The Voice of Stern Rebuke
FOR a time
Elijah remained hidden in the mountains by the brook Cherith. There for
many months he was miraculously provided with food. Later on, when,
because of the continued drought, the brook became dry, God bade His
servant find refuge in a heathen land. "Arise," He bade him,
"get thee to Zarephath, [known in New Testament times as Sarepta],
which belongeth to Zidon, and dwell there: behold, I have commanded a
widow woman there to sustain thee."
was not an Israelite. She had never had the privileges and blessings that
the chosen people of God had enjoyed; but she was a believer in the true
God and had walked in all the light that was shining on her pathway. And
now, when there was no safety for Elijah in the land of Israel, God sent
him to this woman to find a asylum in her home.
arose and went to Zarephath. And when he came to the gate of the city,
behold, the widow woman was
gathering of sticks: and he called to her, and said, Fetch me, I pray
thee, a little water in a vessel, that I may drink. And as she was going
to fetch it, he called to her, and said, Bring me, I pray thee, a morsel
of bread in thine hand."
poverty-stricken home the famine pressed sore, and the pitifully meager
fare seemed about to fail. The coming of Elijah on the very day when the
widow feared that she must give up the struggle to sustain life tested to
the utmost her faith in the power of the living God to provide for her
necessities. But even in her dire extremity she bore witness to her faith
by a compliance with the request of the stranger who was asking her to
share her last morsel with him.
to Elijah's request for food and drink, the widow said, "As the Lord
thy God liveth, I have not a cake, but an handful of meal in a barrel, and
a little oil in a cruse: and, behold, I am gathering two sticks, that I
may go in and dress it for me and my son, that we may eat it, and
die." Elijah said to her, "Fear not; go and do as thou hast
said: but make me thereof a little cake first, and bring it unto me, and
after make for thee and for thy son. For thus saith the Lord of Israel,
The barrel of meal shall not waste, neither shall the cruse of oil fail,
until the day that the Lord sendeth rain upon the earth."
test of faith than this could have been required. The widow had hitherto
treated all strangers with kindness and liberality. Now, regardless of the
suffering that might result to herself and child, and trusting in the God
to supply her
every need, she met this supreme test of hospitality by doing
"according to the saying of Elijah."
the hospitality shown to God's prophet by this Phoenician woman, and
wonderfully were her faith and generosity rewarded. "She, and he, and
her house, did eat many days. And the barrel of meal wasted not, neither
did the cruse of oil fail, according to the word of the Lord, which He
spake by Elijah.
came to pass after these things, that the son of the woman, the mistress
of the house, fell sick; and his sickness was so sore, that there was no
breath left in him. And she said unto Elijah, What have I to do with thee,
O thou man of God? art thou come unto me to call my sin to remembrance,
and to slay my son?
said unto her, Give me thy son. And he took him out of her bosom, and
carried him up into a loft, where he abode, and laid him upon his own bed.
. . . And he stretched himself upon the child three times, and cried unto
the Lord. . . . And the Lord heard the voice of Elijah; and the soul of
the child came into him again, and he revived.
Elijah took the child, and brought him down out of the chamber into the
house, and delivered him unto his mother: and Elijah said, See, thy son
liveth. And the woman said to Elijah, Now by this I know that thou art a
man of God, and that the word of the Lord in thy mouth is truth."
The widow of
Zarephath shared her morsel with Elijah, and in return her life and that
of her son were preserved. And to all who, in time of trial and want, give
assistance to others more needy, God has promised great blessing. He has
not changed. His power is no less now than in the days of Elijah. No less
sure now than when spoken by our Saviour is the promise, "He that
receiveth a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet's
reward." Matthew 10:41.
forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels
unawares." Hebrews 13:2. These words have lost none of their force
through the lapse of time. Our heavenly Father still continues to place in
the pathway of His children opportunities that are blessings in disguise;
and those who improve these opportunities find great joy. "If thou
draw out thy soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul; then
shall thy light rise in obscurity, and thy darkness be as the noonday: and
the Lord shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought,
and make fat thy bones: and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like
a spring of water, whose waters fail not." Isaiah 58:10, 11.
faithful servants today Christ says, "He that receiveth you receiveth
Me, and he that receiveth Me receiveth Him that sent Me." No act of
kindness shown in His name will fail to be recognized and rewarded. And in
the same tender recognition Christ includes even the feeblest and lowliest
of the family of God. "Whosoever shall give to drink," He says,
"unto one of these little ones"--those who are as children in
their faith and their knowledge of Christ--"a cup of cold water only
in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose
his reward." Matthew 10:40, 42.
long years of drought and famine, Elijah prayed earnestly that the hearts
of Israel might be turned from idolatry to allegiance to God. Patiently
the prophet waited, while the hand of the Lord rested heavily on the
stricken land. As he saw evidences of suffering and want multiplying on
every side, his heart was wrung with sorrow, and he longed for power to
bring about a reformation quickly. But God Himself was working out His
plan, and all that His servant could do was to pray on in faith and await
the time for decided action.
prevailing in Ahab's day was the result of many years of evil-doing. Step
by step, year after year, Israel had been departing from the right way.
For generation after generation they had refused to make straight paths
for their feet, and at last the great majority of the people had yielded
themselves to the leadership of the powers of darkness.
century had passed since, under the rulership of King David, Israel had
joyfully united in chanting hymns of praise to the Most High, in
recognition of their entire dependence on Him for daily mercies. Listen to
their words of adoration as then they sang:
of our salvation, . . .
the outgoings of the morning and evening to rejoice.
the earth, and waterest it:
enrichest it with the river of God, which is full of water:
preparest them corn, when Thou hast so provided for it.
the ridges thereof abundantly: Thou causest rain to descend
into the furrows thereof:
it soft with showers: Thou blessest the springing thereof.
the year with Thy goodness;
And Thy paths
upon the pastures of the wilderness:
little hills rejoice on every side.
are clothed with flocks;
also are covered over with corn;
for joy, they also sing."
then recognized God as the One who "laid the foundations of the
earth." In expression of their faith they had sung:
coveredst it with the deep as with a garment:
stood above the mountains.
At Thy rebuke
At the voice
of Thy thunder they hasted away.
They go up by
the mountains; they go down by the valleys
place which Thou hast founded for them.
Thou hast set
a bound that they may not pass over;
turn not again to cover the earth."
It is by the
mighty power of the Infinite One that the elements of nature in earth and
sea and sky are kept within bounds. And these elements He uses for the
happiness of His creatures. "His good treasure" is freely
expended "to give the rain . . . in his season, and to bless all the
work" of man's hands. Deuteronomy 28:12.
sendeth the springs into the valleys,
among the hills.
drink to every beast of the field:
asses quench their thirst.
By them shall
the fowls of the heaven have their habitation,
among the branches. . . .
the grass to grow for the cattle,
And herb for
the service of man:
That He may
bring forth food out of the earth;
And wine that
maketh glad the heart of man,
And oil to
make his face to shine,
which strengtheneth man's heart. . . .
how manifold are Thy works!
In wisdom has
Thou made them all:
The earth is
full of Thy riches.
So is this
great and wide sea,
things creeping innumerable,
and great beasts. . . .
all upon Thee;
mayest give them their meat in due season.
givest them they gather:
openest Thine hand,
filled with good."
had abundant occasion for rejoicing. The land to which the Lord had
brought them was a land flowing with milk and honey. During the wilderness
wandering, God had assured them that He was guiding them to a country
where they need never suffer for lack of rain. "The land, whither
thou goest in to possess it," He had told them, "is not as the
land of Egypt, from whence ye came out, where thou sowedst thy seed, and
wateredst it with thy foot, as a garden of herbs: but the land, whither ye
go to possess it, is a land of hills and valleys, and drinketh water of
the rain of heaven: a land which the Lord thy God careth for: the eyes of
the Lord thy God are always upon it, from the beginning of the year even
unto the end of the year."
of abundance of rain had been given on
obedience. "It shall come to pass," the Lord had declared,
"if ye shall hearken diligently unto My commandments which I command
you this day, to love the Lord your God, and to serve Him with all your
heart and with all your soul, that I will give you the rain of your land
in his due season, the first rain and the latter rain, that thou mayest
gather in thy corn, and thy wine, and thine oil. And I will send grass in
thy fields for thy cattle, that thou mayest eat and be full.
heed to yourselves," the Lord had admonished His people, "that
your heart be not deceived, and ye turn aside, and serve other gods, and
worship them; and then the Lord's wrath be kindled against you, and He
shut up the heaven, that there be no rain, and that the land yield not her
fruit; and lest ye perish quickly from off the good land which the Lord
giveth you." Deuteronomy 11:10-17.
wilt not hearken unto the voice of the Lord thy God, to observe to do all
His commandments and His statutes," the Israelites had been warned,
"thy heaven that is over thy head shall be brass, and the earth that
is under thee shall be iron. The Lord shall make the rain of thy land
powder and dust: from heaven shall it come down upon thee, until thou be
destroyed." Deuteronomy 28:15, 23,24.
among the wise counsels of Jehovah to ancient Israel. "Lay up these
My words in your heart and in your soul," He had commanded His chosen
people, "and bind them for a sign upon your hand, that they may be as
frontlets between your eyes. And ye shall teach them your children,
speaking of them when thou sittest in thine house,
and when thou
walkest by the way, when thou liest down, and when thou risest up."
Deuteronomy 11:18, 19. Plain were these commands, yet as the centuries
passed, and generation after generation lost sight of the provision made
for their spiritual welfare, the ruinous influences of apostasy threatened
to sweep aside every barrier of divine grace.
Thus it had
come to pass that God was now visiting His people with the severest of His
judgments. The prediction of Elijah was meeting with terrible fulfillment.
For three years the messenger of woe was sought for in city after city and
nation after nation. At the mandate of Ahab, many rulers had given their
oath of honor that the strange prophet could not be found in their
dominions. Yet the search was continued, for Jezebel and the prophets of
Baal hated Elijah with a deadly hatred, and they spared no effort to bring
him within reach of their power. And still there was no rain.
"after many days," the word of the Lord came to Elijah,
"Go, show thyself unto Ahab; and I will send rain upon the
to the command, "Elijah went to show himself unto Ahab." About
the time that the prophet set forth on his journey to Samaria, Ahab had
proposed to Obadiah, the governor of his household, that they make
thorough search for springs and brooks of water, in the hope of finding
pasture for their starving flocks and herds. Even in the royal court the
effect of the long-continued drought was keenly felt. The king, deeply
concerned over the outlook for his household, decided to unite personally
with his servant in a search for some favored spots where
be had. "So they divided the land between them to pass throughout it:
Ahab went one way by himself, and Obadiah went another way by
Obadiah was in the way, behold, Elijah met him: and he knew him, and fell
on his face, and said, Art thou that my lord Elijah?"
apostasy of Israel, Obadiah had remained faithful. His master, the king,
had been unable to turn him from his allegiance to the living God. Now he
was honored with a commission from Elijah, who said, "Go, tell thy
lord, Behold, Elijah is here."
terrified, Obadiah exclaimed, "What have I sinned, that thou wouldest
deliver thy servant into the hand of Ahab, to slay me?" To take such
a message as this to Ahab was to court certain death. "As the Lord
thy God liveth," he explained to the prophet, "there is no
nation or kingdom, whither my lord hath not sent to seek thee: and when
they said, He is not there; he took an oath of the kingdom and nation,
that they found thee not. And now thou sayest, Go, tell thy lord, Behold,
Elijah is here. And it shall come to pass, as soon as I am gone from thee,
that the Spirit of the Lord shall carry thee whither I know not; and so
when I come and tell Ahab, and he cannot find thee, he shall slay
Obadiah pleaded with the prophet not to urge him. "I thy
servant," he urged, "fear the Lord from my youth. Was it not
told my lord what I did when Jezebel slew the prophets of the Lord, how I
hid an hundred men of the Lord's prophets by fifty in a cave, and fed them
and water? And now thou sayest, Go, tell thy lord, Behold, Elijah is here:
and he shall slay me."
With a solemn
oath Elijah promised Obadiah that the errand should not be in vain.
"As the Lord of hosts liveth, before whom I stand," he declared,
"I will surely show myself unto him today." Thus assured,
"Obadiah went to meet Ahab, and told him."
astonishment mingled with terror the king listened to the message from the
man whom he feared and hated, and for whom he had sought so untiringly.
Well he knew that Elijah would not endanger his life merely for the sake
of meeting him. Could it be possible that the prophet was about to utter
another woe against Israel? The king's heart was seized with dread. He
remembered the withered arm of Jeroboam. Ahab could not avoid obeying the
summons, neither dared he lift up his hand against the messenger of God.
And so, accompanied by a bodyguard of soldiers, the trembling monarch went
to meet the prophet.
The king and
the prophet stand face to face. Though Ahab is filled with passionate
hatred, yet in the presence of Elijah he seems unmanned, powerless. In his
first faltering words, "Art thou he that troubleth Israel?" he
unconsciously reveals the inmost feelings of his heart. Ahab knew that it
was by the word of God that the heavens had become as brass, yet he sought
to cast upon the prophet the blame for the heavy judgments resting on the
It is natural
for the wrongdoer to hold the messengers of God responsible for the
calamities that come as the sure result of a departure from the way of
themselves in Satan's power are unable to see things as God sees them.
When the mirror of truth is held up before them, they become indignant at
the thought of receiving reproof. Blinded by sin, they refuse to repent;
they feel that God's servants have turned against them and are worthy of
conscious innocence before Ahab, Elijah makes no attempt to excuse himself
or to flatter the king. Nor does he seek to evade the king's wrath by the
good news that the drought is almost over. He has no apology to offer.
Indignant, and jealous for the honor of God, he casts back the imputation
of Ahab, fearlessly declaring to the king that it is his sins, and the
sins of his fathers, that have brought upon Israel this terrible calamity.
"I have not troubled Israel," Elijah boldly asserts, "but
thou, and thy father's house, in that ye have forsaken the commandments of
the Lord, and thou hast followed Baalim."
is need of the voice of stern rebuke; for grievous sins have separated the
people from God. Infidelity is fast becoming fashionable. "We will
not have this man to reign over us," is the language of thousands.
Luke 19:14. The smooth sermons so often preached make no lasting
impression; the trumpet does not give a certain sound. Men are not cut to
the heart by the plain, sharp truths of God's word.
many professed Christians who, if they should express their real feelings,
would say, What need is there of speaking so plainly? They might as well
ask, Why need John the Baptist have said to the Pharisees, "O
generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to
Luke 3:7. Why need he have provoked the anger of Herodias by telling Herod
that it was unlawful for him to live with his brother's wife? The
forerunner of Christ lost his life by his plain speaking. Why could he not
have moved along without incurring the displeasure of those who were
living in sin?
So men who
should be standing as faithful guardians of God's law have argued, till
policy has taken the place of faithfulness, and sin is allowed to go
unreproved. When will the voice of faithful rebuke be heard once more in
art the man." 2 Samuel 12:7. Words as unmistakably plain as these
spoken by Nathan to David are seldom heard in the pulpits of today, seldom
seen in the public press. If they were not so rare, we should see more of
the power of God revealed among men. The Lord's messengers should not
complain that their efforts are without fruit until they repent of their
own love of approbation and their desire to please men, which leads them
to suppress truth.
ministers who are men pleasers, who cry, Peace, peace, when God has not
spoken peace, might well humble their hearts before God, asking pardon for
their insincerity and their lack of moral courage. It is not from love for
their neighbor that they smooth down the message entrusted to them, but
because they are self-indulgent and ease-loving. True love seeks first the
honor of God and the salvation of souls. Those who have this love will not
evade the truth to save themselves from the unpleasant results of plain
speaking. When souls are in peril, God's ministers will not
self, but will speak the word given them to speak, refusing to excuse or
every minister might realize the sacredness of his office and the holiness
of his work, and show the courage that Elijah showed! As divinely
appointed messengers, ministers are in a position of awful responsibility.
They are to "reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long-suffering." 2
Timothy 4:2. In Christ's stead they are to labor as stewards of the
mysteries of heaven, encouraging the obedient and warning the disobedient.
With them worldly policy is to have no weight. Never are they to swerve
from the path in which Jesus has bidden them walk. They are to go forward
in faith, remembering that they are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses.
They are not to speak their own words, but words which One greater than
the potentates of earth has bidden them speak. Their message is to be,
"Thus saith the Lord." God calls for men like Elijah, Nathan,
and John the Baptist--men who will bear His message with faithfulness,
regardless of the consequences; men who will speak the truth bravely,
though it call for the sacrifice of all they have.
use men who, in time of peril, when the strength, courage, and influence
of all are needed, are afraid to take a firm stand for the right. He calls
for men who will do faithful battle against wrong, warring against
principalities and powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this
world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. It is to such as these
that He will speak the words: "Well done, good and faithful servant;
. . . enter thou into the joy of thy Lord." Matthew 25:23.