidonians, was a priest of Baal, and Jezebel appears to have been fanatically devoted to the worship of her father's sun-god, Baal. On the other hand, she was violently opposed to the worship of Israel's God, Jehovah.
Ahab was a descendant of Abraham, the friend of God. He was now king of Israel, God's chosen people. It was a great sin for him to choose as his wife a heathen woman from among the idolatrous Zidonians, and place her as queen over the people of God.
His next step was but the natural, logical result of his apostasyhe built a temple in his capital for the heathen god, and reared up an altar for Baal in the house of Baal, which he had built. This was followed by the appointment of priests to perform the services of the temple. He also appointed and maintained prophets of Baal in great numbers.
All this was done by the king and queen to lead the nation of Israel away from the true God, the Creator of heaven and earth, to the worship of senseless idols of wood and stone. This was the first time in the long history of God's people that rank heathenism was established in their midst by the authority of the government.
Before Israel entered upon their inheritance, the Lord gave the command: Thou shalt not plant thee a grove of any trees near unto the altar of the Lord thy God, which thou shalt make thee. Neither shalt thou set thee up any image; which the Lord thy God hateth. Deut. 16:21, 22.
In the time of the judges, Joash, the father of Gideon, had erected an altar to Baal, and built a grove by it. When Gideon was called to deliver the nation of Israel from the bondage of the Midianites, he first obeyed the divine command to throw down the altar of Baal which his father had built, and to cut down the grove that was by it. Then he undertook the great task of delivering his people from the cruel servitude of the Midianites. (See Judges 6:25-32.)
But Ahab and Jezebel had determined to establish the idolatry of the Zidonians as the religion of Israel by putting the sun-god Baal in the place of Jehovah, and they appeared to be accomplishing their wicked purpose. With the king and queen entirely committed to idolatry, with temples and altars on every
hand dedicated to the worship of Baal, with priests and prophets by the hundred performing the services of the heathen ritual, the whole nation was being rapidly led into idolatry.
This was a supreme crisis in the history of Israel. The change that was taking place was tragic. All the bounties of heaven,the running brooks, the streams of living waters, the gentle dew, the showers of rain which refreshed the earth and caused their fields to bring forth abundantly,these they [the Baal worshipers] ascribed to the favor of their gods.Testimonies for the Church, Vol. III, p. 263.
This strange, corrupting, destroying movement carried on by Ahab and Jezebel was viewed with great alarm and distress by the loyal man of God, Elijah, who dwelt in the land of Gilead east of the Jordan. He was overwhelmed with anguish as he saw his people being led into idolatry. Elijah was a man of action.
He went before the Lord, and with his soul wrung with anguish, pleaded for Him to save His people if it must be by judgments. He pleaded with God to withhold from His ungrateful people dew and rain, the treasures of heaven, that apostate Israel might look in vain to their gods, their idols of gold, wood, and stone, the sun, moon, and stars, to water and enrich the earth, and cause it to bring forth plentifully.Ibid.
This was no doubt the prayer of Elijah to which James refers: He prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months. James 5:17.
Having given Elijah full assurance that his prayer had been heard, and that it would surely be answered, the Lord sent him as a prophet to deliver a message of woe and doom to Ahab. He met the king, gave him the message, and was gone as suddenly as he had appeared. He had locked heaven with his word, and had taken the key with him, and he could not be found.Testimonies for the Church, Vol. III, p. 276. From that day on for more than three long years there was no dew and no rain in Ahab's kingdom, and as a result there was a sore famine in Samaria. 1 Kings 18:2.
In his dire extremity, Ahab called Obadiah, who was the governor of his house, and said to him, Go into the land, unto all fountains of water, and unto all brooks: peradventure we may find grass to save the horses and mules alive, that we lose not all the beasts. So they divided the land between them to pass through it: Ahab went one way by himself, and Obadiah went another way by himself. Verses 5, 6.
This sore famine was to be a test of true and false gods.
There is an opportunity for apostate Ahab and pagan Jezebel to test the power of their gods, and to prove the word of Elijah false. Jezebel's prophets are numbered by hundreds. Against them all stands Elijah, alone. His word has locked heaven. If Baal can give dew and rain, and cause vegetation to flourish, if he can cause the brooks and streams to flow on as usual, independent of the treasures of heaven in the showers of rain, then let the king of Israel worship him, and the people say that he is God.Testimonies for the Church, Vol. III, p. 274.
In their great perplexity the priests and prophets of Baal offer sacrifices to their gods, and call upon them night and day to refresh the earth by dew and rain. But the incantations and deceptions formerly practiced by them to deceive the people do not answer the purpose now. The priests have done everything to appease the anger of their gods; with a perseverance and zeal worthy of a better cause have they lingered around their pagan altars, while the flames of sacrifice burn on all the high places, and the fearful cries and entreaties of the priests of Baal are heard night after night through doomed Samaria. But the clouds do not appear in the heavens to cut off the burning rays of the sun. The word of Elijah stands firm, and nothing that Baal's priests can do will change it.Id., p. 275.
Jezebel seemed to grow more desperate and determined in her fanatical zeal for Baal, and in her hatred of Israel's God. In her frenzy she attempted to kill all the prophets of the Lord. But Obadiah saved one hundred of the Lord's prophets by hiding them in a cave, and secretly feeding them with bread and water. (See 1 Kings 18:4, 13.)
The situation was desperate. The scorching rays of the sun continued to pour down upon men, beasts, and land until it appeared that the destruction would be complete. Then it came to pass after many days, that the word of the Lord came to Elijah in the third year, saying, Go, show thyself unto Ahab; and I will send rain upon the earth. And it came to pass, when Ahab saw Elijah, that Ahab said unto him, Art thou he that troubleth Israel? And he answered, I have not troubled Israel; but thou, and thy father's house, in that ye have forsaken the commandments of the Lord, and thou hast followed Baalim. 1 Kings 18:1, 17, 18.
With an authority irresistible the prophet directed the king to gather all Israel together to Mount Carmel. The four hundred fifty prophets of Baal, and the four hundred prophets of the groves, who ate at Jezebel's table, must also be there. They must meet Elijah in a great demonstration before the people. By a very practical test, it must be shown which is the true God,Baal or Jehovah. All that Elijah commanded was faithfully performed by Ahab. Elijah stood alone before the eight hundred fifty prophets of Baal.
The famine with all its horrors was still on. The whole nation was crying for rain. Now, said Elijah, let it be seen who can give rain, Baal or Jehovah. So he directed Baal's prophets to place their sacrifice on the altar, and call upon their god, in the presence of all the people, to demonstrate by sending fire, that he had control over the elements.
The prophets obeyed, and called on the name of Baal from morning even until noon, and still on until the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice. But there was neither voice, nor any to answer, nor any that regarded. 1 Kings 18:26-29. Their frantic, exhaustive efforts witnessed by all the people were a dismal failure.
Then Elijah said unto all the people, Come near unto me. And all the people came near unto him. And he repaired the altar of the Lord that had been broken down by the worshipers
of Baal. Verse 30. Now he subjected himself and his God, Jehovah, to a great test in the eyes of the people. Having placed his sacrifice on the altar of the Lord, he had twelve barrels of water poured upon the sacrifice and the wood and the altar, until the trench around the altar was filled with water.
The multitude, including the king and the prophets and priests of Baal, is now to witness the results of Elijah's appeal to his God.
The people of Israel stand spellbound, pale, anxious, and almost breathless with awe, while Elijah calls upon Jehovah, the Creator of the heavens and the earth. The people have witnessed the fanatical, unreasonable frenzy of the prophets of Baal. In contrast they are now privileged to witness the calm, awe-inspiring deportment of Elijah. He reminds the people of their degeneracy, which has awakened the wrath of God against them, and then calls upon them to humble their hearts, and turn to the God of their fathers, that His curse may be removed from them. Ahab and his idolatrous priests are looking on with amazement mingled with terror. They await the result with anxious, solemn silence.Testimonies for the Church, Vol. III, p. 284.
In a prayer remarkable for simplicity, brevity, and appeal, Elijah said:
Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, let it be known this day that Thou art God in Israel, and that I am Thy servant, and that I have done all these things at Thy word. Hear me, O Lord, hear me, that this people may know that Thou art the Lord God, and that Thou hast turned their heart back again.
Then the fire of the Lord fell, and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces: and they said, The Lord, He is the God; the Lord, He is the God. 1 Kings 18:36-39.
The tremendous contrast between the true God of Israel and the false god of the pagans had been clearly revealed. On the one hand stood the lone prophet of Jehovah, and on the other the eight hundred fifty prophets of Baal; and the great test had
been made in the presence of the king and all Israel. The prophets of Baal had utterly failed. Their god gave them no answer. No fire came; the sacrifice remained untouched. But Elijah's prayer, offered in calm, quiet assurance, was answered. His God gave plain, open evidence that He was the living God, that He could hear, and that He was able and anxious to do great things for those who would choose Him.
Now that the heathen religion brought into Israel by Jezebel and Ahab was openly discredited, the prophets of Baalthose men of Israel who had wickedly sold themselves to do this great evil against God's peoplewere slain. Then, having executed this terrible penalty, Elijah said to Ahab, Get thee up, eat and drink; for there is a sound of abundance of rain. 1 Kings 18:41.
Then Elijah gave the people further overwhelming evidence that Israel's God was the true and living God. He went up to the top of Carmel; and he cast himself down upon the earth, and put his face between his knees, and prayed for rain. In answer to his thrice-repeated prayer there arose a little cloud out of the sea, like a man's hand. At this sight, Elijah said to his servant, Go up, say unto Ahab, Prepare thy chariot, and get thee down, that the rain stop thee not.
In the meanwhile, the heaven was black with clouds and wind, and there was a great rain. And Ahab rode, and went to Jezreel. And the hand of the Lord was on Elijah; and he girded up his loins, and ran before Ahab to the entrance of Jezreel. I Kings 18:42-46.
To those who believe the Bible to be the recorded word of God, this is a thrilling, faith-inspiring account of a great crisis. That great man of God, Elijah, gave the people abundant and impressive proof that their king and queen were leading them away from the true God into the rankest heathenism. This mighty, convincing manifestation of the power of God should have turned the king and queen and all Israel from the worship of Baal back to the sincere worship of the living God. This was why the Lord wrought so mightily through His prophet.
But the king and queen cast aside all this evidence of the sovereignty of God. They turned a deaf ear to its appeal to turn from the Phoenicians' Baal to Israel's God. Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and withal how he had slain all the prophets with the sword. Then Jezebel sent a messenger unto Elijah, saying, So let the gods do to me, and more also, if I make not thy life as the life of one of them by tomorrow about this time. 1 Kings 19:1, 2.
Such a murderous threat seemed too heavy for Elijah's exhausted body and mind, and he arose, and went for his life, and came to Beersheba. Leaving his servant there, he pressed farther on, a day's journey into the wilderness. But he did not remain here. He traveled on yet forty days farther, until he came to Horeb the mount of God. And he came thither unto a cave, and lodged there. (See verses 3-9.)
Elijah might be now a long way from the wrathful queen, but not from the Lord, who came close to him, and said, What doest thou here, Elijah? Verse 9. How long Elijah remained at Horeb is not known; but while there, he was given another sad, heavy task. The Lord said unto him:
Go, return on thy way to the wilderness of Damascus: and when thou comest, anoint Hazael to be king over Syria: and Jehu the son of Nimshi shalt thou anoint to be king over Israel: and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah shalt thou anoint to be prophet in thy room. And it shall come to pass, that him that escapeth the sword of Hazael shall Jehu slay: and him that escapeth from the sword of Jehu shall Elisha slay. Yet I have left Me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him.
So he departed thence, and found Elisha the son of Shaphat, who was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen before him, and he with the twelfth: and Elijah passed by him, and cast his mantle upon him . Then he [Elisha] arose, and went after Elijah and ministered unto him. 1 Kings 19:15-21.
During Elijah's stay at Horeb, and elsewhere, the Lord sent other prophets with messages to Ahab.
Ben-hadad the king of Syria gathered all his host together: and there were thirty and two kings with him, and horses, and chariots: and he went up and besieged Samaria, and warred against it. 1 Kings 20:1.
Samaria was a part of Ahab's kingdom. This invasion by a great monarch, accompanied by thirty-two other kings and a great army, so terrified Ahab that he hastily said to Ben-hadad's messengers, My lord, O king, according to thy saying, I am thine, and all that I have. Verse 4. Ahab's surrender was complete. But though Israel was unworthy of His protection, the Lord was not ready to see His people, as they still were, go into Syrian captivity.
And, behold, there came a prophet unto Ahab king of Israel, saying, Thus saith the Lord, Hast thou seen all this great multitude? behold, I will deliver it into thine hand this day; and thou shalt know that I am the Lord. And Ahab said, Who shall order the battle? And He answered, Thou. Verses 13, 14.
This was surely the manifestation of great compassion toward a rebellious king and an ungrateful people. The Lord wrought for them mightily. And the king of Israel went out, and slew the Syrians with a great slaughter. Verse 21.
Immediately after this victory was gained, the prophet came to the king of Israel, and said unto him, Go, strengthen thyself, and mark, and see what thou doest: for at the return of the year the king of Syria will come up against thee. Verse 22. The Syrian host came again, and were again utterly defeated. So great was their loss that Ben-hadad, the king, fled to the city of Aphek, and hid in an inner chamber. Later he sent some of his servants to the king of Israel, who said to him, Thy servant Ben-hadad saith, I pray thee, let me live. Verse 32.
This was just what Ahab should not have permitted. But utterly regardless of God's purpose, Ahab said, Is he yet alive? he is my brother . Then he said, Go ye, bring him. Then
Ben-hadad came forth to him; and he caused him to come up into the chariot. Verses 32, 33.
This disregard by Ahab of the Lord's instruction brought to a tragic end what had, up to this moment, been a time of truly wonderful experiences in Israel. No sooner had Ahab and Benhadad terminated their friendly conversation, gratifying to Ahab, than a certain man of the sons of the prophets intercepted Ahab with a weighty message:
Thus saith the Lord, Because thou hast let go out of thy hand a man whom I appointed to utter destruction, therefore thy life shall go for his life, and thy people for his people. And the king of Israel went to his house heavy and displeased, and came to Samaria. Verses 35, 42, 43.
This defiance of the prophetic instruction, and of the victorious deliverances the Lord had given, cost Ahab dearly, for he was subsequently slain in battle by the same Ben-hadad whom he had let go.
Now there is written another dark chapter in the lives of Ahab and Jezebel.
Naboth the Jezreelite had a vineyard, which was in Jezreel, hard by the palace of Ahab king of Samaria. And Ahab spake unto Naboth, saying, Give me thy vineyard, that I may have it for a garden of herbs, because it is near unto my house . And Naboth said to Ahab, The Lord forbid it me, that I should give the inheritance of my fathers unto thee.
Naboth's refusal to part with the inheritance that had come down to him was in obedience to the instruction the Lord had given Israel through Moses: So shall not the inheritance of the children of Israel remove from tribe to tribe: for every one of the children of Israel shall keep himself to the inheritance of the tribe of his fathers. Numbers 36:7.
But Ahab, having no regard for God's plans, was angered by Naboth's refusal. He went into his house so heavy and displeased that he laid him down upon his bed, and turned away
his face, and would eat no bread. Verse 4. When Jezebel learned of Naboth's refusal, she assured Ahab that he should soon have the vineyard. By foul conspiracy, the queen of the nation had this good man stoned to death. And Ahab rose up to go down to the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite, to take possession of it. (See 1 Kings 21:1-16.)
Then the word of the Lord came to Elijah the Tishbite, saying, Arise, go down to meet Ahab king of Israel, which is in Samaria: behold, he is in the vineyard of Naboth, whither he is gone down to possess it . And Ahab said to Elijah, Hast thou found me, O mine enemy? And he answered, I have found thee: because thou hast sold thyself to work evil in the sight of the Lord. 1 Kings 21:17-20. Elijah then delivered to Ahab a message of dooma message foretelling the utter destruction of the house of Ahab:
Behold, I will bring evil upon thee, and will take away thy posterity, and will make thine house like the house of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, and like the house of Baasha the son of Ahijah, for the provocation wherewith thou hast provoked Me to anger, and made Israel to sin. And of Jezebel also spake the Lord, saying, The dogs shall eat Jezebel by the wall of Jezreel. Him that dieth of Ahab in the city the dogs shall eat; and him that dieth in the field shall the fowls of the air eat.
But there was none like unto Ahab, which did sell himself to work wickedness in the sight of the Lord, whom Jezebel his wife stirred up. And he did very abominably in following idols, according to all things as did the Amorites, whom the Lord cast out before the children of Israel. 1 Kings 21:21-26,
This appears to have been Elijah's last meeting with Ahab. All that he had predicted in his last terrible message came upon Ahab and Jezebel and their house.
Following the delivery of Elijah's last message to Ahab, great events followed one another, bringing tremendous changes in Israel. There had been three years without war between Syria and Israel. Ahab broke this peace, and brought on another war. He determined to take from Syria certain cities which Ben-hadad
had formerly taken from Israel. Feeling his need of help in this undertaking, Ahab persuaded Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, to join him. But before entering upon the campaign, Jehoshaphat suggested to Ahab that he inquire at the word of the Lord in regard to the undertaking. In response to this, the king of Israel gathered four hundred of his prophets together, and said: Shall I go up against Ramothgilead to battle, or shall I forbear? And they said, Go up; for the Lord shall deliver it into the hand of the king. 1 Kings 22:6.
Jehoshaphat was not satisfied with this, for he said:
Is there not here a prophet of the Lord besides, that we might inquire of him? And the king of Israel said unto Jehoshaphat, There is yet one man, Micaiah the son of Imlah, by whom we may inquire of the Lord: but I hate him; for he doth not prophesy good concerning me, but evil. And Jehoshaphat said, Let not the king say so.Verses 7, 8.
They hastened an officer to bring Micaiah. On their way to the kings, this officer told Micaiah what counsel Ahab's prophets had given, and suggested that it would be well for Micaiah to agree with them. But Micaiah, true man that he was, replied: As the Lord liveth, what the Lord saith unto me, that will I speak. Verse 14. The counsel he gave the king was the opposite of that which the other prophets had given. And the king of Israel said unto Jehoshaphat, Did I not tell thee that he would prophesy no good concerning me, but evil? Verse 18.
So angered was Ahab that he gave these orders:
Take Micaiah, and carry him back unto Amon the governor of the city, and to Joash the king's son; and say, Thus saith the king, Put this fellow in the prison, and feed him with bread of affliction and with water of affliction, until I come in peace. Verses 26, 27. To this Micaiah calmly replied: If thou return at all in peace, the Lord hath not spoken by me. And he said, Hearken, O people, every one of you. Verse 28.
This is the last we hear of Micaiah. It is to be supposed that the king's orders were carried out; and it is not difficult to believe that this good and true man, this man honored by the Sovereign
of the universe as His spokesman, went to his death for his loyalty to God.
But that is not the last we hear of Ahab. In open defiance of the warning from God through Micaiah, the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat, the king of Judah, went up to Ramothgilead. Ben-hadad, king of Syria, commanded his thirty and two captains that had rule over his chariots, saying, Fight neither with small nor great, save only with the king of Israel. Verse 31.
The battle was on. Ahab and Ben-hadad were face to face in another mighty struggle for supremacy. Ahab had twice before been victorious because he had acted in harmony with divine instruction given through the prophets of God.
But in the present struggle he was going directly contrary to the voice of the prophet. The issue of the battle would be a test of the genuineness of the prophet. Action was swift. Early in the engagement, a certain man drew a bow at a venture, and smote the king of Israel between the joints of the harness [armor]: wherefore he said unto the driver of his chariot, Turn thine hand, and carry me out of the host; for I am wounded.
And the battle increased that day: and the king was stayed up in his chariot against the Syrians, and died at even: and the blood ran out of the wound into the midst of the chariot . So the king died, and was brought to Samaria; and they buried the king in Samaria. 1 Kings 22:34-37.
So Ahab slept with his fathers; and Ahaziah his son reigned in his stead. And he did evil in the sight of the Lord, and walked in the way of his father, and in the way of his mother, and in the way of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin: for he served Baal, and worshiped him, and provoked to anger the Lord God of Israel, according to all that his father had done. Verses 40, 52, 53.
Ahaziah reigned only two years. By a fall through a lattice in his upper chamber, he was seriously injured,was sick. He sent messengers, and said unto them, Go, inquire of Baalzebub the god of Ekron whether I shall recover of this disease. 2 Kings 1:2. For this Elijah was sent with a severe rebuke:
He said unto him, Thus saith the Lord, Forasmuch as thou hast sent messengers to inquire of Baalzebub the god of Ekron, is it not because there is no God in Israel to inquire of His word? therefore thou shalt not come down off that bed on which thou art gone up, but shalt surely die. So he died according to the word of the Lord which Elijah had spoken. 2 Kings 1:16, 17.
This was about the year 932 B. C., and closed the stupendous work of the great prophet Elijah. Following the statement regarding the death of Ahaziah and the beginning of the reign of his son, Jehoram, the record continues: It came to pass, when the Lord would take up Elijah into heaven by a whirlwind, that Elijah went with Elisha from Gilgal. 2 Kings 2:1. Elisha, whom the Lord had previously selected to take Elijah's place, accompanied Elijah from Gilgal to Bethel and Jericho. From this it appears that Elijah's last work before his translation to heaven was to visit the three schools of the prophets; for they were located at the three places mentioned.
What wonderful occasions these must have been to the teachers and students in these schools! It was known that this great prophet was about to be taken alive to heaven. When the prophets came to the school at Jericho, the sons of the prophets that were at Jericho came to Elisha, and said unto him, Knowest thou that the Lord will take away thy master from thy head today? And he answered, Yea, I know it; hold ye your peace. Verse 5.
From this school Elijah and Elisha went to the Jordan. Elijah parted the waters with his mantle, and the prophets passed over. And fifty men of the sons of the prophets went, and stood to view afar off. Verse 7. The parting hour had now come. Elijah, who for long years had battled with the forces of evil in the nation, knew better than did Elisha what he was facing. As the unfinished task was now to pass from him to Elisha, the burden must have pressed upon him with all but crushing weight.
With yearning heart Elijah said to Elisha, Ask what I shall do for thee, before I be taken away from thee. And the young man looked up
at him and saw the scars of all the fights, saw the lines upon his face, read the records of all his troubles in every furrow in his brow and every line upon his cheek, knew that it all meant peril and danger and hardship and suffering, and his heart swelled within his bosom as he turned to him and said, I pray thee, let a double portion of thy spirit be upon me.
It was a wise and noble request. It showed how true already was the spiritual insight of the new prophet . He thought of nothing better, he wished for nothing higher, than to follow with increased zeal in his steps. He longed only to pursue the labor which Elijah had begunpursue it with the same steadfastness and the same resolute devotion. But if he inherited the sacred burden, he must also be heir of the blessing.The Greater Men and Women of the Bible, James Hastings, Vol. III, pp. 416, 417. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons.
He therefore asked Elijah to leave with him far more for the finishing of the task than had been given Elijah for its beginning and its prosecution. To Elisha's request, Elijah replied: Thou hast asked a hard thing: nevertheless, if thou see me when I am taken from thee, it shall be so unto thee. 2 Kings 2:10. Then the chariot appeared, and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven. As Elisha saw his great master, his beloved Elijah, disappearing, he cried, My father, my father, the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof. And he saw him no more. Verse 12.
Thus closed the earthly career of one of the greatest men that ever lived. His was not a comparatively long life of service. It was only about twenty-five years from the time he first appeared to Ahab until he was translated. But those were heartbreaking years to the prophet. They were strenuous, wearing years. He had done his work, and the Lord took him to Himself.
If Elijah's messages and methods seem stern and harsh, and at times cruel, it should be remembered that he was drawn into one of the most serious and perilous crises in the history of the people of God. The instigators of the movement to make Phoenician heathenism the religion of Israel were clothed with the authority and power of the government. They were determined and persistent in their purpose. As the record shows, no message
from God, no judgment that fell upon them, caused them to halt in their mad career. Only death brought their evil work to a close. One writer has well said:
God's revelations of Himself and His purposes to man have always been through men, and by His laws the medium always colors the light which it transmits. The splendor of the noonday sun cannot shine clearly through rough, imperfect glass; and so the conceptions of Deity and of the divine will, as delivered by the prophets, in every case show the nature of the man receiving and delivering the inspired message.
The crisis brought upon Israel by Ahab and Jezebel called for a man of great courage and resolutiona man who would not fear to meet king and queen, and deliver to them stern and terrible messages. Elijah was chosen and strengthened by the Lord for that mission. He could not be placid, easygoing, and yielding. The situation forbade such an attitude. As another has said:
Elijah was not a reformer of peace; the very vision of peace was hidden from his eyes, reserved for later prophets for whom he could but prepare the way. It was his mission to destroy at whatever cost the heathen worship which else would have destroyed Israel itself, with consequences whose evil we cannot estimate. Amos and Hosea would have had no standing ground had it not been for the work of Elijah and the influences which at divine direction he put in operation.The International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia, Vol. II, art., Elijah, p. 932.
The experiences of this perilous crisis in the history of Israel very clearly reveal the imperative need for the guidance of the prophetic gift at all times, even to the end of time in this strange old world. It was not sufficient for this gift to be manifested in a truly helpful and beneficial way in olden times only, through the prophets, Enoch, Moses, and Samuel. The generations in which these men lived needed the working of the prophetic gift. But that gift was needed as imperatively in the days of Elijah and Ahab as at any former time in the history of the people of God, and the gift was present, rendering a mighty service, in harmony with the divine purpose as when first imparted.