Answer me, O LORD! Answer me, so that this people will know that You, the LORD, are God, and that You have turned their hearts back again."
On a very cold night a gate-keeper at a railway depot demanded that each passenger show his ticket. Several bitterly complained of the delay and inconvenience. "You are a very unpopular man to-night," said a spectator. "I only care to be popular with one man," he replied, "and that is the superintendent." In the same way Christians should take care that their actions are pleasing to God, and if they have to displease man, they must remember that "we ought to obey God rather than men.""I have stood," said Mr. Scott, "on the deck of a ship while she was toiling up-stream, with wind and water against her, and I have gone up to the man at the wheel, and said, 'Jack, why don't you ease her off a point or two? You see how it would relieve her.' But the answer was, 'No, I can't luff; that is the point of the compass the captain gave me, and I must keep her to it.' 'But, man,' I remonstrated, 'if you keep her as she is, soon the bulwarks will be stove in, and there is every chance that under this fearful strain she may spring a leak.' 'That is none of my business; it is the captain's look out. All I have to do is to obey his orders,' was the man's answer. The captain, however, understood his business, and we arrived safe in harbour. Sometimes, if we do exactly as Christ commands, it appears as if our business would be ruined, our reputation lost — as if, indeed, we should be totally wrecked. That, however, is the captain's look out. All we have to do is to implicitly obey."
While Elijah completed his preparations for offering up his sacrifice, the prophets of Baal, who had failed to vindicate their religion, were hoping that the servant of Jehovah likewise might fail. It was matter of history that Jehovah had answered by fire. (See Genesis 4:5
; Leviticus 9:24
; Judges 6:21
; 1 Chronicles 21:26
.) About a century before this that fire came from heaven which was still kept burning upon the altar at Jerusalem (2 Chronicles 7:1
). But Carmel is not Jerusalem; and Jehovah has not promised to record His name here. And, should Elijah fail, then would they fall upon him and destroy him. Yet, on the other hand, he is an extraordinary servant of Jehovah; his word concerning the rain and dew has come true; so may his confidence respecting this answer of fire be honoured. Such thoughts flashed through their minds; but the moment has arrived; the preparations are complete. Now observe -
I. THE PRAYER.
1. It is offered at the time of the evening sacrifice.
(1) The stated evening sacrifice is now on the temple altar. Elijah holds communion with that altar. He, too, though on Carmel, is a true worshipper of the God of David. There are differences in religious worship sanctioned by God which must not be accounted schism. Protestant Nonconformists are not necessarily schismatics.
(2) It is the "hour of prayer." Prayer should ascend with the sacrifice; Christ should be in an our supplications. The hour of prayer was the "ninth hour" (Acts 3:1), that hour in which Jesus "cried with a loud voice, and yielded up his spirit" (Matthew 27:50). So in submission must we yield up our spirits with his in prayer to God.
2. It pleads for the honour of God.
(1) It reminds Him of His covenant. "Jehovah Elohim of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel." With these patriarchs He had established His covenant. They knew nothing of Baal's covenants.
(2) "Let it be known this day that thou art God in Israel." Let those who will not acknowledge Thee be confounded. (See Joshua 2:11.) Let those who repent be reconciled to Thy favour.
(3) "Let it be known this day in Israel that I am thy servant, and that I have done all these things at thy word." Else to have so acted would have been the height of presumption. But with the authority of God mistrust would have been presumption. We are bound to believe the promises of God.
3. It sues for mercy to the penitent.
(1) "Hear me, O Jehovah, hear me, that this people may know that thou art Jehovah Elohim;" that Thou art the self existent, covenant keeping God.
(2) "And that thou hast turned their heart back again." The blessings of the covenant are conditioned upon faith. Without repentance there is no tame faith.
(3) How few are the words of this prayer! No vain repetitions. How wide the contrast with the clamour of Baal's priests!
II. THE RESPONSE.
1. Then the fire of the Lord fell.
(1) There was no mistake about it. It was indeed the "fire of Jehovah" - miraculous fire; for it worked downwards, contrary to the ordinary operation of fire, which works upwards. The sacrifice was soon consumed. Then the wood. The water was licked up. The very stones and dust were vitrified and volatilized.
(2) The destruction of the altar pointed to the pleasure of God that patriarchal high places should be removed, and that all Israel should henceforth worship at the Levitical altar of the temple at Jerusalem. This is the last instance on record in which God accepted a sacrifice offered on a patriarchal altar.
(3) But where now is Baal? Is not that celestial fire which was worshipped as a god completely in the hands of Jehovah?
2. The demonstration was irresistible.
(1) "When all the people saw it they fell upon their faces." Here was an act of reverence towards God. It was the sign also of their renunciation of Baal.
(2) This confession in symbol was accompanied by a corresponding confession in words. "And they said, Jehovah, he is the Elohim; Jehovah, he is the Elohim." Words are signs of a fuller expression.
(3) But words must be followed up by deeds. The prophets of Baal have now to be sacrificed. The law required this. (See Deuteronomy 13:1-11.) They were accordingly slaughtered by the brook Kishon. Thus was returned upon their heads the slaughter of the prophets of the Lord. (See vers. 4, 18.)
(4) The retribution was complete. Some are of opinion, because the "prophets of Baal" only are mentioned, that the 400 prophets of Ashere were absent and escaped. But this does not follow, for the prophets of Ashere might be included under the designation "prophets of Baal," as Saul's sons are included in his name. (See 1 Samuel 31:8-18; 2 Samuel 21:13.) The prophets of Ashere certainly were present. (See vers. 19, 20; also 1 Kings 19:1.) Let us confess the Lord. In signs: observing His sacraments and ordinances of worship public and private. In words: confessing Him before men upon all fitting occasions. In deeds: bringing forth the fruits of good living, and sacrificing the idolatries that would lead us astray. - J.A.M.
Elijah the prophet came near, and said, Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel.
Let us consider the creed of this "loftiest, sternest spirit of the true faith," as Dean Stanley called him. We may glean its articles from that prayer made under circumstances which would have tried the soul even of a sterner man than he. Three things may be read in this prayer:
1. A formula — "Jehovah, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Israel."
2. A personal relation between God and the prophet — "Let it" be known this day that I am Thy servant.
3. The fulfilment of a Divine purpose through the deeds of the man — "And that I have done all these things at Thy word." Taking the prayer itself as a creed, we see embodied in it the formal, the personal, and the practical elements. Notice, first, that the prophet used a formula to express the foundation of his belief. He may have done it unconsciously, full of the idea for which it had stood now six hundred years. Had he not read it in the Law, heard it from the lips of priest and rabbi, and himself used it times without number? No one supposes that the prophet used the formula lightly or ignorantly. In this we might set him in contrast with ourselves. But no creed is complete which does not involve a personal relation between him who utters it and God. So, in this prayer, the relation between God as Lord and Elijah as prophet is clearly drawn. God was invoked to prove this very thing. As a servant, Elijah had taken his life in his hand long before. A man tells you he believes in God. Ask him what essential change of character would be produced by his parting with his belief. His servantship had already been proved by his implicit obedience to every command of God. Now he hid by the brook Cherith, and now tarried at Zarephath. A further element of faith involved in this formal supplication is that of co-operative work. In and through His servant God is fulfilling His purposes; "Let it be known that I have done all these things at Thy word." We are not, of course, to make the Lord responsible for everything a good man does. "A perfect trust" does not shield the human agent from the just charge of misdemeanours. Every servant of God does the will of God. He starts or sustains a tendency, works destruction here, rescues life there, goes to the wilderness, returns to the town, is silent now, again thunders forth, as the Spirit wills, to bring to pass the true conception of God working in the world, without ceasing, to establish and maintain righteousness. So the war goes on, and will go on until the whole earth bows down before Him. Now, all this is made extremely simple in the prayer of the prophet: "God is. God has a servant in me. God through me works His will." Let all men believe this, let their belief take hold of their life as it took hold of Elijah's, so that not to believe is death, and a new earth is in process, and the universal reign of Jehovah is visibly begun.What have we more than had Elijah?
1. We have a new insight of the personality of God. Did not Elijah believe in God as a Person? We must insist that he did. But our vision is clearer. He felt the power of the Person in the "still, small voice." That was his gospel. We know it in the conquering soul of the Christ. We behold the glory of the Divine Personality, and through Him know ourselves as individual members of the Divine household.
2. Again, we realise a new order of mercy. Once there was the relentless call for sacrifice. Elijah was an avenger. He could slay hundreds in one act. It would have been impossible for him to conceive of avenging justice turned into mercy. We, on the other hand, hear a voice pleading for infinitely worse offenders, "Father, forgive them." The Divine expiation is sufficient to cover every sinner. It is ours to make the word of deliverance ring around the world, "Come unto Me," and be free from condemnation.
3. Once more, the duty of every man is now more clear than it could have been in Elijah's day. Can any one, it may be asked, understand his duty more perfectly than did the prophet? Still, duty with us takes on the nature of universality and of privilege.
Let it be known that I have done all these things at Thy wordI.
A FIRM GROUND FOR PRAYER.
1. You are a minister of God, or a worker in the cause of Christ, and you go forth and preach the Gospel with many tears and prayers, and you continue to use all means, such as Christ has ordained: do you say to yourself, "May I expect to have fruit of all this?" Of course you may. You are not sent on a frivolous errand "you are not bidden to sow dead seed that will never spring up. But when that anxiety weighs heavily upon your heart, go you to the mercy-seat with this as one of your arguments, "Lord, I have done according to Thy word."
2. Next, I would apply this teaching to a whole church. I am afraid many churches of Christ are not prospering. The congregations are thin, the church is diminishing, the prayer-meeting scantily attended, spiritual life low. If I can conceive of church in such a condition which, nevertheless, can say to God, "We have done all these things at Thy word," I should expect to see that church soon revived in answer to prayer. The reason why some churches do not prosper is, because they have not done according to God's word.
3. The same principle may be applied also to any individual believers who are in trouble through having done right.
4. I would like to apply this principle to the seeking sinner.
II. SELF-EXAMINATION AS TO WHETHER OR NOT YOU HAVE DONE ALL THESE THINGS AT GOD'S WORD.
1. Let every worker here who has not been successful answer this question — Have you done all these things at God's word?
2. Did you preach it rightly? That is to say, did you state it affectionately, earnestly, clearly, plainly?
3. And another question — Has there been an example to back your teaching?
PeopleAhab, Elijah, Isaac, Jacob, Jezebel, Jezreel, Obadiah
PlacesJezreel, Kishon River, Mount Carmel, Samaria, Zarephath
TopicsBackward, Hast, Heart, Hearts, O, Turn, Turning
Outline1. In the extremity of famine Elijah, sent to Ahab, meets good Obadiah
9. Obadiah brings Ahab to Elijah
17. Elijah, reproving Ahab, by fire from heaven convinces Baal's prophets
41. Elijah, by prayer obtaining rain, follows Ahab to Jezreel
Dictionary of Bible Themes1 Kings 18:16-40
5541 society, negative
1 Kings 18:17-40
8747 false gods
1 Kings 18:19-40
7774 prophets, false
1 Kings 18:20-39
1 Kings 18:30-38
1 Kings 18:30-39
1416 miracles, nature of
8625 worship, acceptable attitudes
1 Kings 18:36-37
8605 prayer, and God's will
8640 calling upon God
1 Kings 18:36-38
1305 God, activity of
1 Kings 18:36-39
1245 God of the fathers
5597 victory, act of God
1 Kings 18:36-44
8613 prayer, persistence
1 Kings 18:36-46
4816 drought, physical
To the Young '... I thy servant fear the Lord from my youth.--1 KINGS xviii.12. This Obadiah is one of the obscurer figures in the Old Testament. We never hear of him again, for there is no reason to accept the Jewish tradition which alleges that he was Obadiah the prophet. And yet how distinctly he stands out from the canvas, though he is only sketched with a few bold outlines! He is the 'governor over Ahab's house,' a kind of mayor of the palace, and probably the second man in the kingdom. But …
Alexander Maclaren—Expositions of Holy Scripture
The Trial by Fire
'And Elijah said unto the prophets of Baal, Choose yon one bullock for yourselves, and dress it first; for ye are many; and call on the name of your gods, but put no fire under. 26. And they took the bullock which was given them, and they dressed it, and called on the name of Baal from morning even until noon, saying, O Baal, hear us. But there was no voice, nor any that answered. And they leaped upon the altar which was made. 27. And it came to pass at noon, that Elijah mocked them, and said, Cry …
Alexander Maclaren—Expositions of Holy Scripture
Elijah's Appeal to the Undecided
Now, we have these three classes here this morning. We have, I hope, a very large number who are on Jehovah's side, who fear God and serve him; we have a number who are on the side of the evil one, who make no profession of religion, and do not observe even the outward symptoms of it; because they are both inwardly and outwardly the servants of the evil one. But the great mass of my hearers belong to the third class--the waverers. Like empty clouds they are driven hither and thither by the wind; …
Charles Haddon Spurgeon—Spurgeon's Sermons Volume 3: 1857
Obadiah; Or, Early Piety Eminent Piety
The Lord does not love that his servants, however great they are, should think lightly of their lesser comrades, and it occurs to me that he so arranged matters that Obadiah became important to Elijah when he had to face the wrathful king of Israel. The prophet is bidden to go and show himself to Ahab, and he does so; but he judges it better to begin by showing himself to the governor of his palace, that he may break the news to his master, and prepare him for the interview. Ahab was exasperated …
Charles Haddon Spurgeon—Spurgeon's Sermons Volume 30: 1884
The Prophet Hosea.
GENERAL PRELIMINARY REMARKS. That the kingdom of Israel was the object of the prophet's ministry is so evident, that upon this point all are, and cannot but be, agreed. But there is a difference of opinion as to whether the prophet was a fellow-countryman of those to whom he preached, or was called by God out of the kingdom of Judah. The latter has been asserted with great confidence by Maurer, among others, in his Observ. in Hos., in the Commentat. Theol. ii. i. p. 293. But the arguments …
Ernst Wilhelm Hengstenberg—Christology of the Old Testament
But Some one Will Say, Does He not Know Without a Monitor Both what Our...
But some one will say, Does he not know without a monitor both what our difficulties are, and what is meet for our interest, so that it seems in some measure superfluous to solicit him by our prayers, as if he were winking, or even sleeping, until aroused by the sound of our voice?  Those who argue thus attend not to the end for which the Lord taught us to pray. It was not so much for his sake as for ours. He wills indeed, as is just, that due honour be paid him by acknowledging that all which …
John Calvin—Of Prayer--A Perpetual Exercise of Faith
Selfishness and Prayer. A Contrast.
"So Ahab went up to eat and to drink. And Elijah went up to the top of Carmel, and he cast himself down upon the earth, and put his face between his knees."--1 KINGS xviii. 42. WHAT A CONTRAST! And yet, both men were perfectly consistent. It is in each case what you would expect, and yet how differently it might have been. What a different story it would have been if only Ahab had listened to the teaching of God! How often we see men having chances of turning round and beginning a new …
Thomas Champness—Broken Bread
The West Coast of Galilee-Carmel.
The people of Issachar had "Carmel and the river for their bounds in length": the people of Zabulon, "Carmel and the sea." Carmel was not so much one mountain as a mountainous country, containing almost the whole breadth of the land of Issachar, and a great part of that of Zabulon. It was, as it seems, a certain famous peak among many other mountain tops, known by the same name, lifted up and advanced above the rest. The promontory Carmel, in Pliny, and in the mountain a town of the same name, heretofore …
John Lightfoot—From the Talmud and Hebraica
Ninth Sunday after Trinity. How Long Halt Ye Between Two Opinions? if the Lord be God, Follow Him; but if Baal, Then Follow Him.
How long halt ye between two opinions? If the Lord be God, follow Him; but if Baal, then follow him. Was kinket ihr betrognen Seelen Lehr. 1733. trans. by Catherine Winkworth, 1855 Why halt thus, O deluded heart, Why waver longer in thy choice? Is it so hard to choose the part Offered by Heaven's entreating voice? Oh look with clearer eyes again, Nor strive to enter in, in vain. Press on! Remember, 'tis not Caesar's throne, Nor earthly honour, wealth or might Whereby God's favour shall be …
Catherine Winkworth—Lyra Germanica: The Christian Year
Fall of the Western Empire (Ad 451-476)
The empire of the West was now fast sinking. One weak prince was at the head of it after another, and the spirit of the old Romans, who had conquered the world, had quite died out. Immense hosts of barbarous nations poured in from the North. The Goths, under Alaric, who took Rome by siege, in the reign of Honorius, have been already mentioned (p 93). Forty years later, Attila, king of the Huns, who was called "The scourge of God," kept both the East and the West in terror. In the year 451, he advanced …
J. C. Roberston—Sketches of Church History, from AD 33 to the Reformation
Will the Knowledge that Some of Our Own are Lost, Mar Our Happiness in Heaven?
This is a difficult question to answer satisfactorily, on account of our instinctive feelings of natural affection, which arise, and, like a mist, obscure our judgment. Nevertheless, the difficulty is much lessened, and even entirely removed from some minds, at hast, by the following considerations. 1. Our happiness, even in this world, does not depend on the happiness of those who are bound to us by the ties of kindred or of friendship. This is especially the case when their unhappiness proceeds …
F. J. Boudreaux—The Happiness of Heaven
Of Prayer --A Perpetual Exercise of Faith. The Daily Benefits Derived from It.
1. A general summary of what is contained in the previous part of the work. A transition to the doctrine of prayer. Its connection with the subject of faith. 2. Prayer defined. Its necessity and use. 3. Objection, that prayer seems useless, because God already knows our wants. Answer, from the institution and end of prayer. Confirmation by example. Its necessity and propriety. Perpetually reminds us of our duty, and leads to meditation on divine providence. Conclusion. Prayer a most useful exercise. …
John Calvin—The Institutes of the Christian Religion
This was Antony's First Struggle against the Devil...
7. This was Antony's first struggle against the devil, or rather this victory was the Saviour's work in Antony  , Who condemned sin in the flesh that the ordinance of the law might be fulfilled in us who walk not after the flesh but after the spirit.' But neither did Antony, although the evil one had fallen, henceforth relax his care and despise him; nor did the enemy as though conquered cease to lay snares for him. For again he went round as a lion seeking some occasion against him. But Antony …
Athanasius—Select Works and Letters or Athanasius
Upon Our Lord's SermonOn the Mount
Discourse 7 "Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: And thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly." Matthew 6:16-18. 1. It has been the endeavour of Satan, from the beginning of the world, …
John Wesley—Sermons on Several Occasions
Subterraneous Places. Mines. Caves.
Thus having taken some notice of the superficies of the land, let us a little search into its bowels. You may divide the subterraneous country into three parts: the metal mines, the caves, and the places of burial. This land was eminently noted for metal mines, so that "its stones," in very many places, "were iron, and out of its hills was digged brass," Deuteronomy 8:9. From these gain accrued to the Jews: but to the Christians, not seldom slavery and misery; being frequently condemned hither by …
John Lightfoot—From the Talmud and Hebraica
The First Commandment
Thou shalt have no other gods before me.' Exod 20: 3. Why is the commandment in the second person singular, Thou? Why does not God say, You shall have no other gods? Because the commandment concerns every one, and God would have each one take it as spoken to him by name. Though we are forward to take privileges to ourselves, yet we are apt to shift off duties from ourselves to others; therefore the commandment is in the second person, Thou and Thou, that every one may know that it is spoken to him, …
Thomas Watson—The Ten Commandments
But I give myself unto prayer.' Psa 109: 4. I shall not here expatiate upon prayer, as it will be considered more fully in the Lord's prayer. It is one thing to pray, and another thing to be given to prayer: he who prays frequently, is said to be given to prayer; as he who often distributes alms, is said to be given to charity. Prayer is a glorious ordinance, it is the soul's trading with heaven. God comes down to us by his Spirit, and we go up to him by prayer. What is prayer? It is an offering …
Thomas Watson—The Ten Commandments
Of Passages from the Holy Scriptures, and from the Apocrypha, which are Quoted, or Incidentally Illustrated, in the Institutes.
TO THE AUTHORS QUOTED IN THE INSTITUTES PREFATORY ADDRESS TO HIS MOST CHRISTIAN MAJESTY, THE MOST MIGHTY AND ILLUSTRIOUS MONARCH, FRANCIS, KING OF THE FRENCH, HIS SOVEREIGN;  JOHN CALVIN PRAYS PEACE AND SALVATION IN CHRIST.  Sire,--When I first engaged in this work, nothing was farther from my thoughts than to write what should afterwards be presented to your Majesty. My intention was only to furnish a kind of rudiments, by which those who feel some interest in religion might be trained to …
John Calvin—The Institutes of the Christian Religion
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