By the names of three righteous: Patriarch Abraham,
God-Seeing Moses and prophet Elijah — in the Old Testament are marked the
stages of the spiritual ripening of mankind.
St. Basil the Great said that he could not look
without tears at the depiction of sacrificing Isaac by Abraham. Really if to
think about the moral image of righteous Abraham, revealed in this matter, our
soul cannot but be filled with the most ardent admiration.
Obeying to the Divine word, Abraham leaves
the native city Ur of the Chaldees, flourishing in its culture, conveniences of
life, everything attractive for life, and goes to a far-away country, which the
Lord promises to give for his descendents to rule over: "in thee shall
all families of the earth be blessed" (Gen. 12:3).
After that departure many years passed. Abraham,
already old, but still childless, asks God: "LORD God, what wilt thou
give me, seeing I go childless, and the steward of my house is this Eliezer of
Damascus?... Behold, to me thou hast given no seed: and, lo, one born in my
house is mine heir" (Gen.15:2-3).
But with what ardent love is inflamed this
powerful and great in his righteousness patriarch, when in his elderly years,
his long-waited for son Isaac is born! This love is all-embracing: in it there
is natural attachment of the father to his son, and joyfully triumphing
contemplation of the beginning of fulfillment of Divine promises, which had to
be fulfilled through this son. Therefore, in love of Abraham for Isaac one can
see the dawning of the elements of perfect love, which will be revealed in two
thousands years after Abraham through his blessed grand-daughter in the
relation to Her Son and God.
So, this loved son Abraham, on the word of God,
brings to slay him, ready to sacrifice him to the Lord God, Whom he loves more
than his own life. With that, such decisiveness to sacrifice his son on the
command of God — is not a brief elevation of feelings, not only an ardent
impulse. For three days Abraham and Isaac walk towards the place of bringing
the sacrifice, for 72 hours lasts the torturing agony of the sacrificing
father, his readiness for this terrible offering. Really, there can be no human
heart so hard as a stone, which would not beat of anxiety while one is
attentively reading this Biblical narration (Gen. 22)
Abraham receives the highest honor, which can only
be accessible to the man, in this exploit of his. On the church idea, he
becomes the prototype of Very Almighty God — God the Father, Who for the sake
of mankind’s salvation sacrifices His Begotten son. And meek Isaac, carrying
the wood for the burnt offering, on which he had to lie as a sacrifice,
resignedly asking the father and without a complaint bound by him — becomes the
prototype of Christ the Savior.
The first people sinned with their disobeying. In
the exploit of righteous Abraham and Isaac their disobedience is conquered with
the greatest power and vividness. Human nature ascends to the highest stage of
obedience, caused by the purest love for God — the quality, which as the
leading one, the Lord wanted to raise in the man, giving him the original
commandment, for He created the man for the increase of submission and love —
the Divine-like qualities, which further on the Son of God showed in abundance
on the Earth.
Truly, not without our participation the Lord
brings us to salvation, but He chooses from our medium those faithful to Him,
whom He makes His co-participants.
Though we are in the right to ask: why then, if
Abraham was brought through his exploit on such a high peak of the spirit, why
did he remain only a prototype of the Lord, but did not take part in the real
salvation of mankind? Why did not the Lord hurry to descend onto the Mount of
Moria, where this tremendous sacrifice was about to be carried out, the way he
descended after to the room in Nazareth and the Bethlehem cave? Why did he
linger for more than two thousand years to come to the people?
In order to answer that question, we in grief
should turn our attention from the shining picks of holiness, which had reached
Abraham, to those testimonies of slipping down and infirmities, into which fell
the same great patriarch.
We see that before the birth of Isaac, being
scared of the Egyptians and Abimelech, Abraham hid behind his wife Sarah and
was ready to sacrifice her — the co-participant of his holiest exploits, out of
faint-hearted spirit, and lead unto the Divine punishment the whole nation
(Gen. 12:11, 12). We see Abraham after the death of his wife Sarah, getting
consolation in another wife, Keturah.
Let not any nib, any tongue condemn the greatest
and holiest of the Old Testament patriarchs. But, seeing such slips, these
human infirmities, we understand that the Lord could not descend to him for the
closest unity, could not make him, in the way he was, the participant of the
Divine life: we see that human nature in Abraham did not yet ripen to accept
God. But Abraham participated, like no other in the process of the preparation
of mankind to accept the Lord, in the process of ripening of the opportunity
for the Divine-Human life. "Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day:
and he saw it, and was glad — said the Lord — the son of David,
the son of Abraham" (John 8:56 and Math. 1:1).
With Abraham the Lord talked in a vision at night
(Gen. 15:1) or appeared before him in the image of three strangers. By the way,
before the downfall, people talked with God face to face, knew Him as the
Personality, for they were created to know God in love and obedience to Him.
And it was necessary that even before the Coming of the Lord the people would
be given back the possibility to know God, see Him, and recognize Him.
For that the Lord calls one of the descendants of
Abraham — righteous Moses, filled with love for his brothers and
co-heirs of the promise to the extent that he leaves as something despiteful,
not deserving attention, his, terrestrially brilliant state of the adopted son
of a princess, the daughter of Pharaoh, and having protected the offended
countryman-Israelite, he runs from Egypt. If in Abraham we see the pick of the
Old-Testament love for God, then in Moses together with love for God, which is
not less than that of righteous Abraham, we see the incarnation of the second
half of the basic Divine law: the peak of love for a neighbor, as for
The Lord takes Moses onto the greatest peak of
being chosen. In the storm He gives to him His law on the Mount of Sinai. He
talked with Moses face to face, and for the first time after the downfall, the
only time before the pre-Golgotha hours the Lord proclaims one of the people,
in the face of Moses, His friend: "If there be a prophet among you, I
the LORD will make myself known unto him in a vision, and will speak unto him
in a dream. My servant Moses is not so, who is faithful in all mine house. With
him will I speak mouth to mouth, even apparently, and not in dark speeches; and
the similitude of the LORD shall he behold" (Numb. 12:6-8) and "And
the LORD spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his
Already in the Old Testament Abraham is called the
friend of God (Is. 41:8), though not in his life, but many centuries after his
Using his friendship with God for bringing forth
his strong love for the neighbor as for himself, in the terrible hour of the
Divine anger for the sin of the Israel people Moses addresses to God with the
most daring prayer: "Yet now, if thou wilt forgive their sin--; and if
not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written"
Footnote: For the sin of the nation was in the
violation of the covenant, then the request of Moses "to forgive their
sin" is equal to an appeal: "Do not think the covenant to be
violated, do not reject Israel, do not take away its name and rights of the
God-chosen nation." The necessity of such a request was caused by the
following. To the first appeal of Moses (chap.11-13) the Lord answered with the
promise not to destroy Israel. The further existence of it was provided by
that. But the similar promise did not mean that the Jews would remain the
God-chosen nation. The very spirit of the nation made it doubtful, for it not
only did not reveal the readiness to return to themselves the mercy of God but
showed the extreme stubbornness, which was threatening by the absolute state of
being rejected by God. In this respect, Moses begs: ‘forgive their sin."
If the forgiveness cannot be granted, he offers his life as a sacrifice: "blot
me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written."
The tool of the great Divine act is Moses: through
him the Divine law, which the people were deprived of, having sinned in Eden,
is returned to them; they are given back the possibility of the Divine Service,
partly — of the communication with God; the earth stops being absolutely
strange to heaven. Incompletely, imperfectly, in shades, in images and
conjectures, but still into the terrestrial life comes the unceasingly carried
out process of preparation of people to the acceptance of the Son of God,
through Moses, in given by God Divine Service. Therefore, the Church, to a
considerable extent, sees in Moses the prototype of Christ and often in the
festive divine services sings the chants, which relate to him and Christ the
Lord, comparing them: "The shadow of the law has passed now that grace has
come, for as the Bush in flames was not consumed, so as a Virgin you bore a
Child and remained a Virgin; instead of a pillar of fire the Sun of
righteousness has dawned, instead of Moses Christ, the salvation of our
souls" (Dogmaticon 2nd Tone).
But the Lord could not descend even to Moses in a
very close connection.
In the hour of his calling we see him negotiating
with the Lord, causing the Divine anger by the persistent unwillingness to
follow the Divine calling: "O my LORD, send, I pray thee, by the hand of
him whom thou wilt send" (Ex. 4:13, and chap.3 and 4 of Ex.), we see
Moses sinning before God by the water of Meribah in Kadesh, in the wilderness
of Zin (Num. 20:12 и 27 and Deut. 1:37 и 32:51).
The Lord said to Moses: "Yet thou shalt
see the (promised) land before thee; but thou shalt not go thither unto
the land which I give the children of Israel" (Deut.32:52). The
Promised Land was not only the real terrestrial phenomenon, but it was the
prototype of the Reign of God, and the words of God to Moses are related to the
both meanings of the Promised Land: great holy righteous God-Seeing Moses was
given the chance to see the Divine-Human life — the tabernacle of God and men,
but he was not let to enter it.
The third great spiritual figure of Old-Testament
mankind is holy prophet Elijah.
The unusual power and love for God fill the whole
activity of this greatest righteous man. In the days of unrighteous King Ahab
and his wife Jezebel, having become the symbol of everything vicious and
wicked, arises the burning with great zeal about the Lord, powerful prophet. On
the Divine will, he with one word seals the heaven, as a result of what during
more than 3 years a single drop of rain does not fall onto the whole land of
Israel— as a punishment for idolatry. In his zeal about God, Elijah brings the
fire from heaven on the sacrifice to God, so that Israel would cease
"halting between two options," so that the nation would admit, who
true God is: unrighteous Baal or the righteous Lord. In the unlimited, but
righteous rage against the tempters and corruptors of the people of God St.
Elijah with the own hand slew the prophets of Baal and Astarte, who were 450!
(3 Kings, chap.18).
Righteous Elijah can be reproached in nothing. His
devotion to God is not less than the devotion of Abraham, his forefather.
Together with that, he had no slips, similar to those of Abraham. He is able
for the communication with God not less than Moses: before him, like before
Moses, appears the Lord on the Mount of Horeb, in the New Testament only the
two of them — Moses and Elijah—from entire Old-Testament mankind appeared to be
called to see the Tabor light, emitted by the Incarnated Son of God on the day
Maybe, one can reproach Prophet Elijah for the
fear of death, when he runs from Jezebel, following him: "And when he
saw that, he arose, and went for his life" (3 Kings. 19:3). But this
fear — is an absolutely natural feeling, which is typical of every man, and the
Lord does not reproach His prophet for this fear, because nothing unrighteous,
opposing the Divine will, even in the size, like these willful blows upon the
rock of Moses by the water of Meribah, Elijah does under the influence of his
fear. Only having fulfilled the mission of God, he runs away from Jezebel, following
But Elijah can neither become the vessel of the
Divine incarnation due to the spontaneous unlimited character of his anger, his
all-embracing fiery zeal about the Lord God. This rage and zeal turn out to be
the different spirit in comparison with the Spirit of the One, Who is meek and
subdued in His heart. That is why, when the Disciples of Christ James and John
want to "command fire to come down from heaven, even as Elias
did," Christ prohibits them, saying: "Ye know not what manner
of spirit ye are of. For the Son of man is not come to destroy men's lives, but
to save them" (Luke 9:55,56).
With love and delicacy the Lord says about it to
prophet Elijah, when He appears in front of him on the Mount of Horeb:
"What doest thou here, Elijah? And he said, I have been very jealous for
the LORD God of hosts: for the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant,
thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I
only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away. And he said, Go forth,
and stand upon the mount before the LORD. And, behold, the LORD passed by, and
a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks
before the LORD; but the LORD was not in the wind: and after the wind an
earthquake; but the LORD was not in the earthquake: And after the earthquake a
fire; but the LORD was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small
voice" (3 Kings 19:9-12).
Elijah was "a great and strong wind rent the
mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the LORD," but not a
still small voice. This still small voice, which was not in Elijah
the Lord waited for in mankind for long centuries. The Lord, carrying out the
salvation of the created by Him in His image, after His likeness, and
consequently spiritually autocratic creatures, not without their participation,
could not come down to the men without this still small voice for it is
not in the wind or fire, but in the blowing of a calm breeze.
This blowing of quiet wind appeared in mankind,
when "in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a
city of Galilee, named Nazareth… To a virgin.. and the virgin's name was
Mary" (Luke 1:26-27), and when as an answer to the Good News, more
amazing than to Abraham, more responsible than to Moses, and infinitely much
more blissful than to Elijah, there was heard the quiet voice: "Behold
the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word" (Luke
Though Abraham, Moses and Elijah were not left
without participation in this matter. The Holy Virgin — by the soul and body —
was the descendant of Abraham. For the sake of Her birth, he left the
flourishing in culture and conveniences native Ur of the Chaldees. From him,
Her forefather, was inherited Her highest flight of sacrificial love for God,
shown by Abraham on the mount of Moria in sacrificing his son. This flight of
sacrificial love is revealed by Her in even more elevated way through Her
participation in the salvation sufferings of the Lord on the mount of Golgotha.
Virgin Mary grew and was brought up in the Law,
given by God through Moses on the holy mount of Sinai, brought up in the
temple, made on the Divine will through Moses, and She corrected his
imperfectness, which caused God’s rage by the Bush that Never Burns (Ex.3:2,
where the burning bush was a prototype of Virgin Mary), for she did not
hesitate at all, did not object to God, Who had chosen Her, but with the
resigned answer: ""Behold the handmaid of the Lord" she
effaced the unskillful stiffness of Moses, who said to God: "Send, I
pray thee, by the hand of him whom thou wilt send" (Ex. 4:13).
By the blowing of a quiet wind, by a still small
voice She changes the scorching storm of Elias’s zeal, and in this exploit of
Hers takes part the coming after Her relative, the great prophet, who appeared in
the spirit and strength of Elijah, i.e. in no way inferior to Elijah in the
Divine zeal. Prophet John the Baptist, this new Elijah, was not frightened by
contemporary to him Jezebel, but accepted from her the martyr death on the
border of the Old and New Testaments, in order that to become the Forerunner of
Jesus Christ even in hell.
Prophet Elijah is taken to heaven alive, but the
church teaching says to us, that when in the last times the violation of the
law will increase and the love of many will fade, so that the manifestation of
people’s zeal about God will exhaust, then will appear the two witnesses, the
two olives, two candlesticks (Rev. 11:3-4), which will testify to the divine truth
among weakly-believing mankind, putting fresh heart into the minor flock of
those, who stayed faithful up to the end, embarrassing and exposing many in
number, impudently triumphing enemies of God. On the Divine permission they —
these two candlesticks — will be killed by Antichrist and resurrect on the
third day. The church teaching says that these two candlesticks-witnesses will
be saints Enoch and Elijah, those righteous men of the Old Testament, who did
not face death, precisely to fulfill the act of God at the end of ages, when
human forces will be exhausted.
This terrible exhaustion of human moral forces we
evidently and painfully feel now, as never before. Does it mean that the hour
of the arrival of prophet Elijah and righteous Enoch, as the forerunners of the
Second Coming of Christ is close, we cannot say, and without a doubt believe
that sooner or later this will happen, and the earth will hear the formidable
voice, saying: "As the LORD of hosts liveth, before whom I stand… How
long halt ye between two opinions? if the LORD be God, follow him: but if Baal,
then follow him" (3 Kings 18:15-21). And many of the signs of the
contemporary days testify that till the days when this voice will be heard,
there is little time left, and maybe our generation will meet face to face on
this earth, in the modern definite surroundings with the formidable,
fire-breathing Divine prophet, whom the church chant not without a reason calls
"the second Forerunner of the coming of Christ, glorious Elijah."
The Footnote: Antichrist,
coming out of the dark and infernal places of the earth, where the devil is
driven to on the permission of God, will kill them and leave their bodies
unburied in the same Jerusalem, ancient and destroyed, where the Lord had
suffered. In this city he will establish his kingdom and royal throne, alike
that of David, the son of whom by His flesh was Christ, our true God, and to
prove by that fact that he is Christ, performing the prophetic word: "In
that day will I raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen" (Amos
9:11), which the mistaken Jews take for and assign to His Coming.
Deluded by the false miracles of
Antichrist and having ineffaceably written him in their hearts, the Jews and
pagans will not allow to burry the holy bodies and will rejoice over the
freedom from punishment, which they tolerated for their own admonishment.
Killed for the same number of
days, how many the years of their prophetic activity were, Enoch and Elijah
again, to the fear and horror of those seeing that, will rise to heaven in a
fiery chariot — cloud (The Interpretation of Revelation of St. Andrew, the
Archbishop of Caesarea).
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