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Bible Commentaries

Simeon's Horae Homileticae

1 Kings 19

Verses 11-14

DISCOURSE: 347
ELIJAH VISITED AND REPROVED BY GOD

1 Kings 19:11-14. And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord. And, behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake: and after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice. And it was so, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and stood in the entering in of the cave. And, behold, there came a voice unto him, and said, What doest thou here, Elijah? And he said, I have been very jealous for the Lord God of hosts: because the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.

THE history of all the saints of old sufficiently proves, that there is no such thing as sinless perfection to be found. There certainly have not been many more distinguished characters than Elijah; yet was he not exempt from sinful infirmities. Circumstances of peculiar difficulty are like a furnace that tries the gold; and highly favoured indeed must he be, who, when in them, does not shew that he has yet a remainder of dross, from which he needeth to be purged. Doubtless the trials of Elijah were very heavy: he had asserted the honour of Jehovah in opposition to Baal; and had obtained such a triumph as might well lead to expect a most successful issue to his labours, in bringing back the people to the acknowledgment and worship of the true God. Methinks, this hope gave lightness to his spirits, and added wings to his feet, when he ran before Ahab to Jezreel. But behold, he had scarcely arrived at Jezreel, before Jezebel sent him word with bitter imprecations, that she would have him put to death within the space of one day. This so discouraged him, that he fled instantly to the land of Judah: and not thinking himself secure even there, he “left his servant behind him, and proceeded a day’s journey into the wilderness.” The condescension of God towards him on this occasion forms a striking contrast with his conduct. Let us notice,

I.

The weakness of the prophet—

It is justly said of him, and most probably in reference to these very events, that “Elijah was a man subject to like passions as we are [Note: James 5:17.].” In this part of his history we behold,

1.

His unbelieving fear—

[On former occasions he had shewn great fortitude: he had just before dared to accuse Ahab to his face as “the troubler of Israel;” and to confront alone all the worshippers of Baal with four hundred and fifty of his prophets at their head: he had also put all those prophets to death, and then had accompanied Ahab to Jezreel: but now his faith failed him, and he doubted whether his God could protect him from the rage of Jezebel. Hence, instead of prosecuting the advantage which he had gained, and encouraging all the people to follow up their convictions, he fled from the scene of danger, and, by his cowardice, caused the whole people of Israel to return to the worship of Baal, whom for a moment they had disclaimed. Alas! what is man, if left to himself! the most eminent saint, if unassisted by fresh communications of grace, sinks, and becomes, like Samson shorn of his locks, as weak as other men. In the instance before us we have a striking evidence, that man of himself can do nothing.]

2.

His impatient desire—

[Wearied and disconsolate, he requested of God to “take away his life [Note: ver. 4.].” He had seen how little effect had been produced by former prophets; and from present appearances he thought that “he was no better than they,” nor likely to have any more success; and therefore he desired a speedy termination of his fruitless troubles. But how unbecoming was this! Whether successful or not in his endeavours, he was glorifying God by them, and should have accounted that an ample reward for all that he could do or suffer in his cause. Had he desired to depart in order that he might have a richer enjoyment of his God, the wish might have been good: but to desire death through mere disgust and weariness of life, was the sad fruit of criminal impatience [Note: See the two contrasted; 2 Corinthians 5:4. “Not to be unclothed, but clothed upon.”].]

3.

His hasty self-vindication—

[When the Lord interrogated him, “What doest thou here, Elijah?” he thought of nothing but his own services, and the sins of others: yea, when the question was repeated, he returned the same answer. How strange that he should not, on the repetition of the question especially, suspect himself, and acknowledge that he had come thither without any call or direction from his God! But so it too often is with the best of men: they are more ready to look with complacency on their virtues, than with contrition on their sins; and to censure with severity the faults of others, whilst they overlook their own. According to the prophet’s own account, he had done nothing amiss: but, if he had fairly stated the whole matter, his criminality would instantly have appeared. This shews, that there is not a man in the universe whose representation can be fully trusted in things which affect his own character: there is a partiality in all, which leads them to some degree of concealment in their own favour, and that, not only in the things which concern their conduct towards men, but even in the things which relate to God.]

Let us now contemplate,

II.

The goodness of God towards him—

God, ever slow to anger, and rich in mercy, exercised towards him the most astonishing kindness. Instead of noticing with severity what the prophet had done amiss,

1.

He supplied his wants—

[The prophet had fled to the wilderness, where he could have no provision except by miracle; and he had little reason to expect, that, while he was fleeing from the path of duty, God would again interpose to feed him by ravens, or to point out another hostess that should sustain him by a miraculous supply of meal and oil. But God would not forsake his servant in his extremity: on the contrary, he now ministered to his wants by the instrumentality of an angel, giving him a miraculous supply of food, and afterwards sustaining him forty days and nights without any food at all. How marvellously gracious is God to his offending creatures! Indeed, if he did not display in this manner the riches of his grace, where is the creature that could hope for any thing at his hands? But this is the constant method of his procedure with sinful men: he finds us outcast and helpless, and he bids us live; and makes the depth of our misery an occasion of magnifying his own abundant mercy [Note: Ezekiel 16:4-6.]: yea, “where sin hath abounded, grace oftentimes much more abounds [Note: Romans 5:20.].”]

2.

He reproved his errors—

[The question put to him was a kind reproof; it was, in fact, the same as saying, “Think whether thou hast not deserted the path of duty?” And when the question had not produced its desired effect, he displayed before him the terrors of his majesty in three successive manifestations of his power; and then, to soften and abase his yet unbroken spirit, he spake to him more effectually in a still small voice; thus renewing to him the wonders formerly exhibited on the same mountain unto Moses, both the terrific scenes of Sinai, and the milder display of his own glorious perfections. Truly it is amazing that the Almighty God should so condescend to the weakness of his creatures, and labour so to prepare their minds for the richer effusions of his grace and love.]

3.

He rectified his apprehensions—

[Elijah supposed himself to be the only one in Israel that maintained a regard for God; but God informed him, that there were no less than seven thousand persons who had not yielded to the prevailing idolatry. What an encouraging consideration was this to the desponding prophet! Well might he return to his labours, when so many yet remained, either to co-operate with him in his exertions, or to be benefited by his instructions. Indeed it is a most consolatory thought to the Lord’s people in every age, that there are many “hidden ones,” who serve and honour God in secret, though their light has not so shone as to attract the attention of the world around them: and the answer which God made to the prophet on this occasion is adduced by St. Paul for this very end, namely, to shew us, that, in the very lowest state of the Church, there is, and ever shall be, “a remnant according to the election of grace [Note: Romans 11:2-5.].”]

Among the various lessons which this history is suited to teach us, we may learn,

1.

To be diffident of ourselves—

[Who that sees how the great Elijah failed, whilst at the same time he was unconscious of his failings, must not be ready to suspect himself? If God say, “One of you shall betray me,” the reply of every one should be, “Lord, is it I?” Let us then inquire with ourselves, “What do I here?” Am I in the place that God would have me? and in the spirit that God would have me? Even the Apostles themselves on some occasions “knew not what spirit they were of.” Let us remember, that the less we suspect ourselves, the more reason we have to fear that there is somewhat amiss in our conduct.]

2.

To be confident in our God—

[We need look no further than to the history before us to see how exceeding abundant are the riches of God’s grace and mercy. Surely the backsliders in heart, or act, may take encouragement to return to him — — — In reference to the Church also, we may be well assured, that “the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”]


Verse 18

DISCOURSE: 348
A REMNANT IN THE WORST OF TIMES

1 Kings 19:18. 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.

WE cannot always judge by outward appearances in religion. There is in some a forwardness, and display of piety; whilst in others there is a reserve and a delicate withdrawment from public notice. Amongst the former, a very great proportion turn out like the stony or thorny-ground hearers; who, if they fall not altogether from their profession, never truly honour and adorn it. Where, on the contrary, there is little of outward zeal, we are ready to imagine that the word has produced little or no effect. In the days of the Prophet Elijah, there were none to bear him in countenance, by a bold and open testimony for God; so that he conceived that he stood alone in the midst of an apostate and idolatrous people. But there were many of the class referred to, even seven thousand, who had not been carried away by the general torrent of iniquity, but had maintained in secret a faithful adherence to their God. This, in answer to Elijah’s complaint, was declared by God himself: and from that declaration I shall take occasion to shew,

I.

That in the worst of times, God has an elect people in the world—

In support of this very position, St. Paul quotes the words before us:—
[It appeared in the Apostle’s days, that God had “cast off” his ancient people entirely. But St. Paul adduces himself as a proof to the contrary; and then, citing the answer given by Jehovah to his complaining servant Elijah, who thought that he was the only person in Israel that had remained faithful to his God, “Yet have I reserved to myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to the image of Baal [Note: Romans 11:1-4.],” or “kissed it, in token of their religious veneration [Note: Hosea 13:2.],” he takes occasion to say, “Even so at this time, also, there is a remnant according to the election of grace [Note: Romans 11:5.].”]

And on these words we may ground the same observation at this time—
[Through the tender mercy of God, we live in very different times from those of the Prophet Elijah. But the exercise of God’s sovereign grace is still the same; and every person who faithfully adheres to God, amidst the wickedness that abounds in the world, is indebted altogether to the distinguishing grace of God, whose power alone has quickened and upheld him.
This is a truth which many are extremely averse to hear: and, if it were really and of necessity connected with all the evils with which men load it, I should not wonder at the prejudices which are entertained against it. But indeed, when stated as it is revealed in Scripture, it is replete with godly comfort. For, who is there that would ever be saved, if he were left, like the fallen angels, without any succour from on high? Who would ever turn effectually to the Lord his God, if “God did not first give him both to will and to do of his good pleasure [Note: Philippians 2:13.]?” And I may further ask, Who is there, of whom we need despair? I will suppose him to be at this moment as bitter a persecutor as ever Saul was; yet may he, if God see fit, become a vessel of honour, like St. Paul, who was, even in the midst of all his violence, a chosen vessel, and had been so even from his mother’s womb [Note: Gal 1:13-15 with Acts 9:1-2; Acts 9:14-15.]. If any man ever seemed beyond the reach of divine grace, it was Manasseh, who filled the temple of God itself with idols, and “made the streets of Jerusalem to run down with the blood of innocents:” yet even he, in consequence of God’s electing love, was converted, and sanctified, and saved [Note: 2 Chronicles 33:3-13.]. So it may be, that some of our dear friends and relatives, who are at this moment immersed in wickedness of every kind, may yet have the eye of God fixed upon them for good, and, in despite of all their impiety, be “made willing people in the day of God’s power [Note: Psalms 110:3.].” We read, that “whom God did foreknow, he did also predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son; and whom he did predestinate, them he also called; and whom he called, them he also justified; and whom he justified, them he also glorified [Note: Romans 8:29-30.]:” and, for aught that we know, the same process may await some of whom we are ready to despair; and we may have the joy of seeing God’s purpose, which was formed before the world began, effected in the conversion of our friends, and consummated in their glorification before the throne of God. In fact, the persons who are now most eminent in the divine life were once dead in trespasses and sins, even as others: and they all, without exception, will gladly acknowledge, in their own case, the truth of our Lord’s declaration to his Apostles, “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you [Note: John 15:16.]:” for all of them have within themselves an unquestionable evidence, that as soon would a cannon-ball return of its own accord to the orifice from whence it has been discharged, as they, if left to themselves, would ever have returned to God, from whom they had so deeply revolted.]

But to this cheering truth I must add,

II.

That the number of these elect far exceeds all that the most sanguine of God’s saints would imagine— In the days of Elijah they amounted to “seven thousand men in Israel”—

[True, these were but few, when compared with the whole nation of Israel: but they were many, when compared with one single individual.]
And who can tell but that they may, even in this kingdom, be many times as numerous as they appear to be?
[We are apt to estimate the number of the Lord’s people by the numbers who make an open profession of religion: but there may be, and I doubt not are, multitudes throughout the land, who serve their God in sincerity, whilst, from a variety of circumstances, they have not been led to such displays of piety, as should attract the attention of the public. They conform not to the corrupt habits of the world around them, but “bow their knee to Jesus,” their Divine Saviour [Note: Romans 14:10-11.]; and “kiss the Son,” as the exclusive object of their homage [Note: Psalms 2:12.]. They may possibly be secluded in the bosom of a family who are unfriendly to religion: or they may not be within the reach of an energetic ministry or pious associates: or they may be in a station of life where occupation and confinement preclude them from any great intercourse with their neighbours. But, whatever be the occasion of their privacy, I doubt not but the fact is as I have stated; and that God has, “in this and other lands, many hidden ones,” who, like plants in a wilderness, blossom unseen, and diffuse their fragrance unperceived, except by God himself.]

But to all of you I would say,

1.

Let your religion be such that God himself may bear witness to it—

[God saw Nathanael under the fig-tree, and bare witness to him, as “an Israelite indeed, in whom there was no guile.” Let “your hearts also be right with God,” my beloved Brethren. Let him see that you resolutely withstand “the corruptions that are in the world;” and that you “walk with him,” even as Enoch did, in sweet communion, and in unreserved obedience — — —]

2.

Let your religion be such, that God may be glorified by it—

[Certainly it is the duty of every man to confess Christ before men, and to glorify him by an open profession of his faith. Where an opportunity is afforded, this is absolutely indispensable: and, if we be deterred from it by any consideration under heaven, we must pay the penalty, even the loss of our immortal souls. “With the heart, indeed, man believeth unto righteousness: but it is with the mouth that confession is to be made unto salvation [Note: Romans 10:10.].” Be not, then, ashamed of Christ; but “take up your cross daily, and follow him:” and “so make your light to shine before men, that all who behold it may glorify your Father who is in heaven.”]


Verse 21

DISCOURSE: 349
CALL OF ELISHA TO THE PROPHETIC OFFICE

1 Kings 19:21. Then he arose, and went after Elijah, and ministered unto him.

IT is an unspeakable consolation to an aged minister to see others springing up around him, who shall carry on the same blessed work in which he has spent his life, and promote among the rising generation the Redeemer’s interests, when he shall be removed to a better world. This happiness it pleased God to confer upon his servant Elijah. Elijah had thought himself alone in the kingdom of Israel; but God informed him, that there were no less than seven thousand others who had in heart adhered to him, though they had not openly testified against the worship of Baal. He moreover directed him to anoint Elisha to be a prophet in his room; and assured him, that the nation of Israel should continue to be benefited by the ministrations of his successor, when he should be removed from the world.
According to the direction given him, Elijah sought Elisha; and, finding him engaged in agricultural labours, called him from them to an employment altogether new and heavenly.
In this appointment of Elisha to the prophetic office there are two things to be noticed;—

I.

His peculiar call—

Elijah, in passing by, cast his mantle upon Elisha. In this action there was nothing that could at all convey the intent for which it was done; nor did Elijah utter a word in explanation of it: on the contrary, when he saw Elisha instantly running after him, he said, “Go back again; for what have I done unto thee?” But there was a secret power accompanying this act, which wrought effectually on the mind of Elisha, and constrained him to devote himself wholly to the Lord.
Now this will serve to shew the true nature of conversion in general.
God makes use of different means for the conversion of mankind—
[Many he awakens by some remarkable dispensation of his providence [Note: Matthew 27:54.] — — — Many he enlightens by the preaching of his word — — — and many, without any external means, he leads to the knowledge of himself by the teaching of his Holy Spirit — — —]

But whatever be the means, the work is his alone—
[There is not any more power in the creature, no, not even in miracles, to effect the conversion of men, than there was in the mantle cast upon Elisha. There were thousands who saw and heard all that took place at our Saviour’s death, as well as the centurion, and yet remained unaffected with it. Multitudes also heard the preaching of our Lord and his Apostles without experiencing from it any saving influence. The external call, by whomsoever given, has been resisted by myriads in every age [Note: Romans 10:21; Matthew 23:37.]. That which alone has made the difference between one man and another, has been the influence of the Holy Spirit accompanying the word: “Neither Paul nor Apollos could effect any thing; it has been God alone that gave the increase [Note: 1 Corinthians 3:5-7.]:” He has “revealed his arm [Note: Isaiah 53:1.],” and made men “willing in the day of his power [Note: Psalms 110:3.]:” He has “breathed upon the dry bones, and bid them live [Note: Ezekiel 37:1-10.].”]

A divine energy was felt by Elisha; as appears clearly from,

II.

His prompt obedience—

Instantly he ran after Elijah in token of his desire to become his stated attendant—
What appears to have expressed reluctance, proceeded in reality from no such feeling—
[Elisha desired to go home first and salute his parents, and then to wait upon Elijah. Had this arisen from a desire to defer his obedience to the heavenly call, it would have been wrong; because the call of God supersedes every other consideration under heaven [Note: Luke 9:59-62.]. But it arose from a love to his parents, and a desire to approve himself to them as a duteous son. He was sensible that they must wonder at the sudden change that had taken place in his views and conduct; and he was desirous to shew them at least that his zeal for God had not diminished his regard for them. In this view there can scarcely be a more useful example found in all the sacred records. Young people, when first made to feel the importance of a heavenly life, are apt to forget, that they ought by every possible means to win their parents. They should cultivate to the uttermost a meck, humble, conciliatory spirit; and shew, that, if they be constrained to act in opposition to the wishes of their superiors, they are not actuated by conceit or self-will, but by a sense of paramount obligation to God. They should be as careful as possible to evince the excellency of their principles by the modesty of their demeanour, and by their increased endeavours to fulfil every relative and social duty. This would render religion amiable in the eyes of many, who, in the conduct of their children or dependents, find nothing but stumbling-blocks and occasions of disgust.

The making a feast also of two of his oxen may appear strange: but we apprehend that it was done in much the same spirit as that which he manifested towards his parents. His destroying a yoke of oxen with their instruments might be intended, in part, to shew, that he henceforth renounced all secular employments; and, in part, to express love to all for whom he made the feast. In this view it strongly confirms all the foregoing observations respecting his parents; and teaches us to cultivate every benevolent disposition towards the people of the world, whilst we separate from their company, and condemn their practice. If from a sense of duty we “come out from them and are separate,” and shun all unnecessary conformity to their ways, we should give them no room to think that we either hate or despise them; but should convince them, that, like Noah, we would press them all into the ark, if they would but listen to our voice, and comply with our advice.]
He instantly became an attendant on Elijah, and “ministered unto him”—
[Though from his ploughing with twelve yoke of oxen it appears that he was a man of some consideration, yet he did not think it any indignity to wait upon Elijah as a menial servant [Note: 2 Kings 3:11.]. His reasons for this were various. He did it doubtless from a sense of love to God. Knowing that Elijah was greatly beloved of the Lord, and feeling that he himself had received through his instrumentality the richest blessings to his soul, he delighted to express his love to God by his zeal in the service of this distinguished prophet.

Moreover Elisha hoped now to be himself useful in advancing the cause of God in the land. It was true, that, as a novice, he could add but little to Elijah: but he hoped to learn from that honoured servant of the Lord, and to receive from his instructions and example, lessons, which might be of the utmost service to himself in the future execution of his own office: and for the attainment of such benefits he judged that no sacrifice could be too great, no service could be too laborious.
This shewed that there was on Elisha’s mind not a mere transient impression caused by the novelty of this extraordinary call, but a real radical change of heart, agreeably to that which has been manifested by all true converts [Note: Exodus 3:1; Matthew 4:18-25; Matthew 9:9; Matthew 19:27.], and that which St. Paul represents as having taken place in the Macedonian Church; “They gave themselves to the Lord, and unto us by the will of God [Note: 2 Corinthians 8:5.].”]

We shall conclude with a few words,
1.

Of inquiry—

[We ask not whether any of you have ever been called either suddenly or in any extraordinary manner to serve God? but we ask whether your mind and heart have ever been so changed, that, from following nothing but this world, you have been brought to serve and follow the Lord Jesus Christ? This is a change which all must experience. This is conversion, in whatever way it is effected: and nothing but this constitutes conversion. Put away then all fanciful and enthusiastic notions about the time or the manner of conversion, and examine carefully into its effects as daily visible in your life and conversation — — —]

2.

Of advice—

[If any of you are convinced that it is your duty to give up yourselves to God, guard against every thing that may cause you to waver in your purposes. Your dearest friends and relatives will be ready to say, “Spare yourself:” but you must not yield to any such entreaties. They will tell you, “That you will injure your worldly prospects:” but so did Elisha—“That there are few who approve and countenance such conduct:” but so Elisha found it, there being not one, except his master Elijah, that openly espoused the cause of God—“;That you will subject yourself to persecution:” but it was in a season of bitterest persecution that Elisha joined himself to Elijah. As to the manner of conducting yourselves towards your parents or superiors, we again say, Behave with meckness, with modesty, with love: “Kiss your father and your mother;” but do not prefer them before your God [Note: Matthew 10:37.]. There are two extremes against which you must guard, namely, a rough, petulant, self-willed determination to follow your own way, without any regard to the feelings or sentiments of your superiors, on the one hand; and an easy complying temper that sacrifices duty to interest, on the other hand. The union of meekness with fidelity, and of love with firmness, is that at which you must aim; combining “the wisdom of the serpent with the harmlessness of the dove.”]


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Bibliographical Information
Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on 1 Kings 19". Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/shh/1-kings-19.html. 1832.