A second time the angel of the LORD returned and touched him, saying, "Get up and eat, or the journey will be too much for you."
I. REACTION AFTER EXCITEMENT. Great natures are peculiarly subject to this. The impulse which impels to a noble act has a rebound proportioned to its intensity. Peter and John the Baptist stand beside Elijah as exemplars of this fact. From it arises the special peril of revivalistic services. Excitement has its place and power in the advance of Christ's kingdom, but we must not substitute spasmodic feeling for steady growth.
II. EXHAUSTION OF PHYSICAL AND NERVOUS ENERGY. Even the gigantic strength of Elijah underwent a terrible strain on Carmel Anxiety, enthusiasm, burning zeal, exultation combined to agitate him, and these were doubtless preceded by many days and nights of passionate, agonizing prayer. God's provision for the prophet - the sleep that came over him, as over a tired child, the food prepared by angel hands - prove that this was recognized. Show the mutual dependence of body and mind. Neither the equable temperament of some Christians nor the excitability of others is due always to the presence or absence of Divine grace. Good food, fresh air, and change of scene would do more than religious exercises to restore tone to some who are despondent. The neglect of sanitary laws is a sin. There was far-reaching wisdom in Paul's declaration, "I keep the body under."
III. ABSENCE OF SYMPATHY. "I am left alone." "I only am left." Such was the burden of Elijah's cry. This is a special source of despondency to missionaries surrounded by the heathen. It affects also multitudes who are not so literally alone. They may have many Christians around them, but in their special work, in their peculiar difficulty, they can find none to help, or even to understand them. "Alone in a crowd" is a true description of many a disciple of Christ, who is thinking his own thoughts and fighting his own foes. Show from this the wisdom of the provision God has made in Church fellowship. Point out the causes which tend to make such communion unreal or unhelpful. Urge the cultivation of sympathy with young disciples, with obscure workers, etc.
IV. INFLUENCE OF DOUBT. The confidence of the prophet on Carmel had broken down. Jezebel had not been cowed by the sudden revulsion of popular feeling. She doubted its permanence, and at all events resolved that she would not lose heart, so Ahab and his courtiers were reassured when she swore to have revenge on Elijah. The prophet thought now that he had been too sanguine - that the one chance had come and gone without effect. Doubt paralyzed him. Doubt of God's willingness to forgive plunges the penitent into despondency. He would scarcely venture secretly into a crowd to touch the hem of Christ's garment. Doubt of God's readiness to hear and answer prayer keeps the Christian from the light of His countenance, etc.
V. INVISIBILITY OF ANTAGONISTS. Elijah could face his visible foes on Carmel without quailing - indeed, he dared to taunt them at the risk of being torn to pieces - but against this vague feeling of despair he could not hold his own. Moral battles are the hardest to fight. He who can grapple with what is tangible sometimes fails when called on to "wrestle not with flesh and blood, but with principalities, and powers, and the rulers of the darkness of this world." Some would rather run the risk of being condemned hereafter, as wicked and slothful servants, than have the certainty of being sneered at now as those who are "righteous overmuch."
VI. ENFORCED INACTIVITY. Elijah's opportunity for vigorous action seemed over. He was cast in upon his own thoughts. Few could bear it less patiently than he. The man who can dare and do anything finds it specially hard to wait and to suffer. Similar temptation to despondency comes to those who are laid aside by illness, or removed from a happy sphere of service. But that is the time to wait on the Lord, and so "renew our strength."
CONCLUSION. In all hours of despondency remember that He who knew the agony of Gethsemane and Calvary pities us, and feels for us. "We have not a High Priest who cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities," etc. - A.R.
Arise and eat, because the journey is too great for thee.1. Now, what is all this but the Lord nursing His own child? Elijah has come to one of those crises which occur in every one's life, when he stands in need of special tending and treatment; and the Father which is in Heaven is giving them. He is giving them none the less truly, that at the stage of our text it is the bodily condition of Elijah with which the Lord is dealing, and nothing higher or further. It was mostly this which was wrong just then, and it is this therefore that the Lord proceeds first of all to put right. But while the text thus speaks to us of the pity of God, and tells us how wide-winged and close-brooding it is, the text also points us to wise methods of dealing with ourselves in like circumstances. The Great Physician may well leave something of our restorations to be wrought by self-treatment when He has indicated the course which that treatment ought to take. Now, the body has its own share, and not a small one, even in our spiritual history. Our dejection and melancholy, our very unbelief, have frequently no higher or more mysterious source than the disturbance of this material machine of nerves and muscles through which the spirit deals with the outer world. For the sake of our souls themselves, therefore, those conditions of body which tell back unhappily upon the spirit ought, where they are preventable or removable, to be prevented or removed. Dejection is no virtue, but a weakness and humiliation.
2. When the Lord was comforting Elijah in that lonely place one day's journey south of Beersheba, there was being transacted there a living parable of things that lie within the higher sphere of purely spiritual experience. Every Christian of us has his journey before him. Every Christian of us has his weariness not far off within him. Every Christian of us has his Lord's provision brought to his bolster, with the kindly call, "Arise and eat, because the journey is too great for thee." The Lord knoweth right well how great it is, and He knoweth well how great our weariness at any time is.
3. You are thinking of seasons of spiritual recruiting more special still than any I have named. One more interval passes, and you are purposing again to sit down together to commemorate the accomplishment, in sacrificial blood, of the most wondrous journey that was ever travelled by human foot in this sorely travelled world. For, to be like us, to understand us and to save us, He would have His mortal journey too; and it was "great," and often He was weary, and often He was refreshed. With thoughts of that journey filling His own heart, and wishing that they may fill your own, He is summoning you again to sit down with Himself, and to nourish your flagging graces by more touching fellowship with Himself, over the emblems of the love which has made you to be His.
(J. A. Kerr Bain, M. A.)
2. The second remark which I would make regarding this spiritual fatigue is that it is often due, in large measure, to physical causes. And this fact ought to teach us two lessons. The first is a lesson of sympathetic forbearance. The young ought to make large allowance for the aged, and the strong for the weak. And the second lesson is one of physical prudence. Seeing that the connection between the body and the spirit is so close and subtle, it is our duty to keep our bodies as healthy as we possibly can. The laws of health are the laws of God.
3. We ought to welcome and avail ourselves of those messengers whom God sends to revive and help us in the journey of life. But there are other messengers and ministries — more homely and familiar — which may be even as angels of God to help us when our hearts are worn and weary. Sometimes the words of a well-known hymn, sung in the house of prayer, will cheer our drooping spirits and put new life into our steps. There are also pleasures of literature in general which are not to be despised; many an old man and many an invalid could tell us that their books do much to lighten for them the burden of their infirmities. Music, too, gives its own peculiar refreshment. Science, and poetry, and art, and humour, and the relaxation afforded by simple, innocent pleasures — why should we despise such things as these in their true and proper place? Love is a great freshener of human life. So long as we are really useful and helpful to those whom we love, life cannot altogether lose its zest.
4. I remark that God has miraculously provided for us all a special food for the sustenance and refreshment of our souls. Christ is "the Bread of Life which came down from heaven."
(T. Campbell Finlayson, D. D.)
1. And first I put sleep, because God put it first. When Elijah was tired and despairing and discouraged, God put him to sleep. Sometimes the most religious service a man can render himself or the world is to go to sleep. But how many busy people think really the time spent in sleep is wasted! They begrudge all the time that is spent asleep. But the Lord God so made us that we need to put one-third of our time in sleep. And He knew what He was about. Thanks to God for sleep, that is itself a symbol of death; sleep, that is the promise of a new awakening, and so gives us the suggestion of that great awakening when we shall rise refreshed and invigorated for the eternal day! The father takes the tired child in his arms and rocks him into unconsciousness of all the sin and sorrow and weariness and burden of life. Do not think of it as wasted time! Do not think of it as something lost out of life! Take it as God means we shall — as God's great gift.
2. Next to sleep I put amusement as one of God's juniper trees and as a part of God's angelic food. You remember the three things which the Book of Proverbs says about merriment, which is the lightest form of amusement: first, that a merry heart is a continual feast; second, that a merry heart maketh a glad countenance; and, thirdly, that a merry heart doeth good like a medicine. The merry heart cheers the heart and so makes the face radiant, and, because the face is radiant, therefore the merry soul imparts radiance to others. Merriment, amusement, laughter, just having a good time, is one of God's juniper trees that He plants for us, and when we are discouraged and distressed He means that we shall take advantage of it.
3. The home is one of God's juniper trees. We are all conscious, I am sure, that woman's sphere, whatever that flexible globe may be, is getting bigger and bigger; women are going into all sorts of industrial activities, and giving men pretty hard work by competition; into all sorts of charitable activities, which men are quite ready to leave to the women altogether. Now, on the whole, this is a distinct advance — The larger life of woman is something to be welcomed and to be rejoiced in; and yet, like every increasing growth, it has its perils also. It does sometimes threaten to impair the usefulness of the home. In the Divine order men are the soldiers; the battle of life ought to be done by the men.
4. The Church ought to be a juniper tree and a resting-place. Dr. Parkhurst has said, "The Church is not the minister's field, but the minister's force." The Church ought to be not merely a working Church, but a rest-giving Church also; and when men and women come to the Church, they ought to be able to find there some angels' food, some real rest, some inspiration that will send them back into life with new vigour for their new toils. The Sabbath chimes ring no sweeter song than this, "Come unto Me, and rest!"
5. And then there is the quiet hour. At Wellesley College, in Massachusetts — a young ladies' college — there are twenty minutes reserved in every day for a quiet hour. During that twenty minutes every young lady is expected to be in her room; there is to be no passing through the halls; there is to be no life of conversation, no laughter. What the young lady does in her room is between herself, her own conscience, and her God. She may read, she may study, she may pray, she may think, she may do what she likes; only she must not disturb other pupils in other rooms. For twenty minutes a quiet time. We ought to have our quiet hour; at least, we will say, our quiet quarter of an hour.
(Lyman Abbott, D. D.)
The journey is too great for thee
1. Take the Christian life. During the last ten years there has been a revival of evangelism. By a variety of methods the ungodly have been reached, and thousands have been brought into the Church. I rejoice in this fact with all my heart. But the Churches have not been strengthened by these accessions as some of us hoped they would be. Popular missions attract the weaker members of the community. These people are feeble in original temperament, and some of them have made themselves utterly weak by the evil habits which they have pursued. The journey of the Christian life is too great for people who pursue such habits as these.
2. Take ministerial life. Here is a minister. He entered the sacred profession while he was yet young. He had a keen sense of responsibility, and he was very susceptible in regard to external discipline; and these two things kept him right for ten or fifteen years. After that he allowed his spiritual life to go down, and then his constitutional weakness began to show itself. An intellectual tendency led him astray. In the end he resigned the ministry. He looked back from the Gospel plough, and since then he has not been fit for the kingdom of God. The journey of ministerial life was too great for him.
3. Take the enthusiast. He is sanguine in regard to everything fresh. If any new form of religious activity is started he is fascinated by it at once. But after a time he loses his interest in it. The journey of an unbroken Christian devotion is too great for the spasmodic enthusiastic.
4. Take the practical Christian life. Individual effort is at a discount. Organised effort is the order of the day. Men have the notion that they can do but little unless they act in a crowd and make a display. Some day there will be a reaction in favour of quiet, instructive, and individual modes of service, and the sooner it comes the better. But we must not wait for ideal conditions in which to do our duty. Men will associate, and we must learn to act in association. We have a multiplicity of organisations, and we must help to work them. The temper of the age is practical, and we must sympathise with it. We must serve Christ In the social ways and habits of the generation. We shall do it at some sacrifice of our views and feelings, but we must bear that for Christ's sake.
(Helps for Speakers.)
PeopleAbel, Ahab, Aram, Elijah, Elisha, Hazael, Israelites, Jehu, Jezebel, Nimshi, Shaphat
PlacesAbel-meholah, Beersheba, Damascus, Horeb, Jezreel, Syria
TopicsAngel, Arise, Eat, Journey, Messenger, Overmuch, Rise, Strength, Touched, Touching, Turneth
Outline1. Elijah, threatened by Jezebel, flees to Beersheba
4. In the desert, being weary of his life, he is comforted by an angel
9. At Horeb God appears unto him, sending him to anoint Hazael, Jehu, and Elisha
19. Elisha, taking leave of his friends, follows Elijah
Dictionary of Bible Themes1 Kings 19:7
1330 God, the provider
LibraryElijah's Weakness, and Its Cube
'And Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and withal how he had slain all the prophets with the sword. 2. 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 to-morrow about this time. 3. And when he saw that, he arose, and went for his life, and came to Beersheba, which belongeth to Judah, and left his servant there. 4. But he himself went a day's journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down …
Alexander Maclaren—Expositions of Holy Scripture
What Doest Thou Here?
God's Gentle Power
"Therefore, Brethren, we are Debtors, not to the Flesh, to Live after the Flesh,"
A Solemn Address to those who Will not be Persuaded to Fall in with the Design of the Gospel.
What Doest Thou Here?
An Address to the Regenerate, Founded on the Preceding Discourses.
The Uses of the Law
Seven Sanctified Thoughts and Mournful Sighs of a Sick Man Ready to Die.
Of the True Church. Duty of Cultivating Unity with Her, as the Mother of all the Godly.
Concerning the Ministry.
Grace Before Meat.
Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners:
"My Little Children, These Things Write I unto You, that Ye Sin Not. And if any Man Sin, we have an Advocate with the Father,"
The Case of the Christian under the Hiding of God's Face.
Conflicts with Giant Mistake
Of Passages from the Holy Scriptures, and from the Apocrypha, which are Quoted, or Incidentally Illustrated, in the Institutes.
Of the Discipline of the Church, and Its Principal Use in Censures and Excommunication.
A Cloud of Witnesses.
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