Ahab was a wicked king of Israel. He forsook the service of the true God, and built a temple to his idol in the city of Samaria, and set up another image in a grove of trees. There is a fearful character given of him in the Bible. It is said, "He did more to provoke the LORD God of Israel to anger than all the kings of Israel that were before him."
One day an aged man stood before king Ahab; his dress was a coarse garment, called sackcloth, perhaps made of the hair of camels. The look of the old man was grave and sorrowful. He had to deliver a message from God to the king, and to declare that the whole people of Israel were soon to be punished for their sin. When the king and his nobles looked on him, they knew that it was the prophet Elijah.
The prophet did not fear the angry looks of Ahab, but spoke boldly thus: "As the LORD God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word."
No rain for years! Then in that hot country, the fields, the trees, and every green thing would wither, and there would be no food for man, and the cattle would die of thirst.
God then spake to Elijah, and directed him to go to a solitary place where a brook of water ran, and where He would cause the ravens to feed him. The prophet went as he was told, and in that lonely spot he spent about a year, drinking of the brook, and supplied with food by birds of the air. Though no human being was near him, he was happy, for God was with him, and he knew he was safe under His care.
Months passed away, and no rain nor dew had fallen on the earth. The brook became more and more narrow. The grass and rushes which grew on its banks had quite withered. The pebbles and roots which had been washed by the stream were left dry; and the branches of the trees were scorched and bare. The brook now ceased to flow. There may have been a little water in the hollows, but at last all was dried up. The Lord could have given water to Elijah by miracle, but He was pleased to tell him to depart, saying, "Arise, get thee to Zarephath, which belongeth to Zidon, and dwell there: behold I have commanded a widow woman there to sustain thee." God did not send him to any of the widows of Israel, but to a poor woman in a heathen part of the land. He at once obeyed, for he knew there are wise and good reasons for all God does.
It was a long journey through the whole of the land to Zarephath. The prophet must have been tired when he came near to the place, and needed rest and food. As he drew towards the gate of the city he saw a poor widow gathering sticks. God in some way let him know that she was to give him food during the remainder of the days of famine. He then asked her for some water; and as she turned away to obtain it he directed her also to give him a morsel of bread. This seemed out of her power. She replied,
"As the LORD thy God liveth, I have not a cake, but an handful of meal in a barrel, and a little oil in a cruse; and behold I am gathering two sticks, that I may go in and dress it for me and my son, that we may eat it, and die."
Elijah must have looked upon her with pity; but he told her to fear not, and to go and prepare first a cake for him, and then make for herself and her son. But how could she take the last morsel from her hungry child, and give it to a stranger. It was because the woman saw that he was a holy man and a prophet, and she had faith that the God of Israel would provide for her. The bread was soon made in thin cakes, and given to Elijah; and from that day a blessing came upon her, and she, her son, and the prophet were miraculously supplied.
One day the little son of the widow was taken ill, and died. Have you ever seen a dear child lying cold and pale, and in a coffin? Was it your infant brother or sister? Did you not grieve and weep at the loss of one you loved? If so, you can understand how the widow felt when she saw the lifeless body of her only child. Her husband was dead, and now her child. Her last comfort and companion must be laid in the grave.
As the widow was weeping, she looked up and saw Elijah. In her agony, she at first thought that the prophet might have prayed to God to send this loss, to punish her for sin.
"Give me thy son," said the pious Elijah; and he took the body, carried it to his own chamber, and laid it upon the bed. After he had prayed to God, he stretched himself three times upon the body, and the soul of the child returned to it. What a sight that must have been, when the prophet took the boy in his arms, and carried him to his weeping mother! He now breathed again, his eyes were full of life, and with joy the widow again embraced her child.
We must all die, as the widow's son did. But there will be no prophet Elijah to bring us back to this life. We must be laid in the grave, and the home that once knew us will know us no more for ever, and the friends that weep over our bodies must see them carried from their sight. Where will our souls then be? They do not die; they are not placed in the grave with the body. They must either go home to Jesus in heaven, or go away from Him into hell; for so the Word of God teaches. Do you not wish to go to heaven? Surely you do. Then you must repent of your sins; your hearts must be given to Christ, and your lives be spent in the fear and love of God. If such is your happy case, at the great day when the dead shall be raised, a glorious and lovely body shall be given you. You shall then die no more, but be for ever happy with the Lord.
From The Children of the Bible. Chicago: Moody Press, [ca. 1900]. Edited.
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