WHERE IS THE LORD GOD OF ELIJAH?
Among all the elders who have through faith obtained a good report, there is none more remarkable than Elijah the Tishbite. He was a person altogether extraordinary. In his exercise and experience he was singularly distinguished. His experiences were powerful encouragements to the people of God in after ages: Elijah’s God still lives. The consideration of God’s presence with His people in former days should bring the succeeding generation to the same God for the same encouragements. I shall instance a few of the sweet and desirable experiences this holy man had:
1. The God of Elijah gave him the sweet experience of keeping warm and lively in a very cold and dead generation, so that he was best when others were worst. His zeal for God burnt most vigorously when the generation were halting between God and Baal. When nothing but deadness was on every hand, the Spirit of life from above kept him alive.
But where is the Lord God of Elijah in these dregs of time, wherein professors generally are carried away with the stream of impiety from all their liveliness and tenderness that sometimes have been among them; when the more wickedness sets up its head, piety is made to hide its head the more. I will tell you two sad experiences, common at this day:
a. The fulfilling of that scripture, Matthew 24.12, ‘And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.’ It is a time when atheism, deism and immorality make prodigious advances, and practical godliness is under a deep decay. Yea, I doubt if ever Satan had more hands at work to overthrow and raze the foundations of revealed religion, than at this day; and this effort of Satan’s against the church is coupled with a most lamentable decay of the vitals of practical religion in those that are called by the Lord’s name, so that we are like to be exposed to this furious attack lacking the best piece of our armour against it; that is, an experience and feeling of the power of truth on our own souls.
b. What heat there is, strikes all outward, while in the meantime folks are key-cold within. It is not hard to discern, several showing a great deal of concern in the lamentable occurrences of our day; but how hard it is to find a man that is truly awakened to the exercise of godliness by all the alarming dispensations of our day, that is moved with fear, and busy preparing an ark for the evil day, labouring to get the particular controversy betwixt God and his soul removed, putting out of his way the stumbling-block of his iniquity?
2. The God of Elijah gave him the sweet experience of the power of prayer, James 5.17. By his prayers the bottles of heaven were opened, the key of the clouds turned, nay, the bands of death loosened, 1 Kings 17. Many times the Lord’s people, when closed up on every side, have found a sweet outgate, their souls flying upward in prayer. The prayers of the saints have been the great ordinance of the church, have frustrated the plans of enemies, and turned them back on their own heads.
But where is the God of Elijah, while the trade with heaven by prayers is so very low? Alas for the dead, cold and flat prayers, that come from the lips of professors at this day! So weak and languishing that they cannot reach heaven. Long ease has made them lose their tongue, though natural abilities may help some to pray like angels, while they live like devils.
3. The experience of the sweet fruits of dependence on the Lord, and of a little going far with His blessing, 1 Kings 17.16, ‘And the barrel of meal wasted not, neither did the cruse of oil fail, according to the word of the Lord.’ Elijah saw so very few for God in his day, that he thought he was alone; and the Lord strengthened his faith by such experiences.
But where is the God of Elijah at this day, when what we have seems to be blown upon, that it goes in effect to nothing? Our table is plentifully covered, yet our souls are starved; our goodness sometimes looks like a morning cloud and promises a hearty shower, but quickly proves as a little cloud, like unto a man’s hand, which is ready to go to nothing. ‘Where is the God of Elijah?’
4. The experience of a gracious boldness to face the most daring wickedness of the generation he lived in, though it was one of the worst. This eminently appeared in his re-encounter with Ahab, and in his standing alone against four hundred and fifty of Baal’s prophets. Whatever was his natural temper, he owed this to the grace of God, for when he was left to his natural courage, it failed him, 1 Kings 19.
But where is the God of Elijah now, while the iniquities of our day meet with such faint resistance, while a tongue to speak for Him, and a heart to act are so much wanting? The wicked world pursue their ill cause boldly, but alas! the people of God shame their honest cause by their cowardice and faint appearing in it. If God give us not another spirit, more fitted for such a day, we will betray our trust, and bring the curse of a succeeding generation on us.
5. The experience of a glorious and powerful manifestation in a solemn ordinance, even at the sacrifice on Mount Carmel, which was ushered in with the spirit of prayer in Elijah. ‘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.’
But where is the God of Elijah, when so little of the Spirit’s influences is found in ordinances, even in solemn ordinances? Here is the mantle, but where is the God of Elijah? Here are the graveclothes in which sometimes the Lord was wrapt up, but where is He Himself? Enemies have surrounded the church, and brought her to the brow of the hill, ready to cast her over; where is the God of Elijah to make a way for her escape?