The Sentence of Death (continued)
Then further, we mark that Elijah suffered in consequence of his own prayers. We opened with the statement that he went to Ahab and announced that there would be no rain. But the New Testament (James' Epistle) tells us that there was something that went before, that in the secret alone with God, Elijah had prayed: and now, in consequence, he is coming very, very near to starvation, being fed by the brook, and then finding even the brook dried up, and having to make that journey to the widow to feed on her last little morsel. All that; death threatening him in that realm, the bitter, hot pursuit by Ahab and the threatening of his life from that direction, and then that threat from Jezebel, was all the result of his praying. If Elijah had never prayed like that, he would never have been precipitated into those circumstances. That gives us, perhaps, a new thought concerning prayer. How often we have prayed for the will of God, the glory of the Lord, as we have felt, and, like Elijah, have burned with desire to see the Lord's name honored, but all the time with our prayers there has been the expectation that somehow in the Lord's honoring we would get honor; somehow, in the answer to our prayers, we would have a good time. Why, of course, if your prayers are answered, it will be very wonderful and very glorious, we will rejoice! Well, Elijah's prayer was answered and it meant that for three and a half years he was in danger of his life. But, you see, the real motive of that prayer was wholly for the Lord's glory. That was genuinely at the back of Elijah's heart, and surely if he had a modicum (small amount) of foresight, he must have known that he would be involved in the fact. He must have known the cost; or realized something of what would be the cost, that he personally would have to pay if his prayers were answered. Well, that is the way of such prayer. It is a way of being delivered over to death that the prayer may be answered; not of just having some painful feeling while you pray, it is not that. The way is that of a very practical and uncomfortable experience of the suffering of death while the Lord is answering the prayer. I feel that most of us, perhaps, are in danger of making our fellowship with Christ in His suffering and the whole matter of our knowledge of the Cross one of some kind of vague feeling within us, instead of realizing that it works out in very practical things in daily circumstances of life: and it is there that so often we refuse it! That cannot be the Lord! We nullify the whole value of our prayer because when the Lord begins, when He only just begins, to answer our prayer, the thing hits us, cuts us, wounds us, and we turn away and say, It cannot be the Lord! Now, Elijah was a man who prayed, and because he prayed he knew constant experiences of being delivered over to death.
Then we read on, after the great and wonderful exhibition of Divine power on Mount Carmel, to the further threat that came from Jezebel, and Elijah's having to flee for his life, and then to that strange and painful scene when, away alone in the wilderness, he himself asked the Lord to slay him: for this thing goes deeper and deeper as you go on. It passes more perhaps from the outward to the inward. A lot has been said about Elijah's losing his faith and being afraid of a woman, but anyone who has had any kind of measure of fellowship in a life such as Elijah's will know that he was not one scrap worried about whether Jezebel killed him or not. He reveals the true agony of his heart in his prayer to the Lord. "I am no better than my fathers." Elijah was not the first prophet; there had been others. They too had hurled themselves into the breath and sought to turn the tide, to turn God's people back again to Him, and they had failed; as far as can be seen, one by one, they had failed. But Elijah out of a deep, deep experience, had seen the hand of God in great power and had heard the cry of the people, "Jehovah, He is God," and his heart had leapt with the joyful expectation that something really had been done in the hearts of God's people. But when Jezebel still stayed in her place, and will still in a position to impose her will, Elijah knew that nothing really vital had been done. Thus in the disappointment of it all, the sorrow of heart that, after all, that great scene on Mount Carmel had only been a superficial wave of emotion that had passed over the people, and not the turning of God's people back to God that he had been both looking for and praying for, his heart broke and he asked the Lord to slay him; not because he was afraid of Jezebel, but because, in his deepest heat of hearts his consciousness was that as a prophet he was a failure. That, I am sure, was very necessary for Elijah We may find some culpable features in his attitude before the Lord, but probably that represents just one further deeper and most, necessary phase in this life of being delivered over unto death. There is a passing from the realm where things are largely outward and people are against you, to the realm where things are inward and from your own side you would rather the Lord killed you. You are disillusioned about yourself, about your ministry, and Elijah virtually, shall we say, handed in his resignation to God. He was no good as a prophet, and I believe that is just the point to which all of us need to come as servants of God, and for lack of that there has been so much weakness in seeking to build up that which is according to Divine pattern without the initial, fundamental, basic work being wrought deeply, as it was wrought in Elijah. Even if we know, as Elijah knew, that the lord has called, and have enjoyed the Lord's seal, the Lord's presence, the Lord's word, as the fruit of the Cross; even with all that, we come to the place where, so far as we are concerned, we are at an end.
(continued with # 3)