The Life of Elijah
by A.W. Pink
From one generation to another, the servants of the Lord have sought to edify their fellow-believers by commenting on the Old Testament narrative. In such ministries expositions of the life of Elijah have always been prominent. His sudden appearance out of complete obscurity, his dramatic interventions in the national history of Israel, his miracles, his departure from earth in a chariot of fire, all serve to captivate the thought of preacher and writer alike. The New Testament sustains this interest. If Christ Jesus is the Prophet "like unto Moses," Elijah, too, has his New Testament counterpart in John—the greatest of the prophets. And even more remarkably, Elijah himself in living person reappears to view when, with Moses, he stands on the mount of "the excellent glory," "to speak of the strife that won our life with the incarnate Son of God." What a superb honour was this! As Moses and Elijah are the names which shine in dual grandeur in the closing chapters of the Old Testament, they likewise appear as living representatives of the Lord’s redeemed host—the resurrected and the translated—on "the holy mount," their theme the exodus which their Saviour and Lord was to accomplish at the time appointed by the Father.
It is the "translated" representative, the second of the two marvelous Old Testament exceptions to the universal reign of death, who is portrayed in the following pages. "He comes in like a tempest, who went out in a whirlwind" (says the 17th century Bishop Hall); "the first that we hear from him is an oath and a threat." His words, like lightnings, seem to cleave the firmament of Israel. On one famous occasion, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel answered them by fire upon the altar of burnt offering. Throughout Elijah’s astonishing career judgment and mercy were mingled. From the moment when he steps forth, "without father, without mother," "as if he had been a son of the earth," to the day when his mantle fell from him and he crossed the river of death without tasting death, he exercised a ministry only paralleled by that of Moses, his companion on the mount. "He was," says Bishop Hall, "the eminentest prophet reserved for the corruptest age."
It is therefore fitting that the lessons which may legitimately be drawn from Elijah’s ministry should be presented afresh to our own generation. The agelessness of prophecy is a striking witness to its divine origin. The prophets are withdrawn but their messages give a light to each succeeding age. History repeats itself. The wickedness and idolatry rampant in Ahab’s reign live on in our gross 20th century profanities and corruptions. The worldliness and ungodliness of a Jezebel, in all their painted hideousness, have not only intruded into the present day scene, but have become ensconced in our homes and our public life.
A. W. Pink (1886-1952), author of this "Life of Elijah," had a wide experience of conditions in the English-speaking world. Before finally settling in Britain during the "thirties, he had exercised his ministry in Australia and the United States of America. Thereafter he devoted himself to Biblical exposition largely carried on by means of the magazine which he established. His study of Elijah is particularly suited to the needs of the present day. Our lot is cast in a time of widespread and deep departure from the ancient landmarks of the people of the Lord. Truths which were dear to our forefathers are now trodden underfoot as the mire of the streets. Many, indeed, claim to preach and republish truth in a new garb, but the new garb has proved to be the shroud of truth rather than its authentic "beautiful garments" as known to the ancient prophets.
Mr. Pink clearly felt called to the task of smiting the ungodliness of the age with the rod of God’s anger. With this object he undertakes the exposition of Elijah’s ministry, applying it to the contemporary situation. He has a message for his own nation, and also for the people of God. He shows that the ancient challenge, "Where is the Lord God of Elijah?" is no mere rhetorical question. Where indeed? Have we lost our faith in Him? Has effectual fervent prayer no place in our hearts? Can we not learn from the life of a man subject to like passions as we are? If we possess the wisdom which is from above we shall say with Josiah Conder:
"Lord, with this grace our hearts
Answer our sacrifice with fire;
And by Thy mighty acts declare
Thou art the God who heareth prayer."
If such aspirations are ours, the "Life of Elijah" will fan the sacred flame. If we lack them, may the Lord use the work to bring conviction to our sluggish spirits, and to convince us that the test of Carmel is still completely valid: "The God that answers by fire, let Him by God.."
S. M. Houghton