Monday, July 31, 2017

Holy, Yet Sinner

And the Lord spoke to Aaron, saying, “You and your sons and your father's house shall bear the sins of the holy things, and you and your sons shall bear the iniquity of your priesthood.” (Nu 18:1)

It is worth asking how some are called holy and yet there is a written account of their sins. You see, contrary to how some think, it is not the case that as soon as one becomes holy he can no longer sin and must always be thought to be without sin. If saints do not sin, then it would not have been written: “You will bear the sins of the saints.” If a saint could be without sin, the Lord would not, through the prophet Ezekiel, tell the angels whom He was sending to punish sinners: “Begin with My saints”(Ez 9:6). If the saints are without sin, why do these very same fall victim to the punishments of sins first? If the saints could be without sin, then Scripture would never say that “the man who is just in the beginning of his speech is his own accuser”(Pr 18:17).

Origen, Homilies on Numbers 10.3

Friday, July 28, 2017

Patristic Wisdom: Looking to the Eigth Sunday after Pentecost

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet that was cast into the sea and gathered some of every kind, which, when it was full, they drew to shore; and they sat down and gathered the good into vessels, but threw the bad away. So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come forth, separate the wicked from among the just, and cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth.” Jesus said to them, “Have you understood all these things?” They said to Him, “Yes, Lord.” Then He said to them, “Therefore every scribe instructed concerning the kingdom of heaven is like a householder who brings out of his treasure things new and old.” (Mt 13:44–52)

If any one, therefore, reads the Scriptures with attention, he will find in them an account of Christ, and a foreshadowing of the new calling. For Christ is the treasure which was hid in the field, that is, in this world (for “the field is the world”); but the treasure hid in the Scriptures is Christ, since He was pointed out by means of types and parables. Hence His human nature could not be understood, prior to the consummation of those things which had been predicted, that is, the advent of Christ. And therefore it was said to Daniel the prophet: “Shut up the words, and seal the book even to the time of consummation, until many learn, and knowledge be completed. For at that time, when the dispersion shall be accomplished, they shall know all these things.” But Jeremiah also says, “In the last days they shall understand these things.” For every prophecy, before its fulfillment, is to men enigmas and ambiguities. But when the time has arrived, and the prediction has come to pass, then the prophecies have a clear and certain exposition. And for this reason, indeed, when at this present time the law is read to the Jews, it is like a fable; for they do not possess the explanation of all things pertaining to the advent of the Son of God, which took place in human nature; but when it is read by the Christians, it is a treasure, hid indeed in a field, but brought to light by the cross of Christ, and explained, both enriching the understanding of men, and showing forth the wisdom of God and declaring His dispensations with regard to man, and forming the kingdom of Christ beforehand, and preaching by anticipation the inheritance of the holy Jerusalem, and proclaiming beforehand that the man who loves God shall arrive at such excellency as even to see God, and hear His word, and from the hearing of His discourse be glorified to such an extent, that others cannot behold the glory of his countenance, as was said by Daniel: “Those who do understand, shall shine as the brightness of the firmament, and many of the righteous as the stars for ever and ever.” Thus, then, I have shown it to be, if any one read the Scriptures. For thus it was that the Lord discoursed with the disciples after His resurrection from the dead, proving to them from the Scriptures themselves “that Christ must suffer, and enter into His glory, and that remission of sins should be preached in His name throughout all the world.” And the disciple will be perfected, and like the householder, “who brings forth from his treasure things new and old.”

Irenaeus of Lyons, Against Heresies IV.26.1

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

We Can't, Therefore We Pray

Give ear to my words, O Lord,
    Consider my meditation.
Give heed to the voice of my cry,
    My King and my God,
    For to You I will pray.
My voice You shall hear in the morning, O Lord;
    In the morning I will direct it to You,
    And I will look up. (Ps 5:1–3)

For this we must know, that all our shelter and protection rest in prayer alone. For we are far too feeble to cope with the devil and all his power and adherents that set themselves against us, and they might easily crush us under their feet. Therefore we must consider and take up those weapons with which Christians must be armed in order to stand against the devil. For what do you think has hitherto accomplished such great things, has checked or quelled the counsels, purposes, murder, and riot of our enemies, whereby the devil thought to crush us, together with the Gospel, except that the prayer of a few godly men intervened like a wall of iron on our side? They should else have witnessed a far different tragedy, namely, how the devil would have destroyed all Germany in its own blood. But now they may confidently deride it and make a mock of it; however, we shall nevertheless be a match both for themselves and the devil by prayer alone, if we only persevere diligently and not become slack. For whenever a godly Christian prays: Dear Father, let Thy will be done, God speaks from on high and says: Yes, dear child, it shall be so, in spite of the devil and all the world.

Large Catechism III.30–32

Friday, July 21, 2017

Patristic Wisdom: Looking to the Seventh Sunday after Pentecost

Another parable He put forth to them, saying: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field; but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went his way. But when the grain had sprouted and produced a crop, then the tares also appeared. So the servants of the owner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’ He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The servants said to him, ‘Do you want us then to go and gather them up?’ But he said, ‘No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn.”’” … Then Jesus sent the multitude away and went into the house. And His disciples came to Him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the tares of the field.” He answered and said to them: “He who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, the good seeds are the sons of the kingdom, but the tares are the sons of the wicked one. The enemy who sowed them is the devil, the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are the angels. Therefore as the tares are gathered and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of this age. The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness, and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears to hear, let him hear! (Mt 13:24–30, 36–43)

Though we have already, in previous sections, according to our ability discussed these matters, none the less shall we now say what is in harmony with them, even if there is reasonable ground for another explanation. And consider now, if in addition to what we have already recounted, you can otherwise take the good seed to be the children of the kingdom, because whatsoever good things are sown in the human soul, these are the offspring of the kingdom of God and have been sown by God the Word who was in the beginning with God, so that wholesome words about anything are children of the kingdom. But while men are asleep who do not act according to the command of Jesus, “Watch and pray that you enter not into temptation,” the devil on the watch sows what are called tares over and among what are called by some natural conceptions, even the good seeds which are from the Word. And according to this the whole world might be called a field, and not the Church of God only, for in the whole world the Son of man sowed the good seed, but the wicked one tares, which, springing from wickedness, are children of the evil one. And at the end of things, which is called “the consummation of the age,” there will of necessity be a harvest, in order that the angels of God who have been appointed for this work may gather up the bad opinions that have grown upon the soul, and overturning them may give them over to fire which is said to burn, that they may be consumed. And so the angels and servants of the Word will gather from all the kingdom of Christ all things that cause a stumbling-block to souls and reasonings that create iniquity, which they will scatter and cast into the burning furnace of fire. Then those who become conscious that they have received the seeds of the evil one in themselves, because of their having been asleep, shall wail and, as it were, be angry against themselves; for this is the “gnashing of teeth.” Therefore, also, in the Psalms it is said, “They gnashed upon me with their teeth.” Then above all “shall the righteous shine,” no longer differently as at the first, but all “as one sun in the kingdom of their Father.” Then, as if to indicate that there was indeed a hidden meaning, perhaps, in all that is concerned with the explanation of the parable, perhaps most of all in the saying, “Then shall the righteous shine as the sun in the kingdom of their Father,” the Savior adds, “He that has ears to hear, let him hear,” thereby teaching those who think that in the exposition, the parable has been set forth with such perfect clearness that it can be understood by the commoner, that even the things connected with the interpretation of the parable stand in need of explanation.

Origen, Commentary on Matthew 10.2

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Jealous for a Reason

Poussin, “Adoration of the Golden Calf”
For I am the Lord your God, a jealous God. (Ex 20:5 LXX)

Every married woman is either under her husband and subject to the rules of her husband, or she is a whore and uses her freedom to sin. The man who goes in to a prostitute knows that he has gone in to one who lies down and open for all; therefore he cannot become angry with the others. The man who practices a legitimate marriage does not permit his wife to sin but is full of jealousy to preserve the chastity of his marriage so that he can become a legitimate father. Thus every soul is either prostituted to demons and has many lovers to go in to it—sometimes the spirit of fornication, some times the spirit of greed, and after these come the spirit of pride and many others—but one spirit does not envy another nor is it moved to jealousy, but they invite each other to take turns. However, if that soul has been joined to a lawful Husband—that is, to Christ—even if it once was a sinner, He no longer suffers it to sin.

Origen, Homilies on Exodus VIII.5

Friday, July 14, 2017

Patristic Wisdom: Looking to the Sixth Sunday after Pentecost

You have visited the earth, and saturated it;
    You have abundantly enriched it.
The river of God is filled with water;
    You have prepared their food,
    for thus is the preparation of it.
Saturate her furrows,
    multiply her fruits;
the crop springing up
    shall rejoice in its drops.
You will bless the crown of the year because of Your goodness;
    and Your plains shall be filled with fatness.
The mountains of the wilderness shall be enriched;
    and the hills shall gird themselves with joy.
The rams of the flock are clothed with wool,
    and the valleys shall abound in grain;
    they shall cry aloud; yes, they shall sing hymns. (Ps 65:9–13 LXX)

Then He spoke many things to them in parables, saying: “Behold, a sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell by the wayside; and the birds came and devoured them. Some fell on stony places, where they did not have much earth; and they immediately sprang up because they had no depth of earth. But when the sun was up they were scorched, and because they had no root they withered away. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up and choked them. But others fell on good ground and yielded a crop: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!” (Mt 13:3–9)

With the emergence of this bounty, the former wilderness will yield fruit in due season. The hills stained with the demons’ sacrifices will welcome those who sing to the Lord constantly and embrace the angelic way of life, and will become the center of admiration of all eyes. Now events bear out these words: we see everyone making their way to those occupying the pinnacles and practicing the exalted virtue. The prophet Ezekiel also called the rams of flocks powerful, but accused them of consuming the good pasture and trampling underfoot the rest, of drinking the pure water and stirring up the rest with their feet.* Here, on the other hand, he forecasts good things even for them: he says they will be clad and clothed; the nature of the clothing the divinely inspired Paul mentions, “All you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ,”† he says. In other words, since Christ the Lord chose those who were originally fishermen, artisans, and people living in poverty, the grace of the Spirit prophecies the salvation of both rich and powerful. Hence, … not only the other sheep but also the very rams present themselves for the baptism of salvation. Those whose lot is poverty and who have chosen to practice piety will offer God their particular fruit, one thirtyfold, one sixtyfold, one a hundredfold. All the aforementioned will praise God with complete enthusiasm for bestowing upon human nature such a wonderful transformation.

Theodoret of Cyrus, Commentary on the Psalms 65.9

* Ezekiel 34:17–19
† Galatians 3:27

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

What's Natural for You

I remember a product from my youth that ran commercials reminding us that “natural means what’s natural for you.” While the slogan might be useful to advertise a dietary supplement, social progressives are using the same philosophy to promote alternate lifestyles. Postmodern thought has so infiltrated humanity that we are now believing, practicing, and crusading for any number of social constructs having no objective basis but are deemed appropriate because individuals have decided they should be. In an increasing effort to eliminate differences and level societal patterns, an individual can have any belief system whatsoever. The current trend is the enablement and promotion of gender fluidity. No longer content to remain content with binary constructs, individuals are seeking to assign themselves other designations with which they have affinity. The only acceptable caveat, then, is that the belief cannot interfere with the collective belief system for that cultural group. While the intent to have a society and culture that allows individuality and equality seems laudable, attempts to deconstruct natural phenomena leads to chaos, not contentment.

The physical world functions steadily according to a definite set of parameters. Every person born into that world has preset DNA and chromosome characteristics inherited from a man and woman, again according to preexisting physical parameters and functions. In addition, each person learns to interact with like beings in relationships defined by type: family, gender, locale, etc. Eventually, we interact with objects and nonhuman beings so as to understand strengths, weaknesses, limits, and dangers for our general welfare and that of others. The one constant in these interactions is the nature of the world: everything operates according to its design and function. True, there is variety within design and function, however the physical limitations prevent us from operating outside those parameters. Knowledge and experience of these designs and functions allows individuals and societal groups to continue, grow, and aspire to workable goals.

When we attempt to change the operation of either design or function, we lose the ability to interact and function. Postmodernism makes such an attempt by espousing deconstruction of norms in order to allow societal shifts. Consider this portion of Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass as Alice tries to understand Humpty Dumpty’s use of a word:

Humpty Dumpty and Alice
    “I don’t know what you mean by ‘glory,’ ” Alice said.
    Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. “Of course you don’t—till I tell you. I meant ‘there’s a nice knock-down argument for you!’ ”
    “But ‘glory’ doesn’t mean ‘a nice knock-down argument’,” Alice objected.
    “When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.”
    “The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”
    “The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master—that’s all.”

This instructive interchange helps to illuminate the fundamental question: Is the standard derived from the established construct or societal, even personal, use? While deconstruction attempts to level the societal norms, the logical progression has been to elevate individual desires above the societal and force acceptance via the postmodern method, effectively deconstructing deconstructionism. As long as an overarching semblance of cohesion exists among individuals, society can continue, however, the inevitable result of this trend will be a chaotic amalgam akin to that described by Arnobius of Sicca (c. 255–330 AD):
All these various opinions cannot be true, but it is not possible to discover on which side is the error, so powerfully is each sustained by argument. And yet not only do these opinions differ from each other, but they are self-contradictory. Such would not be the case if human curiosity could attain to anything certain, or if after having, as it is believed, discovered anything certain, it could obtain universal assent to it. It is the height of presumption to pretend to possess any certainty or to aspire to it, since truth itself can be refuted, or that may be accepted as real, which has no existence, as in cases of mental hallucination. (Against the Pagans, II.57)
Twelve hundred years later, the Lutheran reformers would similarly point out the self-contradiction of the celibacy of priests being promulgated by the Church of Rome.
Therefore it is ridiculous for the adversaries to prate that marriage was commanded in the beginning, but is not now. This is the same as if they would say: Formerly, when men were born, they brought with them sex; now they do not. Formerly, when they were born, they brought with them natural right; now they do not. No craftsman could produce anything more crafty than these absurdities, which were devised to elude a right of nature. (Augsburg Confession, Apology XXIII.10)
Yet, this self-contradiction is the state of that collective mindset which currently seeks to redefine definitions and relationships solely from selfishness and pride. Once understood for mutual edification, intimate relational bonds have been sexualized and individualized, devaluing and destroying their natural place and function. Family units built on a natural attraction of man and woman with the desire for offspring has dissolved into any group that desires to be together—again ultimately for selfish ends. Children, once the natural desire and outcome of a committed man and woman, are prevented from occurring or killed, when deemed necessary, for the good of the adults. And while these fall within the realm of natural phenomena, adults and children now are eschewing established gender definitions to be known according to self-defined terms; or they are refusing their natural physiology by seeking out means to live as the opposite gender. This mindset has focused on what might feed the basest of personal desires without consequence, albeit in an increasingly bizarre manner. Whereas ancient or primitive cultures may have allowed concubines or polygamy to satisfy desire, the current impetus appears to be self-determination, even self-deification. In essence they are saying, “I am god of my body: nature be damned.”

Those seeking to fulfill their desires through unnatural means are doomed to failure. While the pleasure or satisfaction may last for a time, detrimental consequences are inevitable. Long-term participation in unnatural sexual activities has been directly linked to the increased transmission of specific bacteria and viruses. As the degree of deviancy increases, so does the severity of the health concern (HIV, Hepatitis, and a disproportionate increase in STD among same-sex couples); finally, attempts to change gender through pharmaceutical and surgical means carries both the short-term risk of these procedures, but also the unknown and unpredicted long-term effects. If this was not enough, the mindset that these unions are intended solely for personal pleasure brings with it the need to prevent the natural outcome of childbirth. Pregnancy prevention has been problematic as medical solutions have led to unexpected health concerns and complications when children were later desired. Coupled with this is the yet ongoing practice of aborting unwanted children. The result has been a gradual depopulation of American society. By giving way to our basest desires, we are slowly bringing about our demise.

So What Exactly Is Natural for You?

I have spoken of a natural order of things as made manifest by observable phenomena, inferences, and deduction; and this order, with its manifestations, is in accord with the opening chapters of Genesis. Therein, God is described as the Creator of an ordered and systematic world with caretakers given specific duties and mandates for that creation. And all of this He considered very good (Ge 1:31). Only after Adam rebelled do we see corruption enter in. Generation after generation pursued greater degrees of decadence and abomination in a continual cycle of self-destruction, yet God held His creation together as a continual witness that He was present (Ro 1:19–20).

Yet mankind distorted what was natural, seeking to chase after lust rather than the Creator. To this attitude Cyril of Jerusalem had poignant remarks:
There is nothing polluted in the human frame except a man defile this with fornication and adultery. He who formed Adam formed Eve also, and male and female were formed by God’s hands. None of the members of the body as formed from the beginning is polluted. Let the mouths of all heretics be stopped who slander their bodies, or rather Him who formed them. (Catechetical Lectures XII.26)
What our Lord had intended for our good, derived through natural means, was and is being subverted and polluted, yet it remains as a reminder that the vehicle which humanity is using to its own ruin still remains as a testament to His faithfulness. Teachers pollute and slander what our God gave us in these beautifully made bodies; yet, what is being demeaned, devalued, and deconstructed into a new reality is still the very thing our Lord uses to show Himself.

In our natural state, we were to take care of the world and be in communion with God. We failed, and continue to fail, miserably. Only by the work of Jesus, the Christ and Son of God, to pay for our sin and we might be made righteous. In one sense, things go on as they are with our sin working against us and God. Yet, in another sense, there is for those baptized into Christ, an anticipated new natural in the final resurrection with the new heavens and new earth.

Monday, July 10, 2017

We Should Love God

In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (1Jo 4:10)

For example, the love of God includes a consideration of God’s goodness and mercy, the remembrance of bodily and spiritual benefits, a consideration of the promises of the life to come, obedience due to God, etc. We should love God: (a) Because He is the greatest good. (b) Because He is the perfect [αὐτoτελές] good, the greatest beauty, the greatest treasure, the greatest wisdom. (c) Because He first loved us. (d) Because we become joined together with God through love. (e) Because the most direct road to a salutary and practical knowledge of God is love for Him. (f ) Because God alone can fulfill the desire of the soul. (g) Because God, loving and being loved, gives people blessedness. (h) Because God avows Himself to be our Bridegroom, etc.

Johann Gerhard, On the Law

Friday, July 7, 2017

Patristic Wisdom: Looking to the Fifth Sunday after Pentecost

At that time Jesus answered and said, “I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and have revealed them to babes. Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Your sight. All things have been delivered to Me by My Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father. Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.” (Mt 11:25–28)

Jesus praises and glorifies the Father, who had foreseen the entire trajectory of the Word first to the Jews and then to the Gentiles. Our Lord here gives thanks to his Father, the Lord of heaven and earth, for his mission in becoming incarnate in the form of a servant. He speaks about the Father's good pleasure now to hide this mystery about himself from Israel, which might be expected to be wise, and to reveal it to the Gentiles, who were until now without understanding. It is thereby demonstrated that God did not forget to fulfill his purpose, nor did Christ's coming fail in its appointed end. These things indeed have happened, God knowing them beforehand and having commanded beforehand the repentance of grace. The justice of God's good pleasure is here passed over in silence, but elsewhere it is clearly displayed. God's good will is not irrational. People do not fail to attain knowledge and wisdom about it for any reason other than their own deficiencies.

Origen, Commentary on Matthew

He employs the phrase “I confess you” in accordance with human custom. Instead of saying “I acknowledge you,” he brings in the phrase “I glorify you.”* For it is customary in the divinely inspired Scripture for the word confession to be taken in some such a sense. It is written, “Let the people give thanks,” Lord, “to Your great name, because it is formidable and holy.”† And again, “I will give thanks to You, Lord, with all my heart.”‡

But those who are perverted in mind say, “Look here, if He renders thanks to the Father, how then is He not less than the Father?” To this objection one who knows how to guard the doctrines of truth might say, “My good man, what prevents the consubstantial Son from accepting and praising his own Father, who through him saves what is under heaven? If you believe because of this confession that He is in a lesser position than the Father, look also at what comes next. Jesus acknowledges and calls His Father Lord of heaven and earth. For He confesses Him as ‘Lord of heaven and earth’ and at the same time He calls upon Him as ‘Father.’ But the Son of God who is ruler of all is in every way with Him the Lord and Master of all, not as one worse or differing in substance, but as God from God. He is crowned with equal renown, having substantially with Him equality in everything whatsoever.”

Cyril of Alexandria,  Fragment 145

*  Cyril indicates that exomologeisthai is here used not in its normal sense of “to confess, admit, acknowledge” but in the sense of “to glorify.”
†  Psalm 99:3
‡  Psalm 9:1 ; 111:1

Thursday, July 6, 2017

They Walk among Us

Five years ago I passed along a post from Bill Muehlenberg about modern Marcionism and its dangers to the Church. The dangers of Marcionite thinking is both dangerous and popular as noted in a current post wherein Carl Trueman warns against aspects of this heresy: unbalanced emphasis of God’s love, disregard for the Old Testament, and neglect of sound doctrine in music. He is on target here. Like its cousin heresy, Gnosticism, this ancient teaching is as difficult to kill as the mythological multi-headed Hydra: as soon as a head is cut off two more grow in its place. As a result, they both have lasted for centuries.

The appeal of Marcionism is its emphasis on newness. Allegedly, by loosing the bindings of past teaching and forms, a new, fresh approach is brought to the Church to invigorate stagnancy. However, the truth is that the traditions of our fathers are what secures the Church to the “foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone” (Eph 2:20). To throw off supposed restraints leaves one adrift in a sea of opinion. Trueman’s concluding warning is apropos:
Think truncated thoughts about God and you'll get a truncated God; read an expurgated Bible and you get an expurgated theology; sing mindless, superficial rubbish instead of deep, truly emotional praise and you will eventually become what you sing.
Whichever head of Marcionism may be raised, the solution is the same: “Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle” (2Th 2:15).

Monday, July 3, 2017

Elijah Prayed

And Elijah the Tishbite, of the inhabitants of Gilead, said to Ahab, “As the Lᴏʀᴅ God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, except at my word.” … And it came to pass after many days that the word of the Lᴏʀᴅ came to Elijah, in the third year, saying, “Go, present yourself to Ahab, and I will send rain on the earth.” … Then Elijah said to Ahab, “Go up, eat and drink; for there is the sound of abundance of rain.” So Ahab went up to eat and drink. And Elijah went up to the top of Carmel; then he bowed down on the ground, and put his face between his knees, and said to his servant, “Go up now, look toward the sea.” So he went up and looked, and said, “There is nothing.” And seven times he said, “Go again.” Then it came to pass the seventh time, that he said, “There is a cloud, as small as a man’s hand, rising out of the sea!” So he said, “Go up, say to Ahab, ‘Prepare your chariot, and go down before the rain stops you.’” Now it happened in the meantime that the sky became black with clouds and wind, and there was a heavy rain. (1Ki 17:1; 18:1, 41–45)

Elijah goes up to the top of Mount Carmel in order to ask for rain, even though he knows that Solomon had mentioned the rain in his prayer for the people* and the Lord had promised him that He would have given rain to those who prayed to Him inside the temple of Jerusalem. Therefore Elijah prayed, so that they might see the miracle, because many of them still had not realized that the famine that overwhelmed them had been sent by the Lord through Elijah, who had prayed to Him. In order that the word might confirm that Elijah had bound the heavens and now opened them, it was necessary that the people saw the prophet kneeling down in prayer, in the act of causing the rain to calm down through his prayer.

Ephrem the Syrian, On the First Book of Kings 18.42

* 1 Kings 8:35–36