Ken Rudge, St. Austell, England
‘And he (Elijah) repaired the altar of the Lord that was broken down’, 1 Kgs. 18. 30.
At times we utterly fail to appreciate the immense contribution to our faith made by Old Testament saints. We little grasp how much they learned of God and lived for His glory, despite fierce opposition. We have so much to gain by what God has caused to be written ‘for our admonition’, 1 Cor. 10. 11.
We are thankful to know that Elijah was a man of like passions as we are, according to James, else we may fear that the heights he reached were unattainable by the most of us. There is no doubt he learned much of his calling and purpose in the will of God during the three and half years of drought. Certainly, he came to Carmel having thoroughly seen the issues at stake and ably prepared for what he was about to do.
It all hinged on this one opportunity to restore the northern kingdom to the worship of Jehovah and to set the people of God back on the pathway of their destiny. He could not have had a less promising position to start from for had not Queen Jezebel consistently purged the land of Jehovah’s altars and persecuted to death both prophet and priest? Had not the people proved easily led and to have little conviction when required to say who was God: Jehovah or Baal?
Firstly, it is beautiful to see that, having given Baal ample chance to declare himself, when it came to Elijah’s turn he commences with restoring the Lord’s altar. It is in this that he demonstrates how well he has learned of God in the quiet of Zarephath. His first objective is to re establish the truth of one Nation, one God. He built the altar with twelve stones, ‘according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob’, v. 31. He will later call upon ‘the Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel’, v. 36, taking them back to the roots of their history and linking them to the promises of God. Here we learn what Elijah saw as essential to spiritual restoration not to depart from God’s original intentions, for He never will. It is needful to find again the foundations on which God said He would build and limit oneself to them in order to find Him again.
Secondly, he will dig a trench around the altar. It was not a large trench but it declared that Elijah understood that when the fire fell on the sacrifice then it would fall only on the sacrifice. The trench declared that God would not judge the people, even though they were worthy of it, having accepted the offered sacrifice. The trench declared a limitation that said, ‘there is a way back but only one way’ through the sacrifice that had taken the judgement of God in their stead. Spiritual restoration is clearly a matter of dealing with the sin of the past and through repentance and acceptance we come to know God again.
Thirdly, he will ask for the sacrificial giving of precious water supplies in order to, by faith, await the fulfilment of the blessing yet to come. ‘Fill four barrels of water and pour it’, then he says, ‘Do it the second time . . . and the third time . . . and fill the trench also’, vv. 33- 35. Three years of drought and this costly resource is required to be poured out on the altar! But there is no waste here. Faith will expend all that is required of it in the light of the anticipation of the blessing that will follow. And so it is for in no more than an hour or so ‘there was a great rain’, v. 45.
There is a principle here, and as the hymn puts it we need to, ‘Go labour on, spend and be spent, Go labour on, Thy earthly loss is heavenly gain’. It is only when, with that awesome sense of a debt we will never repay, we give without counting the cost, that we reap the greatest of rewards. May this year prove to be a fruitful one for the Lord in all our lives.
We are having a break from the centre pull-out series on 1 Corinthians to enjoy the devotional stimulus of an exposition of the Song of Solomon from the pen of our brother Andrew Wilson. Challenging and heart-warming it is too. There is a healthy contribution in this issue to the areas of work life and spiritual life and a provocative unveiling of what evangelistic work in prisons can demand. We have the final article in the series to do with Islam and reaching out to Muslim people and a much-needed exhortation regarding ‘singleness’ and those who are called to the single life. Our desire is that the Lord will use this issue of the magazine for the blessing of many and to His own glory.