Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others. — Cicero

Story of the Chosen People - Helene Guerber




The Great Drought

Asa was succeeded by his son Jehoshaphat, a pious and energetic king, under whose rule the little kingdom of Judah reached its highest point of prosperity. The new king began his reign by pulling down many of the heathen groves and altars, and because he thus tried to stop the worship of idols he was rewarded with great power.

In the course of time, however, Jehoshaphat forgot that God had forbidden his Chosen People to make friends among those who worshiped idols. Not only did he enter into an alliance with Ahab, the idolatrous King of Israel, but he even encouraged his son to marry the daughter of this ruler.

Ahab, the King of Israel with whom the pious Jehoshaphat had thus made an alliance, is known as the greatest, but at the same time the most wicked, of all the rulers of the ten tribes. He began to reign in Samaria while Asa was yet King of Judah, and from the time of his marriage he was completely under the influence of his wife, Jezebel.

This woman is well known as one of the cleverest, but most wicked, women that ever lived. She brought the worship of the heathen god Baal into her husbandís kingdom, set up altars and groves at Samaria, and had no less than eight hundred and fifty heathen priests who were fed at her own table.

Moreover, Jezebel persecuted the prophets of the true God with such fury that they were soon obliged to flee from her, and take refuge in neighboring caves, where they staid hidden. Here they were for a while secretly fed by Ahabís steward, who did not dare to support them openly, because he was afraid of the anger of his haughty mistress.

The Israelites, during the past sixty years, had little by little yielded to the worship of idols, and there were now only seven thousand men among them who had not bent the knee to Jezebelís favorite god, Baal. The Lord, touched by the suffering of these few servants who had thus been faithful to him, now interfered in their behalf.

To help them, he sent Elijah, the greatest prophet since the time of Samuel. Elijah was very tall, his features were rugged and stern, his long hair flowed over his broad shoulders, and he wore a rough robe or mantle of sheepís hair.

Directed by God, this prophet suddenly came to the kingís court, where his rough clothes and manners must have made a startling contrast with Ahabís courtiers, who were dressed in costly silks. As soon as he arrived there, he abruptly gave his message: "As the Lord God of Israel liveth, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word."

When Ahab heard these words, he shuddered; for, although Jezebel and her priests thought that Elijah was nothing but a madman, Ahab knew very well that he was a prophet of the Lord. Before the astonished king could collect himself enough to bid his guards seize the prophet and put him to death, Elijah had disappeared, and no one could find any trace of him.

The prophet, in leaving the palace, had merely obeyed Godís orders. After warning Ahab of the coming drought, he speedily went to a quiet valley far from the houses of men. In this little valley flowed a tiny stream, which emptied its waters into the river Jordan. Here Elijah staid, quenching his thirst in the little stream, and living on the food which the ravens brought to him.

He lived in the valley until the time of the rainy season came; but, although the ground was very dry, there were no signs of the usually abundant rainfalls. Little by little, even the stream at the bottom of the valley dried up, and then the prophet, in obedience to Godís command, left this lonely place and went down into Phoenicia.

Elijah came at last to a village near the seashore, where the famine brought about by the drought was beginning to make itself bitterly felt. Here he saw a poor widow picking up a few sticks to cook her last food; for she had no money, and her whole stock of provisions was a handful of meal and a few drops of oil.

The prophet, whose garments were faded, dusty, and torn, drew near this woman and asked her for a drink. Then, when his thirst was slaked, he looked up at her with imploring eyes and said: "Bring me, I pray thee, a morsel of bread in thine hand."

Now, although this man was a complete stranger, and although he had come and asked her for what was most precious to her, the woman felt so sorry for him that she led him into her house, and generously shared with him the small amount of food which was all she had to keep herself and her son alive.

In reward for this good deed, the widow was favored by a miracle. During the next three years, which Elijah spent in her house, the meal and oil never failed her, and she and her son and her guest had plenty to eat.

Sometime after, the poor womanís son died, and then the prophet further showed how thankful he was for her former kindness, by bringing the boy back to life. This is the very first time in the story of the Bible that we hear of such a miracle as bringing the dead back from the tomb. But, as you will learn from reading the Bible, a like miracle is mentioned several times in the Old, as well as in the New Testament.