arthur w. pink (1886-1952), originally wrote and published this as a series of articles in his monthly magazine, studies in the scriptures, from january, 1940 through december, 1942.
by god\u2019s grace, we at mt. zion have been republishing the studies beginning with the year 1932. in addition to publishing the studies, we are attempting to publish several books and booklets gleaned from articles from the studies.
our prayer is that the holy spirit will grant you much light into brother pink\u2019s exposition of this wonderful portion of scripture-1 kings 17:1-2 kings 2:11.
the office which elijah filled supplies an important key to an understanding of the times in which he lived and the character of his mission. he was a prophet, in fact one of the most remarkable pertaining to that divine order. now there is a real and marked difference between a servant of god and a prophet of god, for while all his prophets are servants yet not all of his servants are prophets. prophecy always presupposes failure and sin. god only sent forth one of his prophets in a time of marked declension and departure of the people from himself. as this is not generally known, we propose to labour the point and furnish scripture proofs of our assertion. \u201cwe have also a more sure word of prophecy: whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light which shineth in a dark place\u201d (2 peter 1:19): that expresses the general principle.
how many of our readers can recall the very first prophecy recorded in holy writ? well, it is found in, \u201ci will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head and thou shalt bruise his heel\u201d (gen. 3:15). and when was that initial prophecy given? not while our first parents walked in obedience to and fellowship with the lord god, but after they had sinned against him and broken his commandments. let this be duly noted and carefully pondered, for like the first mention of anything in the scriptures, it is of deep moment, intimating the nature and design of all subsequent prophecy. this initial prediction, then, was not furnished by god while the original bliss of eden obtained, but after it had been rudely shattered. it was supplied after
and now a harder question: how many of our readers can name the first prophet of god mentioned in the scriptures? in order to find the answer we have to turn to the epistle of jude, where we are told, \u201cand enoch also, the seventh from adam, prophesied of these, saying, behold, the lord cometh with ten thousand of his saints to execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds,\u201d etc (vv. 14, 15). here again we see the same principle illustrated and the same fact exemplified. enoch the prophet lived in a day of abounding wickedness. he was contemporary with noah, when \u201cthe earth was filled with violence,\u201d and \u201call flesh had corrupted his (god\u2019s) way upon the earth\u201d (gen. 6:11, 12). the ministry of enoch, then, was exercised some time previous to the great flood, and he was raised up to call upon men to forsake their sins and to announce the certainty of divine judgment falling upon them should they refuse to do so.
who are the next men referred to in scripture as being \u201cprophets\u201d of god? the answer may surprise some of our readers: they are none other then abraham, isaac and jacob. in psalm 105 we read, \u201che suffered no man to do them wrong: yea, he reproved kings for their sakes, saying, touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm\u201d (vv. 14, 15). the context clearly identifies these \u201cprophets.\u201d \u201che hath remembered his covenant forever, the word which he commanded to a thousand generations. which covenant he made with abraham, and his oath unto isaac; and confirmed the same unto jacob for a law and to israel for an everlasting covenant: saying, unto thee will i give the land of canaan, the lot of your inheritance\u201d (vv. 8-11). and why were the patriarchs denominated \u201cprophets\u201d? that which has been before us in the preceding paragraphs supplies the answer, and the title here given to abraham, isaac and jacob, is to be explained on the same principle. a new and fearful evil had entered the world, and god called out the patriarchs separating them from it, so that by their lips and lives they were witnesses against it.
that evil was, idolatry. so far as scripture reveals, idols were not worshipped by men previous to the flood. but soon after the great deluge idolatry not only obtained a footing, but became general. \u201cthus saith the lord god of israel, your fathers dwelt on the other side of the flood in old time, even terah, the father of abraham, and the father of nachor; and they served other gods\u201d (josh. 24:2). it is to that very period in ancient history-namely, to the days of nimrod and onwards-that romans 1:22, 23 looks back: \u201cprofessing themselves to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible god into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things.\u201d an incidental reference, which however may be regarded as symptomatic of general conditions, is contained in, \u201crachel had stolen the images that were her father\u2019s\u201d (gen. 31:19). it was from this awful sin of idolatry that the patriarchs were separated, to serve as \u201cprophets\u201d-witnesses for the true god. thus we see once more that the bringing in of the prophet was in the face of apostasy.
passing down the stream of human history, let us next consider the case of the chosen nation. jehovah had separated the hebrews unto himself as his favoured people. called out of egypt, they were first brought into a place of isolation: the wilderness. there the tabernacle of worship and witness was erected, laws were given to israel, and the priesthood was instituted. we read of princes, elders, and judges in the congregation, but no mention whatever is made of any order of \u201cprophets\u201d being appointed. why is this? because there was no need for them. so long as israel walked in obedience to and
fellowship with the lord and worshipped him according to his institutions, no \u201cprophet\u201d was required! this is a fact which has not received the attention it deserves. while the life of israel remained normal there was a place for the teacher, the levite, and the magistrate; but no room whatever for the prophetic function.
but after israel entered the land of canaan and joshua was removed from their head, what we have pointed out above no longer obtained. at a later date in israel\u2019s history we do find god sending prophets unto them. why? because the priesthood had failed and the people had departed from god. history repeated itself: the divine mercies were abused, the divine law was flouted, the servants of god lamentably failed in the discharge of their duties. corruption set in and there was grievous and widespread departure from the lord. then it was that he instituted the prophetic order in israel. and who was it that headed the long list of israel\u2019s prophets? this is not an unimportant question: acts 3:24 tells us: \u201cyea, and all the prophets from samuel, and those that follow after, as many as have spoken, have likewise foretold of these days.\u201d
samuel, then, was the first of israel\u2019s prophets. he was raised up by god at a most critical juncture in their history, when true piety had sunk to a very low level and when wickedness flouted itself in high places. so fearful had things become, so far had the fear of god departed from their eyes, that the sons of the high priest himself pilfered part of the holy sacrifices: \u201cthe sin of the young men was very great before the lord: for men abhorred the offering of the lord\u201d (1 sam. 2:17). so lost were they not only to a veneration of what was sacred, but also to a sense of decency, that they \u201clay with the women that assembled at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation\u201d (v. 22). though eli remonstrated with them, yet \u201cthey hearkened not unto the voice of their father\u201d (v. 25). in consequence, they were slain by divine judgment, the ark of the lord was carried away by the philistines, and \u201cichabod\u201d was written over the nation. samuel, then, was raised up at a time of great declension, when, \u201cthere was no king in israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes\u201d (judg. 21:25).
now all that has been before us supplies the key to an understanding of those books in the old testament which are more definitely known as \u201cthe prophets.\u201d their messages were addressed to a degenerate and wayward people. let us give a quotation from the first three of them. \u201cthe vision of isaiah the son of amoz, which he saw concerning judah and jerusalem in the days of uzziah, jotham, ahaz, and hezekiah kings of judah. hear, o heavens, and give ear, o earth: for the lord hath spoken; i have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me. the ox knoweth his owner and the ass his master\u2019s crib: but israel doth not know, my people doth not consider. ah sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evildoers, children that are corrupters: they have forsaken the lord, they have provoked the holy one of israel unto anger, they are gone away backward\u201d (isa. 1:1-4). \u201cthus saith the lord, what iniquity have your fathers found in me, that they are gone far from me and have walked after vanity\u201d (jer. 2:5 and see verses 6-9). \u201cson of man i send thee to the children of israel, to a rebellious nation that hath rebelled against me\u201d (ezek. 2:3 and see verses 4-9).
the same principle holds good throughout the new testament. the first preacher there introduced to us is john the baptist: and what was the outstanding characteristic of his ministry? not that of an evangelist, not that of a teacher, but rather the prophet-\u201che shall go before him in the spirit and power of elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared
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